Polish foreign minister expecting to leave job in reshuffle

Polish foreign minister expecting to leave job in reshuffle

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Associated Press

Monday, July 20, 2020

WARSAW, Poland (AP) – Poland’s foreign minister says he is expecting to leave his job in the near future.

Jacek Czaputowicz spoke amid talk of a major reshuffle in the right-wing government following the recent re-election of President Andrzej Duda, the government’s ally.

Czaputowicz told the Rzeczpospolita daily’s online version late Sunday that he had an agreement with the government head that he would serve until the presidential election, the runoff for which took place July 12.

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“A few months ago we agreed with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki that my mission will be continued until the presidential election,” Czaputowicz said.

Czaputowicz said he was not under pressure to go, but believes “this is a good moment for a change at the helm of our diplomacy.”

He said Duda’s re-election was a sign of approval for the government’s policies and he does not expect any change of course in foreign relations.

Ruling Law and Justice party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said Sunday a government reshuffle and reorganization should be expected “right after summer vacation,” which could mean in September.

Wall Street ticks higher in another day of unsettled trading

Stock indexes shake off weak start and close broadly higher

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A man wearing a face mask walks past a bank’s electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index in Hong Kong, Tuesday, July 14, 2020. Asian shares fell Tuesday as skepticism set in about the recent upbeat mood on global … more >

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By STAN CHOE and DAMIAN J. TROISE and ALEX VEIGA

Associated Press

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

NEW YORK (AP) – The stock market shook off a weak start and ended broadly higher after pinballing through another day of unsettled trading. The S&P; 500 rose 1.3% Tuesday. It had been down nearly 1% in the early going. The gains accelerated as the day went on. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 2.1%, lifted by gains for UnitedHealth Group and Caterpillar, among others. The bumpy trading followed another turbulent day Monday, when stocks veered from an early gain to a loss after California brought back restrictions on its economy amid a jump in coronavirus counts.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story appears below.

Wall Street is ticking higher Tuesday afternoon after pinballing through another day of unsettled trading.

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The S&P; 500 was up 0.8%, as of 3 p.m. Eastern time, after erasing an earlier loss of 0.9%. It follows up on Monday’s turbulence, when stocks veered from an early gain to a loss after California brought back restrictions on its economy amid a jump in coronavirus counts.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 442 points, or 1.7% at 26,528, lifted by gains for UnitedHealth Group and Caterpillar, among others. Big tech-oriented stocks were turning in mixed performances, though, which helped hold the Nasdaq composite to a more modest gain of 0.3%.

The latest erratic moves come as earnings reporting season kicks off for the market, and three of the nation’s biggest banks painted a mixed picture of how badly the coronavirus pandemic is ripping through their businesses.

“The earnings season is off to a very guarded start,” said J.J. Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade.

He pointed to cautious forecasts from companies that see the economy possibly taking a step back because of worsening COVID-19 trends, or at least taking longer to recover than expected.

“The fact that they are prepared for bad scenarios is helping to give the market a little confidence,” he said.

Like the broader market, financial stocks drifted between gains and losses for much of the day before turning higher in the afternoon. JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup said they collectively set aside nearly $27 billion during the second quarter to cover loans potentially going bad due to the recession.

But investors took very different approaches to each of them. JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s biggest bank, was up 0.6% after it said it made a record amount of revenue from April through June. Its profit for the latest quarter also managed to beat analysts’ expectations, even though it roughly halved from year-ago levels.

Wells Fargo, though, dropped 4.9% after it said it expects to cut its dividend. “Our view of the length and severity of the economic downturn has deteriorated considerably,” CEO Charlie Scharf said.

Citigroup fell 3.5% after CEO Michael Corbat said its overall business performance was strong last quarter, though net income dropped 73% from a year ago largely due to the $7.9 billion it had to set aside for loans potentially going bad.

Delta Air Lines lost 2.3% after its earnings and revenue for the latest quarter fell short of Wall Street’s already very low expectations. The pandemic is keeping fliers on the ground, and Delta’s passenger count plunged 93% during the quarter from a year earlier. CEO Ed Bastian said it could be two years before the airline sees a sustainable recovery.

Stocks have mostly churned in place since early June. That’s when the S&P; 500 pulled back within 4.5% of its record high set in February, after earlier being down nearly 34%. The index is now 6% below its record.

Pulling stocks higher has been a budding economic recovery, with the job market, retail sales and other measures of the economy halting their plunge and beginning to resume growth. Underlying it all is massive aid for the economy from central banks and governments around the world.

But pushing stocks down are accelerating coronavirus counts in hot spots around the world, which threatens to halt the recovery just as it got going. California demonstrated on Monday how dangerous that can be when the governor of the country’s largest state economy once again ordered bars, indoor dining and other businesses closed.

The worry is that the continuing pandemic could push states across the Sun Belt to roll back reopenings of their economies.

That’s why COVID-19 trends – along with the potential for more aid for the economy from Congress – will matter much more for markets in upcoming weeks than what companies say about their second-quarter results, said Keith Buchanan, portfolio manager at Global Investments.

“The progression of the virus should still be front and center for what is dictating and going to continue to dictate our prospects for economic growth going forward,” he said.

The stock market’s gains were relatively widespread in Tuesday afternoon trading, after it pulled out of its weak start. Smaller stocks were doing better than the rest of the market, with the small-cap Russell 2000 index up 1%.

And four out of five of the big stocks in the S&P; 500 were higher. Energy companies, raw-material producers and other companies whose profits desperately need the economy to strengthen were leading the way.

In Europe, France’s CAC 40 fell 1%, and Germany’s DAX lost 0.8%. The FTSE 100 in London added 0.1%.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.9%, South Korea’s Kospi slipped 0.1% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 1.1%.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury dipped to 0.61 from 0.62% late Monday. It tends to move with investors’ expectations of the economy and inflation.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 19 cents to settle at $40.29 per barrel. Brent oil, the international standard, rose 18 cents to $42.90 a barrel.

Cyprus: EU partners aim to rein in Turkey’s ‘expansionism’

Cyprus: EU partners aim to rein in Turkey’s ‘expansionism’

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Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, right, and Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative and Vice-President of the European Commission, speak during a joint news conference, in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, July 6, 2020. Turkey’s Foreign Minister on Monday called on the European … more >

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By MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS

Associated Press

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) – Cyprus and its European Union partners are working to rein in Turkey’s “expansionist policy” in the eastern Mediterranean amid heightened tensions over an offshore search for hydrocarbons, the island nation’s president said Tuesday.

President Nicos Anastasiades said that the 27-member bloc needs to take stock of how much leeway it will give an “insolent” Turkey that wants to control the region.

Anastasiades’ remarks came a day after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country would “reciprocate” if the EU takes measures censuring Turkey for carrying out a gas search in waters where Cyprus has exclusive economic rights.

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“Unfortunately, we’re talking about an agitator that’s seeking to dominate the entire eastern Mediterranean and place under its control a number of countries that ring the eastern Mediterranean,” Anastasiades said.

“This is incomprehensible and unacceptable not only on the basis of international justice, but also based on customary friendly relations that neighboring countries should hold.”

Turkey doesn’t recognize Cyprus as a state and has dispatched warship-escorted ships to drill for gas in Cyprus‘ exclusive economic zone, including in areas where the Cypriot government has licensed international energy companies like French Total and Italy’s Eni to drill.

Turkey claims almost half of Cyprus‘ economic zone and insists it’s acting to protect its interests and those of breakaway Turkish Cypriots to the area’s energy reserves.

