G7 vows action on Covid vaccines, climate change

G7 vows action on Covid vaccines, climate change
The Group of Seven leaders want to show that international cooperation is back after the upheavals caused both by the pandemic and the unpredictability of former US President Donald Trump. (Reuters)
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Updated 13 June 2021

G7 vows action on Covid vaccines, climate change

G7 vows action on Covid vaccines, climate change
  • Pledge on vaccines for poorer nations fell short of 11 billion doses that campaigners say needed to end pandemic
  • The G7 had sharp words for Beijing and Moscow, in the buildup to a NATO summit in Brussels on Monday

FALMOUTH, England: G7 leaders on Sunday vowed to start delivering one billion doses of Covid vaccines and to step up action on climate change, in a summit call to arms by a revived democratic alliance that also confronted China and Russia.
In a final communique issued at their first physical summit in nearly two years, the leaders of the elite club largely hewed to US President Joe Biden’s push to regain the West’s cohesion after the tumultuous era of his predecessor Donald Trump.
“We will harness the power of democracy, freedom, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights to answer the biggest questions and overcome the greatest challenges,” the leaders said.
But the pledge on vaccines for poorer nations fell drastically short of the 11 billion doses that campaigners say are needed to end a pandemic that has claimed nearly four million lives and wrecked economies around the globe.
“I’m afraid there will be smiles (at the G7) but they are not solutions,” former British prime minister Gordon Brown told Sky News, calling the summit “an unforgivable moral failure.”
“Millions of people will go unvaccinated and thousands of people I’m afraid will die,” said Brown, who helped coordinate international responses to the world’s last major economic shock in 2008.
Likewise, the G7’s pledges to deliver more aid for countries at the sharp end of climate change, and to phase out fossil fuel investments, were decried as too little, too late ahead of a UN summit in November.
“The G7 have failed to set us up for a successful COP26 as trust is sorely lacking between rich and developing countries,” said Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan.
“We need authentic leadership and that means treating the pandemic and the climate crisis for what they are: an interconnected inequality emergency,” she said.

Nevertheless, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the summit’s host, said the G7 wanted to “drive a global Green Industrial Revolution to transform the way we live.”
“There is a direct relationship between reducing emissions, restoring nature, creating jobs and ensuring long-term economic growth,” he said.
Johnson also touted a G7 pledge to get 40 million more girls into schools over the next five years, as part of the post-pandemic reconstruction.
A White House official agreed the three-day gathering in Cornwall, southwest England, had been an “unusually substantive and productive G7.”
Angela Merkel, attending her last G7 as German chancellor, said Biden had brought “new momentum” to efforts to tackle the world’s problems.
India and South Africa, who took part in the G7 talks as guests, had pressed for the gathering to waive intellectual property rights on Western vaccines. But Britain and Germany were notable holdouts on that.
Campaigners also complained the G7 had failed to flesh out how it will pay for a newly agreed “Nature Compact” — to protect 30 percent of the world’s land and oceans from despoliation by 2030.
The leaders committed to nearly halve their carbon emissions by 2030, relative to 2010, and to phase out the use of “unabated coal” — fuel whose emissions have not gone through any filtering — “as soon as possible.”
They vowed to end most government support for the fossil fuel sector overseas, and to phase out petrol and diesel cars.
The G7 had sharp words for Beijing and Moscow, in the buildup to a NATO summit in Brussels on Monday and Biden’s first sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Switzerland on Wednesday.
They demanded China end abuses including forced labor in Xinjiang, where activists say up to one million people from Uyghur and other Muslim minorities are interned in camps, and in Hong Kong.
And they pressed China to let experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) investigate further how Covid-19 first emerged, amid suspicions that the coronavirus may have escaped from a Chinese laboratory.
The allies adopted a US initiative to counter China in infrastructure funding for poorer nations, promising to “collectively catalyze” hundreds of billions of investment.
The “Build Back Better World” (B3W) project is aimed squarely at competing with Beijing’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, which has been widely criticized for saddling small countries with unmanageable debt.
And the G7 demanded that Russia “credibly explain” the use of chemical agents on its soil, end its “systematic crackdown” on opposition groups and media, and “hold to account” criminals waging ransomware attacks.A lingering row between Britain and the European Union over post-Brexit trading arrangements in Northern Ireland hung over the talks.
But London sought to bring all sides together using the “soft power” diplomacy of Queen Elizabeth II and her heir Prince Charles, at a Friday night reception for leaders and EU chiefs.
Joined Saturday by counterparts from Australia, South Africa and South Korea — with India also taking part remotely — they then enjoyed an evening beach barbecue around fire pits, featuring a sea shanty band and toasted marshmallows.


