US threatens action if Somalia misses new election deadline

US threatens action if Somalia misses new election deadline
A general view shows the scene of an explosion in the Hamarweyne district of Mogadishu, Somalia, January 12, 2022. (Reuters)
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Updated 13 January 2022

US threatens action if Somalia misses new election deadline

US threatens action if Somalia misses new election deadline
  • Somali leaders on Sunday announced that elections that were due to be concluded last year will take place by Feb. 25

WASHINGTON: The US has brandished the threat of sanctions if troubled Somalia misses its latest deadline for elections.

Somali leaders on Sunday announced that elections that were due to be concluded last year will take place by Feb. 25.

“Somalia’s elections are more than a year behind schedule. The US is prepared to take measures against spoilers if the new National Consultative Council timeline is not met,” the State Department’s Africa bureau said in a Twitter post.

The mandate of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohammed, better known as Farmajo, expired in February 2021 and was controversially extended in April, triggering deadly gunbattles in the streets of Mogadishu.

World powers have voiced fear that election delays, as well as the ongoing feud between Farmajo and Prime Minister Mohammed Hussein Roble, could set off new troubles for a country that has lacked stable governance for three decades.

Somalia is battling a deadly insurgency by Al-Shabab extremists and is in the grip of a drought that has left one in four people facing acute hunger, according to UN estimates.

Several people were killed on Wednesday in a suicide car bomb blast in Mogadishu, which was claimed by Al-Shabab.

The government said in a statement on Twitter that the blast killed four people and injured six others, while a local government security officer had earlier told AFP that at least six people were killed.


Pakistani police officer killed in gunbattle with local Taliban

Pakistani police officer killed in gunbattle with local Taliban
Updated 8 sec ago

Pakistani police officer killed in gunbattle with local Taliban

Pakistani police officer killed in gunbattle with local Taliban
  • Firefight started when two gunmen of the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan opened fire on a police checkpoint
ISLAMABAD: A police officer was killed and two others injured in a shootout with Pakistan’s Taliban in Islamabad, officials said Tuesday, a rare attack by the militants in the heavily guarded capital.
The Monday night firefight started when two gunmen of the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) opened fire from a motorbike on a police checkpoint in central Islamabad.
“A policeman was martyred while two others were wounded,” the police said in a statement, adding that both attackers were killed.
The TTP — a home-grown Pakistani movement that shares common roots with the Afghan Taliban — claimed responsibility for the ambush.
“We are proud of these heroes, and our fighters will continue to follow in their footsteps,” the group said in a statement.
Pakistan’s interior minister warned of the potential for further attacks in the capital — home to dozens of embassies — where security has improved in recent years.
“It is a signal that terrorist activities have started in Islamabad,” Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told reporters.
“It is the first terrorist incident of this year and we need to say alert,” he added.
Pakistan’s government announced late last year it had entered a month-long truce with the TTP, facilitated by Afghanistan’s Taliban, but that expired on December 9 after peace talks failed to make progress.
The TTP has been blamed for hundreds of suicide bomb attacks and kidnappings across the country, and for awhile held sway over vast tracts of the country’s rugged tribal belt, imposing a radical version of Islamic law.
But after the 2014 massacre of nearly 150 children at a Peshawar school, the Pakistan military sent huge numbers of troops into TTP strongholds and crushed the movement, forcing its fighters to retreat to Afghanistan.

China orders overseas mail disinfection over omicron fears

China orders overseas mail disinfection over omicron fears
Updated 32 min 7 sec ago

China orders overseas mail disinfection over omicron fears

China orders overseas mail disinfection over omicron fears
  • The postal service also asked the public to reduce purchases and deliveries from “countries and regions with a high overseas epidemic risk”

