Biden asks New Zealand’s Ardern for advice on extremist gun violence

Biden asks New Zealand’s Ardern for advice on extremist gun violence
US President Joe Biden meets with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, of New Zealand, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Tuesday. (AFP)
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Updated 31 May 2022

Biden asks New Zealand’s Ardern for advice on extremist gun violence

Biden asks New Zealand’s Ardern for advice on extremist gun violence
  • "We need your guidance," Biden said, calling for a "global effort to counter violence and extremism online"
  • Biden said there was an "awful lot of suffering" and that "much of it is preventable"

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden on Tuesday told New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern that after the latest US mass shooting he wants her advice in tackling a rise in gun violence and extremist ideologies.
Meeting in the Oval Office with Ardern, Biden referred to the 2019 Christchurch slaying of 51 people in mass shootings targeting Muslims.
The bloodshed prompted New Zealand to ban military-style rifles. A gun buy-back was also instituted.
“We need your guidance,” Biden said, calling for a “global effort to counter violence and extremism online.”
“I want to work with you on that effort,” he said.
Biden, who visited the Texan town of Uvalde on Sunday to mourn the deaths of 19 children and two teachers slain by a gunman using an assault-style rifle, said there was an “awful lot of suffering” and that “much of it is preventable.”
Less than two weeks earlier, Biden had also visited the site in New York state of another mass shooting, this time targeting African Americans.
Biden, who is under pressure to show the government is responding to the ever-growing toll, told reporters he would “meet with the Congress on guns, I promise you.”
However, with Republicans almost uniformly opposed to new restrictions on gun ownership, it appears unlikely that Biden’s Democrats can make significant change.
Ardern offered condolences over the Texas and New York murders, saying that “our experience in this regard is our own, but if there is anything we can share that would be of any value we are here to share it.”


Armenian blast death toll rises to 16

Armenian blast death toll rises to 16
Updated 6 sec ago

Armenian blast death toll rises to 16

Armenian blast death toll rises to 16
  • Sunday’s blast at the Surmalu wholesale market also injured 60 people
  • Local authorities have excluded the possibility that it was a terror attack
YEREVAN: The death toll from an explosion at a bustling market in the Armenian capital Yerevan rose to 16, Armenia’s emergency situations ministry said on Tuesday.
Sunday’s blast at the Surmalu wholesale market also injured 60 people after it caused a fire and the collapse of a building.
“Sixteen bodies were found during search and rescue efforts,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that 18 people were still missing.
Officials said more than 350 rescuers are at work on the ground.
The cause has not yet been established, but local news reports, citing witnesses, said the explosion went off at a place that stored fireworks.
Local authorities have excluded the possibility that it was a terror attack and prosecutors have already launched a probe into violations “on stocking inflammable goods,” breaches in fire safety standards and the death of people “due to negligence.”
The disaster comes as the country of three million people is still recovering from a 2020 war with Azerbaijan, which ended in a heavy defeat and sparked a political crisis.
Shortly after Sunday’s blast, officials evacuated people from Yerevan metro stations after a bomb threat, but authorities found no explosive device.

China sanctions seven Taiwanese ‘independence diehard’ officials

China sanctions seven Taiwanese ‘independence diehard’ officials
Updated 16 August 2022

China sanctions seven Taiwanese ‘independence diehard’ officials

China sanctions seven Taiwanese ‘independence diehard’ officials
  • Firms and investors related to those sanctioned will also not be allowed to profit in China

