Hundreds of thousands gather for mass prayer in Baghdad

Update Hundreds of thousands gather for mass prayer in Baghdad
Residents of the impoverished Baghdad suburb of Sadr City pledge support to Al-Sadr, an influential cleric who called on thousands of his followers to storm Iraq's parliament. (AP)
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Updated 06 August 2022

Hundreds of thousands gather for mass prayer in Baghdad

Hundreds of thousands gather for mass prayer in Baghdad
  • Powerful cleric, Muqtada Al-Sadr, had called on followers from across Iraq to pray inside Baghdad’s Green Zone
  • The mass-prayer call follows Al-Sadr’s demand for early elections

BAGHDAD: Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis heeded the call of an influential Shiite cleric to gather in a show of strength for a mass prayer in the heart of Baghdad’s heavily fortified government zone on Friday. The gathering took place amid an escalating political crisis that has put the country’s capital on edge.
The powerful cleric, Muqtada Al-Sadr, had called on his followers from across Iraq to come to pray inside Baghdad’s Green Zone — a heavily fortified area in the heart of the city that houses government buildings and foreign embassies. They arrived and stood outside in the scorching summer-time heat, with temperatures reaching 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit).
Friday’s mass prayer was the latest display of strength by the cleric, whose political power derives from his strong grassroots support base.
Al-Sadr has used his large grassroots following as a pressure tactic against his rivals, after his party was not able to form a government despite having won the largest number of seats in federal elections held last October. He exited the political process to form the next government in June.
His followers gathered facing the Victory Arch, a monument erected during Saddam Hussein’s regime to commemorate the Iran-Iraq war. It was built for the purpose of holding military parades.
Farid Jaafar, 16, arrived from Babylon province to show his support for Al-Sadr. His transport was paid by Al-Sadr’s party he said. “I love Muqtada,” he said.
Holding the prayer within the highly restrictive zone that is closed off to most Iraqis points to the cleric’s power and influence.
Last Saturday, thousands of his followers stormed parliament in a bid to derail attempts by Al-Sadr’s Shiite rivals to form a government. Around 125 people were injured in the violence, most of them protesters and 25 members of the security forces.
Al-Sadr’s followers camped out inside the parliament until he ordered them, after four days to withdraw from the assembly building, but maintain a sit-in outside. He’s calling for the dissolution of parliament and early elections.
His Shiite rivals in the Iran-backed Coordination Framework have said they would consider holding early elections in the event of a national consensus.


World food prices decline for 10th month running in January, says UN Food Agency

World food prices decline for 10th month running in January, says UN Food Agency
Updated 14 min 58 sec ago

World food prices decline for 10th month running in January, says UN Food Agency

World food prices decline for 10th month running in January, says UN Food Agency

ROME: World food prices fell in January for a 10th consecutive month, and are now down some 18 percent from a record high hit last March following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the UN's food agency said on Friday.

The Food and Agriculture Organization’s price index, which tracks the most globally traded food commodities, averaged 131.2 points last month against 132.2 for December, the agency said on Friday. It was the lowest reading since September 2021.

The December figure was revised down from an original estimate of 132.4.

Falls in the prices of vegetable oils, dairy and sugar helped pull down the index, while cereals and meat remained largely stable, the FAO said.

In separate cereal supply and demand estimates on Friday, the FAO raised its forecast for global cereal production in 2022 to 2.77 billion tons from a previous estimate of 2.76 billion tons.

The FAO cereal price index rose just 0.1 percent month-on-month in January to give a 4.8 percent increase on the year.

International wheat prices declined 2.5 percent as production in Australia and Russia outpaced expectations. Rice, by contrast, jumped 6.2 percent, driven in part by strong local demand in some Asian exporting countries.

Vegetable oil prices fell 2.9 percent in January, the dairy index dipped 1.4 percent and sugar declined 1.1 percent. Meat slipped a mere 0.1 percent.

Looking at supply and demand for cereals, FAO said it expected a record global output of wheat in 2022 thanks to revised crop forecasts from Australia and Russia.

The forecast for world rice production was revised down on the back of lower-than-expected output in China, and is now predicted to decline 2.6 percent from its all-time high in 2021.