Philippine leader recalls decision to void US security pact

Philippine leader recalls decision to void US security pact
Updated 30 July 2021

Philippine leader recalls decision to void US security pact

Philippine leader recalls decision to void US security pact
  • The 1998 agreement allows the entry of large numbers of American forces for joint combat training with Philippine troops
  • Duterte notified the US government in February 2020 that the Philippines intended to abrogate the agreement

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte reversed his termination of a key defense pact with the United States that allows large-scale combat exercises between US and Philippine forces.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced Duterte’s decision at a joint meeting with reporters Friday with his visiting US counterpart, Lloyd Austin, in Manila.
Another Philippine official earlier told The Associated Press that Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. would hand over a document to Austin about Duterte’s decision to keep the Visiting Forces Agreement in a separate meeting later Friday.
“The president decided to recall or retract the termination letter for the VFA,” Lorenzana said. “We are back on track.”
Austin welcomed Duterte’s decision, which he said would help bolster defense relations between the longtime allies.
Duterte notified the US government in February 2020 that the Philippines intended to abrogate the 1998 agreement, which allows the entry of large numbers of American forces for joint combat training with Philippine troops and sets legal terms for their temporary stay.
The maneuvers involved thousands of American and Philippine military personnel in land, sea and air drills that often included live-fire exercises in pre-pandemic times and sparked China’s concerns when they were held in the periphery of seas Beijing claims as its own.
The pact’s termination would have taken effect after 180 days, but Duterte has repeatedly delayed the effectivity of his decision.
The US military presence in the region has been seen as a counterbalance to China, which has aggressively asserted claims to vast areas of the disputed South China Sea despite a 2016 international arbitration ruling that invalidated their historic basis. China, the Philippines, Vietnam and three other governments have been locked in the territorial standoff for decades.


Malaysian PM digs in after royal rebuke sparks calls to quit

Malaysian PM digs in after royal rebuke sparks calls to quit
Updated 30 July 2021

Malaysian PM digs in after royal rebuke sparks calls to quit

Malaysian PM digs in after royal rebuke sparks calls to quit
  • It is unusual for Malaysia’s constitutional monarch, who is widely revered in the Muslim-majority country, to speak out so forcefully against the government

