New Zealand looks to boost COVID-19 vaccinations as new cases ease

New Zealand looks to boost COVID-19 vaccinations as new cases ease
New Zealand had been largely coronavirus-free for months until a Delta outbreak forced a snap lockdown on August 17. (AFP)
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Updated 14 September 2021

New Zealand looks to boost COVID-19 vaccinations as new cases ease

New Zealand looks to boost COVID-19 vaccinations as new cases ease
  • Tuesday’s 15 new infections in New Zealand were a drop from Monday’s figure of 33
  • The lockdowns and international border closure since March 2020 have been credited with holding down COVID-19

WELLINGTON: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern asked New Zealanders on Tuesday to get vaccinated as soon as possible, as it was the only way to beat the spread of coronavirus and see curbs lifted in the biggest city of Auckland.
Tuesday’s 15 new infections in New Zealand were a drop from Monday’s figure of 33, but about 1.7 million people will stay in lockdown in Auckland until next week, as the government battles to hold down a cluster of the highly infectious Delta variant.
“The vaccine is the best tool we have in our toolbox and our ticket to greater freedom,” Ardern told a news conference. “The more people who are vaccinated, the fewer restrictions you have to have.”
Auckland’s lockdown has shut schools, offices and public places, with people allowed to leave home only for exercise or to buy essential items. In the rest of the country, the lockdown was lifted last week.
New Zealand had been largely coronavirus-free for months until a Delta outbreak forced a snap lockdown on Aug. 17. It has infected 970 people so far, most of them in Auckland.
The lockdowns and international border closure since March 2020 have been credited with holding down COVID-19, but a slow vaccination effort has spurred criticism for Ardern. Just 34 percent of the population of 5.1 million have been fully vaccinated.
To boost the program, New Zealand has bought doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from Spain and Denmark.
“There is nothing holding us back in Auckland when it comes to vaccines,” Ardern added. “There’s capacity to administer 220,000 doses of vaccine in the region this week.”
Vaccine buses will begin plying this week to reach more people, she said.


UK climate activists face prison for blocking highways

UK climate activists face prison for blocking highways
Updated 4 sec ago

UK climate activists face prison for blocking highways

UK climate activists face prison for blocking highways
LONDON: Environmental activists who have repeatedly blocked Britain’s busiest highway face possible imprisonment after a judge granted an injunction against the protesters, Britain’s transport secretary said Wednesday.
Members of campaign group Insulate Britain have shut down parts of London’s M25 highway, which circles the British capital, five times in just over a week by sitting on the ground, painting the name of their group on the road and raising placards in front of traffic. Some have also targeted other highways.
Police have arrested dozens of the protesters, who demand the government improve home insulation to reduce emissions from heating and powering homes.
“Invading a motorway is reckless and puts lives at risk,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps wrote on Twitter. “I asked National Highways to seek an injunction against M25 protesters which a judge granted last night.”
The injunction means that activists will face contempt of court with possible imprisonment if they continue blocking roads.
Insulate Britain spokeswoman Zoe Cohen said protesters “understand that the risks they are taking are because that we have tried everything else to make the government protect us from the predicted impacts of climate chaos.”
“That involves the loss of all that we cherish, our society, our way of life and law and order,” she told BBC radio.
Cohen said her group wants the government to update insulation in social housing by 2025 and all homes by 2030, “because this is the most effective way to reduce emissions and save lives from fuel poverty.”
The group said it will end its campaign as soon as it hears a “meaningful commitment” by the government to its demands.
The High Court order, which officially came into force on Wednesday, prohibits anyone from “blocking, endangering, slowing down, preventing, or obstructing the free flow of traffic onto or along or off the M25 for the purposes of protesting.”

Carlos the Jackal seeks shorter French jail term at new trial

Carlos the Jackal seeks shorter French jail term at new trial
Updated 28 min 5 sec ago

Carlos the Jackal seeks shorter French jail term at new trial

Carlos the Jackal seeks shorter French jail term at new trial
  • Carlos, who carried out several attacks in support of the Palestinian cause, was convicted of murder in 2017 and sentenced to life in prison
  • He became one of the world’s most wanted fugitives after leading a brazen attack on a meeting of the OPEC oil cartel in Vienna in 1975

PARIS: Carlos the Jackal, the Venezuelan militant who was behind some of the biggest terror attacks of the 1970s and 1980s, appeared in a Paris court Wednesday in an attempt to have one of his three life sentences reduced.