Looking ahead to 2023, FAO said early indications pointed to a likely expansion of winter wheat cropping in the northern hemisphere. However, it warned that high fertilizer costs may impact yields.

World cereal utilization in 2022/23 was forecast to dip 0.7 percent from the previous year to 2.78 billion tons. The estimate for world cereal stocks was pegged at 844 million tons, pushing down the world stock-to-use ratio for 2022/23 to 29.5 percent from 30.8 percent in 2021/22


EU officials hold Kyiv talks in show of support for Ukraine

EU officials hold Kyiv talks in show of support for Ukraine
Updated 45 min 22 sec ago

EU officials hold Kyiv talks in show of support for Ukraine

EU officials hold Kyiv talks in show of support for Ukraine
  • U assistance for Ukraine has reached almost 50 billion euros since the fighting started, according to EU officials
  • Ukraine wants to join the 27-nation bloc, though that could take years

KYIV: Top European Union officials were due to meet Friday in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a show of support for the country as it battles to counter Russia’s invasion and strives to join the EU as well as NATO.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel, as well as 15 European commissioners, traveled to the Ukrainian capital for what they described as a summit meeting.
The last such summit was held in Kyiv in October 2021 — a few months before the war started.
EU assistance for Ukraine has reached almost 50 billion euros ($55 billion) since the fighting started, according to EU officials.
The EU is providing Ukraine with financial and humanitarian aid, among other things. It also plans to adopt a 10th package of sanctions again Russia in the coming weeks.
Ukraine wants to join the 27-nation bloc, though that could take years and require the adoption of far-reaching reforms. In the meantime, von der Leyen said Thursday that the European Commission is willing to let Kyiv join what she called some “key European programs” that will bring benefits similar to membership.
Those programs were due to be discussed in Friday’s meeting, which will also address one of the main obstacles to Ukraine’s EU membership: endemic corruption.
Von der Leyen, on her fourth visit to Kyiv since Russia’s invasion, said Thursday she was “comforted” by Ukraine’s anti-corruption drive.
The previous day, Zelensky had taken aim at corrupt officials for the second time in the space of a week. Several high-ranking officials were dismissed.
Zelensky was elected in 2019 on an anti-establishment and anti-corruption platform in a country long gripped by graft.
The latest corruption allegations came as Western allies channel billions of dollars to help Kyiv fight Moscow’s forces.
Ukraine’s government is keen to get more Western military aid, on top of the tanks pledged last week, as the warring sides are expected to launch new offensives once winter ends. Kyiv is now asking for fighter jets.
The USis expected to announce Friday it will send longer-range bombs to Ukraine as part of a new $2.17 billion aid package.


8 migrants found dead on ship off Lampedusa coast — Italian media

8 migrants found dead on ship off Lampedusa coast — Italian media
Updated 03 February 2023

8 migrants found dead on ship off Lampedusa coast — Italian media

8 migrants found dead on ship off Lampedusa coast — Italian media
  • Italian authorities escorted another three stricken vessels carrying 156 people to Lampedusa
  • Italy is facing a surge in arrivals from North Africa

ROME: At least eight migrants were found dead and around 40 were rescued by the Italian coast guard overnight on a ship off the coast of the island of Lampedusa, Italian media reported on Friday.
The rescuers took the survivors to the main port on Lampedusa, which lies to the south of Sicily, news agency ANSA said.
Italian authorities escorted another three stricken vessels carrying 156 people to Lampedusa, one of the main entry points for people trying to reach Europe.
Italy is facing a surge in arrivals from North Africa.
Some 105,140 migrants reached Italy by sea in 2022, interior ministry data showed, compared with 67,477 in 2021 and 34,154 in 2020.
The United Nations estimates that almost 1,400 migrants died while trying to cross the central Mediterranean in 2022.


