Tag Archives: world

Stocks rise globally in new lockdown offset

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Equities rose Thursday following a record lead from Wall Street, with investors cheered by hopes for a vaccine, more positive economic data and further lockdown easing in Europe.

The developments helped offset a worrying spike in infections in the United States, which has led to the reimposition of containment measures that could slow recovery in the world’s top economy, and warnings of worse to come.

Hong Kong led the gains on reopening after a one-day break, despite concerns about a new security law imposed on the city by China that observers said was more draconian than feared and could impact its future as an attractive business hub.

And while there are worries about the issue causing further friction between Beijing and the West, markets remain positive for now.

The Hang Seng Index rose more than two percent, while Shanghai ended up 2.1 percent.

Sydney, Mumbai, Seoul, Wellington and Bangkok were all up more than one percent, while Manila also chalked up more than two percent gains.

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Taipei, Singapore and Jakarta were all in positive territory.

Tokyo ended up 0.1 percent with signs of a flare-up in new cases in the Japanese capital weighing on sentiment.

London and Paris opened 0.7 percent higher, while Frankfurt piled on one percent.

The gains came after another all-time high for the tech-heavy Nasdaq on Wall Street, with investors now awaiting the release of key US June jobs data later in the day for a better grip on the economy following May’s surprise jump in employment.

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There was some cheer as figures from payroll services firm ADP showed a 2.37 million increase in private jobs — slightly below forecasts — though it added that 3.06 million posts were created in May, a revision from its initial report of 2.76 million lost.

Adding to signs that the worst of the economic hit may have passed, US factory activity began growing again, while the rise in German retail sales was four times more than expected in May.

In this file photo Traders work during the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on March 19, 2020, at Wall Street in New York City. Johannes EISELE / AFP
 

Meanwhile, hopes for a vaccine were given a boost after Germany’s BioNTech and US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer reported positive preliminary results from a joint project, which showed positive antibody responses.

Europe continued with its lockdown easing, with the EU reopening its borders to visitors from 15 countries, while Spain and Portugal held a ceremony to free up their land border.

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And the Netherlands confirmed the lifting of measures imposed on its brothels and red light districts.

Europe opens, US closes
“It’s been a risk-positive start to the new quarter, starting as the old one went out, with more positive data surprises out of the US and encouraging news regarding potential coronavirus vaccine development,” said National Australia Bank’s Ray Attrill.

But he warned of a “need to be on guard for the recent stalling or even reversal of social distancing restrictions in many US states prompting setbacks in some of these readings in coming months.”

There are increasing worries over a second wave of infections elsewhere, led by the United States, which on Wednesday reported more than 50,000 new cases for the first time and several US states imposed 14-day quarantines on visitors ahead of the July 4 weekend celebrations.

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California suspended indoor dining at restaurants in Los Angeles and several counties, while New York scrapped plans to allow restaurants to seat customers inside from next week.

Apple announced it would close another 30 US stores on Thursday, half of them in California.

And the World Health Organization warned that with more than 10 million known infections worldwide and more than 500,000 deaths, the pandemic is “not even close to being over”.

“There’s this inherent tension between health of the economy and health of the population,” said David Lebovitz, a strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management.

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“It’s going to be the way to think about what drives markets over the next couple of weeks or months.”

– Key figures around 0720 GMT –
Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 2.2 percent at 24,955.55

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.1 percent at 22,145.96 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 2.1 percent at 3,090.57 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.7 percent at 6,201.10

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.6 percent at $40.06 per barrel

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Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.6 percent at $42.30 per barrel

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1272 from $1.1249 at 2100 GMT

Dollar/yen: UP at 107.51 yen from 107.43 yen

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2492 from $1.2468

Euro/pound: UP at 90.23 pence from 90.19 yen

New York – Dow: DOWN 0.3 percent at 25,734.97 (close)


#Newsworthy…

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Reactions from the Globe over Israel’s West Bank annexation

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Several of Israel’s staunchest allies have criticised its annexation plans as jeopardising the status quo.


The plan, which aims to annex all illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank – including the strategic Jordan Valley – amounts to one-third of the territory and is in line with US President Donald Trump’s so-called “Middle East plan,” which envisages a demilitarised Palestinian state on a patchwork of disjointed parts of the Palestinian territories.

The Israeli annexation was slated for July 1, but Israeli officials said the process would take place later this month in coordination with their American counterparts.

“Coordination with the American administration is not something that can be dismissed,” Israeli cabinet minister Ofir Akunis told Israel’s Army Radio on Wednesday.

The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is viewed as occupied territory under international law, thus making all Jewish settlements there - as well as the planned annexation - illegal.

Palestinian officials have threatened to abolish bilateral agreements with Israel if it goes ahead with annexation, which would further undermine a two-state solution.

Several countries, including some of Israel’s staunch allies, have come out with public statements against the annexation.

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United Kingdom
In an editorial in Israel’s largest selling newspaper on Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for any annexation plans to be scrapped.

“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 in Yediot Ahronoth.

“Annexation would represent a violation of international law,” he said.

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

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France
France’s foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, told the French parliament “an annexation decision could not be left without consequences”.

He said Paris was “examining different options at a national level and also in coordination with our main European partners”.

Germany
The German parliament has called on Israel not to go ahead with the annexation of parts of the West Bank, describing the move as being “in contradiction with international law”.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the Israeli plan threatened the stability of the entire Middle East.

“Peace cannot be achieved by unilateral steps,” he said.

