Tag Archives: United States

Presidency, AfDB kick as US demand probe.


Akinwumi Adesina, President of African Development Bank (AfDB), says he is innocent of allegations of corruption against him.

The former Minister of Agriculture in Nigeria said this in a statement he signed on Wednesday.

The United States Department of Treasury had called for an independent corruption probe of Adesina after he was cleared by the bank’s ethics committee.

Adesina noted that he was overwhelmed by the tremendous support received from around the world.

The president reiterated his absolute confidence in the integrity of the AfDB, its governance systems, rules and procedures.

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Appreciating shareholders’ support, Adesina said he remained positive that ultimately, the bank will emerge stronger than before and continue to support Africa’s development drive.”

Adesina disclosed that he draws great inspiration from his heroes, Nelson Mandela and Kofi Anan whose lives showed that people grow through pain.

“I am confident that fair, transparent and just processes that respect the rules, procedures and governance systems of the bank, and the rule of law, will ultimately prove that I have not violated the code of ethics of this extraordinary institution.”

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He assured that he will continue to work with all shareholders to ensure that AfDB maintains its global reputation and that its credible institutional and governance systems are reinforced.

The finance expert added that he would continue to work collectively with other stakeholders to fulfil the mission of the bank’s founders to accelerate and transform Africa’s development.


#Newsworthy…

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US seeking another ‘cold war’ – Chinese FM blames

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi attends a press conference of the third session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People via video link on May 24, 2020 in Beijing, China. Du Yang–China News Service/Getty Images


The U.S. should give up its “wishful thinking” of changing China, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, warning that some in America were pushing relations to a “new Cold War.”

“China has no intention to change the U.S., nor to replace the U.S. It is also wishful thinking for the U.S. to change China,” Wang said Sunday during his annual news briefing on the sidelines of National People’s Congress meetings in Beijing. He also criticized the U.S. for slowing its nuclear negotiations with North Korea and warned it not to cross Beijing’s “red line” on Taiwan.

The U.S.-China relationship has worsened dramatically in the past few months as America became one of the countries worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic, which was first discovered in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The world’s two biggest economies have clashed on a range of issues from trade to human rights, with Beijing’s latest move to tighten its grip on Hong Kong setting up another showdown between U.S. President Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping.

“Some U.S. political forces are taking hostage of China-U.S. relations, attempting to push the ties to the brink of so-called ‘new Cold War,’” Wang said. “This is dangerous and will endanger global peace.”

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Wang cautioned the U.S. “not to challenge China’s red line” on Taiwan, after Secretary of State Michael Pompeo broke with tradition last week and congratulated the island’s President Tsai Ing-wen on her second-term inauguration. Beijing considers Taiwan a province.

“Reunification between the two sides of the Strait is an inevitable trend of history, no one and no force can stop it,” Wang said. China’s defense ministry blasted a U.S. plan to sell torpedoes to Taiwan.

And he blamed Washington for the stall in historic negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea, saying China hoped to see continued interaction between the two sides. The comments came after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — who has faced questions about his health — made his first public statement in three weeks, ordering military leaders to increase the country’s “nuclear war deterrence.”

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“We have seen some positive steps taken by the DPRK in the last few years towards de-escalation and denuclearization,” Wang said. “Regrettably, these steps have not been reciprocated in a substantive way by the U.S. side. This is the main reason for the ongoing stalemate in the DPRK-U.S. dialogue.”

Hong Kong
Tensions spiked last week after China announced the NPC would write sweeping legislation into Hong Kong law to criminalize the harshest criticism of China and the ruling party. The move drew swift condemnation from pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, who defied virus-related social-distancing measures and rallied in the city center even as Wang spoke.

Pompeo called the measure a “disastrous proposal” and indicated that it could lead the U.S. to reconsider Hong Kong’s special trade status.

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Wang on Sunday repeated China’s stance that Hong Kong affairs were an internal matter and said the principle of non-interference must be upheld by all countries. He didn’t directly address potential U.S. retaliation over the legislation.

He also argued that the coronavirus pandemic showed how the world was a “global village” and needed to work together, while repeatedly rejecting foreign criticism of China’s internal affairs.

U.S. Bills
U.S. lawmakers have advanced several pieces of legislation targeting China in recent weeks with bipartisan support amid mounting calls for Beijing to be punished for its alleged failure to disclose information early on about the spread of Covid-19. The virus has cost almost 100,000 American lives and tens of millions of jobs.

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Xi said Saturday he won’t let China return to its days as a planned economy, pushing back against U.S. criticism that the nation has failed to deliver on promised reforms.

“We’ve come to the understanding that we should not ignore the blindness of the market, nor should we return to the old path of a planned economy,” he told political advisers gathered in Beijing, the official Xinhua news agency said.


#Newsworthy…

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Nigerian get 4 years and 6 months jail term for $600k fraud in U.S.


A Nigerian Emmanuel Odiah has been sentenced to 54 months in U.S. federal prison after pleading guilty for money laundering.

The charge was in connection with a wire-fraud scheme that swindled victims out of more than $600,000.

U.S. Attorney Scott C. Blader, Western District of Wisconsin, announced the sentence.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Vilas County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case.

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“Odiah participated in a scheme that manipulated elderly and other vulnerable individuals with a total disregard for the financial and emotional devastation it caused,” said U.S. Attorney Blader.

“Bringing those who prey on our seniors to justice is a top priority of my office.”

While in the United States on a visa, Emmanuel Odiah, 33, a citizen of Nigeria, most recently of Dallas, laundered money for a network of individuals perpetrating computer-based fraud schemes in Nigeria and Ghana.

