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Kuwait bans flights to ‘high risk’ nations: Coronavirus updates | News

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  • Kuwait has banned commercial flights to several countries it said it regards as high risk due to the spread of the coronavirus.

  • India confirmed the steepest spike of 57,118 new cases in the past 24 hours, taking its coronavirus caseload close to 1.7 million.

  • US deaths from the novel coronavirus rose by at least 1,453, the biggest one-day increase since May 27.

  • Spain reported a second day of 1,000-plus coronavirus infections, the highest since the nation lifted its lockdown in June.

Here are the latest updates:

Saturday, August 1

12:50 GMT – Qatar reports more than 200 new cases

Qatar confirmed 216 new coronavirus in the last 24 hours, pushing the total in the Middle Eastern country to 110,911.

The country’s public health ministry said 201 people have recovered from the virus, taking the total to 107,578.

outside image - qatar and bahrain

 Qatar has reported a total of 174 coronavirus fatalities  [Noushad Thekkayil/EPA]

12:25 GMT – Thousands protest in Berlin against coronavirus restrictions

Thousands of protesters against German coronavirus restrictions have converged in Berlin for a demonstration proclaiming “the end of the pandemic” has arrived just as authorities voice increasing concerns about an upturn in new infections.

A crowd of people whistling and cheering, with few masks in sight, marched through downtown Berlin from the Brandenburg Gate ahead of a rally on a wide boulevard that runs through the city’s Tiergarten park.

Protesters held up home-made placards featuring slogans that included: “Corona, false alarm,” “We are being forced to wear a muzzle,” “Natural defence instead of vaccination” and “End the corona panic – bring fundamental rights back.”

Germany’s management of the pandemic has been viewed as relatively successful. The country’s death toll – just over 9,150 out of more than 210,670 confirmed virus cases as of Saturday – is lower than in comparable nations. 

11:35 GMT – Kuwait bans flights to ‘high risk’ nations

Kuwait has banned commercial flights to several countries it said it regards as high risk due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation said on Saturday.

The countries include India, Pakistan, Egypt, the Philippines, Lebanon and Sri Lanka – all countries with large populations in Kuwait. The list also includes China, Iran, Brazil, Mexico, Italy and Iraq.

11:15 GMT – Vietnam says up to 800,000 have left virus epicentre Danang

Vietnam’s health ministry say up to 800,000 visitors to Danang city, the nation’s coronavirus epicentre, have left for other parts of the country since July 1.

Vietnam last week detected its first locally transmitted COVID-19 cases in more than three months in Danang, a tourism hot spot.

Vietnam Imposes Restrictions As Coronavirus Cases Rise

The Southeast Asian country reported its first two COVID-19 deaths on Friday, and the toll rose to three on Saturday [Linh Pham/Getty]

The total number of infections in the country has since risen to 558 from 413, with most of the new cases linked to three hospitals in Danang.

More than 41,000 people have visited the three hospitals since July 1, the ministry said in a statement.

10:45 GMT – Philippines confirms nearly 5,000 cases, largest single-day increase

The Philippines has reported 4,963 additional coronavirus infections, the largest single-day jump on record.

In a bulletin on Saturday, the health ministry said total infections have reached 98,232, while deaths increased by 17 to 2,039.

Coronavirus - Manila

In the region, the Philippines is second only to Indonesia in coronavirus deaths and cases [Aaron Favila/AP]

09:50 GMT – Poland reports record rise in virus cases for third day

Poland has reported its highest number of new daily coronavirus cases since the global pandemic started for the third day in a row on Saturday, with 658 new infections, the health ministry said.

More than 200 cases were reported in the Silesia mining region in southern Poland, which has been grappling with an outbreak amongst miners.

The ministry also reported five new deaths.

Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Ruda Slaska

Poland has now reported a total of 46,346 coronavirus cases and 1,721 deaths [Reuters]

09:15 GMT – Indonesia confirms more than1,550 new infections

Indonesia has reported 1,560 new coronavirus infections, bringing the total in the Southeast Asian country to 109,936, data from the country’s COVID-19 task force showed.

It also reported 62 COVID-19 related deaths on Saturday, taking the death toll to 5,193.

08:50 GMT – Australia’s Victoria reports 397 coronavirus cases, three deaths 

Australia’s second-most populous state, Victoria, has reported 397 cases of the novel coronavirus in the last 24 hours and three related deaths, compared with 627 cases and eight deaths a day earlier.

The deaths take the state’s COVID-19 death toll to 116 and Australia’s to 201.

08:10 GMT – Russia plans mass vaccinations against coronavirus from October

Russia is preparing to start a mass vaccination campaign against the coronavirus in October, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said on Saturday, RIA news agency reported.

The minister, who did not give details about the vaccine to be used, said doctors and teachers would be the first to be vaccinated.

A source told the Reuters news agency this week that Russia’s first potential COVID-19 vaccine, developed by a state research facility, would secure local regulatory approval in August and be administered to health workers soon after that.

A medical worker wearing protective equipment takes a swab from a woman at a medical facility in Moscow on July 16, 2020, on the first day the Russian capital started providing free testing for the co

Russia has reported more than 838,400 cases and at least 14,000 deaths [AFP]

07:45 GMT – US records biggest single-day deaths since May

US deaths from the novel coronavirus rose by at least 1,453 on Friday, the biggest one-day increase since May 27, to reach a total of 153,882, according to a Reuters tally.

Florida

For July, US cases rose by 1.87 million, or 69 percent, and deaths rose by 25,770, or 20 percent [Marco Bello/Reuters] 

The rise in deaths was the biggest one-day increase since the number of deaths rose by 1,484 on May 27.

US cases rose by at least 66,986 to a total of 4.58 million with some local governments yet to report.

06:50 GMT – India records highest daily jump in coronavirus cases

India has recorded the biggest jump of 57,118 new cases in the past 24 hours, taking its coronavirus caseload close to 1.7 million, with July alone accounting for nearly 1.1 million infections.

The health ministry on Saturday also reported 764 additional deaths for a total of 36,511.

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in New Delhi

Only the US and Brazil have reported more cases than India [Adnan Abidi/Reuters]

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Friday that India achieved more than one million recoveries with active cases only one-third of the total. India is now conducting more than 640,000 tests in 24 hours, taking cumulative tests across the country to nearly 1.9 million, he said.