Cyprus was ethnically split in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence. Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, but only the internationally recognized south enjoys full membership benefits.

Cavusoglu held talks Monday with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who traveled in a bid to ease tensions. Turkey’s top diplomat said Ankara expects the bloc to act as an “honest broker” with regard to energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean instead of expressing its backing for Cyprus‘ rights.

Borrell said EUTurkey relations aren’t “passing through the best moment” and called for increased cooperation and dialogue.

6 dead in clash between factions of Bangladesh ethnic group

6 dead in clash between factions of Bangladesh ethnic group

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Tuesday, July 7, 2020

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) – Six people were killed in a gunfight Tuesday between two factions of an ethnic group over control of a hilly region in southeastern Bangladesh where armed gangs are active, police said.

The clash took place between Parbatya Chattogram Jana Sanghati Samiti and its reformist faction, both dominated by the influential Chakma tribe in Bandarban district, police official Mobasser Hossain said. He said all of the dead were from the reformist faction.

The group previously fought an insurgency against Bangladesh’s military and other security agencies for decades with India’s help, demanding greater autonomy for a region known as Chittagong Hill Tracts. The insurgency ended after the group signed a peace treaty with the government in 1997, but some group members were unhappy because they wanted more political freedom for the ethnic group.

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Bandarban is 387 kilometers (240 miles) southeast of Dhaka. About a dozen ethnic groups live in the region. Each has its own dialect, distinctive dress and rituals.

Hossain said the bodies were being taken to a police station and police have launched an investigation.

Such attacks are common in the region because some of the groups are reportedly involved in illegal activities such as drug trafficking and kidnapping for ransom.

Australia warns of ‘arbitrary detention’ risk in China

Australia warns of ‘arbitrary detention’ risk in China

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By ROD McGUIRK

Associated Press

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – Australia on Tuesday warned its citizens that they may be at risk of “arbitrary detention” if they visit China, in a move that will further test strained bilateral relations.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in an updated travel advisory for China that “authorities have detained foreigners because they’re ‘endangering national security,’” adding that “Australians may also be at risk of arbitrary detention.”

It is not clear what prompted the warning, which comes as bilateral relations between the free trade partners have plummeted over Australia’s calls for an independent investigation into the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic is believed to have started in China late last year.

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The warning comes after Australian media reported that Beijing law professor Xu Zhangrun, a Chinese Communist Party critic who completed his doctorate at Australia’s Melbourne University, was detained in China on Monday.

Xu was detained on “spurious charges,” University of Technology Sydney academic Feng Chongyi wrote on the Australian Broadcasting Corp. website “The Conversation” on Tuesday. Feng was detained in China for two weeks in 2017 while researching human rights lawyers.

Australia has criticized China for charging Chinese-Australian spy novelist Yang Hengjun, a friend of Feng, with espionage in March.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed last week that his government was considering an offer of safe haven to Hong Kong residents threatened by Beijing’s move to impose a tough national security law on the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that he wasn’t aware of the new travel warning, but that China guarantees the safety and legal rights of foreigners in the country.

“As long as foreigners in China abide by the laws and regulations, there is no need to worry at all,” he said at a daily briefing in Beijing.

The new advisory is unlikely to affect travel plans since Australia has already banned its citizens from leaving the country because of the pandemic. Australians in China who wish to come home were advised to do so as soon as possible.

An Amnesty International report last year said China had “legalized arbitrary and secret detention.” The report also said there was an increased risk of torture, other ill-treatment and forced “confessions” in China.

TikTok to leave Hong Kong as security law raises questions

TikTok to leave Hong Kong as security law raises questions

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This Feb. 25, 2020, photo shows the icon for TikTok taken in New York. TikTok said Tuesday, July 7, 2020, it will stop operations in Hong Kong, joining other social media companies in warily eyeing ramifications of a sweeping national … more >

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By Zen Soo

Associated Press

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

HONG KONG (AP) — TikTok said Tuesday it will stop operations in Hong Kong, joining other social media companies in warily eyeing ramifications of a sweeping national security law that took effect last week.

The short-form video app’s planned departure from Hong Kong comes as various social media platforms and messaging apps including Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram, Google and Twitter balk at the possibility of providing user data to Hong Kong authorities.

The social media companies say they are assessing implications of the security law, which prohibits what Beijing views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in the city’s internal affairs. In the communist-ruled mainland, the foreign social media platforms are blocked by China’s “Great Firewall.”

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Critics see the law as Beijing’s boldest step yet to erase the legal divide between the former British colony and the mainland’s authoritarian Communist Party system.

TikTok said in a statement that it had decided to halt operations “in light of recent events.” The company would not comment on the size of its operations in Hong Kong or any other matters.

Operated by Chinese internet giant Bytedance, TikTok has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots while striving for global appeal. It recently hired former Walt Disney executive Kevin Mayer to be its CEO.

The company has said all its data is stored in servers in the U.S. and insisted it would not remove content even if asked to do so by the Chinese government. Even so, TikTok has still been regarded as a national security risk, with U.S. secretary of state Michael Pompeo saying Monday that it was looking at banning certain social media apps, including TikTok.

Facebook and its messaging app WhatsApp said in separate statements Monday that they would freeze the review of government requests for user data in Hong Kong, “pending further assessment of the National Security Law, including formal human rights due diligence and consultations with international human rights experts.”

Hong Kong was convulsed with massive, sometimes violent anti-government protests for much of last year as the former British colony’s residents reacted to proposed extradition legislation, since withdrawn, that might have led to some suspects facing trial in mainland Chinese courts.

The new law criminalizes some pro-democracy slogans like the widely used “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time,” which the Hong Kong government says has separatist connotations.

The fear is that it erodes the special freedoms of the semi-autonomous city, which has operated under a “one country, two systems” framework since China took control in 1997. That arrangement has allowed Hong Kong’s people freedoms not permitted in mainland China, such as public dissent and unrestricted internet access.

Telegram’s platform has been used widely to spread pro-democracy messages and information about the protests. It understands “the importance of protecting the right to privacy of our Hong Kong users,” said Mike Ravdonikas, a spokesperson for the company.

“Telegram has never shared any data with the Hong Kong authorities in the past and does not intend to process any data requests related to its Hong Kong users until an international consensus is reached in relation to the ongoing political changes in the city,” he said.

Twitter also paused all data and information requests from Hong Kong authorities after the security law went into effect last week, the company said, emphasizing that it was “committed to protecting the people using our service and their freedom of expression.”

“Like many public interest organisations, civil society leaders and entities, and industry peers, we have grave concerns regarding both the developing process and the full intention of this law,” the company said in a statement.

Google likewise said it had “paused production on any new data requests from Hong Kong authorities.”

Though social platforms have yet to be blocked in Hong Kong, users have begun scrubbing their accounts and deleting pro-democracy posts out of fear of retribution. That retreat has extended to the streets: Many shops and stores that publicly stood in solidarity with protesters have removed the pro-democracy sticky notes and artwork that had adorned their walls.

Under implementation rules of Article 43 of the national security law, which give the city’s police force sweeping powers in enforcing the legislation, platforms, publishers and internet service providers may be ordered to take down any electronic message published that is “likely to constitute an offence endangering national security or is likely to cause the occurrence of an offence endangering national security.”

Service providers who do not comply with such requests could face fines of up to 100,000 Hong Kong dollars ($12,903) and receive jail terms of up to six months.

Individuals who post such messages may also be asked to remove the message, or face similar fines and a jail term of one year.

Hong Kong authorities moved quickly to implement the law after it took effect on June 30, with police arresting about 370 people.

