South Korea orders doctors to return to work amid prolonged strike

South Korea orders doctors to return to work amid prolonged strike
Seoul National University medical students attend a rally as the medical professors began an indefinite collective walkout in protest against the government’s medical reform at their school in Seoul on June 17, 2024. (AP)
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Updated 18 June 2024
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South Korea orders doctors to return to work amid prolonged strike

South Korea orders doctors to return to work amid prolonged strike
  • Around four percent of some 36,000 private clinics have notified the government of plans to be closed on Tuesday to take part in the protest
  • The government previously issued a return-to-work order to striking trainee doctors before withdrawing it earlier this month

SEOUL: The South Korean government issued a return-to-work order for private practitioners on Tuesday as more doctors including medical professors join the months-long strike to protest increasing medical school admissions.
Around four percent of some 36,000 private clinics have notified the government of plans to be closed on Tuesday to take part in the protest, Health Minister Cho Kyoo-hong said.
“To minimize the medical gap, the return-to-work order will be issued at 9 a.m. today,” Cho told a briefing.
The government previously issued a return-to-work order to striking trainee doctors before withdrawing it earlier this month as an olive branch.
Under the law, doctors defying the return-to-work order can face suspension of their licenses or other legal repercussions.
President Yoon Suk Yeol said the doctors’ strike was “regretful and disappointing.”
“(The government) has no choice but to sternly deal with the illegal acts neglecting patients,” Yoon said during a cabinet meeting, while offering to work together if the doctors return to work.
The Korea Medical Association, a critic of the government’s reforms, was leading Tuesday’s strike. The group also staged a protest in Seoul on the same day, calling for reconsideration of increasing medical school admissions.
“The government should respect...all doctors in this land as life-saving experts, not slaves, and listen to their voices,” Association President Lim Hyun-taek said.
At least some 10,000 people showed up for the protest, according to a Reuters witness, with protesters wearing a makeshift hat saying: “Prevent medical collapse.”
According to a survey by local pollster nownsurvey conducted last week, nearly eight in 10 South Koreans oppose the doctors’ strike.
Some doctors and medical staff have openly criticized the collective action in response to the government’s push for an increase in medical school admissions to address the shortage of doctors in the country.
Others have argued that increasing the number of doctors alone will do little to shore up essential services and rural areas grappling with a deepening shortage of doctors.
More than half of medical professors at Seoul National University hospitals on Monday went on indefinite strike, the Yonhap news agency reported.


Bangladesh imposes nationwide curfew as deadly protests over government jobs escalate

Bangladesh imposes nationwide curfew as deadly protests over government jobs escalate
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Bangladesh imposes nationwide curfew as deadly protests over government jobs escalate

Bangladesh imposes nationwide curfew as deadly protests over government jobs escalate
  • The protests, which began weeks ago but escalated sharply this week, represent the biggest challenge to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina
  • The chaos has highlighted cracks in Bangladesh’s governance and economy, the frustration of young graduates who face a lack of good jobs

