Beijing enforces mass COVID-19 testing, closes neighborhoods

Beijing enforces mass COVID-19 testing, closes neighborhoods
Beijing locked down residents in an area about 2 by 3 kilometers (1 by 2 miles), telling them to work from home and stay in their residential compounds. (File/AFP)
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Updated 26 April 2022

Beijing enforces mass COVID-19 testing, closes neighborhoods

Beijing enforces mass COVID-19 testing, closes neighborhoods
  • Fears of total lockdown have been fed by the situation in the southern business hub of Shanghai

BEIJING: China’s capital Beijing is enforcing mass testing and closing down access to neighborhoods as it seeks to contain a new COVID-19 outbreak.
Announcement of the testing had sparked panic buying in the city of 21 million on Monday, but the situation appeared to calm on Tuesday with public transport largely keeping to normal schedules and roads packed with commuters.
Fears of total lockdown have been fed by the situation in the southern business hub of Shanghai, where 25 million residents have only gradually been allowed to leave their homes after three weeks of confinement.
The city of Anyang in central China and Dandong on the border with North Korea became the latest to start lockdowns as the omicron variant of the coronavirus spreads.
Shanghai has buckled under strict lockdown conditions that have driven residents to band together to get food delivered through group buying. Goods have backed up at Shanghai's port, affecting supplies and factory production and crimping economic growth.
Beijing locked down residents in an area about 2 by 3 kilometers (1 by 2 miles), telling them to work from home and stay in their residential compounds. It wasn’t a total lockdown but stadiums, sports fields, cinemas, karaoke bars and other entertainment venues were ordered closed.
Elsewhere, the city also shut down some or all buildings in five residential compounds, adding to others have been locked down for two days. Beijing has recorded 80 cases in the most recent wave, while Shanghai has seen more than 300,000 and 190 deaths this month.


After ban on wheat grain, India tightens export rules for flour

After ban on wheat grain, India tightens export rules for flour
Updated 07 July 2022

After ban on wheat grain, India tightens export rules for flour

After ban on wheat grain, India tightens export rules for flour
  • Exporters need government approval before selling their products abroad
  • Trade regulator imposes curbs from July 12 citing global supply disruptions

NEW DELHI: The Indian government imposed on Thursday restrictions on wheat flour exports, after banning the export of grain to insulate its markets from the global food crisis.

In a surprise move in May, India prohibited grain exports citing domestic security risks, as a scorching heatwave curtailed output.

The ban came as global buyers were banking on the planet’s second-biggest wheat producer for supplies after exports from the world’s breadbasket, the Black Sea region, plunged following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February.

While the international community has called on India to reconsider the export ban, saying it could play a significant role in helping to alleviate the current food supply crisis, the new curbs on flour will take effect from July 12.

“Global supply disruptions in wheat and wheat flour have created many new players and has led to price fluctuations and potential quality related issues,” the Directorate General of Foreign Trade said in a notification, adding that flour exporters will need to seek government approval before selling their products abroad.

India’s wheat flour exports went up sharply this year, as it exported a record 7 million tons worth over $2 billion — 274 percent more than in the corresponding period last year, according to local media reports.

Indian wheat flour goes mainly to Sri Lanka, the Middle East and Africa, according to Pramod Jain, vice president of the Roller Flour Millers Federation of India.

The decision, he told Arab News, was seen as a means to control inflation.

“Availability of wheat is under a question mark in India. The government is being cautious,” Jain said.

“I think by curbing exports the price in the domestic market would be controlled. Though it is bad for millers, it is good for the country.”


Saudi and American Muslims embrace ‘giving nature’ of Islam during Eid Al-Adha

Saudi and American Muslims embrace ‘giving nature’ of Islam during Eid Al-Adha
Updated 07 July 2022

Saudi and American Muslims embrace ‘giving nature’ of Islam during Eid Al-Adha

Saudi and American Muslims embrace ‘giving nature’ of Islam during Eid Al-Adha
  • Global and local charity drives provide, food, shelter, education, disaster relief and health support
  • Community solidarity is the faith’s core tenet, say Arab News’ Rawan Radwan, PEW’s Besheer Mohamed and ICNA’s Atya Kazmi

CHICAGO: Muslims are very “giving” and that generosity is reflected in local and global charity drives, especially during the celebration of Islamic holidays such as Eid Al-Adha, which begins this week, American and Saudi Muslims said Wednesday.

Eid Al-Adha, the “Festival of Sacrifice,” reflects the historical tradition embraced by Jews, Christians, and Muslims of the Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael to show his faith in Allah (God), but who was instead directed by the Almighty to sacrifice a lamb.

Rawan Radwan, deputy sections head and regional correspondent for Arab News, said that “giving” is a core belief in Islam, especially during the Eid celebrations.

 

 

“After prayers, Muslims traditionally honor the Prophet Abraham’s … devotion by sacrificing sheep, goats, cows. Every person has to contribute a portion, of course depending on the animal, to those who are in need. We give to our families, our friends. But, of course, the biggest chunk goes to those who are most in need, the poor,” Radwan explained during an appearance on The Ray Hanania Show.