The self-styled revolutionary, whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, has been behind bars in France since 1994, when French police caught up with him in Sudan after two decades on the run.

“I’ve been on forced holiday in France for twenty-seven and a half years,” the moustachioed white-haired defendant, now 71, quipped at the start of the proceedings.

The trial is the third in four years over a grenade attack in Paris in 1974 that killed two people and injured dozens.

Carlos, who carried out several attacks in support of the Palestinian cause, was convicted of murder in 2017 and sentenced to life in prison, a verdict that was upheld on appeal.

But in 2019, France’s highest court sent the case back to court to reconsider his sentence, saying he should not have been convicted of both carrying and using a grenade because it amounted to being convicted twice of the same offense.

Three days of hearings have been scheduled.

Carlos has always denied responsibility for the attack at the Publicis Drugstore at Saint-Germain-des-Pres, in the heart of Paris’s Left Bank.

No DNA evidence or fingerprints were found after the bombing, but a former comrade-in-arms linked Carlos to the attack.

Investigators believe the assault was designed to pressure France into freeing a jailed militant from a far-left Japanese group.

Carlos is also serving life sentences over the 1975 murders of two French policemen and a police informer, as well as for a series of bombings in Paris and Marseille in 1982 and 1983 that killed a total of 11 people and left dozens injured.

Born into a wealthy family in Caracas on October 12, 1949, Carlos joined a communist group as a teenager and studied in Moscow before joining a hard-line Marxist Palestinian group.

“I am a professional revolutionary; revolution is my job,” he told a French court in 2018.

He became one of the world’s most wanted fugitives after leading a brazen attack on a meeting of the OPEC oil cartel in Vienna in 1975.

Carlos and five other gunmen took 11 energy ministers and dozens of others hostage.

Three people were killed before Austrian authorities agreed to supply Carlos with a plane to fly him and his team to Algiers with around 40 hostages.

The hostages were later released in return for a hefty ransom, and their abductors walked free.


Turin industrial area to host Islamic cultural center

Turin industrial area to host Islamic cultural center
Updated 22 September 2021

Turin industrial area to host Islamic cultural center

Turin industrial area to host Islamic cultural center
  • The facilities ‘will be open to all the citizens of Turin,’ including a major exhibition room

ROME: A huge disused industrial area in Turin, one of the biggest cities in northern Italy, will soon host a large Islamic cultural center with a mosque.

The city council sold the former Nebbiolo complex on Tuesday for just over €1 million ($1.1 million). This large area in the “Motown” industrial zone, very close to the old Fiat car workshops, now belongs to the Italian Islamic Foundation “Al-Waqf,” which already runs the Mohammed VI mosque on via Genova in the center of the city.

The Nebbiolo workshop, formerly an iron foundry, had been left abandoned for several years. Production in this old-fashioned industrial site ended in the 1970s due to a financial crisis.

The City Council bought it, but it took a long time before Turin Mayor Chiara Appendino decided for a new destination of use for the area, which will now finally come into a new life.

Half of the surface of the site (equal to 5,322 sq m) will be developed into residences for students with reduced rates.

The City Council Foundation and Al-Waqf formally agreed that it will be open to undergraduate and postgraduate students “from any university and institute,” without restrictions on access linked to religion.

The rest of the property will host an Islamic cultural center where courses and recreational and cultural activities will be organised, “for the promotion of knowledge of Islamic culture among Italian citizens,” Al-Waqf said in a statement.

The center will be run in coordination with another that was inaugurated in 2013 in via Genova, the first place of worship for Muslims opened in the city.

Activities such as language courses, seminars, public meetings, open debates and visits to Islamic places of worship will be organized in various reading and meeting rooms. The facilities “will be open to all the citizens of Turin,” including a major exhibition room. 

The ground floor of the structure, which overlooks the iconic Corso Novara street, will be used as a prayer and meeting room.