BEIJING: China’s postal service has ordered workers to disinfect international deliveries and urged the public to reduce orders from overseas after authorities claimed mail could be the source of recent coronavirus outbreaks.
The move illustrates China’s unrelenting focus on stamping out all coronavirus cases as it prepares to host the Winter Olympics next month, even as experts say the risk of such surface transmission is low.
Multiple small outbreaks in recent weeks — including in Beijing — have tested China’s strict policy of targeting zero Covid cases, which authorities have pursued even as the rest of the world has gradually reopened.
In recent days, Chinese officials have suggested that some people could have been infected by packages from abroad, including a woman in the capital whom authorities said had no contact with other infected people.
She tested positive for a variant similar to those found in North America.
China Post on Monday published a statement ordering workers to disinfect the outer packaging of all international mail “as soon as possible” and requiring employees handling foreign letters and packages to receive booster vaccine shots.
The postal service also asked the public to reduce purchases and deliveries from “countries and regions with a high overseas epidemic risk” and said domestic mail should be handled in different areas to prevent cross-contamination.
The coronavirus is spread through small liquid particles exhaled by infected people.
Both the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control have said the risk of being infected from contaminated surfaces — known as fomite transmission — is low and becomes less likely as time passes.
The CDC has said there is a 99 percent reduction in virus traces left on most surfaces within three days.
Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious diseases expert at Singapore’s Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, told AFP a more likely explanation was the silent spread from asymptomatic people who had received false negatives in initial PCR tests.
“The virus may survive transiently on inanimate objects, but the passage from overseas to China would have been way beyond transient,” he said.
“Repeated testing will help to weed out the virus together with lockdown and contact tracing... but at high cost and inconvenience,” Leong added.
But China — where the virus first emerged in late 2019 — is not willing to take any risks, even more so ahead of next month’s Winter Olympics.
The country uses strict local lockdowns, mass testing and contact-tracing apps to try and eliminate outbreaks as soon as cases are detected.
Millions have been confined to their homes in multiple Chinese cities in recent weeks after cases of both the Delta and omicron coronavirus variants flared.
Recent infections have been detected in areas that receive a high volume of international goods, including in the eastern port city of Tianjin and the southern manufacturing region of Guangdong.
China reported 127 new locally transmitted virus cases on Tuesday.


Co-owner of Golden State Warriors comes under fire for comments on Uyghur Muslims

Co-owner of Golden State Warriors comes under fire for comments on Uyghur Muslims
Updated 30 min 1 sec ago

Co-owner of Golden State Warriors comes under fire for comments on Uyghur Muslims

Co-owner of Golden State Warriors comes under fire for comments on Uyghur Muslims
  • Chamath Palihapitiya said in the podcast that no one cared about the genocide against Uyghur Muslims

Chamath Palihapitiya, a 10-percent minority owner of the Golden State Warriors, said during his podcast "All-in" that he doesn't care about the genocide against Uyghur Muslims in Northwest China and that there are other more important issues for the public to address.

Palihapitiya’s remarks ignited an avalanche of criticism on social media for his insensitivity towards the Uyghurs, a Muslim and ethnic minority group the Biden administration says are the victims of Chinese government sponsored genocide.

When a podcast co-host praises President Joe Biden for expressing concerns for the Uyghurs, Palihapitiya brushes that concern off saying Uyghur genocide is “irrelevant."

 

 

“Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs, OK. You bring it up because you really care. I think it is nice that you care but the rest of us don’t care,” Palihapitiya said in response.

“I am just telling you a very hard ugly truth. Of all the things that I care about, yes, it is below my line. Of all the things I care about, it is below my line.”

Palihapitiya continues that there are other issues he is concerned about, mainly in America, including the US economy, climate change, America's crippling and decrepit healthcare infrastructure.

“But if you are asking do I care about a segment of a class of people in another country, not until we can take care of ourselves will I prioritize them over us,” Palihapitiya to that shock of his podcast co-hosts, Jason Calacanis, David Sacks & David Friedberg.

“I think a lot of people believe that. And I’m sorry if that is a hard truth to hear, but every time I say I care about the Uyghurs I am just lying if I don’t really care. So, I would rather not lie than tell you the truth. It's just not a priority for me.”

Calling concern for the Uyghurs a “luxury belief” that all humans have a basic set of human rights, Palihapitiya argues Americans don't do enough domestically to “clean up our own house.”

The comments brought immediate condemnation from Muslim American groups including the Emgage Action, a Muslim advocacy organization, with chapters in Washington, D.C., Michigan, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and New York.
“These statements are offensive and shocking especially given the well-established body of evidence proving a state-sponsored campaign of cultural and religious extermination against the Uyghur Muslim people,” said Wa’el Alzayat, CEO of Emgage Action.
“It’s why the Biden administration has diplomatically boycotted the Olympics and Congress passed the Uyghur Human Rights Act and Forced Labor Act. We call on Chamath Palihapitiya to issue an immediate apology and for the Warriors and Virgin Galactic to take measures to ensure that their top executives and spokespersons reflect their stated values and commitment to corporate social responsibility.”