PLO rally to protest against Israel’s plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank

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Australia
In a rare criticism of Israel, Australia warned against “unilateral annexation or change in status of territory on the West Bank”.

Jordan
Jordan has warned annexation could trigger a “massive conflict” and has not ruled out reviewing its 1994 peace treaty with Israel.

The Vatican
The Vatican has summoned the US and Israeli envoys over Israel’s annexation plans.

A senior diplomatic source told Reuters that Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state and the Vatican’s top diplomat, expressed “the concern of the Holy See regarding possible unilateral actions that may further jeopardise the search for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as the delicate situation in the Middle East”.

Amnesty International
Amnesty International’s deputy Middle East chief Saleh Hijazi said: “International law is crystal clear on this matter – annexation is unlawful,” adding if Israel moves forward it “points to the law of the jungle”.


#Newsworthy…

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Breaking: U.S protest not about Black Lives but about RFID Microchip – Pastor Chris

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The President of Love World Incorporated, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, said on Sunday the protests and riots that trailed the murder of an African-American, George Floyd, in the United States last month were not about black lives.

Oyakhilome, who disclosed this in a televised sermon, said the protests were part of a grand scheme to get rid of the police and implant microchips into Americans and other citizens of the world with a view to controlling them.

He added that once the police had been taken off the streets, microchips would be implanted into citizens and gives the government the information, required to reduce crime.

The preacher had claimed in April that the COVID-19 pandemic and the movement restrictions directed by the Federal Government were part of a ploy to introduce 5G technology in the country.

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The US protests also known as American Spring began on May 26 as a response to the killing of Floyd, a 46-year-old man who died during an arrest, after a Minneapolis Police Department officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes as three other officers looked on.

Oyakhilome said: “There are many who don’t know what is going on in the United States with the riots. It’s not about the guy that died, it is not about black folks, and it is not about black lives matter. I will tell you what it is about. From protests to riots and then more people have died since then and the call for disbanding, abrogation, cancellation and defunding of the police.

“Why is that? (Do) you think it is limited to the United States? No, it is not. Why are they doing it? It is part of the game. It is simply because they want to come in with the alternative method for security. What is that alternative method? It is total control- RFID microchip. That is what it’s about.

“And so, you are going to find people getting rid of their police and you will see cities experimenting one after the other. The cities say no police, everyone must get the microchip. And with that, you are going to know everybody. They will know everyone and crime will be controlled and they have got the media to hype it and in spite of its failure, they will praise it like the best thing in the world. That is what it’s about.”


#Newsworthy…

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COVID-19: Global death toll exceed 500,000

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The global number of COVID-19 deaths has exceeded 500,000, with the US reporting the highest number of fatalities.


The worldwide reported death toll in the coronavirus pandemic has surpassed half a million, according to figures published by Johns Hopkins University, with the United States, Brazil and the United Kingdom being the three countries recording the highest numbers of fatalities.

The number of confirmed deaths related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, reached 500,108 on Sunday, while the total number of infections passed the 10 million mark worldwide, with some 10,055,037 cases reported.

Johns Hopkins' tally registered the new milestone after India and Russia reported thousands of new cases. The US has confirmed more than 2.5 million infections, the most in the world.

While the university reports only confirmed coronavirus cases, some experts believe the true number of people who have been infected could be as much as 10 times that figure, given that so many people cannot get tested or may have the virus without showing any symptoms.

The surge in the number of cases comes as countries around the world roll back lockdown restrictions that were imposed in a bid to curb the spread of the disease.

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization warned of a second wave of infections as governments rushed to reopen their economies amid soaring joblessness.


#Newsworthy…

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COVID-19: Foreign Air Travellers should arrive 5 hours before departure – PTF

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Passengers travelling abroad through Nigeria’s airport terminals are required to arrive five hours before departure to undergo COVID-19 protocols, the Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, has said.


The minister said this on Saturday at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja, when announcing some of the measures introduced for the reopening of the country’s airports closed in March following outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.

Sirika, who led other members of Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 to inspect facilities put in place at the airport ahead of its reopening, said domestic travellers on their part would need to arrive three hours before departure for processing.

According to him, this is in a bid to reduce sources of contamination of the virus.

Sirika said that physical distancing had been established at various points of the airport, adding that this is done by marking the floors at the airports.

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He said that physical distancing would now be required to be maintained right from the point of getting down from the vehicle that conveyed one to the airport.

“We will provide polythene bags where passengers put all their things for protocol and we will ensure there is a minimal contact by the person screening you,’’ Sirika said.

The minister said that the number of seats at the departure lounge of the MMIA had been reduced to 50 from 500 in order to maintain social distancing.

He further said that passengers must comply strictly to the wearing of face masks before entering the airports while aviation authorities would ensure provision of alcohol based sanitiser at the airports.

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The minister added that toilets at the airports were also COVID-19 compliant, stressing that everything is being done to minimise physical contact.

Sirika said that the pilots, engineers, traffic controllers and catering staff, among others, at the airports were now certified and licensed to carry out certain activities only when they have the valid clearance.

He said that the aircrafts must be airworthy with full compliance to COVID-19 protocols, adding that the airports are set to be reopened.

He said that there would be palliatives for operators of airlines because they had lost a lot.

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Dr Sani Aliyu, the PTF Coordinator, expressed satisfaction over full compliance with COVID-19 protocols at the airport.

He said it showed that the airport was ready for reopening with strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols.

Also speaking, the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said members of PTF were at the Murtala International Airport to inform Nigerians on the new protocols and processes guiding the reopening of airports.