The rules allow Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam to authorize police to intercept communications and conduct surveillance to “prevent and detect offences endangering national security.”

Police can conduct searches for evidence without a warrant in “exceptional circumstances” and seek warrants requiring people suspected of violating the national security law to surrender their travel documents, preventing them from leaving Hong Kong.

Written notices or restraining orders also may be issued to freeze or confiscate property if there are “reasonable grounds” to suspect that the property is related to an offense endangering national security.

Pakistan: Exchange of fire with India kills boy in Kashmir

Pakistan: Exchange of fire with India kills boy in Kashmir

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Associated Press

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

ISLAMABAD (AP) – Pakistani and Indian troops have traded fire in Kashmir in an exchange that killed a boy in the Pakistan-controlled section of the disputed Himalayan region, officials said Wednesday.

In a statement, Pakistan’s military said India targeted civilian residents with artillery, mortars and other weapons the previous night in the border village of Lipa.

India, however, blamed Pakistani troops for initiating the fire. Rajesh Kalia, an Indian army spokesperson, said Pakistani troops in an unprovoked cease-fire violation targeted the villages of Naugam and Baramulla. He said the Indian side responded adequately.

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The two nuclear-armed countries often trade fire in Kashmir, which is split between them but claimed by both in its entirety. Since gaining independence from British rule in 1947, the the two sides have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir. India accuses Pakistan of aiding separatists in its part of Kashmir, a charge Pakistan denies.

The latest deadly exchange happened hours after dozens of Indian and Pakistani diplomats and embassy staff returned home to India and Pakistan.

India had earlier ordered Pakistan to reduce its embassy staff in New Delhi by half and recalled half of its own embassy staff in Islamabad, following the arrest of two of its embassy employees over a hit-and-run road accident.

Despite the uproar, Pakistan and India stuck to an agreement to share – as they do every July 1 – the updated lists of one another’s prisoners. Islamabad on Wednesday handed over the names of 324 Indian prisoners it holds while New Delhi handed over a list with the names of 362 Pakistani prisoners held in India.

Protest versus Africa’s 1st COVID-19 vaccine test shows fear

Protest versus Africa’s 1st COVID-19 vaccine test shows fear

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A vaccine volunteer receives an injection at the Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital in Soweto, Johannesburg Wednesday, June 24, 2020. Africa’s first participation in a COVID-19 vaccine trial has begun as volunteers received injections developed at the University of Oxford in … more >

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By Cara Anna

Associated Press

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Protesters against Africa’s first COVID-19 vaccine trial burned their face masks Wednesday as experts note a worrying level of resistance and misinformation around testing on the continent.

Anti-vaccine sentiment in Africa is “the worst I’ve ever seen,” the CEO of the GAVI vaccine alliance, Seth Berkley, told an African Union vaccine conference last week.

“In general, people in Africa know the diseases and want to protect each other,” he said. “In this case, the rumor mill has been dramatic.”

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The trial that began last week in Johannesburg is part of one already underway in Britain of the vaccine developed at the University of Oxford. Some 2,000 volunteers in South Africa are expected to take part.

It’s important that vaccines be tested in Africa to see how they perform in the local context, professor of vaccinology Shabir Madhi, leader of the new COVID-19 vaccine trial in South Africa, told reporters and others in a webinar Sunday.

But the small band of demonstrators who gathered Wednesday at the University of the Witwatersrand, where the trial is based, reflect long-running fears among some in Africa over testing drugs on people who don’t understand the risks.

“The people chosen as volunteers for the vaccination, they look as if they’re from poor backgrounds, not qualified enough to understand” protest organizer Phapano Phasha told The Associated Press ahead of the event. “We believe they are manipulating the vulnerable.”

The activist and political commentator brought up the widely circulated remarks earlier this year by a French researcher, Jean-Paul Mira, who said, “”If I can be provocative, shouldn’t we be doing this study in Africa, where there are no masks, no treatments, no resuscitation?” He compared it to some AIDS studies: “In prostitutes, we try things because we know that they are highly exposed and that they do not protect themselves.”

“The narrative we got is our continent is a dumping ground,” Phasha said. First ensure the vaccine works elsewhere before bringing it to Africa, she added.

The French researcher later apologized for his comments, but they continue to circulate on social media among those opposed to vaccine testing in Africa, Meanwhile, anger among African health officials and others was swift.

The Ethiopian director of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called the comments “racist” and a “hangover from a colonial mentality.” The head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, called the remarks “very disgusting” and “condescending.”

“Africa CDC will continue to work very closely with the World Health Organization to ensure that only ethically and scientifically sound clinical trials for vaccines and therapies will be conducted in Africa, using exactly the same standards and principles as those employed elsewhere in the world,” Nkengasong said in a statement. “These principles will be guided by respect for the dignity of Africans, the beneficence and non-maleficence, and justice.”

Madhi, the professor in charge of the South Africa vaccine trial, has said volunteers were given an explanation about the trial and possible risks and then had to score 80% on a questionnaire to take part.

But why not target more affluent parts of South African society? Phasha asked.

“I believe in science,” she said. “And I believe that science has managed to solve most of the problems society is faced with. I’m not against vaccinations, I’m against profiteering.”

Fellow protesters sang and danced with banners saying “We not guinea pigs” and “No safe vaccine.”

“If you want to test, test in the areas which they call the epicenter of the world,” demonstrator Sean Goss said.

It’s not clear when Africa’s first vaccine trial will begin showing results, but a worried Madhi has said the local surge in confirmed cases could mean seeing them months earlier than expected.

South Africa now has more than 151,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, the most on the African continent. Africa overall has more than 400,000 cases.

As the pandemic picks up speed in Africa, health officials are urging that any vaccine be distributed equitably around the world. A quarter of all vaccines for other diseases are used in Africa and yet the continent has little production capacity, putting its 1.3 billion people at risk of being near the end of the line for any COVID-19 vaccine.

The new global attention to racial injustice creates a key time to act, the head of the Nigeria Center for Disease Control told the AU vaccine conference last week.

“If we don’t use this moment when, for better or worse, we have the political attention of people, we will regret it,” Chikwe Ihekweazu said.

Africa must play a role in the new vaccine trials, the vice chancellor of the University of Cape Town, Mamokgethi Phakeng, and the chair of South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Thokozani Majozi, wrote this month in the Sunday Times newspaper.

They, too, brought up the French researcher’s comments and they criticized the calls for an “African-only” approach to finding a vaccine, saying it would pull the continent even further from the global stage.

“It would be tragic if Africa chose not to take part, at all levels, in clinical trials of a Covid-19 vaccine – or any medical treatment that could save lives,” they said.

___

AP journalist Nqobile Ntshangase in Johannesburg contributed.

Netanyahu ally confirms delays in West Bank annexation plan

Netanyahu ally confirms delays in West Bank annexation plan

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Benjamin Netanyahu maintaining vow to annex West Bank land by July 1

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Israeli soldiers guard a bus station at the Tapuach junction next to the West Bank city of Nablus, Tuesday, June 30, 2020. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears determined to carry out his pledge to begin annexing parts of the … more >

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By ARON HELLER

Associated Press

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

JERUSALEM (AP) – A confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that the Israeli leader’s plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank would not start on Wednesday, the original target date, as the British prime minister made an extraordinary appeal to Israel to call off the plan.

The developments cast further uncertainty over whether Israel will ultimately follow through on the explosive annexation initiative, which has drawn fierce international condemnations from some of Israel’s closest allies.