DHAKA: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government late Friday announced a nationwide curfew across Bangladesh and ordered the deployment of military forces to maintain order following days of deadly clashes over the allocation of government jobs.
The announcement was made by Obaidul Quader, the general secretary of the ruling Awami League party, and came after police and security officials fired on protesters earlier Friday and banned all gatherings in the capital. Several people were killed, media reports said.
Quader said the military was deployed to help the civilian administration keep order.
The protests, which began weeks ago but escalated sharply this week, represent the biggest challenge to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina since she won a fourth consecutive term in office after elections in January. Main opposition groups boycotted those polls.
There were varying reports of the number of people killed Friday, with Independent Television reporting 17 dead and Somoy TV reporting 30. An Associated Press reporter saw 23 bodies at Dhaka Medical College and Hospital, but it was not immediately clear whether they had all died on Friday.
A death toll of 22 people was reported on Thursday, in what had so far been the bloodiest day of demonstrations, according to local media, as protesting students attempted to impose a “complete shutdown” of the country.
Authorities could not be reached immediately to confirm figures for the deaths.
The chaos has highlighted cracks in Bangladesh’s governance and economy and the frustration of young graduates who face a lack of good jobs.
The government has deployed police and paramilitary forces across the capital to lock down campuses and break up protests. On Wednesday, universities including the country’s largest suspended classes and closed dormitories, and on Friday police in Dhaka said they were banning all gatherings and demonstrations in the capital.
An Associated Press reporter saw border guard officials fire at a crowd of more than 1,000 protesters who had gathered outside the head office of state-run Bangladesh Television, which was attacked and set on fire by protesters the previous day.
The border guards shot at the crowd with rifles and sound grenades, while police officers fired tear gas and rubber bullets. Bullets littered the streets, which were also marked by smears of blood.
Internet services and mobile data were widely disrupted on Thursday night and remained down on Friday in the capital, Dhaka. Social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp were also not loading. It coincided with a widespread Internet outage on Friday that disrupted flights, banks, media outlets and companies around the world, but the disruptions in Bangladesh were substantially greater than seen elsewhere.
A statement from the country’s Telecommunication Regulatory Commission said they were unable to ensure service after their data center was attacked Thursday by demonstrators, who set fire to some equipment. The Associated Press was not able to independently verify this.
Student protesters said they will extend their calls to impose a shutdown on Friday as well, and urged mosques across the country to hold funeral prayers for those who have been killed. Major universities have said they will close their doors until tensions ease.
The protesters are demanding an end to a quota system that reserves up to 30 percent of government jobs for relatives of veterans who fought in Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971 against Pakistan.
They argue the system is discriminatory and benefits supporters of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, whose Awami League party led the independence movement, and they want it replaced with a merit-based system.
But Hasina has defended the quota system, saying that veterans deserve the highest respect for their contributions to the war regardless of their political affiliation.
The Bangladeshi leader is credited for bringing stable growth to Bangladesh, but rising inflation — thanks in part to the global upheaval sparked by the war in Ukraine — has triggered labor unrest and dissatisfaction with the government.
Even though job opportunities have grown in some parts of the private sector, many people prefer government jobs because they are seen as more stable and lucrative. But there aren’t enough to go around — each year, some 400,000 graduates compete for around 3,000 jobs in the civil service exam.
“What is unfolding in Bangladesh is deeply unsettling for a generation that only asked for a fair opportunity in public service recruitment,” said Saad Hammadi, a freedom of speech advocate with the Canada-based Balsillie School of International Affairs. “That a peaceful protest against a state policy would slip into the peak of lawlessness shows the government’s lack of farsightedness and inefficient policy governance,” Hammadi said.
“The Internet shutdown makes matters worse. Local news sites are inaccessible, and people in the country are left incommunicado with the rest of the world all in the pretext of conducting sweeping operations by the state that have often resulted in serious human rights violations,” he added in an email.
Bangladesh has previously shut down Internet services in areas affected by protests, using it as a measure to suppress dissent by opposition parties. Internet watchdog Access Now said it recorded three shutdowns in the country in 2023 — all of which overlapped with opposition rallies and were limited in scope to one city or district. That came after six shutdowns in 2022.
CIVICUS, a nonprofit that tracks civic freedoms around the world, last year downgraded Bangladesh to “closed,” the worst rating that it could assign, along with China and Venezuela, following a crackdown on the country’s opposition members and supporters ahead of its national election.
The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party has backed the protesting students and vowed to organize its own demonstrations, and many of their supporters have joined in the students’ demonstrations. On Friday, police fired tear gas at a few hundred BNP supporters, and arrested senior BNP leader Ruhul Kabir Rizvi.
The Awami League and the BNP have often accused each other of fueling political chaos and violence, most recently ahead of the country’s national election, which was marred by a crackdown on several opposition figures while Hasina’s government accused the party of attempting to disrupt the vote.
Hasina’s government had earlier halted the job quotas following mass student protests in 2018, but last month, Bangladesh’s High Court nullified that decision and reinstated the quotas after relatives of the 1971 veterans filed petitions, triggering the latest demonstrations.
The Supreme Court has suspended that ruling pending an appeal hearing, and said in a statement it will take up the issue on Sunday.
On Wednesday, Hasina urged protesters in a televised address to “wait with patience” for the court verdict, saying that she believes they “will get justice” and “will not be disappointed.”