Model Gigi Hadid shares insights into her mom life

Model Gigi Hadid shares insights into her mom life
Updated 03 February 2023

Model Gigi Hadid shares insights into her mom life

Model Gigi Hadid shares insights into her mom life

DUBAI: Palestinian-Dutch model Gigi Hadid this week shared rare insights into her life as mother to two-year-old daughter Khai, whom she co-parents with former boyfriend Zayn Malik.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal Magazine, the 27-year-old single mom said that she has “a very mom morning routine.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid)

“Whatever time she’s (Khai) waking up, I’m waking up,” said Hadid, which is usually between 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.

Hadid added that for breakfast, she eats whatever her daughter is having. “I make her pancakes and sausages every day,” she said. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid)

“For Christmas, she asked me what I was going to ask Santa for and so I said I wanted a new pancake pan. I ordered myself, via Santa, this cool pancake pan — each little circle pancake is a different animal, so she can have lion pancakes or llama pancakes. It’s really fun,” Hadid added.  

Unlike what you might think, Hadid does not have a strict workout routine. Running after her daughter is her exercise, she said. “We walk a lot. We do yoga together. With lifting her and running around all day and going to the park, I get moving,” she said. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid)

The model also said that she has found an easy way to keep her busy schedule in control. She said she is skilled at organization, scheduling and making sure her many projects get the time they need. 

“That also helps me give a lot of time to Khai,” she said. “(My schedule) is so janky. It can be like Khai’s craft paper. This month it’s (on) a yellow piece of paper. And it’s literally a square calendar with six lines to make seven days. I take a picture on my phone, and I edit through the month then I’ll do all the edits and rewrite it the next month.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid)

In September, Hadid celebrated her daughter’s second birthday at an intimate party, sharing a picture of a multi-layered cake decorated with characters from Peppa Pig, which seems to be Khai’s favorite cartoon show. 

Khai’s name is a nod to Hadid’s Palestinian grandmother Khairiah.


Taliban detain Afghan educator who spoke out on women’s school ban

Taliban detain Afghan educator who spoke out on women’s school ban
Updated 03 February 2023

Taliban detain Afghan educator who spoke out on women’s school ban

Taliban detain Afghan educator who spoke out on women’s school ban
  • Ismail Mashal caused a storm by tearing his degree certificates to shreds on TV
  • Domestic channels showed Mashal carting books around Kabul and offering them to passers-by

KABUL: Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities have “beaten and detained” an academic who voiced outrage on live television against their ban on women’s university education, his aide said Friday.
Veteran journalism lecturer Ismail Mashal caused a storm by tearing his degree certificates to shreds on TV in December, protesting the edict ending women’s higher education.
In recent days, domestic channels showed Mashal carting books around Kabul and offering them to passers-by.
“Mashal was mercilessly beaten and taken away in a very disrespectful manner by members of the Islamic Emirate,” Mashal’s aide Farid Ahmad Fazli told AFP, referring to the Taliban government.
A Taliban official confirmed the detention.
“Teacher Mashal had indulged in provocative actions against the system for some time,” tweeted Abdul Haq Hammad, director at the Ministry of Information and Culture.
“The security agencies took him for investigation.”
Mashal — a lecturer for more than a decade at three Kabul universities — was detained on Thursday despite having “committed no crime,” Fazli said.
“He was giving free books to sisters (women) and men,” he added. “He is still in detention and we don’t know where he is being held.”
Footage of Mashal destroying his certificates on private channel TOLOnews went viral on social media.
In deeply conservative and patriarchal Afghanistan it is rare to see a man protest in support of women but Mashal, who ran a co-educational institute, said he would stand up for women’s rights.
“As a man and as a teacher, I was unable to do anything else for them, and I felt that my certificates had become useless. So, I tore them,” he told AFP at the time.
“I’m raising my voice. I’m standing with my sisters... My protest will continue even if it costs my life.”
A small group of male students also held a brief walkout protesting the ban.
The Taliban promised a softer regime when they returned to power in August 2021 but they have instead imposed harsh restrictions on women — effectively squeezing them out of public life.
In December, the authorities ordered all aid groups to stop their women employees coming to work. They have since granted an exemption to the health sector, allowing females to return to employment there.
Secondary schools for girls have also been closed for over a year, while many women have lost jobs in government sectors.
They have also been barred from going to parks, gyms and public baths.