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This network defrauded victims throughout the United States out of money through a variety of schemes, including romance fraud.

Odiah’s role was to help collect, conceal, and redirect that money using bank accounts he maintained under two fake identities in the United States.

He was able to keep a percentage of the fraud proceeds as a fee for his assistance.

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As part of the scheme, Odiah opened and maintained seven U.S. bank accounts to launder fraud proceeds.

He opened these accounts using fraudulent passports in the names “James Princeton” and “Ryan Greg Mornson.”

Between 2017 and 2019, more than $600,000 in fraud proceeds were deposited into these accounts.

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Once money was deposited, Odiah, posing as Princeton and Mornson, used a series of smaller, less conspicuous financial transactions to distribute fraud proceeds to those perpetrating the fraud schemes overseas.

In announcing the sentence, the Court found that although Odiah’s role in the charged scheme was limited to money laundering, Odiah was aware that the money being deposited into his bank accounts was from vulnerable people being defrauded.

Odiah pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering Jan. 15, 2020.

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U.S. District Judge William M. Conley also considered the tremendous psychological and financial devastation to victims caused by romance fraud and other computer-based fraud schemes.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Meredith P. Duchemin prosecuted the case.


#Newsworthy…

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Breaking: Michigan Muslims find new way to celebrate Eid.


Eid al-Fitr in the US state of Michigan this year is going to be very different, said Mahmoud Al-Hadidi, a physician and chairman of the Michigan Muslim Community Council.

There will be no mass prayers in the mosques, no communal breakfasts, no carnival and no evening parties. Even family gatherings will be limited.

“Usually we have a huge party at my house with 400 to 500 people,” Al-Hadidi said.

“I’m not gonna be doing that this year,” Al-Hadidi said. “I’m going to be with my immediate family, and we’re staying at home.”

But the curbs on mass social gatherings put in place to contain the spread of the coronavirus, expected to last through at least May 28, have not dampened the holiday spirit. And residents of southeast Michigan, home to one of the largest Muslim communities in the United States, say they have found innovative ways to welcome the three-day holiday marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, while adhering to social-distancing measures.

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“We are determined to celebrate and be happy despite all the circumstances, we will adapt,” Al-Hadidi added.

Thousands are expected to tune in on Sunday morning for a live Eid sermon that will be aired on local television and streamed on social media. Later in the day, cars will be able to line up outside several mosques to enjoy live music and to receive gift bags for children, in this year’s first-ever drive-thru Eid event.

Like most Muslims around the world, those of southeast Michigan, a community of over 250,000, traditionally celebrate Eid by visiting friends and relatives in their homes or attending large gatherings where people eat and socialise together.

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“Normally we go to the mosque for prayer and breakfast, and at night we go out for dinner,” Lama Samman Nasry said, “we spend most of the day out of the house.”

Samman Nasry – a resident of the Detroit suburb Franklin who works as a manager at an urgent care clinic and is the mother of four children – said she will be one of dozens who will be volunteering to hand out presents and food, hoping to help spread some joy.

“It’s going to be a quieter celebration,” she said. “It will be a different kind of celebration, definitely.”

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Michigan has been one of the hardest-hit states during the coronavirus pandemic, with over 53,000 cases of COVID-19 and over 5,000 deaths – the fourth-highest death toll in the country, according to Johns Hopkins University statistics.

The state also imposed one of the strictest stay-at-home orders, which prompted small groups of protesters, some armed, to demonstrate at the state capitol.

On Thursday, Michigan’s governor Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced steps to reopen the state’s economy and presented timelines for the resumption of some businesses and allowing some social gatherings.

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“We’ve taken significant steps forward to re-engage our economy safely and responsibly over the past few weeks. Now we are going to take some time to ensure that these new measures are working,” Whitmer said during Thursday’s news briefing.

On Friday, US President Donald Trump said that he has deemed houses of worship as “essential” and called on governors across the country to allow them to reopen this weekend despite the threat of spreading the coronavirus.

“These are places that hold our society together and keep our people united,” he said at a news conference at the White House.

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“The people are demanding to go to church and synagogue, go to their mosque,” he said.

Trump said that if governors do not abide by his request, he will “override” them. It remains unclear what authority he has to do so, and how governors – including Michigan’s – will respond.

Meanwhile, Firas Bazerbashi, a physician, says most residents in Michigan are fully aware of the health risks and will forego the customary community celebrations. He added that after weeks of quarantine, people have learned to replace family visits with phone calls and Zoom sessions, despite a renewed need to be physically close to family.

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“It will be remarkably different,” Bazerbashi said. “It’s really hard to be isolated from family and friends and being disconnected from the community.”

“We are mentally prepared to have a COVID Eid, but it is still very challenging,” he said.


#Newsworthy…

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Don’t destroy Hong Kong – US issue warning to China

Pro-democracy lawmaker Ted Hui (C) is carried out by security during a scuffle with pro-Beijing lawmakers at the House Committee’s election of chairpersons at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong on May 18, 2020. Anthony WALLACE / AFP


The United States on Thursday urged China to respect Hong Kong’s autonomy, warning that its proposed national security law for the city would be “highly destabilizing” and face global opposition.

“Any effort to impose national security legislation that does not reflect the will of the people of Hong Kong would be highly destabilizing, and would be met with strong condemnation from the United States and the international community,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.

She said that China’s statements and the proposed legislation “undermine” China’s promises it made before regaining control of the financial hub from Britain in 1997.

“We urge Beijing to honor its commitments and obligations in the Sino-British Joint Declaration — including that Hong Kong will ‘enjoy a high degree of autonomy’ and that people of Hong Kong will enjoy human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Ortagus said.