06:15 GMT – 

Hello, this is Hamza Mohamed in Doha taking over from my colleague Zaheena Rasheed.

04:58 GMT – Japan’s Okinawa declares state of emergency

Japan’s Okinawa region has declared a state of emergency and asked people to stay home for two weeks amid an “explosive spread” of coronavirus cases.

Governor Denny Tamaki said hospitals were being overwhelmed by the surge and told residents to avoid non-essential outings through the emergency, which is set to end on August 15.

Okinawa reported 71 new coronavirus cases Friday, bringing its total to 395. US forces based on the island account for 248 of those cases.

04:21 GMT – S Korea arrests Christian leader over church cluster

Authorities in South Korea have arrested the founder of a secretive Christian sect at the centre of the country’s largest outbreak on charges of obstructing the government anti-virus efforts.

Lee Man-hee is the powerful head of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus which is linked to more than 5,200 coronavirus infections, or 36 percent of South Korea’s total cases.

Prosecutors allege the 89-year-old conspired with other sect leaders to withhold information from authorities, including meeting places and the number of participants at the sect’s gatherings as authorities tried to trace infection routes in February.

Lee and his church have steadfastly denied the accusations, saying they’re cooperating with health authorities. Its spokesperson, Kim Young-eun, said the church will do its best so that “the truth is clearly proved in court”.

FILE PHOTO: People watch a TV broadcasting a news report on a news conference held by Lee Man-hee, founder of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony, in Seoul

People watch a TV broadcasting a news report on a news conference held by Lee Man-hee, founder of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony, in Seoul, South Korea, March 2, 2020 [File: Heo Ran/Reuters]

03:47 GMT – Google says 20 US states, territories ‘exploring’ contact tracing apps

Alphabet Inc’s Google says 20 US states and territories, representing about 45 percent of the country’s population, are “exploring” contact tracing apps using a tool it developed with Apple Inc.

In addition, the company said public health authorities in 16 countries and regions outside the US had launched apps using the Apple-Google tool, up from 12 previously. They include Austria, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Gibraltar, Italy, Ireland, Japan, Latvia, Northern Ireland, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland and Uruguay.

The technology enables app users to track encounters with other people through Bluetooth signals and anonymously notify contacts if they later become infected with the virus.

Google said the first of the US apps would be released in the “coming weeks”, but declined to name the states. It added that its system with Apple now enables apps launched by different countries to talk to each other, allowing contact-logging to continue even when users cross borders.

03:26 GMT – Sharp drop in new cases in China

China has reported a sharp drop in newly confirmed infections in the mainland, logging 45 additional cases in a possible sign that its latest outbreak in Xinjiang may have run its course.

Thirty-one of the cases were in far western Xinjiang, eight were in northeastern Liaoning and the remaining six were imported cases. The figures are down from 127 cases reported nationally on Friday.

03:15 GMT – Vietnam logs 12 new cases, ramps up testing

Vietnam’s health ministry has reported 12 new local coronavirus cases linked to the recent outbreak in the tourist hotspot of Danang, taking total infections to 116 since the virus resurfaced last week.

The new patients, with ages ranging from two to 78, are linked to Danang hospital, the ministry said in a statement. 

Vietnam has registered a total of 558 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began. After months of successful curbs, it reported its first two deaths on Friday. 

In Hanoi, where two people have tested positive after returning from Danang, more than 100 clinics have been set up with test kits to detect the virus. Hanoi has tested a third of the 54,000 people returning from Danang.

VIETNAM - HEALTH - VIRUS

Residents wait to be tested at a makeshift rapid testing centre as Vietnam records a rise in cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Hanoi on July 31, 2020 [Manan Vatsyayana/ AFP]

“I want to be tested so I can stop worrying if I have the virus or not. It is for me and for the community,” said Pham Thuy Hoa, a banking official who recently went to Danang for a family vacation.

“Since coming back, my family and I have quarantined ourselves at home. I did not go to work or see others. We must be responsible for the entire community.”

In Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s southern hub, five people who returned from Danang have tested positive for the virus. The city is testing some 20,000 other returnees.

As the number of cases continues to increase, Danang has tightened security and set up more checkpoints to prevent people from leaving or entering the city, which has been in lockdown since Tuesday.

02:48 GMT – California, Florida report record rise in deaths

California and Florida, two of the most populous US states, have reported record increases in COVID-19 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.

Florida reported 257 deaths and California, 208 on Friday.

For Florida, this is the fourth day in a row with a record rise in deaths and for California the second this week. Mississippi, Montana and Nevada also had a one-day record increase in deaths on Friday.

Overall in the US, deaths have increased by more than 25,000 in July to 153,000 total lives lost since the pandemic started.

01:41 GMT – Puerto Rico extends restrictions

Wanda Vazquez, the governor of Puerto Rico, has extended measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus for two more weeks.

That means bars, gyms, marinas and movie theatres across the US territory will stay shuttered until at least August 15. Beaches remain closed on Sundays, and are open the rest of the week only to people doing exercise, including surfers, swimmers and runners.

Face masks continue to be mandatory, and those who refuse to wear one will be arrested, Vazquez said.

A curfew from 10pm to 5am will remain in place, and no parties or gatherings will be allowed in short-term rental facilities.

01:22 GMT – Fitch revises US outlook to negative

Fitch Ratings has revised the outlook on the US’s AAA rating to negative from stable, citing eroding credit strength, including a growing deficit to fiscal stimulus to combat the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The credit rating agency also said the future direction of US fiscal policy depends in part on the November election for president and the resulting makeup of Congress, cautioning there is a risk policy gridlock could continue.

00:56 GMT – Mexico overtakes UK to post third-highest death toll

The number of coronavirus deaths in Mexico rose to 46,688 on Friday, with the Latin American country overtaking the United Kingdom for the world’s third-highest COVID-19 death toll.

The health ministry registered 8,458 new cases, a record for a single day, as well as 688 additional deaths, bringing the total to 424,637 cases and 46,688 deaths.

The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

00:36 GMT – Free tests for migrants stuck at Costa Rica-Nicaragua border

Costa Rican doctors have started giving free coronavirus tests to about 200 Nicaraguan migrants who have been stranded at the two countries’ border for more than a week because the Nicaraguan government has demanded negative test results.