Other members of the PTF who were in Lagos to observe adherence to COVID-19 protocols were Minister of State for Health, Sen. Olorunibe Mamora; and Minister of State for Education, Mr Emeka Uwajiuba.


#Newsworthy…

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COVID-19: WHO reveal amount needed to develop vaccines, others

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The World Health Organization said Friday that a global initiative to speed up the development and production of COVID-19 tests, vaccines and treatments will require more than $30 billion over the next year.

Providing details of the so-called ACT accelerator, launched in April and aimed at pooling international resources to combat the pandemic, WHO said “the costed plans presented today call for $31.3 billion in funding”.

So far, $3.4 billion of that had been pledged, the UN health agency said, pointing out that an additional $27.9 billion was needed over the next 12 months, including nearly $14 billion to cover immediate needs.

The announcement came ahead of a major pledging event in Brussels in support of the ACT accelerator, set to take place on Saturday.

“This is an investment worth making,” Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a special envoy for the ACT accelerator, told a virtual briefing.

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“If we don’t rally now, the human costs and the economic pain will deepen,” she said.

“Though these numbers sound big, they are not when we think of the alternative. If we spend billions now, we will be able to avoid spending trillions later.

“The time to act is now, and the way to act is together,” the former Nigerian finance minister said, stressing the need for equal access for all to any safe and effective vaccines and treatments developed.

– ‘Unprecedented speed’ –

Her comments came as the world counts nearly 490,000 deaths from COVID-19 and over 9.6 million cases since the new coronavirus emerged in China late last year, according to an AFP tally from official sources.

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“It’s clear that to bring COVID-19 under control, and to save lives, we need effective vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics, in unprecedented quantities and at unprecedented speed,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the briefing.

He stressed though that a core principle of the initiative is to ensure equal access for all.

“Vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics are vital tools,” he said.

“But to be truly effective they must be administered with another essential ingredient, which is solidarity.”

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The funds requested should make it possible to deliver 500 million tests and 245 million courses of treatment to low and middle-income countries by mid-2021.

They also aim to deliver two billion vaccine doses by the end of next year.

Soumya Swaminathan, the WHO’s chief scientist, pointed out during a separate briefing on the vaccine pillar of the project, known as COVAX, that antibody studies indicate that “a large, large proportion of the world’s population, 90 percent, continues to be susceptible.”

“The best bet we have really if we are going to end it… is to have a vaccine as soon as possible.”

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– Vaccinate the most vulnerable –
There are currently around 220 vaccine candidates, with 15 in clinical trials, and experts are hoping a handful of them will prove successful.

The problem is that investing in vaccine development can be risky, since 80 percent of vaccines in early stage development fail before reaching clinical trials.

And since there will be a need to produce billions of doses quickly, manufacturing capabilities need to be scaled up before it is even clear whether a candidate will be successful.

To address this obstacle, COVAX is aimed at pooling financial and scientific resources, making it possible to hedge the risk of backing an unsuccessful candidate, and ensuring that lower-income countries receive equal access to successful vaccines.

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“The critical issue (is) speed. If we lose a month now, that could mean 200 million fewer doses in 2021,” Seth Berkley, head of the Gavi Vaccine Alliance, told reporters.

Even producing two billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021 will be far from enough to vaccinate everyone.

Experts therefore insist on the need to guarantee that vulnerable groups and health workers worldwide receive the first jabs.

“Having a subset of populations of high risk vaccinated around the world is the best way to control the pandemic,” Berkley said.


#Newsworthy…

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COVID-19: Israeli PM, Netanhayu louds plan to fight pandemic in cooperation with UAE

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Netanyahu says two countries will soon collaborate in different areas to improve region’s health security.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced Israel will join forces with the United Arab Emirates in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, despite the lack of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

“This collaboration will be in the areas of research and development and technology, in areas that will improve health security throughout the region,” Netanyahu said in a statement on Thursday.

Netanyahu said a formal announcement on working together with the UAE on confronting coronavirus was imminent and would be made by the UAE and Israeli health ministers.

The announcement comes at a time of strong Arab opposition to Israel’s plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank – territories that form an integral part of a state Palestinians have long sought.

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Last week, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, said it could work with Israel on some areas, including the battle against the coronavirus and on technology, despite political differences.

Addressing a military ceremony in southern Israel, Netanyahu said the effort stemmed from intensive contacts with the UAE in recent months.

The UAE’s state-run news agency WAM confirmed that two companies from the UAE will be working with two Israeli companies on medical projects, including those to combat the new coronavirus.

Israel has no diplomatic relations with Arab countries in the Gulf, but common concerns about Iran’s regional influence have led to a limited thaw in relations.

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In May, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad made the first known flight by a UAE carrier to Israel, carrying coronavirus-related aid for the Palestinians.

Speaking to a conference of the American Jewish Committee advocacy group on June 16, Gargash said Israel cannot expect to normalise relations with Arab countries if it annexes West Bank land. He also said cooperation with Israel on the COVID-19 pandemic would not affect the UAE’s opposition to annexation.

Israel is due on July 1 to begin a cabinet debate on extending Israeli sovereignty to illegally built Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

The United States-backed plan has sparked Palestinian anger and has been met with growing opposition by much of the international community.


#Newsworthy…

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COVID-19 affected Tourists: Turkey seek revival

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Turkey on Monday hoped to revive its lucrative tourism sector, devastated by coronavirus travel restrictions, with few foreign tourists visiting in May.