“Every year during Eid Al-Adha there are different charities that are giving aid and food or produce or even sacrificial animals. That is from one side. And of course here (Saudi Arabia) charities. (A) lot of these charities are funded by the government, and funded also by the people who contribute very much. They are given food, and produce and clothes.”

“That is just the power of giving here. You are surrounded by this so it is a part of nature. It is just second nature to a lot of the people here as a community. For Saudis, and I am sure a lot of different and other communities, the power of giving is something that is very much felt here.”

The spirit of community solidarity and inclusivity during the Eid holidays is reflected in the conduct of Muslims who immigrated to America, said both PEW Senior Researcher Besheer Mohamed and Atya Kazmi, the Chicago area manager for the Islamic Circle of North America Relief.

Kazmi described how the ICNA, which has chapters throughout the US, supervises up to 70 food pantries for the poor, manages 20 transitional houses for homeless families, and even organizes events to coincide with holidays such as Eid Al-Adha to bring cheer to everyone.

ICNA Relief, Kazmi said, is hosting a 1,000 Toy Drive so children can celebrate the Eid Al-Adha holiday this week.

 

 

“Not just toys we also try to give clothing to them, we also (ensure) food distribution. As we all know, it is an obligation on Muslims to help the needy people no matter where they are and whichever religion or ethnicity or culture that they belong to, so our services are for everyone,” Kazmi said.

“Those who are in need step into our offices and we do proper case management for them to provide much-needed services.”

Kazmi emphasized that while the toy drive is focused on the Muslim children of refugees who have recently fled Afghanistan to America, ICNA Relief’s efforts also helps all families in need.

“We are open to everyone,” Kazmi said. “(W)e are a faith-based organization and support the Muslim community, but no one is left out, regardless of their religion.”

ICNA Relief Chicago is a chapter of the Islamic Circle of North America Relief, operating across the nation with programs including transitional shelter for homeless women, food pantries, back-to-school giveaways, Muslim family services, refugee empowerment, women’s hygiene kits, winter clothing drives, disaster relief, and free health screenings.

Mohamed said PEW research suggests most Americans do not understand Islam because they have never met a Muslim.

 

 

“One of the things we see on our data of Muslims and that applies to everyone, is that people who say they personally know a member of a group tend to have more positive views. So people who say they personally know someone who is Muslim tend to have more positive views towards Muslims, tend to have more positive views of Islam. 

“And this may be a surprise to some of your (radio) listeners … given where you are broadcasting (Detroit, Washington DC and Chicago), about how half the American public say they don’t personally know a Muslim,” Mohamed said of the PEW research.

We “So there are lots of folks who say I don’t know anybody who is Muslim except for the people I see on TV. A lot of people say they don’t know very much about something. Only about one in 10 Americans say they think they know a lot about the religion of Islam.”

“Only about six in 10 Americans can correctly identify in a multiple-choice survey, that the Hajj is to Makkah, and not to Madinah and not to Jerusalem. So four in 10 Americans say I don’t know.”

The data shows that when Muslims directly engage the American public, it has “a serious impact and can result in a more positive views” of Muslims.

He said that because Muslim communities are concentrated in certain areas like Dearborn or Chicago, misunderstandings and stereotypes are reinforced in areas where Muslims do not live.

The majority of Americans, Mohamed said, are unfamiliar with Muslim traditions and religious holidays like Eid Al-Adha. That results in both sympathy and fear.

Eight in 10 Americans, the data shows, believe Muslims face greater discrimination than Jews and Evangelical Christians. It’s more distinct when it comes to American politics, he added.

“The data shows that there is a large divide between Republican and Democratic perceptions of Muslims,” he said. 

According to PEW’s research data, Mohamed said, 72 percent of Republicans say that Muslims are more likely to encourage violence (than other religious groups) while only 32 percent of Democrats believe Muslims are more likely to encourage violence.

The first Iftar was hosted by former president Bill Clinton, a Democrat, and Eid celebrations were recognized by presidents ever since including by former president George W. Bush, a Republican. Former president Donald Trump, a Republican, suspended the formal White House Eid Iftars, but they were restored by President Joseph Biden, a Democrat.

But the more government officials acknowledge events like Eid Al-Adha and Eid Al-Fitr, the more Americans are willing to understand Muslims, Mohamed said. The public celebration of these festivals by American governments impacts not only American understanding but also encourages more Muslims to partake in the festivities.

 

 

“One of the things that we see is that engagement with the Eid holiday, this Eid holiday and the other Eid holiday that happens after Ramadan, both of those things is actually quite high, even among Muslims who say they don’t attend religious services very often or who don’t pray five times a day which is normatively prescribed,” Mohamed said.

“You see large numbers saying that they do attend religious services around the Eid a couple times of the year. They think that the Hajj to Makkah is very important and they hope to do that at some point.”