Speaking on Israel’s Army Radio station, Cabinet minister Ofir Akunis confirmed that the annexation process would not begin on Wednesday, saying that officials were still working out the final details with their American counterparts. He said he expected the annexation to take place later in July.

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“Coordination with the American administration is not something that can be dismissed,” he said.

Netanyahu had aimed to start the process by Wednesday, saying he wants to begin annexing West Bank territory in line with President Donald Trump’s Mideast plan.

The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement saying Netanyahu held discussions Wednesday with American diplomats and Israeli defense officials on the issue of annexation, and that “additional discussions will be be held in the coming days.”

The plan, unveiled in January, envisions bringing some 30% of the territory under permanent Israeli control, while giving the Palestinians limited autonomy in carved-up pockets of the remaining land.

But the plan has come under stiff international criticism. The United Nations, the European Union and key Arab countries have all said Israel’s annexation would violate international law and undermine the already diminished prospects of establishing a viable independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. Even close allies, like Britain, have opposed it.

In a front-page article in the Yediot Ahronot daily, one of Israel’s largest newspapers, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote that as a “passionate defender of Israel,” he was particularly troubled by its intentions. He noted his long links to Israel, dating back to when volunteered on a kibbutz as an 18-year-old and his “many visits” since then.

“As a life-long friend, admirer and supporter of Israel, I am fearful that these proposals will fail in their objective of securing Israel’s borders and will be contrary to Israel’s own long-term interests,” Johnson wrote, adding that annexation “would put in jeopardy” the gains Israel has made in recent years in improving relations with the Arab world.

“I profoundly hope that annexation does not go ahead. If it does, the UK will not recognize any changes to the 1967 lines, except those agreed between both parties,” he said.

Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war. The international community considers the territory occupied land, and Israel’s more than 120 settlements there illegal. The Palestinians, who seek all of the West Bank as part of a future state, have rejected the Trump plan.

Several thousand Palestinians marched in Gaza City for a “day of rage” on Wednesday to protest the annexation plans, one of several demonstrations that were expected in Palestinian areas. The protesters waved Palestinian flags and held signs calling the plan a “declaration of war” on the Palestinian people. The rally ended peacefully by the early afternoon.

While building scores of settlements that are now home to nearly 500,000 Israelis, Israel has never tried to annex West Bank territory before, saying the area is “disputed” and that its final status should be settled through negotiations. The international community considers the area occupied and its settlements to be illegal.

Netanyahu has defended his annexation plan on both security and religious grounds and says the friendly Trump administration has provided a rare opportunity to redraw Israel’s borders. He is eager to move forward before November’s U.S. presidential election, especially with Trump’s re-election prospects in question, and made sure that the coalition agreement for his new government included the July 1 date for him to introduce a plan to parliament.

But beyond the international opposition, Netanyahu has encountered some resistance from his Blue and White governing partners. Blue and White’s leader, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, this week said Wednesday’s target date was not “sacred” and suggested that annexation can wait while the government grapples with Israel’s coronavirus crisis.

U.S. officials have said they do not want to move forward with a plan unless the two leaders are in agreement. Israeli media also reported that Israel is seeking changes in a proposed U.S. map for annexation, and that American officials are demanding an Israeli gesture to the Palestinians as compensation for any annexation that takes place.

Dovish Israeli groups have been holding street protests against the annexation plan and it has also encountered surprising opposition from some of the West Bank settlers themselves, who fear having to recognize a de facto Palestinian state and find themselves engulfed in isolated enclaves.

The majority of them, however, are pressuring Netanyahu to follow through, launching a campaign titled, “you made a promise – keep it.”

___

Associated Press writer Fares Akram in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, contributed to this report.

Reading stabbings a terrorist attack, police say

Deadly U.K. stabbing spree a terrorist attack, police say

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Armed police officers work at a block of flats off Basingstoke Road in Reading after an incident at Forbury Gardens park in the town centre of Reading, England, early Sunday, June 21, 2020. Several people were injured in a stabbing … more >

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By Jill Lawless and Alastair Grant

Associated Press

Sunday, June 21, 2020

READING, England — A stabbing rampage in Britain that killed three people as they sat in a park on a summer evening is being considered a terrorist attack, British police said Sunday as a 25-year-old believed to be the lone attacker was in custody.

Authorities said they were not looking for any other suspects, and they did not raise Britain’s official terrorism threat level from “substantial.”

“Motivation for this horrific act is far from certain,” said Neil Basu, Britain’s top counterterrorism police officer, as police combed the park where the carnage unfolded in Reading, a large commuter town west of London.

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Three people were killed and three others seriously wounded in the stabbing attack that came out of the blue in Reading’s Forbury Gardens park on Saturday evening.

Basu said “incredibly brave” unarmed officers from the Thames Valley Police force arrested a 25-year-old local man at the scene. The Thames Valley force later said counterterrorism detectives were taking over the investigation.

“There is no intelligence to suggest that there is any further danger to the public,” said Detective Chief Superintendent Ian Hunter.

The Press Association news agency reported the suspect was an asylum-seeker from Libya who was living in Reading. Police have not identified him.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was being briefed on developments. His office said Johnson had met security officials, police and senior ministers on Sunday for an update on the investigation.

Police officers patrolled cordons on the roads leading to the park on Sunday, and blue-and-white tents were erected near the site of the attack. Overnight, heavily armed officers entered an apartment about a mile away, and a loud bang was heard.

The attack came a sunny summer evening in Reading, a town of 200,000 residents 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of London, as eased coronavirus lockdown restrictions allowed more people to socialize.

Personal trainer Lawrence Wort said the park was full of groups sitting on the grass when “one lone person walked through, suddenly shouted some unintelligible words and went around a large group of around 10, trying to stab them.”

“He stabbed three of them severely in the neck and under the arms, and then turned and started running towards me, and we turned and started running,” Wort said.

The attack came hours after a Black Lives Matter demonstration at Forbury Gardens, but police said there was no connection between the two.

Britain has been hit by several terror attacks in recent years, both by people inspired by the Islamic State group and by far-right extremists. Islamist-inspired attacks include a suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester that killed 22 people in 2017 and two deadly vehicle and knife attacks in London the same year.

In several cases, attackers have been known to police. In November, a man who had been released after serving a prison sentence for a terrorism offense stabbed two people to death at a justice conference in London.

In February, a man recently released from prison after serving time for terrorism-related offenses strapped on a fake bomb and stabbed two people on a busy London street before being shot to death by police. No one else was killed.

Britain’s official terrorism threat level stands at “substantial,” the middle level on a five-rung scale, meaning an attack is likely.

• Lawless reported from London.

Reading stabbings: U.K. police seek motive

‘Open mind’: Police seek motive in deadly U.K. stabbing spree

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Armed police officers investigate at a block of flats off the Basingstoke Road in Reading after an incident at Forbury Gardens park in the town centre of Reading, England, Saturday, June 20, 2020. Several people were injured in a stabbing … more >

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By

Associated Press

Sunday, June 21, 2020

READING, England — British police on Sunday were seeking the motive of a 25-year-old man suspected of stabbing three people to death in a daylight attack in a park.

Detectives said they were not, for now, treating Saturday’s attack in the town of Reading as terrorism, though the counterterrorism unit is supporting the investigation. They said they were keeping an “open mind” about the motive.

The Thames Valley Police force said officers arrested a 25-year-old local man at the scene and they were not looking for anyone else. Overnight, heavily armed officers entered an apartment about a mile from the attack.

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“There is no intelligence to suggest that there is any further danger to the public,” said Detective Chief Superintendent Ian Hunter. “This is not currently being treated as a terrorism incident; however, officers are keeping an open mind as to the motivation.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his “thoughts are with all of those affected by the appalling incident in Reading.”

