Thousands protest in Vienna against COVID restrictions before lockdown

Thousands protest in Vienna against COVID restrictions before lockdown
Protesters with a banner reading ‘Great exchange, Great Reset, Stop the globalist filth’ attend a demonstration against measures to battle the coronavirus pandemic in Vienna on Saturday. (AP)
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Updated 20 November 2021

Thousands protest in Vienna against COVID restrictions before lockdown

Thousands protest in Vienna against COVID restrictions before lockdown
  • Whistling, clapping, blowing horns and banging drums, crowds streamed into Heroes' Square in central Vienna
  • Roughly 66% of Austria's population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19

VIENNA: Thousands of people, many of them far-right supporters, protested in Vienna on Saturday against coronavirus restrictions a day after Austria’s government announced a new lockdown and said vaccines would be made compulsory next year.
Whistling, clapping, blowing horns and banging drums, crowds streamed into Heroes’ Square in front of the Hofburg, the former imperial palace in central Vienna. Many protesters waved Austrian and other flags and carried signs with slogans such as “no to vaccination,” “enough is enough” or “down with the fascist dictatorship.”
Roughly 66 percent of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, one of the lowest rates in western Europe. Many Austrians are skeptical about vaccines, a view encouraged by the far-right Freedom Party, the third-biggest in parliament.
With daily infections still setting records even after a lockdown was imposed on the unvaccinated this week, the government said on Friday it would send Austria back into lockdown as of Monday and make it compulsory to get vaccinated as of Feb. 1.
The Freedom Party (FPO) had already been planning a show of force in Vienna on Saturday when Friday’s announcement fired up its base and prompted FPO leader Herbert Kickl to respond that “As of today, Austria is a dictatorship.”
Although Kickl could not attend because he has caught COVID-19, thousands of people answered calls by the FPO and other vaccine-critical groups to protest across the city.
“We are not in favor of our government’s measures,” said one protester who was part of a group with tin foil on their heads and toilet brushes in their hands. Like most protesters who spoke to the media, they declined to give their names, though the mood was festive.


Indonesian president to urge dialogue on Ukraine, Russia visits

Indonesian president to urge dialogue on Ukraine, Russia visits
Updated 26 June 2022

Indonesian president to urge dialogue on Ukraine, Russia visits

Indonesian president to urge dialogue on Ukraine, Russia visits
  • Joko Widodo will push President Vladimir Putin for immediate ceasefire
  • Visit is ‘unlikely to change the situation in Europe,’ analyst says

INDONESIA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo said that he will urge his Ukrainian and Russian counterparts to open room for dialogue, as he departed for a peace-building mission to the warring countries on Sunday.

Four months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, the conflict has disrupted global supply chains and stoked an energy crisis after Moscow — a major oil and gas producer — was slapped with international sanctions, leading to rising inflation in many countries.

Widodo, who is also chairing Indonesia’s G20 presidency this year, will be the first Asian leader to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin since the war started in late February.

“The mission is to invite the Ukrainian president to open room for dialogue in the interest of peace,” Widodo said before leaving for Germany to attend the G7 Summit.

“With the same mission I will ask President Putin to open room for dialogue, and to immediately have a ceasefire and stop the war.”

Indonesia’s mission is to strive for peace in Ukraine while also attempting to resolve the ongoing global energy and food crisis, Widodo said, adding that the visit is important to prevent developing and low-income countries from falling into extreme poverty and hunger.

“War has to be stopped and global food supply chains need to be reactivated,” he added.

As Indonesia holds the rotating G20 presidency, the Southeast Asian nation has come under pressure to exclude Russia from the summit scheduled to take place in Bali in November.

Widodo had previously invited both Zelenskyy and Putin to attend the summit. The Indonesian leader called for a peaceful resolution to the months-long fighting, though largely maintained a neutral position.  

Dr. Ahmad Rizky Mardhatillah Umar, an Indonesian international relations researcher at the University of Queensland, Australia, said that Indonesia was concerned about how the war will affect its G20 presidency, as well as its domestic energy and food security.

“Indonesia wants to make sure that Russia and Western countries do not make the G20 a battlefield to advance their cause,” Umar told Arab News.

As it remains unclear what Indonesia will propose to both Zelenskyy and Putin in the upcoming meetings, Widodo’s visit is “unlikely to change the situation in Europe,” Umar said.

“Indonesia is not in the capacity to mediate the conflict and offer long lasting and strategic solutions to end the war.”


At Gwadar’s first boat cafe, a sip of tea with views of Arabian Sea

At Gwadar’s first boat cafe, a sip of tea with views of Arabian Sea
Updated 26 June 2022

At Gwadar’s first boat cafe, a sip of tea with views of Arabian Sea

At Gwadar’s first boat cafe, a sip of tea with views of Arabian Sea
  • Cafe Padizar is one of few hangout spots in the impoverished Balochistan region of southwest Pakistan
  • Brothers Fahad and Qadeer Ishaq opened the venture last month after renovating their family’s old fishing boat

QUETTA: Fahad Ishaq and his brother Qadeer are busy arranging chairs and tables as visitors arrive from different parts of Gwadar to enjoy a sip of tea and watch the sunset from their three-story boat cafe — the first of its kind in the southwestern Pakistani port.

Cafe Padizar, which opened in May, takes its name from the beach where it is docked, overlooking the high, rocky cliffs of the coast of Balochistan province and the Arabian Sea.

The boat, which belongs to Ishaq’s family, was left unused for years after its engines broke down.

In 2021, after graduating in business administration, Ishaq decided to put his degree to good use and began renovating the old vessel.

Together with his brother, the 21-year-old invested Rs1.5 million ($7,200) to restore the boat back and, two years later, turned it into a hangout spot — one of only a few in the impoverished, underdeveloped region.