Michael Pompeo, the former Secretary of State for President Donald Trump, express shock, saying on Twitter, “If the @NBA truly stands for justice, they will denounce these comments by @chamath and denounce the CCP's genocidal oppression of the Uyghur people in Xinjiang.”

China has been accused of committing ethnic genocide against the Uyghurs putting more than one million members of the Muslim Chinese ethnic minority in “re-education camps.”

In July, Biden accused China of enabling human rights abuses against several ethnic groups in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) including Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang, “where the PRC continues to commit genocide. This action prevents the entities from gaining access to US technology.”

In December, Biden increased sanctions targeting China's Xinjiang Province and military infrastructure because of the alleged genocide.

China on Monday rejected what it called “slanderous attacks” about conditions for Muslim Uighurs living in Xinjiang, as European powers and Turkey voiced concerns and called for UN access to the remote western region.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the UN Human Rights Council that it was taking counter-terrorism measures in accordance with the law and that Xinjiang enjoyed “social stability and sound development” after four years without any “terrorist case.”

The Warriors denounced Palihapitiya saying in a statement late Monday, “As a limited investor who has no day-to-day operating functions with the Warriors, Mr. Palihapitiya does not speak on behalf of our franchise, and his views certainly don’t reflect those of our organization.”


Japan ready to expand COVID-19 restrictions as infections surge

Japan ready to expand COVID-19 restrictions as infections surge
Updated 18 January 2022

Japan ready to expand COVID-19 restrictions as infections surge

Japan ready to expand COVID-19 restrictions as infections surge
  • Japan has never had a lockdown during the pandemic but has focused instead on asking restaurants and bars to close early
  • Bars and eateries that abide by the government restrictions are eligible for aid

TOKYO: Japan’s government is preparing social restrictions in Tokyo and other regions as the omicron variant of the coronavirus infects more people.
Japan has never had a lockdown during the pandemic but has focused instead on asking restaurants and bars to close early. Crowds are back in many parts of Japan, with people packing stores and events, while COVID-19 cases jump.
The order will be finalized this week and is likely to take effect Friday for Tokyo and nine other regions, including Chiba, Kanagawa, Aichi and Kumamoto, the government spokesman said Tuesday.
An order was issued earlier this month for Okinawa, Yamaguchi and Hiroshima prefectures. Other areas seeing surging infections, such as Osaka, may be added later.
“The infections are rising at an unprecedented speed,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters.
Worries are growing about infections spreading so quickly that hospital systems may get stretched thin, he said.
He acknowledged additional action may be needed if the numbers of people shoot up, required to undergo quarantine or hospitalization.
About 80 percent of the Japanese population have received two vaccine shots, but only 1 percent the booster. The government has promised to speed up boosters, but most people won’t be getting them until after March or later, under the current schedule.
The third dose is recommended particularly against omicron, which is causing more breakthrough infections than early forms of the virus.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is keen on avoiding public discontent of its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, widely seen as behind the ouster of the previous prime minister. Nationwide parliamentary elections will be held in a few months.
Bars and eateries that abide by the government restrictions are eligible for aid. But some say that hasn’t been enough.
More than 20,000 new cases were reported Monday nationwide, showing cases are rising quickly because of omicron. Most experts think the case tally is an undercount because testing is not widespread. Some 134,000 people are now quarantining or hospitalized for COVID-19.
About 18,400 people have died from COVID-19. The recently reported daily cases in Japan are approaching the record numbers hit in August and September last year.


Texas rabbi says he, 2 hostages escaped synagogue standoff

Texas rabbi says he, 2 hostages escaped synagogue standoff
Updated 18 January 2022

Texas rabbi says he, 2 hostages escaped synagogue standoff

Texas rabbi says he, 2 hostages escaped synagogue standoff
  • Hostage-taker Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old British national, was killed Saturday night after the last three hostages ran out of the synagogue in Colleyville