Several other people were injured, three of them seriously, in an attack that came out of the blue on a sunny summer evening in Forbury Gardens park in Reading, a town of 200,000 residents 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of London.

Personal trainer Lawrence Wort said the park was full of groups socializing on the grass when “one lone person walked through, suddenly shouted some unintelligible words and went around a large group of around 10, trying to stab them.”

“He stabbed three of them severely in the neck and under the arms, and then turned and started running towards me, and we turned and started running,” Wort said.

The incident came hours after a Black Lives Matter demonstration at Forbury Gardens, but police said there was no connection between the attack and the protest.

Britain’s official terrorism threat level stands at “substantial,” the middle level on a five-rung scale, meaning an attack is likely.

UN rights body to report on racism after Floyd killing

UN rights body to report on racism after Floyd killing

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Delegates are seen prior to the vote at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, June 19, 2020. The U.N.’s top human rights body has voted unanimously to commission a U.N. report on systemic racism and discrimination … more >

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By JAMEY KEATEN

Associated Press

Friday, June 19, 2020

GENEVA (AP) – The U.N.’s top human rights body agreed unanimously Friday to commission a U.N. report on systemic racism and discrimination against black people while stopping short of ordering a more intensive investigation singling out the United States after the death of George Floyd sparked worldwide demonstrations.

The Human Rights Council approved a consensus resolution following days of grappling over language after African nations backed away from their initial push for a commission of inquiry, the council’s most intrusive form of scrutiny, focusing more on the U.S. Instead, the resolution calls for a simple and more generic report to be written by the U.N. human rights chief’s office and outside experts.

The aim is “to contribute to accountability and redress for victims” in the U.S. and beyond, the resolution states.

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Advocacy group Human Rights Watch said the measure fell far short of the level of scrutiny sought by hundreds of civil society organizations, but nonetheless set the stage for an unprecedented look at racism and police violence in the United States – over the efforts of U.S. officials to avoid the council’s attention – and showed even the most powerful countries could be held to account.

Iran and Palestine signed on among the co-sponsors for the resolution condemning “the continuing racially discriminatory and violent practices” by law enforcement against Africans and people of African descent “in particular which led to the death of George Floyd on 25 May 2020 in Minnesota,” it says. Any state can sign on as a resolution co-sponsor at the council.

The approved text asks U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to examine governments’ responses to peaceful anti-racism protests and to report back to the council in June next year. It asked her to also include updates on police brutality against Africans and people of African descent in her regular updates to the council between now and then.

The council on Thursday wrapped up an urgent debate on racism and police brutality that was called in the wake of Floyd’s death last month that sparked Black Lives Matter protests worldwide. It came after Floyd’s relatives, families of other black victims of U.S. police violence, and hundreds of advocacy groups urged the panel to hold a special session on the issue – which it did not.

Floyd, a black man, died after a white police officer in Minneapolis pressed a knee into his neck for several minutes as Floyd pleaded for air and eventually stopped moving. His death prompted a wave of outrage.

The African countries that brought the issue to the Human Rights Council measure insisted upon the urgency of the moment, citing an exceptional chance to train a spotlight on decades of racial discrimination in the United States.

Some member countries of the Human Rights Council – notably, the Western democracies like the United States – expressed reticence about singling out the U.S. Envoys from some Latin American countries lamented how back-and-forth haggling over such an important issue came as their capitals back home were largely preoccupied with the COVID-19 pandemic.

One key U.S. ally suggested the focus on the United States distracted from the need for a stronger, more global condemnation of racism.

“We would have appreciated more time for discussions and negotiation of the text of the resolution,” German Ambassador Michael Freiherr von Ungern-Sternberg. “Racism is a global problem. The fight against racism should unite us rather than divide us. Hence, we are against singling out one state.”

The envoy of Venezuela, where the government under President Nicolas Maduro has been at odds with the United States, fired a verbal salvo at Washington.

“The vile murder of George Floyd has stripped bare the systemic racism, and the fascist and supremacist nature of Yankee imperialism,” Ambassador Jorge Valero said.

María del Socorro Flores Liera, Mexico’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, noted the timeliness of the resolution vote on Juneteenth, a day commemorating when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 and informed the enslaved black people there that they were free.

The U.S. mission in Geneva had no immediate comment on the resolution.

U.S. officials have engaged in back-channel diplomacy as the text was being drawn up – but the United States is officially on the sidelines of the 47-nation council. The Trump administration pulled the U.S. out two years ago, citing the council’s alleged anti-Israel bias and acceptance of autocratic regimes with pockmarked rights records as members.

On Wednesday, the U.S. ambassador in Geneva, Andrew Bremberg, acknowledged “shortcomings” in the United States including racial discrimination and insisted the government was “transparent” about dealing with it. He called the U.S. the world’s “leading advocate” for human rights, adding: “We are not above scrutiny.” But he said racism is a problem in many countries.

Human Rights Watch said the U.S. had been trying to skirt attention on the issue.

“The efforts of the U.S. to avoid council attention only highlights why such scrutiny is needed, and how far there is still to go to dismantle the pernicious structures of institutionalized racism,” said the group’s Geneva director, John Fisher.

“No state, no matter how powerful, should be exempt from council scrutiny, and today’s resolution opens the door to bring increased international attention to violations both by the U.S. and other powerful states in future,” he added.

U.S. launches new sanctions on Syria aimed at squeezing Bashar Assad’s power

U.S. launches new sanctions on Syria aimed at squeezing Assad’s power

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In this Feb. 10, 2015, file photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad gestures during an interview in Damascus, Syria. (SANA via AP, File) more >

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By Lauren Meier

The Washington Times

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Trump administration on Wednesday launched a series of sanctions that targets any company or entity that conducts business with Syria and its president, Bashar Assad.

The sanctions are part of the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019 (the Caesar Act) that was signed into law late last year and named after a military military photographer named Caesar who smuggled out 55,000 digital images of the destruction the nearly decade-old Syrian civil war has caused.

The purpose of the Caesar Act is to put unprecedented economic pressure on the Assad regime. The United States and European Union have issued some tough sanctions on Mr. Assad and his inner circle in the early days of the war in Syria, but enforcement has been partial.

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As part of the new sanctions, the State Department said it is designating 39 people and entities — including Mr. Assad and his wife — in what the department has dubbed “the beginning of what will be a sustained campaign of economic and political pressure to deny the Assad regime revenue and support it uses to wage war and commit mass atrocities against the Syrian people.”

Under existing U.S. sanctions, any American is prohibited from doing business with the Assad regime. The Caesar Act goes one step further and authorizes sanctions on the citizens of any country who work with Mr. Assad. The act specifically targets the Iranian militias and Russian mercenaries that have kept the Syrian dictator in power.

It also targets those who conduct business that supports the regime’s military activities as well as its aviation and oil and gas production industries, but the department said that the move does not implement penalties on humanitarian assistance.

“It is time for Assad’s needless, brutal war to end,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. “Today, the Assad regime and those who support it have a simple choice: Take irreversible steps toward a lasting political solution to the Syrian conflict … or face ever new tranches of crippling sanctions.”

Harry Harris orders Black Lives Matter banner removed from U.S. Embassy in Seoul

Ambassador orders Black Lives Matter banner removed from U.S. Embassy in Seoul

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FILE – In this Sunday, June 14, 2020 file photo, police officers stand guard as a giant Black Lives Matter banner is displayed at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea. The banner was put up on Saturday, June 13, … more >

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Associated Press

Monday, June 15, 2020

SEOUL, South Korea — A large Black Lives Matter banner has been removed from the U.S. Embassy building in South Korea’s capital three days after it was raised there in solidarity with protesters back home.