“We decided to turn the boat into a cafe,” Ishaq told Arab News. “The internal parts of the boat were completely damaged, and now there is space for more than 100 customers.”

The cafe serves tea, coffee and snacks, but the brothers plan to introduce more food items to its menu and offer work to more people.

“Right now, we have hired six workers to serve customers,” Ishaq said. “But we have plans to expand the cafe.”

Business ventures are not always a certain success in Balochistan, a sparsely populated mountainous region bordering Afghanistan and Iran. Despite Gwadar being the center of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, it has been reaping few rewards from the multibillion-dollar infrastructure and energy plan.

Cafe Padizar is not the only business Ishaq runs. His company BOASIS Tourism specializes in bringing visitors from Karachi, Quetta and Islamabad to the sandy beaches of Balochistan.  

“Tourism and traveling have been my passion since childhood,” he said. “Cafe Padizar will help in fostering tourism in Gwadar.”

The cafe, the first of its kind in Gwadar, has so far been successful in attracting customers, something entirely new in a city where the last cinema closed almost two decades ago.

One customer, Aurangzaib Abdul Rauf, said that previously only fishermen could enjoy the views now available to anyone from the top deck of the former fishing boat.

“The cafe has been attracting tourists from the nearest towns,” he told Arab News. “Most of us come here in the evening to enjoy the sea covered by the mountains.”

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Myanmar says seized drugs worth half a billion dollars torched

Myanmar says seized drugs worth half a billion dollars torched
Updated 26 June 2022

Myanmar says seized drugs worth half a billion dollars torched

Myanmar says seized drugs worth half a billion dollars torched
  • Almost two tons of heroin and more than 630 million meth pills go up

YANGON: Myanmar authorities said they torched more than half a billion dollars worth of narcotics on Sunday as part of eradication efforts for World Drug Day, as the UN warns that production of methamphetamine in the region is hitting record levels.
Almost two tons of heroin and more than 630 million “yaba” meth pills went up in smoke at ceremonies in Myanmar’s commercial hub of Yangon, the central city of Mandalay and Shan state in the north, authorities said.
But some analysts cautioned that the $642 million bonfires are part of a long-running game of smoke and mirrors played by a junta government not serious about tackling the problem.
The televised burnings represent a “decade-long delusion” about Myanmar’s multibillion-dollar drug industry, independent analyst David Mathieson said.
“The military pretends to get serious about drug eradication and the West pretends to believe them,” he said.
There was “active military complicity in protecting large-scale drug production to ensure stability in conflict zones,” Mathieson added.
This includes Shan state — Southeast Asia’s primary source of meth according to the United Nations.
The state is home to militias and has seen relatively little violence in opposition to the military since Myanmar’s generals seized power in a coup last year.
At the ceremony in Yangon, bundles of meth wrapped in innocuous-looking Chinese tea packaging sat alongside bricks of cannabis as well as bags of ketamine and MDMA.
A series of small explosions sent the contraband up in flames before thick plumes of black smoke billowed into the sky.
Firefighters moved in for safety and police officers took selfies against the backdrop of the blaze while Burmese pop music blared through speakers.
Last month the UN said law enforcement across Southeast and East Asia netted nearly 172 tons of meth in 2021 — about seven times more than a decade ago.
The surge in supply has sent street prices in Thailand and Malaysia crashing to all-time lows.
From Shan state the drugs are increasingly shipped to Laos, then Thailand before reaching Malaysia, where they are trafficked onwards to countries throughout the Asia-Pacific, the UN report said.


Pope Francis urges calm in protest-hit Ecuador

Pope Francis urges calm in protest-hit Ecuador
Updated 26 June 2022

Pope Francis urges calm in protest-hit Ecuador

Pope Francis urges calm in protest-hit Ecuador
  • ‘I encourage all parties to abandon violence and extreme positions’

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Sunday called on all sides to refrain from violence in Ecuador, which has been rocked by nationwide protests against rising fuel and living costs.
“I am following with concern what is happening in Ecuador,” the Argentine pontiff said after his weekly Sunday Angelus prayer at the Vatican.
“I encourage all parties to abandon violence and extreme positions. Let us learn — only through dialogue can social peace be found, I hope soon.”
The 85-year-old urged particular attention to be paid to “the marginalized populations and the poorest, but always respecting the rights of all, and the institutions of the country.”
Ecuador’s National Assembly is due to vote on whether to oust President Guillermo Lasso over the protests that have left five people dead and dozens injured in 13 days of revolt.
Pope Francis also highlighted the death of sister Luisa Dell’Orto, an Italian missionary who he said was killed on Saturday in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.
“Sister Lucia (Luisa) lived there for 20 years, dedicated above all to the service of street children,” he said.
“I entrust her soul to God and pray for the Haitian people, especially for the youngest, so they may have a more peaceful future without misery, and without violence.
“Sister Lucia made her life a gift for others, to the point of martyrdom.”


Shanghai will gradually resume dining-in at restaurants from June 29

Shanghai will gradually resume dining-in at restaurants from June 29
Updated 26 June 2022

Shanghai will gradually resume dining-in at restaurants from June 29

Shanghai will gradually resume dining-in at restaurants from June 29
  • The Chinese economic hub lifted a two month city-wide lockdown on June 1

BEIJING: Shanghai will gradually resume dining-in at restaurants from June 29 in low-risk areas and areas without any community-level spread of COVID-19 during the previous week, a Shanghai government official said on Sunday.
The Chinese economic hub lifted a two month city-wide lockdown on June 1, but many establishments have remained unable to offer indoor dining since mid-March.
Shanghai reported no new locally transmitted cases — either symptomatic or asymptomatic — for June 24 and June 25.