President Donald Trump earlier Thursday also promised a response when told of the move on Hong Kong.

“I don’t know what it is, because nobody knows yet. If it happens, we’ll address that issue very strongly,” Trump said.

China said it will introduce legislation Friday on the first day of its rubber-stamp parliament session that would strengthen enforcement of laws in Hong Kong that prohibit “subversion.”

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Pro-democracy leaders and activists warned that the move would mark the end of Hong Kong as they know it, a fear voiced in months of massive and sometimes violent protests last year.

The US Congress late last year angered China by passing a law that would strip Hong Kong’s preferential trading status in the United States if the urban hub no longer enjoys autonomy from the mainland.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier this month delayed a report on certifying Hong Kong’s autonomy under the law, saying the State Department would wait for the meeting of the legislature, the National People’s Congress.

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The State Department warned Thursday that China’s actions would impact its decision.

In a fresh bid by US Congress to exert pressure after China’s announcement, senators on Thursday introduced legislation to impose sanctions on any entity involved in curbing Hong Kong’s autonomy.

The targets could include police who crack down on demonstrators and Chinese officials involved in Hong Kong policy — as well as banks that conduct transactions with anyone who infringes on the territory’s freedoms.

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“In many ways, Hong Kong is the canary in the coal mine for Asia,” said Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican who spearheaded the legislation alongside a Democrat, Chris Van Hollen.

“Beijing’s growing interference could have a chilling effect on other nations struggling for freedom in China’s shadow,” Toomey said, likely alluding to the self-governed island of Taiwan and countries that have territorial rifts with Beijing.


#Newsworthy…

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Donald Trump backs CDC in reopening of US economy.

As deaths mount, once proud US science agency is politicised in Trump administration response to coronavirus pandemic.


Richard Jackson is a public health scientist who led the environmental health at the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for nine years

He directed the CDC’s response to the September 11, 2001, attacks and proudly watched the agency win battles against smallpox, Legionnaire’s disease, and swine flu.

“This is the kind of thing the CDC has been preparing for. I expected they would be functional and they weren’t,” Jackson said

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“There should have been hands-on, omnipresent leadership from day one while this thing was breaking,” said Jackson, a retired professor at the University of California Fielding School of Public Health.

White House coronavirus taskforce members, including Dr Deborah Birx, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield and US Surgeon General Jerome Adams at a briefing at the White House in Washington, DC [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

Instead of leading, the CDC and many of its scientists have been sidelined by President Donald Trump and its director, Dr Robert Redfield, creating a politicised and diminished role for the agency. Inside the CDC, morale among the agency’s bright and idealistic scientists has tanked, Jackson said.

“In my conversations, privately, the level of morale is very bad. It is very low,” Jackson said.

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Troubles between President Trump and the CDC began on February 25 when Dr Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, warned that the virus was spreading in the US and shutdowns would be required.

The stock market, already in free fall because the virus had spread to South Korea and Italy, plunged further. En route back to Washington, DC, from a visit to India, Trump was angered by the news. Messonnier’s message contradicted what the president had been saying.

“They were furious, and they basically silenced and marginalised her and Redfield was totally intimidated,” Jackson said of White House officials.

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For public health officials nationwide, the secondary role of CDC scientists in the White House’s policy decisions is visible and problematic, said Dr Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association in Washington, DC.

“Right now, the White House is controlling the message, controlling who says it,” Benjamin told Al Jazeera. The CDC has not held a public briefing since early March.

White House aides created friction with CDC officials by delaying for more than month publication of detailed guidelines from the CDC on how to reopen US businesses, schools, restaurants and public spaces. Edited guidelines were eventually posted on May 14 without notice or explanation from the CDC. More detailed guidance was delayed until May 19.

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“They rolled out their more complete guidance last night in the middle of the night when nobody could see it,” Benjamin said.

“Normally, they would have pulled together a call with all the state and local health officers and told us it was coming. There would have been a news conference to say, ‘Listen, this is the best way for America to get back to work.’ They didn’t do it, I’m clear, because they weren’t allowed to,” he said.

An earlier draft of the CDC reopening guidance was shelved by a White House political nominee, according to reports by The Associated Press news agency.

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Redfield and the CDC drew criticism from Democratic politicians at a May 12 Senate hearing on the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic.

Dr Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, holds onto CDC guidelines for the phased ‘Opening Up America Again’ during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC [File: Carlos Barria/Reuters]

Senator Chris Murphy blasted the Trump administration for failing to bring forward public guidance from scientists at the CDC on reopening. The delay would “cost lives”, Murphy said.

There have been other reports of White House interference with the CDC.

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Trump and his White House team are pushing the CDC to change how it collects data from states on COVID-19 deaths, the Daily Beast reported on May 13. The changes would revise downward the number of cases reported, according to five CDC officials who spoke to the news outlet.

Some in the White House, including Birx and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, have begun to take aim at Redfield, according to a report in The Washington Post. In a recent taskforce meeting, Birx and Redfield engaged in a heated exchange about the accuracy of the CDC’s work.

“There’s nothing from the CDC that I can trust,” Birx reportedly said.

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Last month, the Department of Health and Human Services, in a move linked to Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, issued a $10.2m contract to a private company to collect data from states on hospital capacity and COVID-19 deaths. The data was already being collected by the CDC.

“The CDC’s epidemiological work around infectious diseases is stellar. It is second to none. So, the idea that the CDC would be out counting cases and deaths is exactly their job, and they are damned good at it,” said Jackson.

“This latest thing, where the president’s son-in-law goes out and finds a company to figure out how to undercount deaths is appalling,” he said.