Clinica Biblica Hospital in the capital of San Jose sent a mobile lab to the Penas Blancas border crossing.

“I thank God that finally we are going to be able to return to our country,” said one migrant, who declined to give their name.

COSTA RICA - HEALTH - VIRUS - MIGRANT

Nicaragua has prevented the entry of hundreds of its citizens from Costa Rica citing COVID-19 concerns [File: Wendy Quintero/ AFP]

00:18 GMT – Argentina halts plans to ease lockdown

Argentina President Alberto Fernandez has announced a halt on the easing of lockdown measures due to an increase in new cases and fears the health system could become overwhelmed.

“We will keep things as they are until August 16,” said Fernandez.

“In the last few days the virus has been spreading more, and we’ve seen a larger increase in infections. All this generates hospital admissions and unfortunately, deaths.”

In Argentina, more than 185,000 infections and nearly 3,500 deaths have been registered so far, figures well below those of other countries in the region.


Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives. 

For all the key developments from yesterday, July 31, go here

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AP sources: Woman accused of sending ricin letter arrested – World News

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The Canadian Press – | Story: 311115

A woman suspected of sending an envelope containing the poison ricin, which was addressed to White House, has been arrested at the New York-Canada border, three law enforcement officials told The Associated Press on Sunday.

The woman was taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and is expected to face federal charges, the officials said.

The letter addressed to the White House appeared to have originated in Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have said. It was intercepted at a government facility that screens mail addressed to the White House and President Donald Trump and a preliminary investigation indicated it tested positive for ricin, according to the officials.

The officials were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

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The Canadian Press – Sep 20, 2020 / 5:00 pm | Story: 311114

 Sure, there were the RBG bobbleheads, the Halloween getups, the lace collars, the workout videos. The “I dissent” T-shirts, the refrigerator magnets, the onesies for babies or costumes for cats. And yes, the face masks, with slogans like: “You can’t spell TRUTH without RUTH.”

But the pop culture status that Ruth Bader Ginsburg found — or rather, that found her — in recent years was just a side show, albeit one that amused her, to the unique and profound impact she had on women’s lives. First as a litigator who fought tenaciously for the courts to recognize equal rights for women, one case at a time, and later as the second woman to sit on the hallowed bench of the Supreme Court, Ginsburg left a legacy of achievement in gender equality that had women of varied ages and backgrounds grasping for words this weekend to describe what she meant to them.

“She was my teacher in so many ways,” said Gloria Steinem, the nation’s most visible feminist leader, in an interview. But even if she hadn’t known her personally, Steinem said, it was due to Ginsburg, who died Friday at 87 of complications of cancer, that “for the first time I felt the Constitution was written for me.”

“Now, it wasn’t written for me — it left out most folks, actually, when it was written,” Steinem added. But, she said, by forcing the courts to address issues like workplace discrimination, sexual assault and a host of others, Ginsburg “literally made me feel as if I had access to the law, because Ruth was there.”

But the extent of Ginsburg’s influence was felt not only by older women like Steinem, 86, who understood from experience the obstacles Ginsburg faced, such as not being able to find a job at a New York law firm despite graduating at the top of her class at Columbia Law School.

Younger women and girls also say they were inspired by the justice’s achievements, her intellect and her fierce determination as she pursued her career. Hawa Sall, 20, a first-generation college student in New York, said it was Ginsburg who inspired her to attend Columbia, where she’s now an undergraduate studying human rights and planning on law school.

“Her resilience, her tenacity, her graciousness through it all — she’s always been one of my biggest inspirations in life,” said Sall, who lives in Brooklyn where Ginsburg was born, and whose family comes from Mali and Senegal. “She’s what I’ve always wanted to be, and still want to be.”

Sall says she was fascinated by what she learned about Ginsburg when she attended an event at the Lower Eastside Girl’s Club in Manhattan for the 2015 book, “Notorious RBG,” by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik (the title played on the name of Brooklyn rapper The Notorious B.I.G.) That book was part of a wave of rock-star like fame that enveloped Ginsburg in her later years on the bench, making her a hero to a younger generation: There was also a famed impression by Kate McKinnon on “Saturday Night Live,” a feature film, starring Felicity Jones as Ginsburg, and the hit documentary “RBG,” both in 2018.

Julie Cohen and Betsy West, who co-directed “RBG,” saw firsthand how women of all ages quickly identified with Ginsburg.

“We’d go to screenings … and afterward older women who had been through the kind of discrimination she faced as a young woman would be sobbing … because they knew what she was up against, and what she did to help them and their daughters and granddaughters,” West said.

But also, Cohen added: “She became a huge symbolic figure for young women and even girls in a way that we hadn’t anticipated. So many children came to the movie, often little girls dressed in little robes. … Girls seemed to find her just mesmerizing.”

West theorizes the fascination might have come from Ginsburg’s small stature. Her legacy, though, was nothing less than enormous, she said: “She changed the world for American women.”

It wasn’t just Democratic-leaning women who praised Ginsburg. Stacey Feeback, a 33-year-old Fayetteville, North Carolina, voter at a weekend rally for President Donald Trump, said the justice was “an inspirational woman.”

“She meant a lot to the (women’s) movement,” Feeback said. “She’s been an inspiration. She’s brought America and women forward in a generation.”

Ginsburg first gained fame as a litigator for the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, which she directed in the ’70s. The project marked “a real turning point for situating women’s rights not just as a gender issue, but as a civil rights issue that affected all of us,” said Ria Tabacco Mar, its current head.

At the time, the Supreme Court had never applied the Constitution’s guarantee of “equal protection of the laws” to strike down a law because of gender discrimination. That changed in 1971 with a case in which Ginsburg helped persuade the high court to invalidate an Idaho law that called for choosing men over women to administer the estates of the dead.

Two years later, she again prevailed — making her first oral argument before the high court she would later join — in the case of a female Air Force officer whose husband was denied spousal benefits that male officers’ wives automatically received.

“For every gender injustice that we see today, Ruth Bader Ginsburg saw it first, and she fought it first,” said Tabacco Mar.

