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Monday, 20 September 2021

Russia university shooting leaves several dead, wounded


Russian Investigative Committee, the agency that handles major crimes, says the shooter has been identified as a student at the university.

Students evacuate a building of the Perm university campus in Perm, September 20, 2021.
Students evacuate a building of the Perm university campus in Perm, September 20, 2021. (AFP)

A gunman has opened fire at Perm university in Russia, leaving eight people dead and 28 hurt, officials said.

The suspect was detained after being wounded in an exchange of fire with police, the Interior Ministry said on Monday. There was no immediate information available on his identity or possible motive.

The perpetrator, identified as a student, used a non-lethal gun, according to Perm University press service. 

Students and staff of the university locked themselves in rooms, and the university urged those who could leave the campus to do so.

In some footage, a black-clad, helmeted figure could be seen striding on a campus sidewalk cradling a long-barreled weapon.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said the gunman fired a smoothbore hunting weapon. That could indicate he used a shotgun.

The shooter was later detained, Russia's Interior Ministry said.

He was arrested shortly after the incident at Perm University, located around 1,300 kilometres (800 miles) east of Moscow, a university spokesperson and the police said.


Gunman identified as student

Russia's Investigative Committee, the agency that handles probes into major crimes, said the perpetrator was a student at the university.

Russia has strict restrictions on civilian firearm ownership but some categories of guns are available for purchase for hunting, self-defence or sport, once would-be owners have passed tests and met other requirements.

The Investigative Committee has opened a murder probe in the aftermath of the incident.

The state Tass news agency cited an unnamed source in the law enforcement as saying that some students jumped out of the windows of a building. 

The regional health ministry said among those wounded were injuries both from the shooting and from trying to escape the building.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies

Lawyers, activists file petition seeking revocation of Israel’s observer status at African Union

 Israel was admitted to the African Union (AU) as an observer state in July this year, a decision that came as a shock to several member countries, given Israel’s sustained and ongoing repression of the Palestinian people

A protest calling for the boycott of Israel in Johannesburg, South Africa, on May 31, 2019. (Photo: Afro-Palestine Newswire Service)

A group of lawyers, activists and researchers from various countries submitted a petition to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights on Thursday, September 16, demanding that the African Union (AU) revoke its recent decision to admit Israel as an observer state. Israel was given observer status in July despite its record of human rights abuses and war crimes against Palestinians. The controversial decision had evoked condemnation and protests by several AU members, who alleged that the decision was taken unilaterally. The Southern African Development Community (SADC), consisting of 16 countries, issued a condemnation of the AU’s decision in August.

Parties to the petition include the Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA), Johannesburg-based think tank Media Review Network (MRN), US-based lawyer Stanley Cohen and South African lawyers Nadeem Mahomed and Shabnam Mayet, as well as other signatories from Belgium, Ireland and the US.

The 200-page petition states that “this complaint is brought against the decision of the African Union taken at the end of July 2021 granting observer status to the State of Israel. The human rights violations committed by Israel are contrary to the spirit and purport of the Charter of the African Union, particularly relating to issues of self-determination and decolonization as Israel continues to illegally occupy Palestine in violation of its international obligations and multiple UN resolutions.” 

In the past several months, Israel has received widespread international criticism for a series of human rights abuses and violent attacks against Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories of West Bank and East Jerusalem, including the 11-day aerial bombing campaign in Gaza which killed more than 250 Palestinians, including 67 children. The international community also condemned the violent Israeli raids on the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, which preceded the bombing of Gaza, as well as the repeated attempts by illegal Israeli settlers and security forces to forcibly expel and ethnically cleanse Palestinians from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

In a statement to Anadolu Agency, executive member of MRN, Iqbal Jassat, said that “whilst we do not seek justice from the African Union on the issue of war crimes against Palestine by Israel, we seek that Israel not be permitted to enjoy freedoms given to it by the African Union in granting it observer status.” Naazim Adam of the PSA was also quoted as saying that “we, as South Africans living in a member state of the AU, deem it our duty to combat and object to the African Union’s decision in granting Israel observer status.”