“Recovering a space that had been abandoned for years with a nice project linked to the university residence, study rooms, spaces for associations and prayer spaces is an excellent result for the city and for the neighbourhood,” Antonino Iaria, city planning councilor of the Municipality of Turin, told Arab News.

Turin already hosts 15 mosques. Nearly 60,000 Muslim live in the city and half of them hail from Morocco.


Shots fired at Ukraine presidential aide’s car in assassination bid

Shots fired at Ukraine presidential aide’s car in assassination bid
Updated 22 September 2021

Shots fired at Ukraine presidential aide’s car in assassination bid

Shots fired at Ukraine presidential aide’s car in assassination bid
  • More than 10 bullets hit the car near the village of Lesnyky, around 5 kilometers outside the capital Kiev, wounding the driver

KIEV: A volley of shots was fired at a car carrying Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s principal aide on Wednesday in what a senior official called an assassination attempt.
More than 10 bullets hit the car near the village of Lesnyky, around 5 kilometers outside the capital Kiev, wounding the driver, a police statement said. It said a criminal case on suspicion of premeditated murder had been opened.
A local television station said at least 19 bullet holes could be seen on the driver’s side of the car.
A senior lawmaker said the aide, Serhiy Shefir, was not hurt. Shefir is close to the president, leading a group of advisers.
Zelenskiy, who came to power on a promise to take on the country’s oligarchs and fight corruption, is currently in the United States at the UN General Assembly.
His office said Zelenskiy had been informed and would comment shortly.
Zelenskiy adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said the assassination attempt could be a result of the president’s fight against the oligarchs.
“This open, deliberate and extremely violent assault with automatic weapons cannot be qualified any differently than as an attempted killing of a key team member,” Podolyak told Reuters.
“We, of course, associate this attack with an aggressive and even militant campaign against the active policy of the head of state,” Interfax Ukraine quoted Podolyak as saying.
“The president’s policy aimed at fundamental transformation of the state will remain unchanged,” he said, promising tougher measures against oligarchs.
Parliament is this week due to debate a presidential law directed on reducing the influence of oligarchs.


Pakistan FM urges Taliban to keep its promises to international community

Pakistan FM urges Taliban to keep its promises to international community
Updated 22 September 2021

Pakistan FM urges Taliban to keep its promises to international community

Pakistan FM urges Taliban to keep its promises to international community
  • Taliban seem more ‘open-minded’ than last time they were in power, Qureshi tells briefing attended by Arab News
  • ‘Pakistan hasn’t been recognized for what we’ve done (to help the US)’

WASHINGTON: The Taliban should respect international opinion and keep their promises to have an inclusive government and not allow Afghanistan to become a safe haven for terrorist groups, Pakistan’s foreign minister told reporters in New York at a briefing attended by Arab News.

“It would be a positive step for the Taliban to include ethnic Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara groups in their government,” said Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who is attending the 76th session of the UN General Assembly.

The Taliban seem to be more “open-minded” than the last time they were in power in the 1990s, he added, calling for reconciliation and respect for human rights, including women’s rights.

“If the Taliban can demonstrate these objectives, it will be positive (for Afghanistan),” Qureshi said. “We believe that the reconciliation process in Afghanistan can’t be completed without the formation of a united government.”

He said the international community should allow Afghanistan to access its frozen assets abroad in order to alleviate its people’s suffering.

The international community, he added, can help stabilize Afghanistan politically and economically, and create an environment where its people do not have to flee and become refugees in neighboring countries.

Pakistan has hosted millions of Afghan refugees for decades without international assistance, Qureshi said, adding that Islamabad’s strategic interest lies in a united Afghanistan that will not allow India to use it as a base to “destabilize” his country.

He said Pakistan seeks to recalibrate its relationship with the US based on trade, economic ties and fostering political stability in the region in the aftermath of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

Bilateral ties should transcend the situation in Afghanistan, he said, adding that Pakistan helped and sided with the US in its “war on terror” after the 9/11 attacks, and facilitated American troop movements and logistics during its war in Afghanistan over the past two decades. “Pakistan hasn’t been recognized for what we’ve done (to help the US),” Qureshi said.

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