According to the Tourism Ministry, there is a decline of 99.3 per cent international arrivals in May compared to the same period in 2019.

“That’s 29,829 visits compared to more than 4 million in May 2019,“the ministry said.

The January-May period saw a drop of 66.35 per cent, year on year. Most were in January and February before travel bans were imposed to stem the spread of the virus.

Also, Post COVId-19: Coker advocates special incentives to rebound tourism.

Turkey has been trying to attract tourists again after it lifted domestic travel bans and eased international flight restrictions in June.

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However, while it had been negotiating with several countries, Ankara also complained that the travel warnings put in place by some EU nations were a political move and not based on science.

Germany, which classified Turkey as a risky destination because of its coronavirus cases, had such a warning in place until Aug. 31.

Tourism Minister Mehmet Ersoy noted that recently, more than 5 million German tourists alone visited Turkey in 2019.

Turkey earned 34.5 billion dollars from tourism in 2019, when it welcomed more than 45 million visitors.

The number of coronavirus cases is currently more than 187,000, with 4,905 deaths since Turkey reported its first infection on March 11.


#Newsworthy…

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COVID-19: China set to reimpose lockdown. [Live]

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  • China has turned to mass testing and district lockdowns in Beijing after a jump in cases connected with a wholesale food market in the capital.
  • UN agencies have warned the pandemic could lead to the deaths of more than 50,000 under-fives in the Middle East and North Africa by the end of the year.

  • More than 7.9 million people are confirmed to have the coronavirus around the world. Nearly 3.8 million have recovered, while at least 433,394 have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

#Newsworthy…

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COVID-19: Global Developments’ Update

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Here are the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis.

  • Over 412,000 deaths –
    The pandemic has killed 412,926 people worldwide since it surfaced in China late last year, according to an AFP tally at 1900 GMT on Wednesday, based on official sources.

Some 7,294,130 cases have been registered in 196 countries and territories.

The United States is the worst-hit country with 112,402 deaths, followed by Britain with 41,128, Brazil with 38,406, Italy with 34,114 and France with 29,139 fatalities.

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  • Spike in Moscow deaths –
    Health authorities in Russia’s capital say a total of 15,713 people died in May, 5,715 more than during the same month last year.
  • Job losses loom in France –
    France will lose 800,000 jobs in the coming months because of the economic crisis provoked by the pandemic, says Economy Minister Bruno Le Marie.
  • Global economy –
    The OECD says the global economy will contract at least six percent this year and in the case of a second wave, it warns economic output could shrink by as much as 7.6 percent.
  • Europe’s external borders –
    The European Commission will recommend EU member states begin to reopen their external frontiers to travellers from outside the bloc from July 1, diplomatic chief Josep Borrell says.
  • Germany wary –
    Germany announces it is extending its travel ban for countries outside the European Union until August 31, in a blow to top summer destinations like Turkey.
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Foreign Minister Heiko Maas says the decision applies to countries outside the EU and the no-passport Schengen zone.

  • Japan’s record virus budget –
    Japan’s powerful lower house of parliament approves an emergency budget worth nearly $300 billion, doubling the scale of measures to pep up the world’s third-biggest economy after the pandemic tipped it into recession.
  • Italians file complaints –
    Fifty relatives of virus victims file complaints about the handling of the pandemic in the first such legal group action in Italy.
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They are filed at the prosecutors’ office in Bergamo, the city in northern Italy worst hit by the pandemic, “because it has become the symbol of this tragedy”, says Stefano Fusco, who created the group on Facebook.

  • Lean months at Zara –
    Spain’s Inditex, the textile giant which owns fashion chain Zara, posts its first Q1 loss in nearly 20 years: 409 million euros, compared with a net profit of 734 million euros in 2019.
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Its online sales, however, post strong growth during the same period. Analysts with Bankinter say the results show the “severe but temporary” impact of the virus crisis.

  • Azerbaijan cluster –
    Nineteen staff in the office of Azerbaijan’s president test positive and another 13 cases are confirmed among employees at the emergency situations ministry and the labour ministry, says anti-virus task force spokesman Ramin Bairamly.

#Newsworthy…

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COVID-19: Rise in ‘Universal’ stock on Economic rebound.


Further easing of coronavirus lockdowns pushed global equities higher on Tuesday, with optimism stoked by the reopening of bars, cafes, pools and beaches outweighing China-US tensions that have hurt the dollar.

While countries including Brazil, Chile and Russia are enduring rising death tolls and infection rates from COVID-19, an increasing number of governments are seeing figures tail off.

“Once again, the markets embraced an optimistic outlook… setting aside fears over the long-term economic impact of the pandemic and the ever-growing tensions between the US and China to focus on another round of global easing measures,” said Connor Campbell, analyst at trading group Spreadex.

Adding to the broadly positive outlook was optimism about progress on a possible vaccine, which would allow the shattered global economy to start bouncing back.

But Chris Iggo at AXA Investment Managers warned, “That does not mean we should ignore the risk of second waves, prolonged weak growth and geopolitical issues.”

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Wall Street, where the New York Stock Exchange trading floor reopened after two months of closure, finished higher, with the Dow gaining 2.2 percent to 24,995.11.

“US stock markets are gearing up for a strong start to the week as further lockdown easing and some more promising vaccine news lifted sentiment after the bank holiday weekend,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA Europe.

Key European markets were all one percent or more higher at the closing bell, with London playing catch-up after a strong eurozone performance on Monday, though its gains were capped by a rising pound.