Devi Rao, one of Ginsburg’s law clerks in 2013, said the justice had taught her that “law isn’t just about the law — it’s about the people whose lives are impacted by those laws.”

Rao, who now works on appellate cases for a civil rights firm, said Ginsburg “distinguished herself in a man’s world and on a man’s court without looking like them or sounding like them, but simply because they couldn’t deny the power of her ideas. She teaches women and girls not to count themselves out even though they don’t look like those in power.”

It’s that lesson that mothers like Brianne Burger hope their daughters will understand. Earlier this year, Burger posted a photo of her daughter Adi, 5, on Facebook, outfitted as RBG in black robe and glasses for a school dress-up day in Washington, D.C. The girl came home delighted, her mother said, that so many people recognized her costume.

“She still talks about that day,” said Burger.

Asked what Adi understands about Ginsburg, the mother replied: “She knows that RBG made girls equal to boys.”

The Canadian Press – Sep 20, 2020 / 4:46 pm | Story: 311112

A donkey sculpture on a front lawn in a Maine town was set on fire in what one lawmaker called an act of “political terrorism.”

The sculpture was burned around 2 a.m. Saturday morning in Bowdoinham, on the property of former select board member Theresa Turgeon, who said she’s currently running for the town’s select board again.

“I don’t think it was personal to me. I can’t imagine that it’s personal to me,” she told Newscentermaine.com. “I think it’s because there was a donkey and Democratic. I personally think that’s what it’s about.”

The large donkey sculpture was built by Doug Chess, a local artist and bus driver, as a symbol of the Democratic Party. It’s made out of wood, wire, cardboard, fiberglass and other materials. It had been circulating to different lawns around Bowdoinham and Richmond and had been at Turgeon’s since Friday.

The Sagadahoc County dispatch confirmed that a sheriff’s deputy was looking into the property damage.

Maine Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, called it “an act of arson and of political terrorism.”

“For 51 years, I have felt safe in Bowdoinham. It has always been a place where doors are unlocked, and acts of violence only happen in the news. But not anymore,” Berry wrote.

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The Canadian Press – Sep 20, 2020 / 4:43 pm | Story: 311111

Bahrain broke up a plot by militants backed by Iran to launch attacks on diplomats and foreigners in the island nation home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, Saudi state television and local media reported Sunday, just days after the kingdom normalized relations with Israel.

Details about the claimed plot remained scarce Sunday night as Bahrain’s Interior Ministry and its state media did not publicly acknowledge the arrests. Bahraini government officials, who routinely claim breaking up plots by militants backed by Iran, did not respond to a request for comment.

However, it comes as tensions between Iran and the U.S. remain high after the Trump administration claimed to have reinvoked all United Nations sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear program — something disputed by other world powers. The militants reportedly sought revenge for the U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in January, something long threatened by his colleagues in Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.

The Saudi state TV report aired footage of what appeared to be police raiding a home with a hidden passage. The footage showed assault rifles and explosives, apparently seized in the raid.

Nine militants have been arrested, while another nine are believed to be in Iran, the Saudi state TV report said.

Iranian state media acknowledged the reports of the Bahraini arrests, but no official commented on them. Iran’s mission to the U.N. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Authorities uncovered the plot after finding an explosive on the street believed to have been planted to target a “foreign delegation,” the pro-government Bahraini newspaper Akhbar Al-Khaleej reported, citing the Interior Ministry. The ministry accused the Guard of supporting the militants, who also had surveilled oil sites and military bases, the newspaper said. The militants also planned on assassinating bodyguards of Bahraini officials, the newspaper said.

It wasn’t clear when all the arrests and alleged plots took place, as the Akhbar Al-Khaleej report referred to incidents dating as far back as 2017. The newspaper linked the militants to the al-Ashtar Brigade, a Shiite group that has claimed responsibility for a number of bombings and attacks in Bahrain, including two that killed police. The group has been sanctioned by the U.S.

Bahrain is home to the 5th Fleet, which patrols the waterways of the Mideast. Officials have worried in the past that the sailors and Marines attached to the base in Manama could be targeted, as well as others who make up the 7,000 American troops there. Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the 5th Fleet, declined to comment and referred questions to the Bahraini government.

Bahrain, an island off the coast of Saudi Arabia, just last week normalized relations with Israel alongside the United Arab Emirates, in part over their joint suspicion of Iran.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the reported arrests in Bahrain.

Iran under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi had pushed to take over Bahrain after the British left the country, although Bahrainis in 1970 overwhelmingly supported becoming an independent nation and the U.N. Security Council unanimously backed that. Since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, Bahrain’s rulers have blamed Iran for arming militants on the island. Iran denies the accusations.

Bahrain’s Shiite majority long has accused its Sunni rulers of treating them like second-class citizens. They joined pro-democracy activists in demanding more political freedoms in 2011, as Arab Spring protests swept the wider Middle East. Saudi and Emirati troops ultimately helped violently put down the demonstrations.

Bahrain promised change after the protests. But in recent years, Bahrain has cracked down on all dissent, imprisoned activists and hampered independent reporting on the island. Militant groups like the al-Ashtar Brigade have launched small, sporadic attacks amid that crackdown.

The Canadian Press – Sep 20, 2020 / 9:21 am | Story: 311082

NEW YORK – A judge has approved a request from a group of U.S. WeChat users to delay looming federal government restrictions that could effectively make the popular app nearly impossible to use.

In a ruling dated Saturday, Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler in California said the government’s actions would affect users’ First Amendment rights as an effective ban on the app removes their platform for communication.

WeChat is a messaging-focused app popular with many Chinese-speaking Americans that serves as a lifeline to friends, family, customers and business contacts in China. It’s owned by Chinese tech giant Tencent.

The group of WeChat users had requested an injunction after the U.S. Commerce Department said Friday it would bar WeChat from U.S. app stores and keep it from accessing essential internet services in the country, beginning Sunday night at 11:59 p.m.

The Trump administration has targeted WeChat and another Chinese-owned app, TikTok, for national security and data privacy concerns in the latest flashpoint in the rising tensions between Washington and Beijing. The administration contends that the data of U.S. users collected by the two apps could be shared with the Chinese government.

