One surrendered Hong Kong hamster tests COVID-19 positive as city lockdown grows

One surrendered Hong Kong hamster tests COVID-19 positive as city lockdown grows
Residents line up to get tested for the coronavirus at the lockdown area in Kwai Chung Estate, in Hong Kong, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 25 January 2022

One surrendered Hong Kong hamster tests COVID-19 positive as city lockdown grows

One surrendered Hong Kong hamster tests COVID-19 positive as city lockdown grows
  • Thousands of people have offered to adopt unwanted hamsters

HONG KONG: Hong Kong authorities said on Sunday one hamster surrendered to authorities by pet-owners had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and that over 2,200 hamsters had been culled as the city grappled to contain an outbreak.
On Tuesday, officials ordered the killing of hamsters from dozens of pet shops after tracing a coronavirus outbreak to a worker at a shop and asked people to surrender any bought on or after Dec. 22.
While a handful of hamsters had already tested positive for the virus, this latest case is the first involving a hamster in the care of a pet-owner that had tested positive.
Despite a public outcry against the hamster crackdown, authorities urged pet-owners to continue to hand over their tiny furry pets given burgeoning health risks.
“(The government) strongly advises members of the public again to surrender ... as soon as possible their hamsters purchased in local pet shops on or after December 22, 2021 for humane dispatch,” the government said in a statement.
Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam earlier told reporters that she understood “pet owners are unhappy” with the killings, but said the biggest priority was to control the outbreak.
The government described the outcry as “irrational.”
Thousands of people have offered to adopt unwanted hamsters.
Some scientists and veterinary authorities have said there is no evidence that animals play a major role in human contagion with the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, officials have warned that COVID-19 infections could be growing exponentially in the congested residential area of Kwai Chung on the Kowloon peninsula, as a second building in the district with two thousands residents was locked down on Saturday for five days.
More than 35,000 residents in over a dozen buildings in the area were also ordered to take COVID-19 tests, with Lam herself visiting the area on Sunday.
Lam urged people to avoid gatherings ahead of next week’s Lunar New Year holidays to try to contain the highly infectious omicron variant.
The situation is testing Hong Kong’s “zero COVID-19” strategy focused on eliminating the disease, with schools and gyms already shut, restaurants closing at 6 p.m. (1000 GMT) and air travel with many major hubs severed or severely disrupted.
Some companies have begun to enact contingency measures.
UBS Group AG said in a note to its Hong Kong staff reviewed by Reuters that it had “decided to move to work-from-home operations for all except a minimum number of staff who have essential tasks to be completed in the office” given the Omicorn outbreak.
A UBS spokesman declined to comment on the memo.
On Friday, officials shut down the first Kwai Chung building after more than 20 cases were linked to it, with food delivered from outside three times a day and mass testing underway.


Crisis-hit Sri Lanka to seek ‘huge’ investment from Middle East

Crisis-hit Sri Lanka to seek ‘huge’ investment from Middle East
Updated 10 sec ago

Crisis-hit Sri Lanka to seek ‘huge’ investment from Middle East

Crisis-hit Sri Lanka to seek ‘huge’ investment from Middle East

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka will seek investment from Middle Eastern countries, particularly in the petroleum sector, its new environment minister has said, as the island nation confronts its worst economic crisis in memory.

Unable to pay for imports, Sri Lanka has been enduring shortages of food, fuel, medicines and other essentials for months.

While the government negotiates a bailout package with the International Monetary Fund, the country officially defaulted on its debts last week. It must repay about $25 billion in foreign loans by 2026, but the finance ministry said earlier this month that its usable foreign reserves had plummeted to $25 million.

Naseer Ahamed, who on Tuesday assumed duties as environment minister and also oversees Middle Eastern affairs, told Arab News that his immediate priority was to attract “some huge strategic investment” and to request a loan from Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Gulf for the purchase of petroleum products.

“Sri Lanka is looking at getting a long-term credit facility for the supply of crude oil, gas oil, gasoline, jet A-1 and energy gas to tide over the present crisis,” the former student of King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, said. “If we can get that support from Middle Eastern countries, I am sure that we can overcome this financial crisis.”

Foreign inflows are crucial for Sri Lanka, where the devastating economic crisis — the worst since independence in 1948 — has triggered widespread demonstrations across the country since March.

The Middle East is also important for the island nation as a major source of remittances, as it is home to one million Sri Lankan nationals — 66 percent of the country’s migrant workers.

“They bring home the largest percentage of the $7 billion remitted to our national coffers,” Ahamed said. “What I am looking at is to further strengthen the relationship.”

The former chief minister of Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province is also planning to pursue environmental cooperation with Saudi Arabia, especially under its Saudi Green and Middle East Green initiatives launched last year to reduce carbon emissions.

“Since the launch of Vision 2030 in 2016, the Kingdom has taken significant steps to scale up its climate action and environmental protection,” Ahamed said.

“Now that I have taken the Ministry of Environment, we will explore how best Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka cooperate with each other in the successful implementation of the Saudi Green initiatives.”