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Armenia commences proceedings against Azerbaijan over persecution and rights violations

 Armenia commences proceedings against Azerbaijan over persecution and rights violations 

The Republic of Armenia on Thursday instituted proceedings against the Republic of Azerbaijan at the International Court of Justice, the United Nation’s top judicial organ, over alleged violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) by Azerbaijani authorities.

In its application, Armenia contended that “for decades, Azerbaijan has subjected Armenians to racial discrimination” and that as a result of such State-sponsored of Armenian hatred, Armenians have been subjected to systemic discrimination, mass killings, torture and other abuse. Armenia also alleged that these violations were directed at individuals of Armenian ethnic or national origin regardless of their actual nationality.

Armenia further claimed that such practices came into action following Azerbaijan’s aggression against the Republic of Artsakh and Armenia in September 2020, during which Azerbaijan committed grave violations of the ICERD. It also contended that even after the end of hostilities, following a ceasefire which entered into effect on 10 November 2020, “Azerbaijan continued to engage in the murder, torture and other abuse of Armenian prisoners of war, hostages and other detained persons”, and that Azerbaijan has continued to systematically destroy, erase and falsify Armenian cultural heritage in the region.

Through its application, the Republic of Armenia has requested the Court to take provisional measures “as a matter of extreme urgency” in order to “protect and preserve Armenia’s rights and the rights of Armenians from further harm, and to prevent the aggravation or extension of this dispute” until it is able to decide the dispute in the merits. This includes measures such as the return of all release immediately all Armenian prisoners of war and
hostages, measures to protect Armenian culture and dignity and an order to close the Military Trophies Park, which has been heavily criticized as an crude means of depicting Azerbaijan’s victory. Under Article 74 of the Rules of Court, “A request for the indication of provisional measures shall have priority over all other cases”.

The present dispute comes as a result of a Russian-brokered ceasefire on November 2020, following a six-week war that claimed more than 6,500 lives. The ceasefire was largely considered as a victory for Azerbaijan, as it gave theformerly Armenian-occupied territory back to Azerbaijan. The region had been a territory under dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan since the early 1990’s, owing to the fact that it was located within Azerbaijan but made up of a majority Armenian ethnicity population.

In a Communique, the Azerbaijani ministry of Foreign Affairs indicated that it would launch its own legal proceedings against Armenia in relation to Armenian’s own systematic violations of CERD. 

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Federal court rules Wisconsin redistricting case can proceed

 Federal court rules Wisconsin redistricting case can proceed 

A three-judge panel of the US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin on Thursday denied Republicans’ request to dismiss a redistricting lawsuit brought by Democrats. Republicans aimed for the case to be moved to state court, as the Wisconsin Supreme Court is controlled by conservative judges, but the panel’s ruling keeps the case in the federal courts.

In the ruling, the panel combined two redistricting lawsuits that were filed by liberal groups. Additionally, the court permitted Wisconsin’s five Republican congressmen and Democratic Governor Tony Evers to intervene in the case.

The lawsuit argues that Wisconsin’s map is malapportioned because the population of districts are illegally lopsided. According to experts, Wisconsin’s maps are among the most gerrymandered maps in the country. The lawsuit is seeking for the court to redraw Wisconsin’s political boundaries if bipartisan efforts fail to do so in time for the 2022 elections. Redistricting involves drawing new legislative and congressional districts.

The panel rejected Republicans’ request to dismiss the lawsuit because federal courts have intervened in the previous three redistricting cycles when Wisconsin’s government control was divided, as it currently is.

“Given this historical pattern, and the urgent requirement of prompt action, the panel will deny the Legislature’s motion to dismiss,” the panel wrote in its ruling. “The court and the parties must prepare now to resolve the redistricting dispute, should the state fail to establish new maps in time for the 2022 elections.” 