Pakistan arrests ‘close associate’ of Osama Bin Laden

Security personnel stand guard in Karachi on July 16, 2024. (AFP)
Security personnel stand guard in Karachi on July 16, 2024. (AFP)
Updated 20 July 2024
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Pakistan arrests ‘close associate’ of Osama Bin Laden

Security personnel stand guard in Karachi on July 16, 2024. (AFP)
  • US troops backed by NATO toppled the Taliban’s first regime in 2001 for refusing to hand over Al-Qaeda militants behind the 9/11 attacks

LAHORE, Pakistan: Pakistani authorities said Friday they had arrested a “close associate” of Al-Qaeda founder and mastermind of the 9/11 attacks Osama Bin Laden.
Counter-terrorism officials in the most populous province of Punjab swooped in on Amin Ul-Haq in the city of Gujrat, accusing him of planning “sabotage activities” and seeking to “target important installations” in the country.
“The arrest of Amin Ul-Haq is a major victory in the ongoing efforts to combat terrorism in Pakistan and worldwide,” a statement from Punjab’s Counter Terrorism Department said.
He was listed by the United States, the European Union and the United Nations as an associate of Al-Qaeda and Bin Laden, the head of Punjab’s counter-terrorism department, Usman Akram Gonadal, said in a press conference.
“He resurfaced after the withdrawal of western NATO forces (from Afghanistan). He visited Afghanistan in August and he began his efforts to reorganize Al-Qaeda.”
US troops backed by NATO toppled the Taliban’s first regime in 2001 for refusing to hand over Al-Qaeda militants behind the 9/11 attacks.
Bin Laden was later discovered living in Pakistan and shot dead in a nighttime US operation in 2011.
The Taliban took back power in Afghanistan in 2021, kicking out the foreign-backed government after two decades of fighting US and NATO troops.
Militancy has since surged along Pakistan’s border, with Islamabad accusing Kabul’s rulers of failing to root out groups taking shelter on Afghan soil while preparing assaults on Pakistan.
The Taliban government insists it will not allow foreign militant outfits to operate from Afghanistan, but Islamabad-Kabul relations have soured over the issue.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has announced a sweeping new military campaign to control the violence.
 

 


Blinken points to wider pledges to support Ukraine in case US backs away under Trump

Blinken points to wider pledges to support Ukraine in case US backs away under Trump
Updated 20 July 2024
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Blinken points to wider pledges to support Ukraine in case US backs away under Trump

Blinken points to wider pledges to support Ukraine in case US backs away under Trump
  • Blinken for the first time directly addressed the possibility that Donald Trump would back away from US commitments to Ukraine if he becomes president again
  • Concerns among Ukraine and its supporters that the country could lose vital US support have increased as Trump’s campaign surges and Biden’s falters

ASPEN, Colorado: Ukraine is on its way to being able to “stand on its own feet” militarily, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday, noting that more than 20 other countries have pledged to maintain their own military and financial aid to the country even if the US were to withdraw its support under a different president.
Blinken for the first time directly addressed the possibility that former President Donald Trump could win the November election and back away from commitments to Ukraine. The US, under President Joe Biden, has been the most important supporter of Ukraine’s more than two-year battle against invading Russian forces.
Trump’s public comments have varied between criticizing US backing for Ukraine’s defense and supporting it, while his running mate, Sen. JD Vance, has been a leader of Republican efforts to block what have been billions in US military and financial assistance to Ukraine since Russia invaded in 2022.
Concerns among Ukraine and its supporters that the country could lose vital US support have increased as Trump’s campaign surges and Biden’s falters.
Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke on the phone Friday.
“I noted the vital bipartisan and bicameral American support for protecting our nation’s freedom and independence,” Zelensky wrote on X, saying they agreed “to discuss at a personal meeting what steps can make peace fair and truly lasting.”
Trump said on his social media platform that he appreciated Zelensky’s outreach and promised to “end the war that has cost so many lives and devastated countless innocent families.”
Blinken said Friday that any new administration would have to take into account strong bipartisan backing in Congress for Ukraine in the interests of countering Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempts to expand Moscow’s territory and influence.
“Every administration has an opportunity, of course, to set its own policy. We can’t lock in the future,” Blinken said, speaking to an audience of US policymakers and others at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.
But he pointed to the security agreements that the United States and more than 20 other allies — including some NATO partners, Japan and the European Union — signed at a NATO summit in Washington this month.
“Were we to renege on that ... I suppose that’s possible, but happily we’ve got another 20 some-odd countries that are doing the same thing,” Blinken said.
Ukraine itself was on a trajectory to ensure it “stands on its own feet militarily, economically, democratically,” Blinken said.