COLLEYVILLE, US: The rabbi of a Texas synagogue where a gunman took hostages during livestreamed services said Monday that he threw a chair at his captor before escaping with two others after an hourslong standoff, crediting past security training for getting himself and his congregants out safely.
Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker told “CBS Mornings” that he let the gunman inside the suburban Fort Worth synagogue Saturday because he appeared to need shelter. He said the man was not threatening or suspicious at first. Later, he heard a gun click as he was praying.
Another man held hostage, Jeffrey R. Cohen, described the ordeal on Facebook on Monday.
“First of all, we escaped. We weren’t released or freed,” said Cohen, who was one of four people in the synagogue for services that many other Congregation Beth Israel members were watching online.
Cohen said the men worked to keep the gunman engaged. They talked to the gunman, he lectured them. At one point as the situation devolved, Cohen said the gunman told them to get on their knees. Cohen recalled rearing up in his chair and slowly moving his head and mouthing “no.” As the gunman moved to sit back down, Cohen said Cytron-Walker yelled to run.
“The exit wasn’t too far away,” Cytron-Walker said. “I told them to go. I threw a chair at the gunman, and I headed for the door. And all three of us were able to get out without even a shot being fired.”
Authorities identified the hostage-taker as 44-year-old British national Malik Faisal Akram, who was killed Saturday night after the last three hostages ran out of the synagogue in Colleyville around 9 p.m. The first hostage was released shortly after 5 p.m.
The FBI on Sunday night issued a statement calling the ordeal “a terrorism-related matter, in which the Jewish community was targeted” and said the Joint Terrorism Task Force is investigating. The agency noted that Akram spoke repeatedly during negotiations about a prisoner who is serving an 86-year sentence in the US The statement followed comments Saturday from the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Dallas field office that the hostage-taker was focused on an issue “not specifically related to the Jewish community.”
Akram could be heard ranting on a Facebook livestream of the services and demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to Al-Qaeda who was convicted of trying to kill US Army officers in Afghanistan.
“The last hour or so of the standoff, he wasn’t getting what he wanted. It didn’t look good. It didn’t sound good. We were terrified,” Cytron-Walker told “CBS Mornings.”
At a service held Monday evening at a nearby Methodist church, Cytron-Walker said the amount of “well-wishes and kindness and compassion” has been been overwhelming.
“Thank you for all of the compassion, from the bottom of my heart,” Cytron-Walker said.
“While very few of us are doing OK right now, we’ll get through this,” he said.
Video of the standoff’s end from Dallas TV station WFAA showed people running out a door of the synagogue, and then a man holding a gun opening the same door just seconds later before he turned around and closed it. Moments later, several shots and then an explosion could be heard.
Authorities have declined to say who shot Akram, saying it was still under investigation.
The investigation stretched to England, where late Sunday police in Manchester announced that two teenagers were in custody in connection with the standoff. Greater Manchester Police tweeted that counter-terrorism officers had made the arrests but did not say whether the pair faced any charges.
President Joe Biden called the episode an act of terror. Speaking to reporters in Philadelphia on Sunday, Biden said Akram allegedly purchased a weapon on the streets.
Federal investigators believe Akram purchased the handgun used in the hostage-taking in a private sale, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. Akram arrived in the US at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York about two weeks ago, a law enforcement official said.
Akram arrived in the US on a tourist visa from Great Britain, according to a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was not intended to be public. London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement that its counter-terrorism police were liaising with US authorities about the incident.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel told the House of Commons on Monday that she had spoken to her US counterpart, Alejandro Mayorkas, and offered “the full support” of the police and security services in Britain in the investigation.
Akram used his phone during the course of negotiations to communicate with people other than law enforcement, according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.
It wasn’t clear why Akram chose the synagogue, though the prison where Siddiqui is serving her sentence is in Fort Worth.
An attorney in Texas who represents Siddiqui said Monday that Siddiqui had no connections to Akram.
“She said from the beginning when she was sentenced that she does not want any violence done in her name and she doesn’t condone any type of violence being done,” said attorney Marwa Elbially.
Akram, who was called Faisal by his family, was from Blackburn, an industrial city in northwest England. His family said he’d been “suffering from mental health issues.”
“We would also like to add that any attack on any human being, be it a Jew, Christian or Muslim, etc. is wrong and should always be condemned,” his brother, Gulbar Akram, wrote.
Community organizer Asif Mahmud, who has known the family for 30 years and attends the same mosque, said the family was devastated by what happened in Texas.
He “had mental health issues for a number of years,” Mahmud said. “The family obviously were aware of that … but nobody envisaged he would potentially go and do something like this.”
Mohammed Khan, leader of the local government council in Blackburn, said the community promotes peace across all faiths.
“Ours is a town where people from different backgrounds, cultures and faiths are welcomed, and it is a place where people get along and support one another,’’ Khan said in a statement.