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Earlier, Asian markets had closed higher, with Tokyo rising more than two percent, and Hong Kong up 1.9 percent as city leader Carrie Lam sought to reassure investors.

She said fears that Hong Kong’s business-friendly freedoms were at risk from a planned Chinese national security law were “totally groundless”.

But OANDA’s Erlam warned that whatever good news may be looming on the COVID-19 front stood to be undermined by worsening relations between Washington and Beijing, which he said “will be a constant headwind for stock markets”.

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US President Donald Trump warned that Hong Kong could lose its status as a global financial center if the proposed Chinese crackdown goes ahead.

Critics fear the law could be a death blow to the city’s treasured liberties, which are crucial to making it an international financial center on a par with New York and London.

Oil prices pushed on with their recovery, having suffered a spectacularly bad April when WTI crashed below zero.

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The reopening of economies and a massive cut in output by some of the world’s top producers has helped the US benchmark WTI virtually double in value this month.

– Key figures at around 2040 GMT –

New York – Dow: UP 2.2 percent at 24,995.11 (close)

New York – S&P 500: UP 1.2 percent at 2,991.77 (close)

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New York – Nasdaq: UP 0.2 percent at 9,340.22 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 1.2 percent at 6,067.76 (close)

Frankfurt – DAX 30: UP 1.0 percent at 11,504.65 (close)

Paris – CAC 40: UP 1.5 percent at 4,606.24 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.9 percent at 2,999.22 (close)

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 2.6 percent at 21,271.17 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 1.9 percent at 23,384.66 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 1.0 percent at 2,846.55 (close)

West Texas Intermediate: UP 3.3 percent at $34.35 per barrel

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Brent North Sea crude: UP 1.8 percent at $36.17 per barrel

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0984 from $1.0898 at 2100 GMT Friday

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 107.54 yen from 107.71 yen

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2335 from $1.2191

Euro/pound: DOWN at 89.04 pence from 89.39 pence.


#Newsworthy…

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WHO sends warning on COVID-19 2nd peak.

Warning comes as Europe and United States ease lockdowns and people flock to crowded beaches at start of summer season.


  • The WHO has warned of the risks of an “immediate second peak” as countries ease up on lockdowns, urging governments in Europe and the US to step up surveillance, testing and tracking measures.  
  • Spain has revised its death toll downwards by nearly 2,000 people after checking regional data and discovering some deaths had been recorded twice while others had not been coronavirus-related. 
  • Public anger continues to simmer in the UK over Dominic Cummings, PM Boris Johnson’s chief political adviser, who apparently flouted lockdown to drive from his London home to his parents’ house in the north when he suspected he had coronavirus.  
  • More than 5.5 million cases of coronavirus have been confirmed around the world, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 346,000 people have died, while more than 2.2 million have recovered.

#Newsworthy…

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HK in crackdown as security chief warn against terrorism rise

Pro-Beijing officials expect no delays to the passage of new law amid signs the annual June 4 vigil will be banned.


Hong Kong’s security chief on Monday warned “terrorism” was growing in the city as the local government rallied behind Beijing’s plan to impose national security laws on the restive territory and police fired tear gas and pepper spray at thousands of people who took to the streets to protest.

“Terrorism is growing in the city and activities which harm national security, such as ‘Hong Kong independence’, become more rampant,” Secretary for Security John Lee said in a statement.

“In just a few months, Hong Kong has changed from one of the safest cities in the world to a city shrouded in the shadow of violence,” he said, adding that national security laws were needed to safeguard the city’s prosperity and stability.

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Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s sole delegate to China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee, told the public broadcaster RTHK on Monday that said he did not expect any delay in the drafting of the national security law.

Tam said members would start work on it soon after the NPC votes on the resolution on Thursday, adding that the standing committee would hold a meeting at the end of June to discuss the matter.

Earlier, Ray Chan, a pro-democracy member of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, wrote on social media: “Call us terrorists, whatever you want, after the Wuhan Virus outbreak, China has no more credibility in the world.”

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Growing calls for independence
On Monday, police said they arrested more than 180 people during protests on Sunday.

Authorities had fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse anti-government protesters who accused the police of using excessive force.

In a return of the unrest that roiled Hong Kong last year, crowds thronged the streets of the city in defiance of curbs imposed to contain the coronavirus.

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In contrast with previous rallies, however, there were louder calls for independence with chants of “Hong Kong independence, the only way out,” echoing through the streets.

Calls for independence are disliked by Beijing, which considers Hong Kong an inalienable part of the country.

The proposed new national security framework stresses Beijing’s intent “to prevent, stop and punish” such acts.

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Hong Kong government agencies issuing statements in support of the legislation included the Commissioner of Correctional Services and Hong Kong Customs.

Financial Secretary Paul Chan wrote on his blog on Sunday the national security law “itself” does not affect investor confidence, only the “misunderstanding” of it does.

“The central government has already said the law is targeted at the minority of people who are suspected of threatening national security and will not affect the rights of the general public.”

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Turning point for Hong Kong
Lee’s comments came amid growing signs that the June 4 candlelight vigil organised annually by civil society groups to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing could be banned.

While declining to go into specifics, former Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung told public broadcaster, RTHK, that anything that involves activities said to be “separatist in nature” may well be banned.

He explained that the purpose of the legislation was not to deter people from holding protests but to combat “terrorism”, and stamp out the activities of people who advocate independence for Hong Kong.

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Leung is a vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

RTHK quoted him as saying that whether the vigil itself could fall foul of the law could depend on what participants do even after the gathering is over.