Israel has never been held to account for its attack on USS Liberty 55 years ago, US vets say

Israel has never been held to account for its attack on USS Liberty 55 years ago, US vets say
Updated 43 min 32 sec ago

Israel has never been held to account for its attack on USS Liberty 55 years ago, US vets say

Israel has never been held to account for its attack on USS Liberty 55 years ago, US vets say
  • Survivors of USS Liberty attack demand Congressional hearing to investigate Israel’s killing of 34 Americans during the assault
  • Congress and US government are more concerned about protecting Israel than honoring the 34 servicemen killed and 173 wounded in the 1967 attack, survivors tell Arab News

CHICAGO: US military veteran survivors of the June 8, 1967 Israeli attack on the USS Liberty communications ship said on Wednesday that they were betrayed and “stabbed in their spine” by US government efforts to protect Israel and suppress details of the unprovoked assault.

Five survivors from the USS Liberty told Arab News that after the nearly two-hour long assault by Israel they were “threatened with imprisonment” if they spoke publicly about the attack, which took the lives of 34 American servicemen and injured 173.

The survivors, all decorated American veterans and now in their seventies, demanded that Congress allow them to testify at a public hearing on what they saw, saying Israel lied when it claimed its assault fighter jets, torpedo boats and attack helicopters did not recognize the Liberty as an American ship even though it was flying the US flag.

Former Liberty naval officer, Larry Bowen, said that the American public “deserves to know the truth” about what happened, not from the bureaucrats or the pro-Israel propagandists who have vilified the survivors and called them “anti-Semitic,” but from the American veterans who survived the Israeli assault.

 

 

“What we are all seeking from our government, and that is the truth. They have been covering it up for the past 55 years and there has been evidence come out over the years to prove that no way was it a mistaken identity. So, for me, I would like to see a full Congressional investigation calling on us Liberty veterans to provide testimony so they can get the truth,” said Bowen, president of the USS Liberty Veterans Association. “The Sixth Fleet didn’t come to the aid of the severely damaged Liberty until the next day,” he said.

“After the Sixth Fleet came to our aid the following day, we had an admiral come on board, Admiral Kid, and tell us we were never to talk about it with anyone. He threatened us with fines and imprisonment, or worse, if we did. And that was the story all the way along. Even when I came off the ship, I was flown to Norfolk Virginia for my next assignment and I had a lieutenant commander tell me the same thing, we were not talk to the news press. We were not to talk to our families, friends, relatives. We weren’t to say anything at all about the incident or we would be fined or imprisoned.”


Bowen received a Purple Heart for injuries suffered during the attack, and the Defense Meritorious Service Medal for his sustained exceptional performance at the time. 

The survivors said that Israel’s attack was “brutal and unrelenting.” Israeli fighter jets dropped napalm on the bridge of the ship, and shot life rafts American sailors were trying to use to save wounded shipmates. The ship had 850 cannon rocket holes and was strafed by more than 5,000 armor-piercing bullets.

The attack began at about 2 p.m. off the coast of Egypt in the Mediterranean Sea. It continued for nearly two hours. 

Mickey LeMay, 73, who was a second-class electrician in charge of the electrical department on the Liberty, said that US forces did not come to their rescue until early the next afternoon. They accused the US Navy and Israel of wanting the ship and the evidence of the attack to sink to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. The US was embarrassed and Israel wanted the attack covered up.

 

 

“We didn’t get any help from the United States until about 9 or 10 o’clock the next morning. The Russians came alongside and offered us help but nothing from the United States. They wanted us to sink. The American politicians wanted the Liberty sunk. They didn’t even send help from a doctor,” said LeMay, who still has 52 pieces of shrapnel in his body from the attack.

“Except for the Russians. They offered to stand by, and if we sunk they were going to pull the survivors out of the water.”

LeMay said he was ordered by senior officers not to speak about the incident to anyone.

Don Pageler, 76, a communications technician seriously wounded during the Israeli attack, was awarded the Presidential UNIT Citation, Combat Action Ribbon, Good Conduct Medals and National Defense Medal. He was shocked that no one came to their aid.

“The Navy did try to send us help. Captain Tully, captain of the Saragtoga, said that he had 16 planes, including 12 to 14 fighter bombers, to come to our aid within 15 minutes of giving our distress call but before they were out of sight (of the Saratoga) they were recalled,” Pageler said.

Phil Tourney, who received the Bronze Star for heroism for rescuing wounded shipmates, said that the award he received mentioned the injuries “but not the state that directed the attack, Israel.” The US Government did everything possible to save Israel from blame.

 

 

Asked if the US government was built on coverups or built on the constitution, Tourney said: “It’s worse than that. They didn’t just throw us under the bus. Israel and our own government put a knife in our spine. And to all Americans, just not us, but to all Americans, they put a knife in all of your spine by what they got away with. They care less about what happened to the USS Liberty. But we are not going to stop. We are still living. Look at these guys out here. We are old men. Well, these guys are. We are not giving up. We are here for a reason. Our dead shipmates didn’t have a chance to talk but we are talking for them and we will never forget them.”