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The conflict between the Trump White House and the US’s leading public health agency prompted an unusual editorial in UK-based medical journal The Lancet, rebuking the Trump administration.

“Punishing the agency by marginalising and hobbling it is not the solution,” The Lancet wrote on May 16.

“Only a steadfast reliance on basic public health principles like test, trace and isolate will see the emergency brought to an end, and this requires an effective national public health agency,” The Lancet wrote.

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The proof will be in the case data and death rates experienced in states outside of the New York City region, experts said. While case numbers are declining in the New York area, they are rising in the rest of the US, even as Trump and Republican governors push to reopen.

“What is really important moving forward is that we need transparency on the metrics for success or failure with these various reopening plans on a national level, a state level and a local level,” Dr Thomas Tsai, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health said.


#Newsworthy…

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US Presidency slam China over COVID-19 incompetence.

The US president says China is responsible for ‘mass worldwide killing’.


US President Donald Trump blamed China for “mass incompetence” and singled out Beijin for “mass worldwide killing”.

The number of deaths in a single day reached a record in Brazil – which has the world’s third-biggest outbreak.

China has accused the US of smearing Beijing and shirking responsibilities to the WHO after US President Trump threatened to quit the organisation.

Globally, there have been more than 4.9 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, and more than 323,000 people died, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 1.7 million people have recovered.


#Newsworthy…

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COVID-19: Trump sends ultimatum to WHO over global pandemic. [United States]

Trump gives WHO director-general 30 days to make ‘substantive improvements’ or US will stop funding and walk away.


  • US President Donald Trump has threatened to permanently halt US funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) and quit an organisation he earlier derided as a “puppet of China” in a letter to the agency’s director-general that he shared on Twitter.
  • The WHO chief has promised an independent review of the global pandemic response, after countries at a virtual meeting of the World Health Assembly called for a probe.
  • The US has set aside $11bn to ramp up coronavirus testing as the country reopens. 
  • Globally, there have been more than 4.8 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 318,500 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 1.8 million people have recovered.

#Newsworthy…

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SCOAN Pastor, TB Joshua reveal China’s secret. (Must Read)


Prophet TB Joshua has revealed why China is getting the attention of the world amid a growing tension between the country and the United States of America.

TB Joshua stated that China has been able to concentrate on producing things which developing nations need.

The clergyman stated this in response to threat from the US to cut ties with China over the coronavirus pandemic.

According to him, America’s “concentration is on big things, China concentrates on small things, e.g. manufacturing and agricultural goods” which are “what developing nations need.”

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“Remember, 70-80% of the world are developing nations. What they need to grow, to live and to improve is what China is concentrating on.

“I think America should learn this lesson. This is what they should turn to.

“China is using all these little things to get money from developing nations – and that is making them the richest in the world. It is trade by barter.

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“It has made developing nations see China as their hope. For example, a product in America may cost 500 and last long, because it is durable.

“The same product in China may cost 100 but not last long. However, developing nations will still choose China’s products because such products are within their reach. That makes many nations to become debtors to China – even America


#Newsworthy…

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Iran issue warning to US against seizure of oil tanker to Venezuela.

Reports suggest four US Navy warships are in the Caribbean for a ‘possible confrontation with Iran’s tankers’.


Iran’s foreign minister on Sunday warned the United States against deploying its navy in the Caribbean to disrupt Iranian fuel shipments to Venezuela.

According to an oil shipment analyst, five Iranian-flagged tankers loaded with tens of millions of dollars worth of fuel are heading towards Venezuela.

In a letter to United Nations chief Antonio Guterres, Mohammad Javad Zarif warned against “America’s movements in deploying its navy to the Caribbean in order to intervene and create disruption in [the] transfer of Iran’s fuel to Venezuela”.

He said any such action would be “illegal and a form of piracy” adding the US would be responsible for “the consequences”, according to a foreign ministry statement.

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A senior official in US President Donald Trump’s administration told Reuters news agency on Thursday that the US was considering measures it could take in response to Iran’s shipment of fuel to crisis-stricken Venezuela.

Iran’s Fars News reported on Saturday it received information that four US Navy warships are in the Caribbean for a “possible confrontation with Iran’s tankers”.

Zarif’s deputy summoned the Swiss ambassador, who represents Washington’s interests in Tehran, to communicate Iran’s “serious warning” on Sunday. Abbas Araghchi said any potential threat to Iran’s tankers would be met with a “quick and decisive response”.

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The US has imposed unilateral sanctions aimed at ending oil exports by both Iran and Venezuela, both major crude producers.

Full speed ahead
Five Iranian tankers likely carrying at least $45.5m worth of petrol and similar products are now sailing to Venezuela, part of a wider deal between the two US-sanctioned nations amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington.

The tankers’ voyage come after Venezuela’s socialist leader Nicolas Maduro already turned to Iran for help in flying in chemicals needed at an aging refinery amid a petrol shortage, a symptom of the wider economic and political chaos gripping Latin America’s one-time largest oil producer.

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For Iran, the tankers represent a way to bring money into its cash-starved country and put its own pressure on the US, which, under President Trump, has pursued maximalist campaigns against both nations.

But the strategy invites the chance of a renewed confrontation between the Islamic Republic and the US both in the Gulf, which saw a series of escalating incidents often involving the oil industry last year, and wider afield.

“This is like a new one for everyone,” said Captain Ranjith Raja, an analyst who tracks oil shipments by sea at the data firm Refinitiv, of the petrol shipments. “We haven’t seen anything like this before.”

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All the vessels involved belong to Iranian state-owned or state-linked companies, flying under the Iranian flag. Since a pressure campaign on Iranian vessels began, notably with the temporary seizure of an Iranian tanker last year by Gibraltar, the country’s ships have been unable to fly flags of convenience of other nations, a common practice in international shipping.