The banner was put up on Saturday with Ambassador Harry Harris tweeting that his embassy “stands in solidarity with fellow Americans grieving and peacefully protesting to demand positive change.” But the banner was taken out on Monday.

The embassy said the banner’s removal was meant to avoid any misperception that it aimed to encourage donations for certain unspecified organizations.

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Harris “wanted to highlight the enduring American values of racial equality, freedom of speech, and the right to peacefully protest,” the U.S. Embassy said in a statement. “However, the Ambassador’s intent was not to support or encourage donations to any specific organization. To avoid the misperception that American taxpayer dollars were spent to benefit such organizations, he directed that the banner be removed.”

On Tuesday morning, a huge banner commemorating the 70th anniversary of the start of the 1950-53 Korean War, which falls on June 25, was seen draping on the embassy building in Seoul. The black-and-white banner carries the image of a lone soldier blowing a bugle.

The Black Lives Matter banner was seen as support of worldwide movements honoring George Floyd, a black man who died in handcuffs while a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee on his neck. His death last month has prompted weeks of protests in the United States and around the world with the same theme: Black Lives Matter.

The U.S. Embassy statement said its removal of the banner “is no way lessens the principles and ideals expressed by raising the banner.” It said it “will look for other ways to convey fundamental American values in these times of difficulty at home.”

U.K.’s Boris Johnson calls for anti-racism commission; critics want more

U.K.’s Boris Johnson calls for anti-racism commission; critics want more

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Protesters gather in Leeds, England, Sunday June 14, 2020, during a protest by Black Voices Matter. Global protests are taking place in the wake of George Floyd’s death who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the … more >

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By Jill Lawless

Associated Press

Monday, June 15, 2020

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will establish a commission to look at racial equality in the U.K., a move that comes after two weeks of protests spurred by the death of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. Opponents accused the Conservative government of opting for talk rather than action.

Writing in Monday’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, Johnson said the body would look at “all aspects of inequality — in employment, in health outcomes, in academic and all other walks of life.”

“What I really want to do as prime minister is change the narrative, so we stop the sense of victimization and discrimination,” he wrote. “We stamp out racism and we start to have a real sense of expectation of success. That’s where I want to get to but it won’t be easy.”

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Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in hundreds of demonstrations across the U.K. since Floyd was killed on May 25, demanding that Britain confront its own history of imperialism and racial inequality.

Johnson said the new body would investigate “discrimination in the education system, in health, in the criminal justice system,” but gave few other details.

Opposition Labour Party lawmaker David Lammy, author of a 2017 report on Britain’s ethnic minorities and criminal justice, accused the government of stalling.

“It feels like yet again in the U.K. we want figures, data, but we don’t want action,” he said. “The time for review is over and the time for action is now.”

While the government says it sympathizes with the aims of Black Lives Matter protesters, Johnson has criticized calls to remove statues of figures associated with the British Empire and slavery.

Last week demonstrators toppled a statue of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston in the English city of Bristol and dumped it into the harbor. That reinvigorated demands for the removal of other monuments, including a statue of Victorian imperialist Cecil Rhodes at Oxford University. The city of Bristol has since fished the statue out of the water, but it is not being reinstated.

After a statue of wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill outside Parliament in London was daubed with the words “was a racist,” local officials boarded it and other monuments up to protect them from vandalism.

Soccer hooligans and far-right activists gathered near the Churchill statue on Saturday under the guise of guarding historic monuments. Anti-racism protesters called off a planned march to avoid conflicts with the right-wing activists, leaving hundreds of largely white, male demonstrators to hurl objects and fight with police.

More than 100 people were arrested, including a man photographed apparently urinating next to a memorial to Keith Palmer, a police officer stabbed to death by a man who attacked Parliament in 2017. Andrew Banks, 28, appeared in court Monday pleaded guilty to a charge of outraging public decency and was sentenced to two weeks in prison.

Johnson condemned the self-styled statue defenders as “a load of far-right thugs” and hooligans and said “there is nothing that can excuse their behavior.”

But he also said it was wrong to attack the Churchill statue.

Britain’s wartime prime minister is revered by many in the U.K. as the man who led the country to victory against Nazi Germany. But he was also a staunch defender of the British Empire.

Johnson, who has written a biography of Churchill, said it was the “height of lunacy” to accuse him of racism.

“I will resist with every breath in my body any attempt to remove that statue from Parliament Square,” he wrote in the Telegraph.

U.S. embassy in Seoul hangs ‘Black Lives Matter’ banner on its building

U.S. embassy in Seoul hangs ‘Black Lives Matter’ banner on its building

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A Black Lives Matter flag displayed on the U.S. embassy in South Korea. (Embassy photo) more >

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By Dave Boyer

The Washington Times

Saturday, June 13, 2020

The U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea hung a “Black Lives Matter” banner on its facade Saturday.

“The U.S. Embassy stands in solidarity with fellow Americans grieving and peacefully protesting to demand positive change,” the embassy said on its official Twitter account. “Our #BlackLivesMatter banner shows our support for the fight against racial injustice and police brutality as we strive to be a more inclusive & just society.”Ambassador Harry Harris, a Navy veteran who is reportedly considering leaving his diplomatic post, cited the work of the late civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.”When Dr. Benjamin Mays delivered Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s eulogy in 1968, he said Dr. King’s ‘unfinished work on earth must truly be our own,’” Mr. Harris tweeted. “Recent weeks remind us that MLK’s work remains unfinished. Friends, I believe that work falls on each of us today.”

He added, “I believe in what President JFK said on June 10, 1963 at American University: ‘If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.’ USA is a free & diverse nation…from that diversity we gain our strength.”

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Ethiopian army official: Country will defend itself over dam

Ethiopian army official: Country will defend itself over dam

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By ELIAS MESERET

Associated Press

Friday, June 12, 2020

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) – Ethiopia’s deputy army chief on Friday said his country will strongly defend itself and will not negotiate its sovereignty over the disputed $4.6 billion Nile dam that has caused tensions with Egypt.

“Egyptians and the rest of the world know too well how we conduct war whenever it comes,” Gen. Birhanu Jula said in an interview with the state-owned Addis Zemen newspaper, adding that Egyptian leaders’ “distorted narrative” on Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam is attracting enemies.

He accused Egypt of using its weapons to “threaten and tell other countries not to touch the shared water” and said “the way forward should be cooperation in a fair manner.”

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He spoke amid renewed talks among Ethiopian, Sudanese and Egyptian water and irrigation ministers after months of deadlock. Ethiopia wants to begin filling the dam’s reservoir in the coming weeks, but Egypt worries a rapid filling will take too much of the water it says its people need to survive. Sudan, caught between the competing interests, pushed the two sides to resume discussions.

The general’s comments were a stark contrast to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s remarks to lawmakers earlier this week that diplomacy should take center stage to resolve outstanding issues.

“We don’t want to hurt anyone else, and at the same time it will be difficult for us to accept the notion that we don’t deserve to have electricity,” the Nobel Peace Prize laureate said. “We are tired of begging others while 70% of our population is young. This has to change.”

Talks on the dam have struggled. Egypt’s Irrigation Ministry on Wednesday called for Ethiopia to “clearly declare that it had no intention of unilaterally filling the reservoir” and that a deal prepared by the U.S. and the World Bank in February serves as the starting point of the resumed negotiations.

Ethiopia refused to sign that deal and accused the U.S. of siding with Egypt.