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s embattled leader defended his actions Thursday as he faced calls to quit after rare criticism from the king, who accused his government of misleading parliament over coronavirus laws.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin leads a scandal-plagued coalition that seized power last year without an election, but his government is on the verge of collapse after allies withdrew support.
Parliament convened this week after a months-long suspension under a state of emergency — ostensibly to fight the virus, but which critics said was a gambit by Muhyiddin to cling to power.
On Monday, the law minister told the legislature the emergency would end on August 1 and that several regulations enacted under it were being canceled.
But angry rival MPs claimed Muhyiddin was just seeking to dodge a vote that could test his support — and it was not clear the monarch had agreed to revoke the laws, as required under the constitution.
On Thursday the royal palace confirmed the king, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, had not given his consent, and said that he expressed his “great disappointment.”
The announcement about canceling the regulations was “inaccurate and confused the members of parliament,” said a statement from the palace.
It “did not just fail to respect the principles of the sovereignty of the law.... but it undermined the functions and powers of his majesty as head of state,” it said.
It is unusual for Malaysia’s constitutional monarch, who is widely revered in the Muslim-majority country, to speak out so forcefully against the government.
Muhyiddin was accused of treason and faced calls from the opposition and some members of his own coalition to quit.
But his office released a statement outlining discussions between the government and the monarch over the regulations, and insisted there had been no need for a parliamentary vote on the laws.
“The government is of the view that all these actions taken are in order and in accordance with the provisions of the law and the federal constitution,” it said, adding people should “remain calm.”
A key ally of Muhyiddin, Deputy Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yakoob, also said the government still enjoyed the support of more than 110 MPs in the 222-seat lower house.
Muhyiddin has faced mounting pressure in recent weeks with the biggest party in his coalition, the United Malays National Organization, withdrawing support.
The regulations enacted under the emergency give authorities extra powers to punish virus rule breakers, as well as some other tools to fight the pandemic.
Even when the emergency ends, the country will remain under a strict lockdown as it faces a worsening outbreak.


International Space Station thrown out of control by misfire of Russian module — NASA

International Space Station thrown out of control by misfire of Russian module — NASA
Updated 30 July 2021

International Space Station thrown out of control by misfire of Russian module — NASA

International Space Station thrown out of control by misfire of Russian module — NASA

LOS ANGELES/MOSCOW: The International Space Station (ISS) was thrown briefly out of control on Thursday when jet thrusters of a newly arrived Russian research module inadvertently fired a few hours after it was docked to the orbiting outpost, NASA officials said.
The seven crew members aboard — two Russian cosmonauts, three NASA astronauts, a Japanese astronaut and a European space agency astronaut from France — were never in any immediate danger, according to NASA and Russian state-owned news agency RIA.
But the malfunction prompted NASA to postpone until at least Aug. 3 its planned launch of Boeing's new CST-100 Starliner capsule on an uncrewed test flight to the space station. The Starliner had been set to blast off atop an Atlas V rocket on Friday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Thursday's mishap began about three hours after the multipurpose Nauka module had latched onto the space station. The module's jets inexplicably restarted, causing the entire station to pitch out of its normal flight position some 250 miles above the Earth, US space agency officials said.
The "loss of attitudinal control" lasted for a little more than 45 minutes, until flight teams on the ground managed to restore the space station's orientation by activating thrusters on another module of the orbiting platform, according to Joel Montalbano, manager of NASA's space station program.
In its broadcast coverage of the incident, RIA cited NASA specialists at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, as describing the struggle to regain control of the space station as a "tug of war" between the two modules.
At the height of the incident, the station was pitching out of alignment at the rate of about a half a degree per second, Montalbano said hours later in a NASA conference call with reporters.
The Nauka engines were ultimately switched off, the space station was stabilized and its orientation was restored to where it had begun, NASA said.
Communication with the crew was lost briefly twice during the disruption, but "there was no immediate danger at any time to the crew," Montalbano said.
A drift in the space station's normal orientation was first detected by automatic sensors on the ground, and "the crew really didn't feel any movement," he said.
What caused the malfunction of the thrusters on the Nauka module, delivered by the Russian space agency Roscosmos, has yet to be determined, NASA officials said.
Montalbano said there was no immediate sign of any damage to the space station. The flight correction maneuvers used up more propellant reserves than desired, "but nothing I would worry about," he said.
After its launch last week from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome, the module experienced a series of glitches that raised concern about whether the docking procedure would go smoothly.
Roscosmos attributed Thursday's post-docking issue to Nauka's engines having to work with residual fuel in the craft, TASS news agency reported.
"The process of transferring the Nauka module from flight mode to 'docked with ISS' mode is underway. Work is being carried out on the remaining fuel in the module," Roscosmos was cited by TASS as saying.
The Nauka module is designed to serve as a research lab, storage unit and airlock that will upgrade Russia's capabilities aboard the ISS.
A live broadcast showed the module, named after the Russian word for "science," docking with the space station a few minutes later than scheduled.
"According to telemetry data and reports from the ISS crew, the onboard systems of the station and the Nauka module are operating normally," Roscosmos said in a statement.
"There is contact!!!" Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos, wrote on Twitter moments after the docking. 