Nothing to lose
The ships all appear to have been loaded from the Persian Gulf Star Refinery near Bandar Abbas, Iran, which makes petrol, Raja said. The ships then travelled around the Arabian Peninsula and through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea, according to data collected from the ship’s Automatic Identification System, or AIS, which acts as a tracking beacon.

Given the crushing US sanctions imposed on Iran, also-sanctioned Venezuela appears to be a country that would have nothing to lose from accepting the shipments.

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Raja said Refinitiv had no data on any Iranian petrol shipment ever going to South America before.

TankerTrackers.com, a website focused on the oil trade at sea, first reported the ships likely were heading to Venezuela.

The capacity of the five ships is some 175,000 metric tonnes. On the open market, the petrol and product carried within them would be worth at least $45.5m, though Iran likely reached a discounted, non-cash deal with Caracas given the circumstances the two nations face, Raja said.

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It remains unclear how the US will respond to the tankers. On Thursday, the US Treasury, State Department and Coast Guard issued an advisory warning the maritime industry of illegal shipping and sanctions-dodging tactics by countries including Iran.

The advisory repeated an earlier promise of up to $15m for information disrupting the Revolutionary Guard’s finances. It also warned anyone “knowingly engaged in a significant transaction for the purchase, acquisition, sale, transport or marketing of petroleum” faced US sanctions.

The US State Department and the Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Analysts already have been warning about the growing chance for a renewed confrontation between the US and Iran.

In April, the US accused Iran of conducting “dangerous and harassing” manoeuvres near American warships in the northern Gulf.


#Newsworthy…

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US Huawei’s Ban – China Threatens Retaliation.


China has urged the United States to stop the “unreasonable suppression of Huawei and Chinese enterprises”.

It also threatened retaliation against the US for the move by putting major U.S. firms on an “unreliable entity list”, according to Communist Party tabloid Global Times.

US tech giants Apple, Cisco, Qualcomm and plane maker Boeing are among the firms that may be targeted, the report said.

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The reaction came after Washington announced new export controls to restrict Huawei’s access to semiconductor technology.

The latest restrictions on the world’s second-largest smartphone manufacturer, which is at the centre of US spying allegations, are a new escalation in the US-China battle for global technological dominance.

“The Chinese government will firmly uphold Chinese firms’ legitimate and legal rights and interests,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Saturday.

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“We urge the US side to immediately stop its unreasonable suppression of Huawei and Chinese enterprises.”

The ministry said the Trump administration’s actions “destroy global manufacturing, supply and value chains”.

The US Commerce Department said Friday the controls would “narrowly and strategically target Huawei’s acquisition of semiconductors that are the direct product of certain US software and technology.”

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US officials have repeatedly accused the Chinese technology giant of stealing American trade secrets and aiding China’s espionage efforts.

This step ramps up tensions with the rival superpower while both sides were involved in a long-simmering trade war.

As a result, Huawei has increasingly relied on domestically manufactured technology.

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However, the latest rules will also ban foreign firms that use US technology from shipping semiconductors to Huawei without US permission.

The new restrictions will cut off Huawei’s access to one of its major suppliers, the Taiwanese chipmaker TSMC.

The Taiwan form also manufactures chips for Apple and other tech firms.

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The US last year banned Huawei from using US-manufactured semiconductors in their products.

US-China relations hit the rocks again with Washington and Beijing trading barbs over the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.


#Newsworthy…

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Donald Trump Sacks Linick Over Pompeo’s Probe. [United States]


U.S. President Donald Trump has sacked State Department Inspector General Steve Linick.

It was Trump’s latest abrupt dismissal of an official tasked with monitoring wrongdoing inside a government agency.

A Democratic lawmaker said Linick was sacked by Trump for opening investigation on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The lawmaker Eliot Engel accused Trump of committing a potentially illegal act of retribution.

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“Mr. Linick’s firing amid such a probe strongly suggests that this is an unlawful act of retaliation,” said Eliot Engel, who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

A Democratic congressional aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Linick was probing complaints that Pompeo misused a political appointee to perform personal tasks for himself and his wife.

Washington’s top diplomat has raised eyebrows for frequently traveling the world on his government plane with his wife Susan Pompeo, who has no official role.

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Media reported last year that a whistleblower had complained that Diplomatic Security, which guards US missions overseas as well as the secretary of state, had been assigned questionable tasks for the Pompeos such as picking up the family dog and takeout food.

The State Department confirmed Linick’s firing but did not comment on the reason or on whether Pompeo was under investigation.

A State Department spokesperson said the new inspector general will be Stephen Akard, a former aide to Vice President Mike Pence from his home state of Indiana.

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Akard since last year has led the State Department’s Office of Foreign Missions, which handles relations with diplomats in the United States.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Linick was “punished for honourably performing his duty to protect the Constitution and our national security.”

“The president must cease his pattern of reprisal and retaliation against the public servants who are working to keep Americans safe, particularly during this time of global emergency,” Pelosi said.

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Pompeo is one of Trump’s most trusted aides — and a rare one never to come publicly into the crosshairs of the mercurial president.

In recent months Pompeo has moved US foreign policy forcefully to the right — encouraging a drone strike that killed a top Iranian general and promoting a theory, discounted by mainstream scientists, that the COVID-19 pandemic originated in a Chinese laboratory.

Pompeo, 56, is widely seen as entertaining presidential ambitions of his own.

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But he has frustrated some Republican colleagues who want him to quit and return to his state of Kansas to run in November for a Senate seat that is looking surprisingly vulnerable for the party.

