Philippines bans travelers from France to prevent omicron spread

Philippines bans travelers from France to prevent omicron spread
The Philippines earlier banned travelers from South Africa and 13 other countries. (AFP)
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Updated 08 December 2021

Philippines bans travelers from France to prevent omicron spread

Philippines bans travelers from France to prevent omicron spread
  • This adds to an earlier ban on travelers from South Africa and 13 other countries

MANILA: The Philippines will ban travelers coming from France to prevent the spread of the omicron COVID-19 variant, the presidential office said on Wednesday.
The ban, which applies to everyone who has been in France in the past 14 days, runs from Dec. 10 to Dec. 15.
This adds to an earlier ban on travelers from South Africa and 13 other countries to prevent omicron, which has yet to be detected in the Philippines.


UK govt orders probe into Muslim ex-minister’s claims

UK govt orders probe into Muslim ex-minister’s claims
Updated 21 sec ago

UK govt orders probe into Muslim ex-minister’s claims

UK govt orders probe into Muslim ex-minister’s claims

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered an inquiry into claims by a Muslim former minister that she was sacked from his government because of her faith, a spokesperson said Monday.
The claims by Nusrat Ghani, a former junior transport minister, have stoked fresh controversy for Downing Street as Johnson awaits the findings of a different inquiry into “partygate” revelations.
“The prime minister has asked the Cabinet Office to conduct an inquiry into the allegations made by Nusrat Ghani MP,” the spokesperson said.
Johnson had initially urged Ghani to file a formal complaint through the Conservative party. But she declined, arguing that the allegation centered on government rather than party work.
“The prime minister has now asked officials to establish the facts about what happened,” the spokesperson said, adding that Johnson “takes these claims very seriously.”
Ghani welcomed the new probe, which was announced after she held talks with Johnson on Sunday evening.
“As I said to the prime minister last night, all I want is for this to be taken seriously and for him to investigate,” she tweeted.
The inquiry must look into what she was told both by Downing Street aides and by a Conservative whip in parliament, the Tory MP added.
Ghani, 49, was sacked as a transport minister in 2020, and told the Sunday Times that a whip said her “Muslimness was raised as an issue” at one meeting in Downing Street.
She was also told her “Muslim woman minister status was making colleagues feel uncomfortable,” she claimed.
Chief whip Mark Spencer, whose role is to keep MPs on board with the government’s agenda, took the unusual step of identifying himself as the person at the center of the claims, and strongly denied the allegations.
The government whips were already in the spotlight after they were accused by another Tory MP of “blackmailing” backbench critics of Johnson over the partygate affair.
Several Conservatives have called for the prime minister to quit after revelations that his staff had held frequent parties in Downing Street during Covid-19 lockdowns.
Johnson attended at least one of the gatherings, but denies breaking the law, and has commissioned senior civil servant Sue Gray to investigate.
Gray’s report could come out this week, according to reports.
In a newspaper column in 2018, Johnson sparked widespread criticism by writing that Muslim women wearing the burqa looked like “letter boxes” and a “bank robber.”


Australian admits abducting 4-year-old girl from family tent

Australian admits abducting 4-year-old girl from family tent
Updated 36 min 9 sec ago

Australian admits abducting 4-year-old girl from family tent

Australian admits abducting 4-year-old girl from family tent
  • Terence Darrell Kelly, 36, admitted to the abduction during a brief court appearance in Carnarvon in a video link from a Perth prison

PERTH: A man pleaded guilty Monday to abducting a 4-year-old girl from her family’s camping tent on Australia’s west coast last year.
Police found the girl, Cleo Smith, alone in a house in Carnavon, a town of 5,000 people, 18 days after she went missing last October.
Terence Darrell Kelly, 36, admitted to the abduction during a brief court appearance in Carnarvon in a video link from a Perth prison, 900 kilometer (560 miles) to the south.
He faces a potential sentence of up to 20 years in prison on a conviction of forcibly taking a child aged under 16. He will next appear in a Western Australian state District Court in Perth on March 20.
Kelly has not entered a plea to other criminal charges he faces, including assaulting a public officer. Those charges have been adjourned to a later date.


Mexican journalist murdered in Tijuana, 2nd in a week

Mexican journalist murdered in Tijuana, 2nd in a week
Updated 24 January 2022

Mexican journalist murdered in Tijuana, 2nd in a week

Mexican journalist murdered in Tijuana, 2nd in a week
  • Lourdes Maldonado López was found shot to death inside a car
  • Authorities had received a 911 call around 7 p.m. and found Maldonado dead on arrival

MEXICO CITY: A journalist was killed Sunday, the second in a week’s time in the northern Mexico border city of Tijuana, and the third in Mexico this month.
Lourdes Maldonado López was found shot to death inside a car, according to a statement from the Baja California state prosecutor’s office. Authorities had received a 911 call around 7 p.m. and found Maldonado dead on arrival.
In 2019, Maldonado came to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s daily morning news conference and asked for his support, help and labor justice. “Because I fear for my life,” she said.
Maldonado had been locked in a years-long labor dispute with Jaime Bonilla, who was elected governor of Baja California later that year as a candidate from López Obrador’s Morena party. He left office late last year.
Maldonado had recently announced that she won her dispute with a media company Bonilla owned after nine years of litigation.
Maldonado had collaborated with many outlets, but recently was doing a Internet, radio and television show, “Brebaje,” focused on local news.
Last Monday, photographer Margarito Martínez was gunned down outside his home. He was well-known for covering the crime scene in violence-plagued Tijuana. He worked for the local news outlet Cadena Noticias, as well as for other national and international media outlets.