Graveyard in Pakistan’s Fattu Shah a testament to obnoxious ‘honor killing’ tradition

Graveyard in Pakistan’s Fattu Shah a testament to obnoxious ‘honor killing’ tradition
Updated 30 July 2021

Graveyard in Pakistan’s Fattu Shah a testament to obnoxious ‘honor killing’ tradition

Graveyard in Pakistan’s Fattu Shah a testament to obnoxious ‘honor killing’ tradition
  • It is a testament to the obnoxious practice of 'honor killing'
  • Kariyon ka Qabristan has around 400 graves, all belong to women killed in ‘honor killings,’ graveyard caretaker says

SINDH, Pakistan: In Fattu Shah, a small village in Ghotki district on the border of the Pakistani provinces of Sindh and Punjab, a cemetery is reserved for women. Not just any women, locals say, but “condemned women,” or karis, killed over perceived offences to “honor.”

Hundreds of women are murdered each year in Pakistan, mostly by family members, in “honor killings” that punish women for eloping, fraternizing with men or other infractions in defiance of the conservative values that govern women’s modesty in the country.

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), 430 cases of honor killing were reported in 2020, involving 148 male and 363 female victims. Of these cases, 215 victims, 136 of them female, belonged to the southern Sindh province.

Though the law forbids honor killings, experts say the enforcement of justice is often lax in such cases, with proceedings at times being drawn out while the accused are freed on bail and cases fade away.

Kariyon ka Qabristan, or the cemetery for condemned women, as the graveyard is called, is a testament to the continuing practice.

“The administration ... does not take any action on this lawlessness. People are afraid to talk. The women are helpless. If one is a victim, others are silent mourners.”

Zarka Shar, Pakistani women advocate

At least half a dozen villagers interviewed by Arab News — who spoke on condition of anonymity — said they knew of women who had been killed in the name of honor and buried in the graveyard in Fattu Shah.

Ali Nawaz, the 67-year-old caretaker of the four-decade-old cemetery, said there were at least 400 graves there, all of which belonged to women killed in the name of honor.

“Burials have decreased over the past few years, but women are still being killed in the name of honor,” he said.

Among the “condemned women” is Naseeran Chanesar, the aunt of 21-year-old shepherd Ilah Bux. He was 10 when his mother’s sister disappeared from her village home in 2013. For days, Bux kept asking his mother where Chanesar was, he said. “It was on the third day that a villager whispered in my ear that she had been buried in Kariyon ka Qabristan.”

Bux said he did not know which grave in the cemetery was his aunt’s: “The only person I could ask is my mother, but she also doesn’t know the exact grave.”

The caretaker said no visitors come to the graveyard even on religious holidays such as the Eid festivals or in the holy month of Ramadan, when many Muslims visit the graves of their family members and friends.

“Many graves have decayed over the years and are no longer visible,” he said, “and if someone even tries to come here, they cannot identify their loved ones.”

Another lost grave is of Gul Bano, who was killed by her elder brother in 2014, Bano’s cousin Murad Mehar said.

“On every Shab-e-Barat (major event in the Islamic calendar) when people go to graveyards to offer fateha (prayers) at the graves of their loved ones, we see Bano’s mother weeping in a corner of her house, remembering the daughter she can’t visit,” Mehar said.

Zarka Shar, an activist from Beruth, another village in Ghotki, said a graveyard had been reserved for victims of honor killings “because even after death, these ‘karis’ are not considered worthy to be buried in normal graveyards.”