Linick, a longtime prosecutor, was appointed in 2013 by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama to oversee the $70 billion juggernaut of US diplomacy.


#Newsworthy…

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COVID-19: China react amid Trump’s threat to cut US ties.


China and the US are better off cooperating to end the pandemic for the sake of reviving the economy and rebooting industrial production, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Friday.

Zhao said this at a media briefing while commenting on US President Donald Trump’s warning that bilateral ties might be halted over Beijing’s alleged responsibility for unleashing the coronavirus.

On Thursday, Trump said in an interview that the US might cut all ties with China in light of Beijing’s coronavirus-related policies.

“The stable development of US-Chinese relations is in the fundamental interest of people from both countries and is also favourable for global peace and stability.

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“China and the United States should now strengthen cooperation in combating the COVID-19 epidemic in order to defeat the coronavirus as soon as possible, cure patients, resume production, and develop the economy,” the spokesman said.

Trump has repeatedly claimed, although with no evidence provided, that the virus that caused deaths, lockdowns, and economic standstill all around the world had in fact been developed in a lab in Wuhan, a Chinese city in the Hubei province from where the first reports of an abnormal respiratory disease came last December.

The US president has threatened China with consequences if its responsibility for unleashing the virus gets proven.

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Asked by the host on Thursday to comment on a statement by one of the U.S. senators that the U.S. could stop issuing visas to Chinese students in retaliation, Trump said that his country could possibly go as far as cutting all bilateral ties altogether.

China has so far consistently denied the accusations, stressing that its policies were transparent throughout the outbreak.


#Newsworthy…

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COVID-19: Test results of returnees will not be disclosed to public – NCDC alleges. [Nigeria]


The Director-General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on Thursday said the agency does not share test results of individuals publicly and the test results of Nigerians evacuated from Dubai, UAE; the United Kingdom and the United States is not an exemption.

Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu who was responding to questions during the Presidential Task Force (PTF) briefing on COVID-19 on Thursday stressed that the results of the retunes will be shared only with them and not make public.

He added that the returnees are still in isolation undergoing the stipulated 14days of self-isolation.

“We are doing the test, even when the tests are out we are not going to offer it to you. We will offer it to the returnees. If they are patients we will manage that.

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“We are not going to make public the results whether you just came back from Dubai or you are living in Nigeria. Results are meant for patients who got tested,” he said.

No fewer than 253 Nigerians were recently evacuated from the United Kingdom (UK) by the Federal Government and 265 others evacuated from Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) amid the Coronavirus outbreak.

Also on May 10, 160 Nigerians who were stranded in the United States following the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown landed at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

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The Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs says it plans to evacuate more Nigerians back home from Canada, China and other countries amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NCDC DG in his address also announced that the agency is working with research organisations in the country and focusing on domestic science and research. He said the agency is working with TETFUND, NIMR, ACEGID, LUTH, among others to find solution to the pandemic.


#Newsworthy…

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China trying to steal vaccines test – US declares.


US authorities warned Wednesday that Chinese hackers were attempting to steal coronavirus data on treatments and vaccines, adding fuel to Washington’s war with Beijing over the pandemic.

The FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) said organizations researching COVID-19 were at risk of “targeting and network compromise” by China.

They warned that Chinese government-affiliated groups and others were attempting to obtain “valuable intellectual property and public health data related to vaccines, treatments, and testing.”

“China’s efforts to target these sectors pose a significant threat to our nation’s response to COVID-19,” they said.

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The two organizations gave no examples to support the allegation.

But the warning added to the battle between the superpowers over the outbreak that began in China and has killed at least 293,000 worldwide, and more than 83,000 in the United States.

President Donald Trump has accused China of hiding the origins of the virus and not cooperating in efforts to research and fight the disease.

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Asked on Monday about reports that the US believed Chinese hackers were targeting US vaccine research, Trump replied: “What else is new with China?… I’m not happy.”


Spies, academics targeted


The warning Wednesday also underscored that Washington believes China has continued broad efforts to obtain US commercial and technology secrets under President Xi Jinping’s drive to make his country a technological leader.

In February the US Justice Department indicted four Chinese army personnel suspected of hacking the database of credit rating agency Equifax, giving them the personal data of 145 million Americans.

On Monday the Department of Justice announced the arrest of University of Arkansas engineering professor Simon Saw-Teong Ang for hiding ties to the Chinese government and Chinese universities while he worked on projects funded by NASA.

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The indictment said Ang was secretly part of the Xi-backed Thousand Talents program, which Washington says China uses to collect research from abroad.

Also on Monday Li Xiaojiang, a former professor at Emory University in Atlanta, admitted tax fraud in a case focused on his hidden earnings from China, also as a participant in the Thousand Talents program.

Senator Marco Rubio, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said such cases combined with the coronavirus are forcing China to change its tactics.

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“Beijing has shifted its recruitment efforts for the Thousand Talents Program online, and it has increased efforts to hack US medical research institutes for COVID-19 information,” he said.


Race for a vaccine


Beijing has repeatedly denied the US accusations.

The FBI warning comes as dozens of companies, institutes and countries around the world are racing to develop vaccines to halt the coronavirus.

Many more groups are researching treatments for infected patients. Currently there is no proven therapy.

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An effective vaccine could allow countries to reopen and potentially earn billions of dollars for its creators.

Most expert believe it will take more than a year to get a vaccine fully approved, and much longer to produce enough of it.

Government-backed cyber operators in Iran, North Korea, Russia and China have been accused of pumping out false coronavirus news and targeting workers and scientists.

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Britain said last week it had detected large-scale “password spraying” tactics — hackers trying to access accounts through commonly used passwords — aimed at healthcare bodies and medical research organizations.