On Saturday, President Donald Trump said he supported a proposed deal that would have TikTok partner with Oracle and WalMart to form a U.S. company. There is still a chance that TikTok could be banned in the U.S. as of Nov. 12 if the deal isn’t completed, under the restrictions put in place by the Commerce Department.

However, a restriction to bar TikTok from app stores in the U.S., similar to what WeChat faced, was pushed back a week to Sept. 27 after Trump backed the latest TikTok deal.

On Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News that the government will ensure that under the TikTok-Oracle-WalMart deal no American’s data ends up in the possession of the Chinese government.

In the WeChat case, the users had argued the moves targeting the all-in-one app with instant-messaging, social media and other communication tools would restrict free speech.

In the ruling, the court said that a WeChat ban “eliminates all meaningful access to communication in the plaintiffs’ community,” and that an injunction would be in public interest.

The U.S. government had earlier argued that it is not restricting free speech because WeChat users still “are free to speak on alternative platforms that do not pose a national security threat.”

Specific evidence about WeChat posing a national security threat was also “modest,” according to Judge Beeler.

The White House did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the injunction.

The dispute over WeChat and TikTok is the latest attempt by the Trump administration to counter the influence of China. Since taking office in 2017, Trump has waged a trade war with China, blocked mergers involving Chinese companies and stifled the business of Chinese firms like Huawei, a maker of phones and telecom equipment.

The Canadian Press – Sep 20, 2020 / 7:24 am | Story: 311079

NEW YORK – President Donald Trump said Saturday he’s given his “blessing” to a proposed deal that would see the popular video-sharing app TikTok partner with Oracle and Walmart and form a U.S. company.

Trump has targeted Chinese-owned TikTok for national security and data privacy concerns in the latest flashpoint in the rising tensions between Washington and Beijing. The president’s support for a deal comes just a day after the Commerce Department announced restrictions that if put in place could eventually make it nearly impossible for TikTok’s legions of younger fans to use the app.

Trump said if completed the deal would create a new company likely to be based in Texas.

“I have given the deal my blessing,” he said. “If they get it done, that’s great. If they don’t, that’s OK too.”

Trump said the new company will be hiring at least 25,000 people and making a $5 billion contribution to a fund dedicated to education for Americans. “That’s their contribution that I’ve been asking for,” he said.

TikTok said Oracle and Walmart could acquire up to a cumulative 20% stake in the new company in a financing round to be held before an initial public offering of stock, which Walmart said could happen within the next year. Oracle’s stake would be 12.5%, and Walmart’s would be 7.5%, the companies said in separate statements.

The deal will make Oracle responsible for hosting all TikTok’s U.S. user data and securing computer systems to ensure U.S. national security requirements are satisfied. Walmart said it will provide its ecommerce, fulfillment, payments and other services to the new company.

“We are pleased that the proposal by TikTok, Oracle, and Walmart will resolve the security concerns of the U.S. administration and settle questions around TikTok’s future in the U.S.,” TikTok said in a statement.

Trump has been demanding that the U.S. operations of TikTok be sold to a U.S. company or else be shut down. He’s also been targeting WeChat, another Chinese-owned app.

The administration contends that the user data collected by the two apps could be shared with the Chinese government. On Saturday, Trump said the U.S.-based TikTok “will have nothing to do with China.” TikTok says it has 100 million U.S. users.

On Friday, the U.S. Commerce Department said it would bar TikTok from U.S. app stores as of late Sunday. Further restrictions that would prevent TikTok from accessing essential internet services in the country would go into effect on Nov. 12. Commerce said Saturday that it will delay the barring of TikTok from U.S. app stores until Sept. 27 at 11:59 p.m.

Commerce is imposing similar restrictions on WeChat, although all of the restrictions on that app are set to go into effect Sunday night at 11:59 p.m.

Earlier Saturday, WeChat users asked a U.S. judge to block the government’s actions, saying they would restrict free speech. WeChat is an all-in-one app with instant-messaging, social media and other communication tools. The U.S. government argued that it is not restricting free speech because WeChat users still “are free to speak on alternative platforms that do not pose a national security threat.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler asked lawyers for the government and WeChat users whether the prohibitions would cripple WeChat as soon as the clock ticked from Sunday night into Monday morning without a resolution. An attorney for the government said they would likely lead to a “degradation” of WeChat over time.

Judge Beeler did not rule immediately on the motion.

WeChat has millions of U.S. users who rely on the app to stay in touch and conduct business with people and companies in China and around the world. In court filings, the founder of the Mental Health Association for Chinese Communities, who is a U.S. citizen in California, said that the group’s primary tool to reach out and provide services to Chinese Americans is WeChat.

“Since many of the Chinese community members we serve are not fluent in English, WeChat is the only online tool that they rely on,” Elaine Peng said.

The Trump administration’s aggressive tactics are part of its latest attempt to counter the influence of China, a rising economic superpower. Since taking office in 2017, Trump has waged a trade war with China, blocked mergers involving Chinese companies and stifled the business of Chinese firms like Huawei, a maker of phones and telecom equipment.

China-backed hackers, meanwhile, have been blamed for data breaches of U.S. federal databases and the credit agency Equifax, and the Chinese government strictly limits what U.S. tech companies can do in China.

China’s ministry of commerce condemned the U.S. moves and urged it to stop what it called bullying behaviour. It also said China may take “necessary measures” to protect Chinese companies.

The U.S. Treasury Department said Saturday that TikTok’s deal still needs to close with Oracle and Walmart, and it also needs documentation and conditions to be approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

That, of course, also leaves the potential for more roller coasters of emotion for TikTok users, such as Haley Hoffman Smith, a 24-year-old who moved to Manhattan this year to pursue her dream of becoming a talk-show host. She said she had just hit 100,000 followers on TikTok and was crushed on Friday to hear it may be headed for a shutdown.

“TikTok is an inextricable part of my dream chasing story,” she said. “And to lose it forever would not only be an inconvenient setback, but an absolute heartbreak.”

The Canadian Press – Sep 19, 2020 / 12:32 pm | Story: 311052

Strong winds pushed a wildfire burning for nearly two weeks in mountains northeast of Los Angeles onto the desert floor and spread it rapidly in several directions, causing it to explode in size and destroy homes, officials said Saturday.

Meanwhile, officials were investigating the death of a firefighter on the lines of another Southern California wildfire that erupted earlier this month from a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device used by a couple to reveal their baby’s gender.