“No rituals are performed for those killed and they are buried without being bathed,” she added. “This graveyard was built to spread fear.”

Shar said that even though the number of honor killings and subsequent burials in the graveyard had declined after the media had shone a spotlight on the practice in recent years, “there is still fear.”

“Even now if someone is buried, no one reveals it,” Shar said. “The administration ... does not take any action on this lawlessness. People are afraid to talk. The women are helpless. If one is a victim, others are silent mourners.”

Usman Abdullah, the deputy commissioner of Gotkhi, denied that the graveyard in question was reserved for karis.

Murtaza Wahab, a spokesperson for the Sindh government, acknowledged that incidents of honor killing occurred in the province but said he was not aware of a graveyard specifically for karis.

“I will summon a report from the local administration,” he said.

Mehnaz Rehman, the executive director of the Aurat Foundation, a women’s rights organization based in Islamabad, said the graveyard existed and that she had visited it several years ago as part of a fact-finding mission.

“There are painful stories,” she said. “We saw the grave of a mother who we were told was killed and buried there because she had dared to challenge customs.”


Duterte tells unvaccinated Filipinos to stay home, prevent spread of delta variant

Duterte tells unvaccinated Filipinos to stay home, prevent spread of delta variant
Updated 30 July 2021

Duterte tells unvaccinated Filipinos to stay home, prevent spread of delta variant

Duterte tells unvaccinated Filipinos to stay home, prevent spread of delta variant
  • Only 6 percent of the Philippines’ 110 million people are fully inoculated against COVID-19

MANILA: In attempt to impede the spread of the contagious delta variant of COVID-19 Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has told unvaccinated Filipinos to not leave their homes.

The country last week confirmed the presence of the delta strain, prompting the government to reinstate strict coronavirus measures in the metropolitan Manila area — the capital region with more than 13 million inhabitants — and four other provinces until Aug. 15. The Philippines has so far recorded 119 delta cases.

With nearly 1.6 million coronavirus cases and more than 27,000 deaths, the Philippines has the second-worst outbreak in Southeast Asia after Indonesia.

“To those who do not want to get vaccinated, I’m telling you, do not leave your house — if you do, I will tell the police to escort you back because you are a walking spreader,” Duterte said in a televised address on Wednesday night.

He added that the unvaccinated should not go out as “they are throwing viruses left and right. We’re talking about our nation here, so if you don’t want to help by having the vaccines, then you should just stay at home.”

While the Philippine leader admitted there was no law restricting the movement of unvaccinated people, he said he is ready to face legal complaints against his directives.

“Should I wait for it when many people are dying already? That’s the problem. There is no law, but the law of necessity is there,” he said.

The order, however, is seen as problematic and not legally binding.

Attorney Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), said there was no legal basis to restrict the movement of those who had not been vaccinated.

“The fact is, this again cannot be legally justified in the absence of a valid law or ordinance specifically governing such a situation. There is no legal basis to arrest, much less detain, an unvaccinated person because it is not a crime nor a misdemeanor penalized by any law or ordinance,” he said on Thursday.

Duterte has directed his government to give coronavirus shots to anyone who wants it, but long queues at vaccination centers show demand is high and health authorities are struggling to meet it.

On Tuesday, the Philippines recorded its highest daily vaccination rate, with 659,029 jabs administered nationwide, but with only 6 percent of the country’s 110 million people fully inoculated against COVID-19, millions remain vulnerable to infection. The government is aiming to fully vaccinate 70 percent of the population before the year ends.

“Are there enough vaccines? Is the rollout efficient and distributed correctly? And is there still significant (COVID-19 vaccine) hesitancy up to now? Because there are long queues,” Olalia said.

“While we agree that firm, not strongarm, measures must be employed to arrest the pandemic, invoking the ‘law of necessity’ is dangerous as it is nebulous and can be subjective and arbitrary, and therefore, open to abuse and misuse.”