Trump says he had ‘very good call’ with Ukraine’s Zelensky, pledges to end war

Trump says he had ‘very good call’ with Ukraine’s Zelensky, pledges to end war
Updated 20 July 2024
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Trump says he had ‘very good call’ with Ukraine’s Zelensky, pledges to end war

Trump says he had ‘very good call’ with Ukraine’s Zelensky, pledges to end war
  • “Both sides will be able to come together and negotiate a deal that ends the violence and paves a path forward to prosperity,” Trump said in his Truth Social post
  • In his post on X, Zelensky said he congratulated Trump on becoming the Republican nominee and condemned the assassination attempt on him last week

WASHINGTON: US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said in a post on Truth Social that he had a “very good call” on Friday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and pledged to end the war pitting Kyiv against Moscow through negotiations.
Zelensky also reported his conversation with Trump and expressed thanks for US military assistance. But he made no reference in a post on social media platform X to efforts to end the 28-month-old conflict.
Trump has said he will end the war in Ukraine before he even takes office in January should he win the Nov. 5 election. He has also said that had he been in office when the Kremlin sent troops into Ukraine in February 2022, the war would not have taken place.
In his Truth Social post, Trump said that as president he “will bring peace to the world and end the war that has cost so many lives.”
“Both sides will be able to come together and negotiate a deal that ends the violence and paves a path forward to prosperity,” Trump said.

Though Trump has put forward few tangible policy proposals, he told Reuters in an interview last year that Ukraine might have to cede some territory to reach a peace agreement.
In his post, Zelensky said he congratulated Trump on becoming the Republican nominee and condemned the assassination attempt on him last week.
“I wished him strength and absolute safety in the future,” Zelensky said.
“I noted the vital bipartisan and bicameral American support for protecting our nation’s freedom and independence.”

Ukraine, he said, “will always be grateful to the United States for its help in strengthening our ability to resist Russian terror. Russian attacks on our cities and villages continue every day.”
Zelensky rejects any negotiations with Russia on ending the conflict as long as Russian troops remain in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian president has proposed a peace plan, showcased again at a “world summit” last month to which Russia was not invited, that calls for the withdrawal of Russian troops and the restoration of Ukraine’s 1991 post-Soviet borders.
Russian troops occupy about 20 percent of Ukrainian territory. Moscow’s forces have made incremental gains in the east of the country along the 1,000-km (600-mile) front since capturing the key city of Avdiivka in February.


Biden pushes party unity as he resists calls to step aside, says he’ll return to campaign next week

President Joe Biden speaks at a news conference on the final day of the NATO summit in Washington, July 11, 2024. (AP)
President Joe Biden speaks at a news conference on the final day of the NATO summit in Washington, July 11, 2024. (AP)
Updated 20 July 2024
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Biden pushes party unity as he resists calls to step aside, says he’ll return to campaign next week

President Joe Biden speaks at a news conference on the final day of the NATO summit in Washington, July 11, 2024. (AP)
  • More Democratic members of Congress called for president to drop out Friday