The death occurred Thursday in San Bernardino National Forest as crews battled the El Dorado Fire about 120 kilometres east of Los Angeles, the U.S. Forest Service said in a statement.

In northern Los Angeles County, erratic winds pushed the Bobcat Fire onto the Mojave Desert community of Juniper Hills on Friday after churning all the way across the San Gabriel Mountains. The winds and thick smoke over the area grounded water-dropping aircraft most of the day. Meanwhile, crews on the ground shifted from attacking the blaze to protecting homes because they were “outflanked” by the flames, fire spokeswoman Kerry Gillibrand said.

The fire grew by nearly 20,000 acres to 368 square kilometres.

Some residents in Juniper Hills fled as blowing embers sparked spot fires, hitting some homes but sparing others. Bridget Lensing said she feared her family’s house was lost after seeing on Twitter that a neighbour’s house three doors down went up in flames.

“The past year, I poured my heart and soul into improving this home,” Lensing said. “And it could be ripped away so quickly.”

It wasn’t immediately clear how many homes were burned in the area about 80 kilometres northeast of downtown LA. A crew will assess damages once the area is cleared of danger, said fire spokesman Sky Cornell. No injuries were reported.

He said crews will take advantage of slightly cooler temperatures to make headway on Saturday. However, winds were expected to remain strong with possible gusts of up to 40 km/h.

On the south side of the blaze, firefighters continued to protect Mount Wilson, which overlooks greater Los Angeles and has a historic observatory founded more than a century ago and numerous broadcast antennas serving Southern California.

The fire that started Sept. 6 had already doubled in size over the last week. It is 15% contained.

Officials said the fire has been challenging because it is burning in areas that have not burned in decades, and because the firestorms across California have limited resources. There were about 1,660 firefighters on the lines.

The name of the firefighter killed in the nearby El Dorado Fire was being withheld until family members are notified.

“Our deepest sympathies are with the family, friends and fellow firefighters during this time,” Forest Service spokesperson Zach Behrens said in the statement.

No other information was released about the firefighter, the agency the firefighter worked for, or the circumstances of the death. The body was escorted down the mountain in a procession of first-responder vehicles.

A statement from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said it was the 26th death involving wildfires besieging the state.

A new blaze sparked by a vehicle that caught fire was growing in wilderness outside Palm Springs.

To the north, a fire burning for nearly a month in Sequoia National Forest roared to life again Friday and prompted evacuation orders for the central California mountain communities of Silver City and Mineral King.

More than 7,900 wildfires have burned more than 14,164 square kilometres in California this year, including many since a mid-August barrage of dry lightning ignited parched vegetation.

The El Dorado Fire has burned more than 89 square kilometres and was 59% contained, with 10 buildings destroyed and six damaged.

Cal Fire said earlier this month that the El Dorado Fire was ignited Sept. 5 when a couple, their young children and someone there to record video staged the baby gender reveal at El Dorado Ranch Park at the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains.

The device was set off in a field and quickly ignited dry grass. The couple frantically tried to use bottled water to extinguish the flames and called 911.

Authorities have not released the identities of the couple, who could face criminal charges and be held liable for the cost of fighting the fire.

The Canadian Press – Sep 18, 2020 / 4:56 pm | Story: 311030

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a diminutive yet towering women’s rights champion who became the court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington. She was 87.

Ginsburg died of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer, the court said.

Ginsberg’s death just over six weeks before Election Day is likely to set off a heated battle over whether President Donald Trump should nominate, and the Republican-led Senate should confirm, her replacement, or if the seat should remain vacant until the outcome of his race against Democrat Joe Biden is known.

Ginsburg announced in July that she was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for lesions on her liver, the latest of her several battles with cancer.

Ginsburg spent her final years on the bench as the unquestioned leader of the court’s liberal wing and became something of a rock star to her admirers. Young women especially seemed to embrace the court’s Jewish grandmother, affectionately calling her the Notorious RBG, for her defence of the rights of women and minorities, and the strength and resilience she displayed in the face of personal loss and health crises.

Those health issues included five bouts with cancer beginning in 1999, falls that resulted in broken ribs, insertion of a stent to clear a blocked artery and assorted other hospitalizations after she turned 75.

She resisted calls by liberals to retire during Barack Obama’s presidency at a time when Democrats held the Senate and a replacement with similar views could have been confirmed. Instead, President Donald Trump will almost certainly try to push Ginsburg’s successor through the Republican-controlled Senate — and move the conservative court even more to the right.

Ginsburg antagonized Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign in a series of media interviews, including calling him a faker. She soon apologized.

Her appointment by President Bill Clinton in 1993 was the first by a Democrat in 26 years. She initially found a comfortable ideological home somewhere left of centre on a conservative court dominated by Republican appointees. Her liberal voice grew stronger the longer she served.

Ginsburg was a mother of two, an opera lover and an intellectual who watched arguments behind oversized glasses for many years, though she ditched them for more fashionable frames in her later years. At argument sessions in the ornate courtroom, she was known for digging deep into case records and for being a stickler for following the rules.

She argued six key cases before the court in the 1970s when she was an architect of the women’s rights movement. She won five.

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg does not need a seat on the Supreme Court to earn her place in the American history books,” Clinton said at the time of her appointment. “She has already done that.”

On the court, where she was known as a facile writer, her most significant majority opinions were the 1996 ruling that ordered the Virginia Military Institute to accept women or give up its state funding, and the 2015 decision that upheld independent commissions some states use to draw congressional districts.

Besides civil rights, Ginsburg took an interest in capital punishment, voting repeatedly to limit its use. During her tenure, the court declared it unconstitutional for states to execute the intellectually disabled and killers younger than 18.

In addition, she questioned the quality of lawyers for poor accused murderers. In the most divisive of cases, including the Bush v. Gore decision in 2000, she was often at odds with the court’s more conservative members — initially Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas.

The division remained the same after John Roberts replaced Rehnquist as chief justice, Samuel Alito took O’Connor’s seat, and, under Trump, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh joined the court, in seats that had been held by Scalia and Kennedy, respectively.

Ginsburg would say later that the 5-4 decision that settled the 2000 presidential election for Republican George W. Bush was a “breathtaking episode” at the court.