The United States, Australia, Britain, Canada and others have expressed concerns about the national security legislation, widely seen as a potential turning point for the city, which was guaranteed rights and freedoms unknown on the mainland when it was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

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On Sunday, the US said the new legislation could lead to sanctions that would threaten the city’s status as a financial hub.

“It looks like with this national security law they’re going to basically take over Hong Kong and if they do … Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo will likely be unable to certify that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy,” National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said in an interview with NBC.

“And if that happens, there will be sanctions that will be imposed on Hong Kong and China.”

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Beijing, meanwhile, has warned of a “new Cold War” with the US, saying the country has been infected by a “political virus” compelling people to continually attack China.

Taiwan, which has become a refuge for a small but growing number of pro-democracy protesters fleeing Hong Kong, said on Monday it would provide the people of Hong Kong with “necessary assistance”.


#Newsworthy…

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Just in: Afghanistan leader vow to set 2000 Taliban inmates free


Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has started the process to release up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners as a “goodwill gesture”, his spokesperson said, in a move that came after the government welcomed the armed group’s surprise announcement of a three-day ceasefire during the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

The decision to release the prisoners was taken “to ensure success of the peace process”, Ghani’s spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said on Twitter on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the ceasefire appeared to hold as there were no reports of clashes between the Taliban and Afghan forces by the end of the first day on Sunday.

Ghani said a government delegation was “ready to immediately start the peace talks” with the Taliban.

Government negotiators would be headed by Ghani’s former rival Abdullah Abdullah after the two signed a power-sharing deal last week that ended a months-long political crisis.

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Pres. Ghani today initiated a process to release up to 2000 Taliban prisoners as a good will gesture in response to the Taliban’s announcement of a ceasefire during Eid.The AFG Gov is extending the offer of peace and is taking further steps to ensure success of the peace process.

A US-Taliban agreement signed in February in Qatar’s capital, Doha, stipulated that the Afghan government would release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners while the Taliban would free about 1,000 Afghan security forces personnel.

The prisoner swap was mentioned in the agreement as a “confidence-building measure” before long-awaited peace talks between the government and Taliban.

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Before Sunday’s announcement, Kabul had already released about 1,000 Taliban inmates while the Taliban had freed roughly 300 members of the Afghan security forces, according to reports.

The Taliban said they were committed to freeing prisoners, but reminded Kabul that the agreement was to “release 5,000” of their members as agreed with the US in Doha.

“This process should be completed in order to remove hurdles in the way of commencement of intra-Afghan negotiations,” Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman, said on Twitter.

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The Taliban’s offer of a ceasefire came just days after leader Haibatullah Akhunzada urged Washington “not to waste” the opportunity offered by the Doha agreement that set the stage for the withdrawal of US troops from the country after more than 18 years.

US Special Representative to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, who brokered the February 29 agreement, said the ceasefire was “a momentous opportunity that should not be missed” while pledging that the US would “do its part to help”.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also hailed the ceasefire, but said in a statement on Sunday that he expected “the Taliban to adhere to their commitment not to allow released prisoners to return to the battlefield”.

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He also urged the two sides to avoid escalating violence after Eid, the festival marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

US President Donald Trump’s administration has made it a priority to end the country’s longest war and, in a bid to pull out foreign forces, US officials have been pushing the Taliban and government leaders to hold peace talks.

Analysts, however, say the Taliban has been emboldened by the agreement with the US, and attacks by the group have continued since the signing.

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War-weary residents in the capital, Kabul, expressed relief after the ceasefire was announced.

In a similar holiday truce in 2018, there were unprecedented scenes of fighters from opposite sides embracing and taking selfies.


#Newsworthy…

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Trump Nays, Ban Travels From Brazil


The White House has announced a ban on travel to the U.S. from Brazil due to the spread of coronavirus in Latin America’s hardest-hit country.

Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany says in a statement Sunday evening that the ban applies to foreign nationals who have been in Brazil in the 14 days before they sought to travel to the United States.

McEnany cast it as a move by President Donald Trump “to protect our country.”

Trump has already banned travel from the United Kingdom, Europe and China, all of which have been hit hard by the virus. Trump had said last week that he was considering imposing similar restrictions on Brazil.

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Brazil had reported more than 347,000 COVID-19 cases, second behind the U.S. in the number of infections, according to a Johns Hopkins University count.

Brazil also has recorded more than 22,000 deaths, fifth-most in the world. There have been more than 97,000 U.S. deaths.


#Newsworthy…

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Just in: Fighters fly out of Libya amid Haftar retreat

‘A very meaningful event’ because LNA deprived of its most effective foreign fighting force near Tripoli, analyst says.


Russian fighters in Libya were flown out a town south of Tripoli by their Libyan allies after retreating from front lines at the capital, the town’s mayor said.

The reported departure of the Russians on Sunday was another blow to the Libya National Army (LNA) of eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar and his foreign allies.

The Russian fighters allied to the LNA retreated with their heavy equipment from the capital to the airport of Bani Walid, a town some 150km (93 miles) southeast of Tripoli, said Salem Alaywan, Bani Walid’s mayor.

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He said the Russians were flown out of western Libya to Jufra, a remote central district and LNA stronghold.

“They [the Russians] were flown in three military planes to Jufra and their military vehicles were driven there,” he said.

LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari denied any foreigners were fighting with his force.

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1,200 mercenaries
But the Russians’ presence has been widely documented by diplomats and journalists. Pictures purportedly showing Russians, some sitting on trucks, in Bani Walid were posted on social media.