WASHINGTON DC: A growing chorus of Democratic lawmakers called Friday for President Joe Biden to drop his reelection bid, even as the president insisted he’s ready to return to the campaign trail next week to counter what he called a “dark vision” laid out by Republican Donald Trump.
As more Democratic members of Congress called for him to drop out Friday — bringing the total since his disastrous debate against Trump to at least 30 — Biden remained isolated at his beach house in Delaware after being diagnosed with COVID-19. The president, who has insisted he can beat Trump, was huddling with family and relying on a few longtime aides as he resisted efforts to shove him aside.
Biden said Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention showcased a “dark vision for the future.” The president, seeking to move the political conversation away from his fate and onto his rival’s agenda, said Friday he was planning to return to the campaign trail next week and insisted he has a path to victory over Trump, despite the worries of some of his party’s most eminent members.
“Together, as a party and as a country, we can and will defeat him at the ballot box,” Biden said. “The stakes are high, and the choice is clear. Together, we will win.”
Earlier in the day, his campaign chair, Jen O’Malley Dillion, acknowledged “slippage” in support for the president but insisted he’s “absolutely” remaining in the race and the campaign sees “multiple paths” to beating Trump.
“We have a lot of work to do to reassure the American people that, yes, he’s old, but he can win,” she told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show. She said voters concerned about Biden’s fitness to lead aren’t switching to vote for Trump.
Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee’s rulemaking arm held a meeting Friday, pressing ahead with plans for a virtual roll call before Aug. 7 to nominate the presidential pick, ahead of the party’s convention later in the month in Chicago.
“President Biden deserves the respect to have important family conversations with members of the caucus and colleagues in the House and Senate and Democratic leadership and not be battling leaks and press statements,” Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, Biden’s closest friend in Congress and his campaign co-chair, told The Associated Press.
It’s a pivotal few days for the president and his party: Trump has wrapped up an enthusiastic Republican National Convention in Milwaukee on Thursday. And Democrats, racing time, are considering the extraordinary possibility of Biden stepping aside for a new presidential nominee before their own convention.
Among the democrats expressing worries to allies about Biden’s chances were former President Barack Obama and Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, who has privately told Biden the party could lose the ability to seize control of the House if he doesn’t step aside.
New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich called on Biden to exit the race, making him the third Senate Democrat to do so.
“By passing the torch, he would secure his legacy as one of our nation’s greatest leaders and allow us to unite behind a candidate who can best defeat Donald Trump and safeguard the future of our democracy,” said Heinrich, who’s up for reelection.
And Reps. Jared Huffman, Mark Veasey, Chuy Garcia and Mark Pocan, representing a wide swath of the caucus, together called on Biden to step aside.
“We must defeat Donald Trump to save our democracy,” they wrote.
Separately, Rep. Sean Casten of Illinois wrote in an op-ed that with “a heavy heart and much personal reflection” he, too, was calling on Biden to “pass the torch to a new generation.”
Campaign officials said Biden was even more committed to staying in the race. And senior West Wing aides have had no internal discussions or conversations with the president about dropping out.
On Friday, Biden picked up a key endorsement from the political arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. CHC BOLD PAC said the Biden administration has shown “unwavering commitment” to Latinos and “the stakes couldn’t be higher” in this election.
But there is also time to reconsider. Biden has been told the campaign is having trouble raising money, and key Democrats see an opportunity as he is away from the campaign for a few days to encourage his exit. Among his Cabinet, some are resigned to the likelihood of him losing in November.
The reporting in this story is based in part on information from almost a dozen people who insisted on anonymity to discuss sensitive private deliberations. The Washington Post first reported on Obama’s involvement.
Biden, 81, tested positive for COVID-19 while traveling in Las Vegas earlier this week and experienced “mild symptoms” including “general malaise” from the infection, the White House said.
White House doctor Kevin O’Connor said Friday that the president still had a dry cough and hoarseness, but that his COVID symptoms had improved.
In Congress, Democratic lawmakers have begun having private conversations about lining up behind Harris as an alternative. One lawmaker said Biden’s own advisers are unable to reach a unanimous recommendation about what he should do. More in Congress are considering joining the others who have called for Biden to drop out. Some prefer an open process for choosing a new presidential nominee.
“It’s clear the issue won’t go away,” said Vermont Sen. Peter Welch, the other Senate Democrat who has publicly said Biden should exit the race. Welch said the current state of party angst — with lawmakers panicking and donors revolting — was “not sustainable.”
However, influential Democrats including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries are sending signals of concern.
“There is of course work to be done, and that in fact is the case because we are an evenly divided country,” Jeffries said in an interview on WNYC radio Friday.
But he also said, “The ticket that exists right now is the ticket that we can win on. ... It’s his decision to make.”
To be sure, many want Biden to stay in the race. But among Democrats nationwide, nearly two-thirds say Biden should step aside and let his party nominate a different candidate, according to an AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll. That sharply undercuts Biden’s post-debate claim that “average Democrats” are still with him.
Amid the turmoil, a majority of Democrats think Vice President Kamala Harris would make a good president herself.
A poll from the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that about 6 in 10 Democrats believe Harris would do a good job in the top slot. About 2 in 10 Democrats don’t believe she would, and another 2 in 10 say they don’t know enough to say.