UK must urge global shift in Afghanistan aid, experts warn

UK must urge global shift in Afghanistan aid, experts warn
Updated 24 January 2022

UK must urge global shift in Afghanistan aid, experts warn

UK must urge global shift in Afghanistan aid, experts warn
  • The group of experts laid out five practical outcomes that the UK should encourage the international community to work toward
  • They called on the UK government to convene an urgent international conference

LONDON: Experts in Britain are calling on the UK government to press the international community to broaden the definition of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan to “avert an irreversible humanitarian disaster.”
In a letter sent to The Guardian newspaper, a group of experts, including former defense, national security and foreign policy chiefs, laid out five “practical outcomes” that the UK should encourage the international community to work toward.
The outcomes include meeting the UN’s appeal for humanitarian funding, preserving state delivery systems, resuming technical support to the country’s central bank to prevent economic collapse, reinstating the Afghan reconstruction trust fund and releasing some of the frozen Afghan foreign reserves so that salaries of essential workers can be paid and key social services maintained.
“But these measures are not enough to avert an irreversible humanitarian disaster,” the letter said, adding: “We believe the UK government needs to act in accordance with two fundamental principles: Afghan lives should not be used for political leverage; and economic and state collapse in Afghanistan is not in our own national interest.”
It called on the government to convene an urgent international conference, in partnership with the UN and key international partners, but to distinguish aid into two types: “Money that can be withheld to try to leverage political concessions from the Taliban, and money to enable government institutions to deliver basic human services and to keep the economy from collapsing.”
Afghanistan’s dire humanitarian situation has worsened following the Taliban takeover and withdrawal of the last remaining US troops. As a result, aid was suspended and many countries and international organizations froze the country’s assets.
The World Food Program said that it urgently needs $220 million per month this year as it ramps up operations to provide food and cash assistance to the more than 23 million Afghans facing severe hunger.
“The freezing of state assets and the cut in international funding for health and education risk tipping the country into a famine not seen before in Afghanistan’s 40 years of conflict. Economic collapse will cause death and suffering, and increase terrorism and migration,” the letter said.
Its authors include Valerie Amos, former UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs; Mark Lowcock, former UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs; and Mark Sedwill, former national security adviser, cabinet secretary and ambassador to Kabul, among others.
The letter added that the proposals do not seek to give any succour to the Taliban.
“Humanitarian agencies are ready and able to pay medical staff, teachers and other civil servants delivering public services. But they need the money to do so — far more than has yet been delivered. And they need a clear political mandate from donors, not least the US,” the signatories said.
The letter comes after Norway hosted a Taliban delegation for three days of talks in Oslo with Western officials and Afghan civil society representatives to discuss the deteriorating humanitarian situation.
“We are extremely concerned about the grave situation in Afghanistan, where millions of people are facing a full-blown humanitarian disaster. In order to be able to help the civilian population in Afghanistan, it is essential that both the international community and Afghans from various parts of society engage in dialogue with the Taliban,” said Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt.
She added that though the meetings did not represent a legitimate recognition of the Taliban, it was necessary to communicate with the country’s authorities to avoid worsening the humanitarian disaster.


Soldiers mutiny in Burkina Faso, govt dismisses talk of coup

Soldiers mutiny in Burkina Faso, govt dismisses talk of coup
Updated 23 January 2022

Soldiers mutiny in Burkina Faso, govt dismisses talk of coup

Soldiers mutiny in Burkina Faso, govt dismisses talk of coup
  • Mutineers demand resignations of top security officials

OUAGADOUGOU: Sustained gunfire rang out from military camps in Burkina Faso on Sunday as mutinying soldiers demanded more support for their fight against Islamist militants and protesters ransacked the headquarters of President Roch Kabore’s political party.

The government called for calm, denying speculation on social media that the army had seized power or detained Kabore.

A spokesperson for the mutineers said they were demanding “appropriate” resources and training for the army in its fight against militants linked to Al-Qaeda and Daesh and the resignation of the army and intelligence chiefs.

Frustration in the West African gold-producing country has grown in recent months over deteriorating security.

The deaths of 49 military police in a militant attack in November prompted violent street protests calling for Kabore to step down.

Protesters in the streets of the capital Ouagadougou on Sunday urged the soldiers to go further, chanting “Free the country!”

The mutiny underlines the threat posed by growing insurgencies across West Africa’s Sahel region, a semi-arid strip of land beneath the Sahara Desert.

The militants have seized control of swathes of territory across Burkina Faso and its neighbors, Mali and Niger.

Heavy gunfire was first heard on Sunday at Ouagadougou’s Sangoule Lamizana camp, which houses a prison whose inmates include soldiers involved in a failed 2015 coup attempt.

Hundreds of people later came out in support of the mutineers.

At the Lamizana camp, where a crowd of about 100 sang the national anthem and chanted, the soldiers responded by firing into the air. It was not clear if this was meant to show support for the demonstrators or to disperse them.

In downtown Ouagadougou, near the Place de la Nation, police fired teargas to disperse around 300 protesters. Soldiers also fired into the air at an air base close to Ouagadougou International Airport.

The US Embassy also reported gunfire at three other military bases in Ouagadougou and at bases in the northern towns of Kaya and Ouahigouya.