According to a leaked United Nations report, Russian private military contractor Wagner Group deployed about 1,200 mercenaries to Libya to strengthen Haftar’s forces. They have been identified using equipment typically reserved for Russia’s armed forces.

UN monitors identified more than two dozen flights between Russia and eastern Libya from August 2018 to August 2019 by civilian aircraft “strongly linked to or owned by” Wagner Group or related companies.

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NobleReporters, gathered from Tripoli, said Haftar’s immediate gains in the assault on the capital a year ago have been attributed to the fighting prowess of the military contractors from the Wagner Group.

“We don’t know why they’re leaving at this crucial time because Haftar is losing on the ground. The withdrawal of the Russian [fighters] could have major consequences for Haftar’s forces,” he said.

‘Meaningful event’
The Tripoli government, known as the GNA, has with Turkish help made sudden strides, seizing a string of towns from the LNA, capturing the strategically important al-Watiya airbase, and destroying several Russian-made air defence systems.

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“The withdrawal [of the Russians] from the greater Tripoli area is a very meaningful event because it deprives the LNA of its most effective, best-equipped foreign fighting forces on that key front,” said Jalel Harchaoui, research fellow at the Clingendael Institute.

The GNA has deployed Syrian fighters allied to Turkey, while Haftar is also using Sudanese. The LNA still holds the town of Tarhouna south of Tripoli with the help of a local armed group.

Haftar’s forces, backed by Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, have been trying to capture the capital for 13 months, but suffered a string of defeats in recent weeks in fighting against Turkey-backed forces of the Tripoli government.

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In the past two days, LNA forces have withdrawn from some positions in southern Tripoli in what they described as a humanitarian gesture. Forces allied to the internationally recognised government re-entered some of those areas.

Libya has been without central government control for nine years, and since 2014 it has been divided between two main rival governments in the east and the west. The conflict has turned into a proxy war between the foreign allies of the two sides.


#Newsworthy…

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COVID-19: China set to find pandemic source as they are ‘Open’ to international effort


China is “open” to international cooperation to identify the source of the novel coronavirus but any investigation must be “free of political interference”, China’s foreign minister said Sunday.

Wang Yi blasted what he called efforts by US politicians to “fabricate rumours” about the pathogen’s origins and “stigmatise China”.

The United States and Australia have called in recent weeks for an investigation into the origins of the pandemic.

Both US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have accused China of a lack of transparency over the issue, and repeatedly pushed the theory that the virus leaked from a Chinese maximum-security laboratory.

Most scientists believe the virus jumped from animals to humans, possibly from a market selling exotic animals for meat in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

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“China is open to working with the international scientific community to look into the source of the virus,” Wang said at a press conference on the sidelines of China’s annual parliament session.

“At the same time, we believe that this should be professional, fair, and constructive,” he added.

“Fairness means the process be free of political interference, respect the sovereignty of all countries, and oppose any presumption of guilt.”

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The World Health Organization has also called on Beijing to invite them in to investigate the source, with China proposing that the “global response” to COVID-19 should only be assessed when the pandemic is over.

WHO members on Tuesday adopted a resolution at the UN body’s first virtual assembly to review international handling of the pandemic.


#Newsworthy..

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Despite COVID-19 threat, Muslims celebrate Eid Worldwide.


Muslims around the world began marking a sombre Eidul Fitr Sunday, many under coronavirus lockdown, but lax restrictions offer respite to worshippers in some countries despite fears of skyrocketing infections.

The festival, one of the most important in the Muslim calendar marking the end of the holy month of Ramazan, is traditionally celebrated with mosque prayers, family feasts and shopping for new clothes, gifts and sweet treats.

But this year, the celebration is overshadowed by the fast-spreading respiratory disease, with many countries tightening lockdown restrictions after a partial easing during Ramadan led to a sharp spike in infections.

Further dampening the festive spirit, multiple countries — from Saudi Arabia to Egypt, Turkey and Syria — have banned mass prayer gatherings, a festival highlight, to limit the spread of the disease.

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Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest sites, began a five-day, round-the-clock curfew from Saturday after infections more than quadrupled since the start of Ramadan to around 68,000 –- the highest in the Gulf.

Eid prayers will be held at the two holy mosques in the cities of Makkah and Madinah “without worshippers”, authorities said on Saturday, citing a royal decree.

Makkah’s Grand Mosque has been almost devoid of worshippers since March, with a stunning emptiness enveloping the sacred Kaaba.

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Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, will reopen to worshippers only after Eid, its governing body said.

In Lebanon, the highest Sunni religious authority has announced the reopening of mosques only for Friday prayers. Worshippers, however, will be subject to temperature checks and sanitary controls before they enter.

– Fears of ‘new peak’ –

Meanwhile, Muslims across Asia — from Indonesia to Pakistan, Malaysia and Afghanistan — thronged markets for pre-festival shopping, flouting coronavirus guidelines and sometimes even police attempts to disperse large crowds.

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“For over two months my children were homebound,” said Ishrat Jahan, a mother of four, at a bustling market in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi.

“This feast is for the kids, and if they can’t celebrate it with new garments, there is no point in us working so hard throughout the year.”

In Indonesia –- the world’s most populous Muslim nation — people are turning to smugglers and fake travel documents to get around bans on the annual end-of-Ramadan travel that could send infections soaring. 

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More than 3,500 Tunisians who travelled home just ahead of the holiday will have to spend it away from their families, forced to quarantine for two weeks in hotels after arriving from abroad.