BEIJING: China imposed sanctions on Tuesday on seven Taiwanese officials and lawmakers it accused of being “independence diehards,” including banning them from entering, in its latest angry reproach of the democratically governed island.
The sanctions come after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan this month, a trip that China said had sent a wrong signal to what it views as pro-independence forces.
China considers Taiwan its own territory and not a separate country. Taiwan’s government disputes China’s claim.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said among those sanctioned were Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the United States, Hsiao Bi-khim, Secretary-General of Taiwan’s National Security Council Wellington Koo, and politicians from Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party.
A Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson said that those sanctioned would not be able to visit China, Hong Kong and Macau. Firms and investors related to them will also not be allowed to profit in China.
“For some time, a few diehard separatist elements, out of their own interests, have gone to lengths to collude with external forces in provocations advocating Taiwan independence,” state news agency Xinhua cited the spokesperson as saying.
“They have deliberately instigated confrontations across the Taiwan Strait, and recklessly undermined peace and stability in the region.”
Taiwan’s foreign ministry said in response that the island was a democracy that “could not be interfered with by China.”
“Even more, we cannot accept threats and menace from authoritarian and totalitarian systems,” ministry spokesperson Joanne Ou told reporters in Taipei.
The sanctions will have little practical impact as senior Taiwanese officials do not visit China.
The seven are in addition to Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu and parliament Speaker You Si-kun who were previously sanctioned https://www.reuters.com/world/china/china-says-it-will-hold-supporters-taiwans-independence-criminally-responsible-2021-11-05 by China.
Taiwan’s government says only the island’s 23 million people have the right to decide their own future.


First ship bound for Africa leaves Ukraine port: Ministry

First ship bound for Africa leaves Ukraine port: Ministry
Updated 16 August 2022

First ship bound for Africa leaves Ukraine port: Ministry

First ship bound for Africa leaves Ukraine port: Ministry
  • Ukraine’s grain exports have slumped since the start of the war because of the closure of its Black Sea ports, a crucial conduit for shipments, which drove up global food prices and sparked fears of shortages in Africa and the Middle East

ISTANBUL/KYIV: The ship Brave Commander has left the Ukrainian port of Pivdennyi, carrying the first cargo of humanitarian food aid bound for Africa from Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, Refinitiv Eikon data showed on Tuesday.
Ukraine’s grain exports have slumped since the start of the war because of the closure of its Black Sea ports, a crucial conduit for shipments, which drove up global food prices and sparked fears of shortages in Africa and the Middle East.
But three Black Sea ports were unblocked last month under a deal between Moscow and Kyiv, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, that made it possible to send hundreds of thousands of tons of Ukrainian grain to buyers.
The Brave Commander, with 23,000 tons of wheat aboard, left for the African port of Djibouti with supplies destined for consumers in Ethiopia, Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry said.
“The ministry and the United Nations are working on ways to increase food supplies for the socially vulnerable sections of the African population,” it said in a statement.
Seventeen ships have already left Ukrainian ports with more than 475,000 tons of agricultural products on board, it added.
Earlier, a joint co-ordination center set up by Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Nations, said it had approved the departure of the Brave Commander. Moscow calls its action in Ukraine a “special military operation.”


UN envoy travels to strife-torn Myanmar for the first time

UN envoy travels to strife-torn Myanmar for the first time
Updated 16 August 2022

UN envoy travels to strife-torn Myanmar for the first time

UN envoy travels to strife-torn Myanmar for the first time
  • Noeleen Heyzer’s trip follows the UN’s latest call for an immediate end to all forms of violence and unimpeded humanitarian access in the country
  • No indication whether UN special envoy would meet with military rulers or the country’s imprisoned former leader, Aung San Suu Kyi