Egypt said that in Tuesday’s talks, Ethiopia showed it wanted to re-discuss “all issues” including “all timetables and figures” negotiated in the U.S.-brokered talks.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi discussed the latest negotiations in a phone call with President Donald Trump on Wednesday, el-Sissi’s office said, without elaborating.

Egypt’s National Security Council, the highest body that makes decisions in high-profile security matters in the country, has accused Ethiopia of “buying time” and seeking to begin filling the dam’s reservoir in July without reaching a deal with Egypt and Sudan.

___

Samy Magdy in Cairo contributed.

Vladimir Putin seeks to rally support to hold vote on extending reign amid coronavirus fears

Putin seeks to rally support to hold vote on extending reign amid coronavirus fears

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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Sberbank Chairman German Gref via video conference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, June 9, 2020. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP) more >

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By Lauren Meier

The Washington Times

Friday, June 12, 2020

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday sought to rally support to hold a nationwide election on July 1 on reforms that include extending his reign until 2036.

His efforts come just one day after a group of roughly 350 polling officials said it is too dangerous to hold the election as the novel coronavirus continues to spread throughout the country and declared that they would not participate in efforts to hold the vote.

“We have a common historical code, moral foundations. … Respect for parents and family (and) love for our soil,” Mr. Putin said during a ceremony in Moscow to mark Russia Day, as quoted by Reuters.

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“As you’d expect, there have been frequent requests to include these fundamental, core principles into the Russian constitution,” he continued. “I’m sure that the absolute majority of our citizens share and support such a position.”

In about two weeks, Russians are set to vote on a string of amendments that are part of a package of changes to Russia’s constitution that Mr. Putin, who was expected to step down in 2024 after a quarter-century of de facto rule, sprang on the country two months ago.

Putin allies hustled the measure through the national legislature, and the president made clear that a global pandemic is no reason to delay a popular vote to ratify the changes.

Russia, which has a population of 144.5 million, has reported more than 510,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 6,705 deaths and 268,862 recoveries, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.

UN hits back at Trump sanctions on ICC officials over probe of U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan

UN hits back at Trump sanctions on ICC officials over probe of U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan

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In this Nov. 7, 2019, file photo, the International Criminal Court, or ICC, is seen in The Hague, Netherlands. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File) more >

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By Lauren Meier

The Washington Times

Friday, June 12, 2020

The United Nations on Friday hit back at a recent decision by the Trump administration to authorize sanctions against officials of the International Criminal Court over its investigation into whether U.S. troops committed war crimes in Afghanistan.

Top administration officials have said the U.S. believes Russia is behind the ICC’s actions targeting American troops for prosecution.

The ICC launched the investigation after prosecutors’ preliminary review in 2017 determined that war crimes may have been committed in Afghanistan and that the court has jurisdiction.

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The executive order, signed by President Trump on Thursday, authorizes Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in consultation with Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, to block assets in the U.S. of ICC employees involved in the probe. Mr. Pompeo also can block the targeted individuals from entering the U.S.

“The independence of the ICC and its ability to operate without interference must be guaranteed so that it can decide matters without any improper influence, inducement, pressures, threats or interference, direct or indirect, from any quarter or for any reasons,” Rupert Colville, spokesperson for U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said during a briefing Friday.

“Victims of gross human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law and their families have the right to redress and the truth.”

Mr. Trump has repeatedly challenged the court’s right to prosecute U.S. personnel without American consent.

The ICC, based in The Hague in the Netherlands, has seen support from European allies who on Thursday pledged “unwavering support for the court as an independent and impartial judicial institution.”

Ten nations on the U.N. Security Council that are parties to the ICC accord, including the Britain, Germany and France, issued a statement on reiterating “commitment to uphold and defend the principles and values enshrined in the [ICC accord] and to preserve its integrity undeterred by any threats against the court, its officials and those cooperating with it.”

Protests support Floyd, Black Lives Matter on 4 continents

Protests support Floyd, Black Lives Matter on 3 continents

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Protesters face off after one protester, center, interrupted a speech during a rally in Canberra, Australia, on Friday, June 5, 2010, prompted by the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. … more >

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By JOHN LEICESTER and FRANK JORDANS

Associated Press

Friday, June 5, 2020

BERLIN (AP) – Tens of thousands of people gathered Saturday in cities far from the United States to express their anger over the death of George Floyd, a sign that the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality is resonating with wider calls over addressing racism in Asia, Australia and Europe.

In Berlin, where police said 15,000 people rallied peacefully on the German capital’s Alexander Square, protesters chanted Floyd’s name and held up placards with slogans such as “Stop police brutality” and “I can’t breath.”

Floyd, a black man, died after a Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee on his neck even after he pleaded for air while handcuffed and stopped moving. International protests started last weekend and were scheduled for this weekend from Sydney to Seoul and London to Naples.

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Several thousand demonstrators in Paris defied a protest ban – issued due to the coronavirus pandemic – and assembled within sight of the U.S. Embassy, kept back by imposing barriers and riot police.

Among the crowd in the French capital was Marie Djedje, 14, a Parisian born on July 14, the French national day.

“I was born French, on the day when we celebrate our country. But on a daily basis, I don’t feel that this country accepts me,” she said, holding up a sign that read “Being black is not a crime.”

The teenager said that emerging from France’s virus lockdown and seeing officers on patrol again drove home how scared she is of the police and how she has steeled herself for a life of overcoming obstacles.

“I know that because of my skin color I’m starting out with a handicap, for example, if I want to get a flat or go to a top school,” she said. “I know I’m going to have to fight twice as hard as the others. But I’m prepared.”

In central London, tens of thousands staged a rally outside Parliament Square, invoking Floyd’s memory as well as people who died during police encounters or indifference in Britain. Some protesters ignored thickening rain clouds and later headed toward the U.K. Home Office, which oversees law enforcement and immigration, and to the U.S. Embassy.

Many dropped to one knee and raised their fists in the air outside the gleaming embassy building south of the River Thames. There were chants of “Silence is violence” and “Color is not a crime.”

The majority of those marching wore masks and other face coverings, and appeared to make an effort to adhere to social distancing guidelines by walking in small groups.

An estimated 15,000 people also gathered in the heart of Manchester, England, and a further 2,000 people joined in a demonstration in the Welsh capital of Cardiff.

Andrew Francis, 37, a black man from London, said there’s “a lot of frustration due to racial discrimination, and we want change for our children and our children’s children’s to be able to have equality within the U.K, the U.S., all around the world.”

Francis, who wore a face covering, said he wasn’t worried about the coronavirus and said the fight for racial equality was “more important” to him.

Floyd’s death has sparked significant protests across the United States; but it has also struck a chord with minorities protesting discrimination elsewhere, including demonstrators in Sydney who highlighted indigenous Australians who died in custody.

A rally there appeared orderly as police handed out masks to protesters and other officials provided hand sanitizer, though officers removed an apparent counter-protester carrying a sign reading, “White Lives, Black Lives, All Lives Matter.”

In Brisbane, the Queensland state capital, organizers said about 30,000 people gathered, forcing police to shut down some major downtown streets. The protesters demanded to have Australia’s Indigenous flag raised at the police station.

Indigenous Australians make up 2% of the the country’s adult population, but 27% of the prison population. They are also the most disadvantaged ethnic minority in Australia and have higher-than-average rates of infant mortality and poor health, as well as shorter life expectancies and lower levels of education and employment than other Australians.

In South Korea’s capital, Seoul, protesters gathered for a second straight day to denounce Floyd’s death.