Atef Maherzi, a doctor repatriated Tuesday from Saudi Arabia, said she would be catching up with family over Skype, foregoing her usual role of host.

“Usually, I’m the mistress of the house, but this time, my husband will receive the guests alone.”

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The COVID-19 death tolls across the Middle East and Asia have been lower than in Europe and the United States, but numbers are rising steadily, sparking fears the virus may overwhelm often underfunded healthcare systems.

Iran, which has experienced the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak, has called on its citizens to avoid travel during Eid as it battles to control infection rates.

Iran shut schools and places of worship and banned inter-city travel for the Persian New Year holidays in March, but the restrictions were recently eased.

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Health Minister Saeed Namaki said that the country was focusing hard on avoiding “new peaks of the disease” caused by people “not respecting health regulations”.

The exact date of Eid has yet to be set in the Shiite-majority country, but will likely be Monday, in line with the Shiite community’s celebrations in Iraq, as announced by top cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.

Sunnis in Iraq will mark the start of the festival on Sunday.

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– ‘Comedy night’ –

The neighbouring United Arab Emirates has tightened its lockdown, with the night-time curfew starting at 8:00 pm (1600 GMT) instead of 10:00 pm during Ramadan. 

But that has not stopped some families from planning getaways to luxury beachfront hotels in Ajman or Ras Al-Khaimah emirates.

However, Muslims in many countries are set for frugal celebrations amid growing financial distress.

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The twin shocks of coronavirus restrictions and falling oil prices have plunged the region into the worst economic crisis in decades.

The coronavirus restrictions have hit businesses hard, including retailers who would normally be preparing for the festive rush, as Muslims save their money for masks, gloves and other COVID-19 protective gear.

In the Syrian capital Damascus, Eid shoppers rummaged through flea markets for clothes at bargain prices as the war-ravaged and sanctions-hit country grapples with a much more entrenched economic crisis.

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“The flea market is the only place I can buy something new to wear for the Eid holidays,” 28-year-old Sham Alloush told AFP.

“Had it not been for this place, I wouldn’t have been able to buy new clothes at all.”

But promising some laughs in these dire times, 40 Muslim comedians from across the world will host a virtual show on Sunday called “The Socially Distant Eid Comedy Night”.

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“This Ramadan has been particularly difficult for communities around the world,” said Muddassar Ahmed, head of the Concordia Forum, the organiser of the event.

“We’re proud to be pulling together some of the brightest Muslim comedic talent to entertain those celebrating the Eid festival at home, people looking to learn a little bit about Muslim culture, or really anyone in need of a good laugh.”


#Newsworthy..

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Just in: Fawad is just Nobody – Mufti says.


Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee Chairman Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman has said that Fawad Hussain Chaudhry is just nobody and he should not interfere in affairs of the Ruet Committee.

Talking to the media after announcing sighting of the Shawwal moon on Saturday evening, Mufti Muneeb said that Prime Minister Imran Khan should take notice of Fawad Chaudhry’s interference in affairs of the Ruet Committee. He said that Fawad Chaudhry has his own deprivations and frustrations. He said that he condemns Fawad Chaudhry’s interference in Sharia-related matters. He asked Fawad Chaudhry to tell the nation on oath how many prayers he offered and how many times he had been on fasting in the holy month of Ramazan. He said there should be a ban on Fawad Chaudhry and he should not be allowed to interfere in affairs of other departments.

Fawad Hussain Chaudhry, the federal minister for science and technology, said earlier on Saturday that all Muslim countries, even Bangladesh, would celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr on Sunday and Pakistan would be the only country in the world to celebrate the religious festival on Monday if the moon is not sighted on Saturday evening.

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Giving scientific data, Fawad told a press conference: “The Shawwal moon was born on May 22 at 10:30pm and will be visible between 7:36pm and 8:15pm tonight in Badin, Thatta and Pasni.”

Greeting the nation on the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr, Mufti Muneeb said people should be careful and greet each other verbally instead of embracing keeping in view the coronavirus outbreak in the country.


#Newsworthy…

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COVID-19: Abortion centres open – worship centres close – Trump piss.


US President Donald Trump has said that he has ordered governors to open worship centers despite coronavirus pandemic still raging.

Trump stated this while reacting to the move by some state governors to keep liquor stores and abortion centers open while worship centers remain closed.

“It’s not right,” Trump said. “I’m calling houses of worship essential.”

“If there’s any question, they’re going to have to call me, but they’re not going to be successful in that call,” Trump said of state leaders.

“The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now, for this weekend,”

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“If they don’t do it, I will override the governors.”

“It’s not right,” ”This move is aimed at correcting this injustice.”

“If there’s any question, they’re going to have to call me, But they are not going to be successful in that call.”

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“In America, we need more prayer,” “Not less.” Mr Trump said before leaving the briefing room.

Speaking in a press briefing, Trump stated that he has approved guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which will enable worship centers to reopen.

Earlier on Friday, Trump said more on the subject.

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“We want our churches and our places of faith and worship, we want them to open,” he said. “But they’re going to be opening up very soon. We want our churches open, we want our places of faith, synagogues, we want them open, and that’s going to start happening.”

“I consider them essential, and that’s one of the things we’re saying. We’re going to make that essential,” Mr Trump said. “You know, they have places [deemed] essential that aren’t essential. And they open, and yet the churches aren’t allowed to open, and the synagogues. And again, places of faith, mosques, places of faith.”


#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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