She was perhaps personally closest on the court to Scalia, her ideological opposite. Ginsburg once explained that she took Scalia’s sometimes biting dissents as a challenge to be met. “How am I going to answer this in a way that’s a real putdown?” she said. Scalia died in 2016.

Ginsburg authored powerful dissents of her own in cases involving abortion, voting rights and pay discrimination against women. She said some were aimed at swaying the opinions of her fellow judges while others were “an appeal to the intelligence of another day” in the hopes that they would provide guidance to future courts.

“Hope springs eternal,” she said in 2007, “and when I am writing a dissent, I’m always hoping for that fifth or sixth vote — even though I’m disappointed more often than not.”

She wrote memorably in 2013 that the court’s decision to cut out a key part of the federal law that had ensured the voting rights of Black people, Hispanics and other minorities was “like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

Change on the court hit Ginsburg especially hard. She dissented forcefully from the court’s decision in 2007 to uphold a nationwide ban on an abortion procedure that opponents call partial-birth abortion. The court, with O’Connor still on it, had struck down a similar state ban seven years earlier. The “alarming” ruling, Ginsburg said, “cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away at a right declared again and again by this court — and with increasing comprehension of its centrality to women’s lives.”

In 1999, Ginsburg had surgery for colon cancer and received radiation and chemotherapy. She had surgery again in 2009 after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and in December 2018 for cancerous growths on her left lung. Following the last surgery, she missed court sessions for the first time in more than 25 years on the bench.

Ginsburg also was treated with radiation for a tumour on her pancreas in August 2019. She maintained an active schedule even during the three weeks of radiation. When she revealed a recurrence of her cancer in July 2020, Ginsburg said she remained “fully able” to continue as a justice.

Joan Ruth Bader was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1933, the second daughter in a middle-class family. Her older sister, who gave her the lifelong nickname “Kiki,” died at age 6, so Ginsburg grew up in Brooklyn’s Flatbush section as an only child. Her dream, she has said, was to be an opera singer.

Ginsburg graduated at the top of her Columbia University law school class in 1959 but could not find a law firm willing to hire her. She had “three strikes against her” — for being Jewish, female and a mother, as she put it in 2007.

She had married her husband, Martin, in 1954, the year she graduated from Cornell University. She attended Harvard University’s law school but transferred to Columbia when her husband took a law job there. Martin Ginsburg went on to become a prominent tax attorney and law professor. Martin Ginsburg died in 2010. She is survived by two children, Jane and James, and several grandchildren.

Ginsburg once said that she had not entered the law as an equal-rights champion. “I thought I could do a lawyer’s job better than any other,” she wrote. “I have no talent in the arts, but I do write fairly well and analyze problems clearly.”

The Canadian Press – Sep 18, 2020 / 10:08 am | Story: 310966

A second death from Hurricane Sally was reported Friday in Alabama, where the storm sloshed ashore Wednesday, bringing wind and flooding rain.

Baldwin County coroner Dr. Brian Pierce said the death in the Foley area and was of someone who was involved in storm cleanup. He gave no other details on the death.

Another person in the county died Wednesday morning as the hurricane was blowing through in an apparent drowning.

Meanwhile Friday, Tropical Storm Wilfred formed in the eastern Atlantic, using the last of the traditional names for tropical systems in a record setting Atlantic hurricane season.

The storm’s maximum sustained winds Friday morning were near 40 mph. Slight strengthening was possible during the day but weakening should start over the weekend, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Wilfred was centred about 630 miles west-southwest of the Cabo Verde Islands and was moving west-northwest near 17 mph.

The storm comes amid a very active hurricane season in the Atlantic and “Wilfred” is the last name on the Hurricane Center’s list of storm names for the season.

“Get out the Greek alphabet,” the National Hurricane Center tweeted. After using up traditional storm names, meteorologists will now use Alpha, Beta and other Greek letters for future storms.

The only time they had done this before was in the deadly 2005 hurricane season, during which Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. It is still peak Atlantic hurricane season for a few more weeks and forecasters are watching at least three other systems for signs of development, including one that is a tropical depression in the western Gulf of Mexico.

The prior record for the earliest 21st named storm was Wilma on October 8, 2005, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.

The Canadian Press – Sep 18, 2020 / 7:00 am | Story: 310946

The U.S. will ban the downloads of the Chinese apps TikTok and WeChat on Sunday, with a total ban on the use of the latter, citing national security and data privacy concerns.

A total ban on the use of TikTok will follow on Nov. 12, but Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said early Friday on Fox Business Network that access to that app may be possible if certain safeguards are put into place.

“At the President’s direction, we have taken significant action to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data, while promoting our national values, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive enforcement of U.S. laws and regulations,” Ross said in a prepared statement.

The government said its order, previously announced by President Donald Trump in August, will “combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data.”

The government order also raises questions about California tech giant Oracle’s recent deal to take over U.S. operations of TikTok, a requirement by the Trump administration for the app to continue operating in the U.S.

Details of the Oracle-TikTok deal were sketchy at best. Oracle was among the pool of bidders, including Microsoft and Walmart, to buy TikTok’s American operations.

Oracle, in confirming it was the winning bidder Monday, didn’t refer to the deal as a sale or acquisition, instead saying it was chosen as TikTok’s “trusted technology provider.”

It’s unclear at this point what assets, if any, Oracle would actually acquire.

Some security experts have raised concerns that ByteDance Ltd., the Chinese company that owns TikTok, would maintain access to information on the 100 million TikTok users in the United States, creating a security risk.

Like most social networks, TikTok collects user data and moderates users’ posts. It grabs users’ locations and messages and tracks what they watch to figure out how best to target ads to them.

Similar concerns apply to U.S.-based social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, but Chinese ownership adds an extra wrinkle because the Chinese government could order companies to help it gather intelligence.

TikTok says it does not store U.S. user data in China and that it would not give user data to the government. But experts say the Chinese government can get any information it wants from companies there.

Republican and Democratic lawmaker concerns about TikTok include its vulnerability to censorship and misinformation campaigns, and the safety of user data and children’s privacy. But the administration has provided no specific evidence that TikTok has made U.S. users’ data available to the Chinese government.