Wearing masks and black shirts, dozens of demonstrators marched through a commercial district amid a police escort, carrying signs such as “George Floyd Rest in Peace” and “Koreans for Black Lives Matter.”

“I urge the U.S. government to stop the violent suppression of (U.S.) protesters and listen to their voices,” said Jihoon Shim, one of the rally’s organizers. “I also want to urge the South Korean government to show its support for their fight (against racism).”

Chris Trabot, who works for Paris City Hall, said George Floyd’s death last week triggered his decision to demonstrate Saturday for the first time in his life.

Born in the French territory of Martinique, Trabot said he first experienced racism as a child when he moved with his family to mainland France and got in frequent fights with white kids who mocked his skin color.

As an adult, he says he’s been targeted with racial abuse during ID checks. Recently, his 9-year-old daughter has told him of being a target of racism, too, with schoolmates mocking her hair.

Jessica Corandi, a Paris Metro driver, said she cried when she saw the video of Floyd’s treatment by Minneapolis police. The 37-year-old said her three young girls have started to notice people looking at them strangely on the streets of Paris, which she believes is because they are black.

Protesters outside the U.S. consulate in Naples chanted “Freedom!” and “No Justice, No Peace, (expletive) the police” in English and Italian as they clapped and carried handmade signs and a big banner printed with “Black Lives Matter” and a clenched black fist.

In Italy, racist incidents have been on the rise in recent years with an influx of migrants from Africa and the growth of anti-migrant sentiment.

Police said 20,000 people rallied against racism in Munich, while thousands more took part in protests in Frankfurt and Cologne.

In Berlin, Lloyd Lawson, who was born in Britain but raised in Germany, said he had faced racism his entire life.

“The killing and these violent physical things that have happened is only just the top of it,” said Lawson, 54. “That’s why you’ve got to start right from the bottom, just like an iceberg.”

___

Associated Press journalists Rick Rycroft in Sydney, Dennis Passa and John Pye in Brisbane, Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea, John Leicester in Paris, Pan Pylas in London and Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo contributed to this report.

Ice Cube – Good Cop Bad Cop

[Intro]
Break em off some
Yeah

[Verse 1]
Good cop, good cop fuckin’ wit that bad cop
What’cha doing boy? Turn in that blood clot
Buck shots they fly through drug spot
Robots can give a damn who the fuck shot
Clean cop, clean cop fuckin wit that dirty cop
Don’t act like yo ass never heard of that
Clean cop, clean cop fuckin wit that mean cop
Still trying act pride peacock
You know that mean cop might need detox
Mothafucka tried to blow me out me Rebox
But I swing like Jack and Bean stalk
Chop’em down when these bitches try to lock’em down
Hit the ground hit the turf
Warp the earth
Cube a kidnap your mind, Patty Herst
Bust a verse that a make yo ass hit reverse
Kill the curse that was placed on the universe
West Coast War Lord blacker then the Black Knight
Fuck a black & white when they ain’t actin’ right
Good cop, good cop filling out your report
Bad cop asking you to distort
Bad cop asking you to lie in court
Send another young brother up north
Send another young Sista off course
While them mothafuckas chill on the golf course

[Chorus]
Black police showin’ out for the white cop
White police showin’ out for the black cop
Black police showin’ out for the white cop
White police showin’ out for the black cop

[Verse 2]
Lazy cop fuckin wit that crazy Cop
Always bragging – bout the new case he got
Do or die cop with the suicide cop
Tell the truth cop wit that – "you a lie, cop!"
Are you fuckin high cop? Don’t even try cop
Ain’t no mothafucka drugs up in my spot
All you find in my closet is the high top
And my mothafuckin tickets to the skybox
Hold up nigga, I’m a rider
You a roller yep thee controller
Make me mad that’s when I get swole up
The Incredible Hulk is bipolar
Come out the cuffs knock off the rust
Throw my hands up you still wanna bust
The Trojan horse is full of excessive force
When they try to get aggressive nigga off the porch

[Hook]
Black police showin’ out for the white cop
White police showin’ out for the black cop
Black police showin’ out for the white cop
White police showin’ out for the black cop

[Verse 3]
Good cop, good cop, where is your dignity?
Where’s your empathy?
Where is your sympathy?
Bad cop, where’s your humanity?
Good cop, is that just a fantasy?
Hell on that nigga, snitch on that bitch
Truth be told, mothafuck the blue code
Fuck the po-po actin’ like Deebo
Already know Craig let the brick go
Black Lives Matter is not chit chatter
Cause all they wanna do, is scatter brain matter
A mind is a terrible thing to waste
A nine is terrible in your face
The mase has a terrible fuckin’ taste
The pen is a terrible fuckin’ place
The kings all hate the fuckin’ ace
The judge sabotaged my fuckin’ case
Racist motherfucker

[Outro]
Black police showin’ out for the white cop
White police showin’ out for the black cop

Good cop bad cop – Ice Cube lyrics

Lyrics Ice Cube – Good cop bad cop

Good cop, good cop f*ckin’ wit that bad cop
What’cha doing boy? Turn in that blood clot
Buck shots they fly through drug spot
Robots can give a damn who the f*ck shot
Clean cop, clean cop f*ckin wit that dirty cop
Don’t act like yo a*s never heard of that
Clean cop, clean cop f*ckin wit that mean cop
Still trying act pride peacock
You know that mean cop might need detox
Mothaf*cka tried to blow me out me Rebox
But I swing like Jack and Bean stalk
Chop’em down when these b*tches try to lock’em down
Hit the ground hit the turf
Warp the earth
Cube a kidnap your mind, Patty Herst
Bust a verse that a make yo a*s hit reverse
Kill the curse that was placed on the universe
West Coast War Lord blacker then the Black Knight
f*ck a black & white when they ain’t actin’ right
Good cop, good cop filling out your report
Bad cop asking you to distort
Bad cop asking you to lie in court
Send another young brother up north
Send another young Sista off course
While them mothaf*ckas chill on the golf course.

Black police showin’ out for the white cop
White police showin’ out for the black cop. (x2)

Lazy cop f*ckin wit that crazy Cop
Always bragging – bout the new case he got
Do or die cop with the suicide cop
Tell the truth cop wit that – “you a lie, cop!”
Are you f*ckin high cop? Don’t even try cop
Ain’t no mothaf*cka drugs up in my spot
All you find in my closet is the high top
And my mothaf*ckin tickets to the skybox
Hold up nigga, I’m a rider versuri-lyrics.info
You a roller yep thee controller
Make me mad that’s when I get swole up
The Incredible Hulk is bipolar
Come out the cuffs knock off the rust
Throw my hands up you still wanna bust
The Trojan horse is full of excessive force
When they try to get aggressive nigga off the porch.

Black police showin’ out for the white cop
White police showin’ out for the black cop. (x2)

Good cop, good cop, where is your dignity?
Where’s your empathy?
Where is your sympathy?
Bad cop, where’s your humanity?
Good cop, is that just a fantasy?
Hell on that nigga, snitch on that b*tch
Truth be told, mothaf*ck the blue code
f*ck the po-po actin’ like Deebo
Already know Craig let the brick go
Black Lives Matter is not chit chatter
Cause all they wanna do, is scatter brain matter
A mind is a terrible thing to waste
A nine is terrible in your face
The mase has a terrible f*ckin’ taste
The pen is a terrible f*ckin’ place
The kings all hate the f*ckin’ ace
The judge sabotaged my f*ckin’ case
Racist motherf*cker.

Black police showin’ out for the white cop
White police showin’ out for the black coppp.
Ice Cube lyrics
Video cop