The survivors said that despite Israel’s claims, the Liberty was flying a 5 x 8 foot American flag and that the Liberty had “all the markings” of an American vessel.

Bowen said that Liberty communications intercepted reports from the Israeli attackers saying that the ship was American, but they were told to continue the assault.

“The attack was intentional. They knew well in advance that we were the USS Liberty,” Bowen said. “There were at least a half dozen overflights early in the morning by the Israelis. It was a deliberate attack. They knew who we were.”

He said there is a conspiracy to cover up what Israel knew and why they attacked, adding that there never was a full or impartial investigation by Congress. The Navy conducted a quick court of inquiry and only interviewed 14 crew members. Anyone who criticized Israel in their testimony, he said, had their testimony redacted to remove criticism that pointed a finger at Israel.

“I think it is important for our American public to realize that Israel has a hold on our government. There is something that Israel is aware of to make it impossible for our congressmen to speak out against them (Israel),” Bowman said.

“We have tried over the past 55 years to go in and talk to various senators and congressmen about getting an investigation. And each time, if they are being honest, they will tell you that AIPAC gets more play than the USS Liberty will ever get because they fund a lot of the congressmen and senators and they will not bite the hand that feeds them. We as a country can’t allow a country like Israel to dictate what we can or can’t do.”

The USS Liberty Veterans Association completed its own report in 2000, which was presented to the US military for review with the request that Israel be charged with war crimes.

“They owe the families, the survivors, and most of all America, an apology. It was treason on the high seas by our own president Lyndon Baines Johnson. If the ship (Liberty) went down they were going to blame it on the Arab countries,” Ron Kukal said.

“We need accountability and transparency now that we haven’t gotten for the past 55 years.”

That request was summarily dismissed.

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Putin won’t be allowed to dictate peace: Scholz

Putin won’t be allowed to dictate peace: Scholz
Vladimir Putin will not be allowed to dictate peace in Ukraine, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz said. (AP)
Updated 26 May 2022

Putin won’t be allowed to dictate peace: Scholz

Putin won’t be allowed to dictate peace: Scholz
  • Vladimir Putin will not be allowed to dictate peace in Ukraine, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz said

DAVOS: Vladimir Putin will not be allowed to dictate peace in Ukraine, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Thursday, vowing to continue backing Kyiv to push the Russian president to negotiate seriously to end his invasion.
“It is a matter of making it clear to Putin that there will be no dictated peace,” said Scholz. “Ukraine will not accept that and neither will we.”


Firefighters contain blaze at Sudan Red Sea port

Firefighters contain blaze at Sudan Red Sea port
Updated 26 May 2022

Firefighters contain blaze at Sudan Red Sea port

Firefighters contain blaze at Sudan Red Sea port
  • The fire, which raged for hours, broke out in the cargo drop off area of the port

Khartoum: Firefighters have contained a large blaze that erupted in a cargo area of the Sudanese Red Sea port of Suakin, the port’s director said Thursday.
The fire, which raged for hours, broke out in the cargo drop off area of the port on Wednesday sending plumes of acrid smoke into the sky.
It was not immediately clear what caused the blaze.
“The fire has been brought under control following the intervention of civil defense forces and port workers,” port director Taha Ahmed Mokhtar said.
He said an investigation had been launched to determine the cause of the fire, and a commission set up to assess the scale of the losses.
A port official, who spoke on condition of annonymity, had earlier described the damage as “catastrophic.”
The blaze at the port came as Sudan is gripped by a chronic economic crisis which deepened after last year’s military coup led by army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan.
The military takeover triggered punitive measures, including aid cuts by Western governments, who demanded the restoration of the transitional administration installed after the 2019 ouster of longtime president Omar Al-Bashir.
The historic port town of Suakin is no longer Sudan’s main foreign trade hub, a role which has been taken by Port Sudan, some 60 kilometers (40 miles) away along the Red Sea coast.
But there have been moves to redevelop the port.
Bashir’s government signed a deal with Turkey in 2017 to restore the historic buildings of Suakin island and expand its docks, but the agreement has been suspended since his overthrow.


8,000 Ukrainian prisoners of war held in Luhansk, Donetsk: Separatists’ official

8,000 Ukrainian prisoners of war held in Luhansk, Donetsk: Separatists’ official
Ukrainian prisoners of war held in Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics number about 8,000. (File/AFP)
Updated 26 May 2022

8,000 Ukrainian prisoners of war held in Luhansk, Donetsk: Separatists’ official

8,000 Ukrainian prisoners of war held in Luhansk, Donetsk: Separatists’ official
  • Ukrainian prisoners of war held in the Russian-backed self-proclaimed Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics number about 8,000

Ukrainian prisoners of war held in the Russian-backed self-proclaimed Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics number about 8,000, Luhansk official Rodion Miroshnik was quoted by TASS news agency as saying on Thursday.
“There are a lot of prisoners. Of course, there are more of them on the territory of Donetsk People’s Republic, but we also have enough, and now the total number is somewhere in the region of 8,000. That’s a lot, and literally hundreds are being added every day,” Miroshnik said.
Reuters was not able to verify the report.