The Canadian Press – Sep 18, 2020 / 6:46 am | Story: 310943

A firefighter died battling a wildfire in California that officials said was sparked by a device used to reveal a baby’s gender.

The death occurred Thursday in the San Bernardino National Forest as crews battled the El Dorado Fire, the U.S. Forest Service said in a news release.

The El Dorado Fire erupted earlier this month from a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device was used by a couple to reveal their baby’s gender, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said.

The name of the firefighter was being withheld until family members are notified. The cause of the death was under investigation.

“Our deepest sympathies are with the family, friends and fellow firefighters during this time,” spokesperson Zach Behrens said in the release.

The wildfire has burned more than 19,000 acres (7,700 hectares) and was about 66% contained, according to Cal Fire.

Wildfires have burned more than 3 million acres in California this year and are blamed for at least 25 deaths.

The Canadian Press – Sep 18, 2020 / 6:42 am | Story: 310942

Ralph and Dorothy Kohler are celebrating their wedding anniversary — for the 85th time.

WOWT-TV reports that he was just 17 and she was 16 when they tied the knot on Sept. 17, 1935, at the Burt County Courthouse in Tekamah, Nebraska.

“Everybody said it would never last,” Ralph said.

Ralph credits longevity in life and marriage to healthy habits — neither of them has ever drank alcohol or smoked. “I cooked, and he liked to eat,” Dorothy said.

Each grew to enjoy their spouse’s passions. Ralph took up ballroom dancing and Dorothy took up shooting clay targets.

To say she took it up sells her short. Dorothy became a trap shooting national champion in 1952.

The couple moved to California a few years ago to be close to a daughter, one of their three children.

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Reports claim Bahrain stopped militants planning attacks | World News

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Bahrain broke up a plot by militants backed by Iran to launch attacks on diplomats and foreigners in the island nation home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, Saudi state television and local media reported Sunday, just days after the kingdom normalized relations with Israel.

Details about the claimed plot remained scarce Sunday night as Bahrain’s Interior Ministry and its state media did not publicly acknowledge the arrests. Bahraini government officials, who routinely claim breaking up plots by militants backed by Iran, did not respond to a request for comment.

However, it comes as tensions between Iran and the U.S. remain high after the Trump administration claimed to have reinvoked all United Nations sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear program — something disputed by other world powers. The militants reportedly sought revenge for the U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in January, something long threatened by his colleagues in Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.

The Saudi state TV report aired footage of what appeared to be police raiding a home with a hidden passage. The footage showed assault rifles and explosives, apparently seized in the raid.

Nine militants have been arrested, while another nine are believed to be in Iran, the Saudi state TV report said.

Iranian state media acknowledged the reports of the Bahraini arrests, but no official commented on them. Iran’s mission to the U.N. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Authorities uncovered the plot after finding an explosive on the street believed to have been planted to target a “foreign delegation,” the pro-government Bahraini newspaper Akhbar Al-Khaleej reported, citing the Interior Ministry. The ministry accused the Guard of supporting the militants, who also had surveilled oil sites and military bases, the newspaper said. The militants also planned on assassinating bodyguards of Bahraini officials, the newspaper said.

It wasn’t clear when all the arrests and alleged plots took place, as the Akhbar Al-Khaleej report referred to incidents dating as far back as 2017. The newspaper linked the militants to the al-Ashtar Brigade, a Shiite group has claimed responsibility for a number of bombings and attacks in Bahrain, including two that killed police. The group has been sanctioned by the U.S.

Bahrain is home to the 5th Fleet, which patrols the waterways of the Mideast. Officials have worried in the past that the sailors and Marines attached to the base in Manama could be targeted, as well as others who make up the 7,000 American troops there. Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the 5th Fleet, declined to comment and referred questions to the Bahraini government.

Bahrain, an island kingdom off the coast of Saudi Arabia, just last week normalized relations with Israel alongside the United Arab Emirates, in part over their joint suspicion of Iran.

Iran under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi had pushed to take over Bahrain after the British left the country, although Bahrainis in 1970 overwhelmingly supported becoming an independent nation and the U.N. Security Council unanimously backed that. Since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, Bahrain’s rulers have blamed Iran for arming militants on the island. Iran denies the accusations.

Bahrain’s Shiite majority long has accused its Sunni rulers of treating them like second-class citizens. They joined pro-democracy activists in demanding more political freedoms in 2011, as Arab Spring protests swept the wider Middle East. Saudi and Emirati troops ultimately helped violently put down the demonstrations.

Bahrain promised change after the protests. But in recent years, Bahrain has cracked down on all dissent, imprisoned activists and hampered independent reporting on the island. Militant groups like the al-Ashtar Brigade have launched small, sporadic attacks amid that crackdown.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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Ricin: Letter containing poison addressed to Trump at White House

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The letter was intercepted by law enforcement before it reached the White House, officials said

A package containing ricin poison that was addressed to US President Donald Trump has been intercepted before it reached the White House, officials told US media.

The letter was discovered at a screening facility for White House mail earlier this week, the officials said.

They said a substance found inside the envelope was identified as ricin, a poison found naturally in castor beans.

The Trump administration is yet to comment on the reports.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Secret Service are investigating where the package came from and whether others have been sent through the US postal system.

“At this time, there is no known threat to public safety,” the FBI told CNN in a statement on Saturday.

One official told the New York Times that investigators believe the package was sent from Canada. Reports say the presence of ricin was confirmed after tests by the FBI.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said on Saturday it was working with the FBI to investigate the “suspicious letter sent to the White House”.

Ricin is produced by processing castor beans. It is a lethal substance that, if swallowed, inhaled or injected, can cause nausea, vomiting, internal bleeding and ultimately organ failure.

No known antidote exists for ricin. If a person is exposed to ricin, death can take place within 36 to 72 hours, depending on the dose received, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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Castor seeds, which are used to make the deadly ricin poison

The CDC said the poison – which has been used in terror plots – can be manufactured into a weapon in the form of a powder, mist or pellet.

The White House and other federal buildings have been the target of ricin packages in the past.

In 2014, a Mississippi man was sentenced to 25 years in prison for sending letters dusted with ricin to former President Barack Obama and other officials.

Four years later, in 2018, a former Navy veteran was charged with sending toxic letters to the Pentagon and White House.

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