The Ray Hanania Show is broadcast live every Wednesday at 5 p.m. Eastern EST on WNZK AM 690 radio in Greater Detroit including parts of Ohio, and WDMV AM 700 radio in Washington DC including parts of Virginia and Maryland. The show is rebroadcast on Thursdays at 7 a.m. in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 and in Chicago at 12 noon on WNWI AM 1080.

You can listen to the radio show podcast here: www.arabnews.com/RayRadioShow


Finland amends law to bolster Russia border fence

Finland amends law to bolster Russia border fence
Updated 07 July 2022

Finland amends law to bolster Russia border fence

Finland amends law to bolster Russia border fence
  • Finland reversed decades of military non-alignment by seeking membership in NATO in May
  • As it stands, Finland’s borders are secured primarily with light wooden fences

HELSINKI: Finnish parliament passed legislation Thursday to build stronger fences on its border with Russia, as the country seeks to join NATO following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Finland reversed decades of military non-alignment by seeking membership in the military alliance in May, formally starting the process to join this week.
Fearing that Moscow could use migrants to exert political pressure, the new amendments to Border Guard Act facilitate the construction of sturdier fences on the Nordic country’s 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) eastern border with Russia.
The aim of the law is to “improve the operational capacity of the border guard in responding to the hybrid threats,” Anne Ihanus, a senior adviser at the interior ministry, said.
“The war in Ukraine has contributed to the urgency of the matter,” she added.
As it stands, Finland’s borders are secured primarily with light wooden fences, mainly designed to stop livestock from wandering to the wrong side.
“What we are aiming to build now is a sturdy fence with a real barrier effect,” Sanna Palo, director of the Finnish border guards’ legal division, said.
“In all likelihood, the fence will not cover the entire eastern border, but will be targeted at locations considered to be the most important,” Palo said.
The new law makes it also possible to close border crossings and concentrate asylum seekers at specific points, in the event of large-scale crossover attempt.
Helsinki also passed amendments to Emergency Powers Act to make the definition of “emergency” better take account of various hybrid threats.


Minneapolis police officer convicted in George Floyd’s death awaits federal sentencing

Minneapolis police officer convicted in George Floyd’s death awaits federal sentencing
Updated 07 July 2022

Minneapolis police officer convicted in George Floyd’s death awaits federal sentencing

Minneapolis police officer convicted in George Floyd’s death awaits federal sentencing
  • Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pleaded guilty to the federal civil rights charges in December

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is due to be sentenced in federal court on Thursday for violating the civil rights of George Floyd, a year after a state court sent him to prison for more than two decades for murdering Floyd in an arrest.
Chauvin pleaded guilty to the federal civil rights charges in December in the US District Court in St. Paul, Minnesota, a decision that averted a second trial but almost certainly extended his time behind bars.
Chauvin, who is white, admitted he violated Floyd’s right not to face “unreasonable seizure” by kneeling on the handcuffed Black man’s neck for more than 9 minutes in a murder captured on cellphone video that horrified people around the world.
A state court has already sentenced Chauvin to 22-1/2 years in prison for intentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. People sentenced to prison for felonies in Minnesota are usually released on parole after serving two-thirds of their sentence.
Chauvin’s guilty plea to the federal charges came as part of an agreement with prosecutors that said he would face between 20 and 25 years in federal prison.
In that agreement he admitted for the first time that he was to blame for Floyd’s death.
Floyd could be seen in videos pleading for his life before falling still on the road beneath Chauvin’s knee. A medical examiner ruled the police restraint stopped Floyd from being able to breathe.
Federal prosecutors have asked Judge Paul Magnuson to sentence Chauvin to 25 years, a sentence that would run concurrently with the state one.
Floyd’s murder sparked one of the biggest protest movements seen in the United States, with daily marches to decry racism and brutality in US policing. Chauvin was helping three colleagues to arrest Floyd in May 2020 on suspicion Floyd had used a fake $20 bill when buying cigarettes.
The three other former police officers who worked to arrest Floyd — Tou Thao, J. Alexander Keung and Thomas Lane — were found guilty in the same federal court in February of violating Floyd’s rights. They are yet to receive a sentencing date.


Russian defense ministry says warplane hit Ukrainian troops on Snake Island

Russian defense ministry says warplane hit Ukrainian troops on Snake Island
Updated 07 July 2022

Russian defense ministry says warplane hit Ukrainian troops on Snake Island

Russian defense ministry says warplane hit Ukrainian troops on Snake Island
  • Russian forces withdrew from Snake Island in the Black Sea on June 30

Russia’s defense ministry said on Thursday that a Russian warplane struck Ukraine’s Snake Island in the Black Sea overnight, shortly after Ukrainian troops claimed to have raised their flag over the island.
Andriy Yermak, the Ukrainian President’s chief of staff, posted a video on Telegram on Thursday of three soldiers raising a large Ukrainian flag on the island, from which Russian forces withdrew on June 30.