UNITED NATIONS: The UN special envoy for Myanmar traveled to the Southeast Asian nation Monday for the first time since she was appointed to the post last October.
The trip by Noeleen Heyzer followed the UN Security Council’s latest call for an immediate end to all forms of violence and unimpeded humanitarian access in the strife-torn country.
Heyzer “will focus on addressing the deteriorating situation and immediate concerns as well as other priority areas of her mandate,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
He gave no details on whether Heyzer would meet with Myanmar’s military rulers or the country’s imprisoned former leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, a longtime UN demand. Suu Kyi was convicted earlier Monday on more corruption charges, adding six years to her earlier 11-year prison sentence.
Heyzer’s visit “follows her extensive consultations with actors from across the political spectrum, civil society as well as communities affected by the ongoing conflict,” Dujarric said.
Earlier this month, Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, special envoy to Myanmar for the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, said efforts by Myanmar’s neighbors to help restore peace and normalcy to the strife-torn nation were hindered by the country’s recent execution of four political activists.
He warned that further executions would force the regional group to reconsider how it engages with fellow member Myanmar.
In February 2021, Myanmar’s army ousted Suu Kyi’s elected government and then violently cracked down on widespread protests against its actions. After security forces unleashed lethal force on peaceful demonstrators, some opponents of military rule took up arms.
Myanmar’s military rulers agreed to a five-point ASEAN plan in April 2021 to restore peace and stability to the country, which includes an immediate halt to violence and a dialogue among all parties. But the country’s military has made little effort to implement the plan, and Myanmar has slipped into a situation that some UN experts have characterized as a civil war.
Heyzer, a women’s rights activist from Singapore, headed UNIFEM, a UN development organization that focuses on promoting women’s economic advancement, in 1994-2007. She was the first woman to serve as executive secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, in 2007-2014.


US Justice Dept opposes revealing evidence supporting search of Trump’s home

The seal of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is seen outside of its headquarters in Washington, DC on August 15, 2022. (AFP)
The seal of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is seen outside of its headquarters in Washington, DC on August 15, 2022. (AFP)
Updated 16 August 2022

US Justice Dept opposes revealing evidence supporting search of Trump’s home

The seal of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is seen outside of its headquarters in Washington, DC on August 15, 2022. (AFP)
  • Some of the records seized were labeled as “top secret” — the highest level of classification reserved for the most closely held US national security information

WASHINGTON: The US Justice Department on Monday said it opposes unsealing the affidavit that prosecutors used to obtain a federal judge’s approval to search former President Donald Trump’s Florida home, where they seized classified documents.
“If disclosed, the affidavit would serve as a roadmap to the government’s ongoing investigation, providing specific details about its direction and likely course, in a manner that is highly likely to compromise future investigative steps,” prosecutors wrote in their filing.
Trump’s Republican allies in recent days have ramped up their calls for Attorney General Merrick Garland to unseal the document, which would reveal the evidence that prosecutors showed to demonstrate they had probable cause to believe crimes were committed at Trump’s home — the standard they had to meet to secure the search warrant.
On Friday, at the Justice Department’s request, a federal court in south Florida unsealed the search warrant and several accompanying legal documents that showed that FBI agents carted away 11 sets of classified records from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.
Some of the records seized were labeled as “top secret” — the highest level of classification reserved for the most closely held US national security information.
Such documents usually are typically kept in special government facilities because disclosure could damage national security
The Justice Department on Monday cited this as another reason to keep the affidavit sealed, saying the probe involves “highly classified materials.”
The agency said it would not oppose the release of other sealed documents tied to the raid, such as cover sheets and the government’s motion to seal.
The warrant released on Friday showed that the Justice Department is investigating violations of three laws, including a provision in the Espionage Act that prohibits the possession of national defense information and another statute that makes it a crime to knowingly destroy, conceal or falsify records with the intent to obstruct an investigation.
Trump has since claimed, without evidence, that he had a standing order to declassify all of the materials recovered at his home.
The decision by Garland to unseal the warrant was highly unusual, given the Justice Department’s policy not to comment on pending investigations.
On the same day Garland announced his decision to seek to unseal the warrant, an armed man with right-wing views tried to breach an FBI office in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was later shot dead by police following a car chase.
Prosecutors on Monday cited the recent violence and increasing threats against the FBI as another reason not to release the affidavit.
“Information about witnesses is particularly sensitive given the high-profile nature of this matter and the risk that the revelation of witness identities would impact their willingness to cooperate with the investigation,” they wrote.
Also on Monday the Justice Department said a Pennsylvania man was arrested on charges of making threats on the social media service Gab against FBI agents. Adam Bies, 46, was taken into custody on Friday in connection with the social media posts, the DOJ said.