Sanctions, compensation
Increasingly US officials are discussing punishing China and seeking compensation for the costs of the pandemic.

In April the US state of Missouri sued China’s leadership over what it described as deliberate deception and insufficient action to stop the virus.

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On Tuesday Republican senators proposed legislation that would empower Trump to slap sanctions on China if Beijing does not give a “full accounting” for the coronavirus outbreak.

“Their outright deception of the origin and spread of the virus cost the world valuable time and lives as it began to spread,” Senator Jim Inhofe said in a statement.


#Newsworthy…

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US should not dictate how Nigerian govt should use Abacha’s returned $311M loot – Falana feud

Femi Falana SAN feud as US dictate how Nigerian govt should use Abacha’s returned loot – Noble Reporters TV

No proof from United States on claims COVID-19 came from Wuhan lab – WHO

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The World Health Organization said Monday that Washington had provided no evidence to support “speculative” claims by the US president that the new coronavirus originated in a Chinese lab.

“We have not received any data or specific evidence from the United States government relating to the purported origin of the virus — so from our perspective, this remains speculative,” WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan told a virtual briefing.

Scientists believe the killer virus jumped from animals to humans, emerging in China late last year, possibly from a market in Wuhan selling exotic animals for meat.

Top US epidemiologist Anthony Fauci echoed the WHO’s statement in an interview published Monday evening by National Geographic.

“If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, (the scientific evidence) is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated,” Fauci told the magazine.

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“Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that (this virus) evolved in nature and then jumped species,” he said.

US President Donald Trump, increasingly critical of China’s management of the outbreak, claims to have proof it started in a Wuhan laboratory.

And US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday said “enormous evidence” backed up that claim, although the US intelligence community last week said it would continue to study whether the outbreak stemmed from infected animal contact, or a lab accident.

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China has vehemently denied suggestions the lab was the source.

“Like any evidence-based organisation, we would be very willing to receive any information that purports to the origin of the virus,” Ryan said, stressing that this was “a very important piece of public health information for future control.

“If that data and evidence is available, then it will be for the United States government to decide whether and when it can be shared, but it is difficult for the WHO to operate in an information vacuum in that regard,” he added.

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– Science at the centre –


The UN health agency — which has also faced scathing criticism from Trump over accusations it initially downplayed the seriousness of the outbreak to shield China — has repeatedly said the virus clearly appears to have originated naturally from an animal source.

WHO expert Maria Van Kerkhove stressed during Monday’s briefing that there were some 15,000 full genome sequences of the novel coronavirus available, and “from all of the evidence that we have seen… this virus is of natural origin.”

While coronaviruses generally originate in bats, both Van Kerkhove and Ryan stressed the importance of discovering how the virus that causes COVID-19 crossed over to humans, and what animal served as an “intermediary host” along the way.

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“We need to understand more about that natural origin, and particularly about intermediate hosts,” Ryan said.

It was important to know “so that we can put in place the right public health and animal-human interface policies that will prevent this happening again,” he stressed.

The WHO said last week it wanted to be invited to take part in Chinese investigations into the animal origins of the pandemic, which in a matter of months has killed more than 250,000 people worldwide.

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“We have offered, as we do with every case in every country, assistance with carrying out those investigations,” Ryan said Monday.

“We can learn from Chinese scientists,” he said.

But he warned that if questions about the virus’s origin were “projected as aggressive investigation of wrongdoing, then I believe that’s much more difficult to deal with. That is a political issue.

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“Science needs to be at the centre,” he said.

“If we have a science-based investigation and a science-based enquiry as to what the origin species and the intermediate species are, then that will benefit everybody on the planet.”


#Newsworthy…

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Get ready to return Abacha’s $311M Loot if Misused – United States to Nigeria.

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The United States Government has told Nigeria to be ready to “replace” the $300m General Sani Abacha loot it returned to the country if the fund was misused.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, the money must be used for the agreed public projects highlighted in the agreement signed with it before the fund was returned to Nigeria.

The United States and the British dependency of Jersey agreed with the Nigerian Government in February to return the $300m Abacha loot, according to Media.

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The U.S. Justice Department outlined the so-called “claw back” provision in a response to a query from a powerful American senator questioning the prudence of returning the cash.

“Should any of the parties — including the United States —conclude that any of the returned funds had been used for an ineligible expenditure, a “claw-back” provision would then obligate the FRN (Nigeria) to replace fully any such improperly diverted monies,” the letter said.

It did not specify how and to whom the money would be “replaced”.

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The provision is notable as Nigeria continues efforts to repatriate money allegedly stolen during Abacha’s brutal regime from 1993 until his death in 1998.

Transparency International estimates that he stole as much as $5bn of public funds during that time.


#Newsworthy ..

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[Nigeria] $311M Abacha Assets From Jersey, US

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The Nigerian government has received $311,797,866.11 recovered assets of General Sani Abacha repatriated from the United States and the Bailiwick of Jersey.

The Attorney-General of Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, confirmed this on Monday in a statement by the Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations at his office, Dr Umar Gwandu.

According to Malami, the amount increased significantly from over $308 million mentioned in an earlier statement in February to over $311million as a result of the interest that accrued from February 3 to April 28, when the fund was transferred to the Central Bank of Nigeria.

He noted that the litigation process for the return of the assets titled ‘Abacha III’ commenced in 2014 while the diplomatic process that culminated in the signing of the Asset Return Agreement commenced in 2018.

The agreement was signed on February 3 by the governments of Nigeria, the United States, and the Bailiwick of Jersey.

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“This Agreement is based on international law and cooperation measures that sets out the procedures for the repatriation, transfer, disposition, and management of the assets,” he said.

More to follow…


#Newsworthy…

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COVID-19 drug approved, US relieve lockdown

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More US states eased pandemic lockdown measures on Friday even as coronavirus deaths rose, while American authorities greenlighted an experimental drug for emergency use on patients.

Washington also renewed its warnings to Beijing a day after President Donald Trump threatened to slap tariffs on China, with the White House accusing Chinese authorities of “slow-walking” coronavirus data and putting US lives at risk.

India meanwhile announced that the world’s biggest lockdown — on most of the nation’s 1.3 billion people — would continue for two more weeks.

But several European countries have begun to ease restrictions that have shut in half the world, joining some Asian nations that feel they have already turned a corner.

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The United States took a major step in that direction, with Texas becoming the largest state yet to ease lockdowns, despite reporting 50 deaths on Thursday, the most there since the outbreak began.

Stores, restaurants, movie theaters, malls, museums and libraries were allowed to reopen in Texas but at just 25 percent capacity. The governor urged residents to wear face masks and maintain social distancing.

Receptionist Diane Curtis headed to a mall in Houston to buy shoes and “get out of the house.”

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“Eventually it’s like every other sickness that comes around,” she said of coronavirus. “It’ll go away but it’ll probably take time.”

With about 1.1 million confirmed cases, more than 64,500 of them fatal, the United States has the highest tolls of any country.

Trump, eager for a turnaround, announced Friday that US regulators have authorized the use of remdesivir to treat serious virus cases. A major clinical trial found that the antiviral helped patients with serious cases of COVID-19 recover faster.

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Meanwhile, the White House again pointed fingers at Beijing.

“It’s no secret that China mishandled this situation,” press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said, highlighting what she described as Beijing’s failure to quickly share the virus’s genetic sequence or information on human-to-human transmission.

“Slow-walking some of that information put American lives at risk,” McEnany said.

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Washington’s sharp rhetoric, including Trump’s unproven allegation Thursday that the virus might have come from a Chinese lab — an accusation rejected by Beijing — and threats of more US trade tariffs sent stocks in London and New York tumbling.

The FTSE shed 1.7 percent while the Dow Jones Industrial Average slid more than 2.5 percent.

Tech giants Apple and Amazon became the latest firms to announce worrying results as corporations around the world shed staff and slash profit forecasts.

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The economic mood darkened further with the release of a manufacturing survey that pointed to a historic decline in US output in April due to the pandemic.

In more positive signs, South Africa and Austria were allowing some businesses to reopen from Friday, and hard-hit Spain’s latest daily death toll confirmed the pandemic there was slowing.

“The road ahead will be long and hard, and we will make mistakes,” warned South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa.

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But despite his caution, Johannesburg construction company owner Sean Lawrenson woke up at the crack of dawn for his first run in weeks.

“Gosh, I forgot how beautiful it was, how much I missed it. It felt great,” Lawrenson said, wearing a black face mask and beanie.

While death rates are slowing in most of Europe, the pandemic’s global toll has topped 235,000, according to an AFP tally of official sources.

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More than 3.3 million infections have been recorded globally, likely a gross underestimate with many countries only testing the most serious cases.


‘We don’t know’


Scientists believe the killer virus jumped from animals to humans, emerging in China late last year, possibly from a market in Wuhan selling exotic animals for meat.

But speculative theories have swirled about a top-secret lab in the central Chinese city.

Asked Thursday if he had seen anything to make him think the Wuhan Institute of Virology was the source of the outbreak, Trump replied: “Yes, I have.”

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But he refused to give details and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated he had not seen definitive evidence.

Regarding reports that he could cancel US debt obligations to China, Trump said he could “do it differently” by “just putting on tariffs.”

The World Health Organization asked to be allowed to take part in a Chinese investigation into the “animal origins” of the pandemic.

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Several investigations into the source of the virus were ongoing, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said, adding that the global agency was “not currently involved in the studies in China” but would be “keen” to participate.


Lockdowns ease


The pandemic has disrupted economies worldwide and kept billions indoors, but now that numbers are steadying countries are starting to chart a course out of restrictive lockdowns.

British Health Minister Matt Hancock announced that the UK has hit its target of conducting 100,000 coronavirus tests a day, a step toward eventually lifting lockdown rules in the country that this week overtook Spain to record the world’s third-highest death toll.

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Germany has accelerated plans to lift its lockdown, preparing to ease curbs on public life and reopen churches, museums and zoos after restarting shopping last week.

Neighboring Austria followed suit Friday with people allowed to gather in groups of 10 or less.

And in Belgium, patients who survived the virus and emerged from comas were still too weak to leave hospitals.

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“What is painful is to have to recover reflexes and actions that are completely natural,” said 74-year-old Pierre Fonteyne, as he gingerly returned to walking.

There were signs the epidemic may just be getting underway in places that so far have been spared the worst.

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In northern Nigeria’s Kano state, cases have almost tripled in a few days.

Nasiru Sani Gwarzo, head of a presidential COVID-19 taskforce, told AFP the region appeared to be “at the threshold of the community transmission stage.”


#Newsworthy...

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Joe Biden Address Sexual Assault Allegations. [United States]

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US presidential candidate Joe Biden on Friday emphatically denied sexually assaulting a former staffer, saying the incident she claims occurred in 1993 “never happened.”

“They aren’t true. This never happened,” Biden said of the accusations made by Tara Reade, a former staffer in his US Senate office.

Biden, who broke a month of silence on the accusations with his statement, said Reade’s then-supervisor and former senior staffers in his office “have said, unequivocally, that she never came to them and complained or raised issues.”


#Newsworthy…

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