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Political turmoil deepens in Haiti as PM comes under suspicion in President’s assassination

 Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry has been implicated in the assassination of de-facto president Jovenel Moïse, setting off major changes in the government and the judiciary and aggravating the political crisis 

The political crisis in Haiti has deepened after Prime Minister Ariel Henry has been implicated in the assassination of de-facto President Jovenel Moïse. Photo: Ariel Henry/Twitter

The political turmoil in Haiti has further deepened as acting Prime Minister and President Ariel Henry comes under suspicion in the assassination of de-facto President Jovenel Moïse. In the past two days, the country has witnessed major changes in the government and the judiciary amid new allegations.

On September 14, the country’s chief prosecutor, Bed-Ford Claude, asked the Port-au-Prince’s First Instance Court to investigate Henry in relation to Moïse’s murder. In an official request addressed to Judge Garry Orélien, Claude claimed Henry had spoken on the phone twice with one of the alleged masterminds of the crime, Joseph Felix Badio, hours after Moïse was shot dead at his residence on the night of July 7.

Last week, Claude reported that according to the phone records of two numbers, supposedly belonging to Henry and Badio, the two had communicated for about eight minutes within a few hours after Moïse’s murder. He also reported that according to location data provided by the telephone company, at the time of the calls, Henry was at Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince, while Badio was somewhere near Moïse’s house. The former justice ministry official Badio has not yet been apprehended and his current whereabouts are unknown.

In this regard, the prosecutor summoned Henry to testify on the content of those calls on September 14. However, the acting head of state publically disqualified the call.

“No distraction, summons, invitation, maneuver, threat, underhanded attack, or aggression, will distract me from my mission. Actions to create confusion and prevent justice from being done cannot occur. The real culprits, the intellectual authors and those responsible for the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, will be tried and punished for their actions,” said Henry on September 11, during the signing of an agreement on transitional government with the opposition.

This Tuesday, the interim head of state didn’t attend the hearing, as without an authorization for investigation from the president, the prime minister is not obliged to respond to justice. In the present case, Judge Orélien, who is investigating the case, is the only competent authority to call witnesses or defendants to testify or to decide who is a suspect in the crime.

In response, Claude asked the examining magistrate to charge him in connection with the crime. “There are enough compromising elements to prosecute Henry and ask for his outright indictment,” stated Claude in the request letter.

The same day, he also sent a letter to the Directorate of Immigration and Emigration, asking the authorities to prevent Henry from leaving the country due to the “gravity” of the facts that had emerged.

Henry did not respond to the allegations regarding the phone calls. However, hours later, amid disagreements over his alleged links with a suspect of the assassination, the PM dismissed Claude due to “serious administrative misconduct.” Henry made the decision public by releasing a letter dated September 13, but without detailing the infractions committed by Claude.

A day after Claude’s removal, on September 15, the secretary of the Council of Ministers, Renald Lubérice, resigned from his position, which held for more than four years, citing the prosecutor’s accusations. In his resignation letter sent to the Council of Ministers, Lubérice said that he cannot continue in office under the direction of a person implicated in the president’s murder.

“I would not know how to be under the direction of a person named by Jovenel Moïse, accused of his murder, who has no intention of cooperating with justice and seeks, on the contrary, by all means, to obstruct it,” Lubérice wrote.

Some Haitian media reported that Henry dismissed Lubérice and also the Minister of Justice, Rockefeller Vincent, the day he dismissed Claude, but this information has not been officially confirmed.

Political crisis in Haiti

Since the beginning of this year, Haiti has been going through a delicate political situation. Up until Moïse’s assassination, Haitians had been mobilizing on the streets against his illegitimate rule. Moïse’s term had constitutionally ended on February 7, but he refused to step down and remained in office. Additionally, he had been governing by a decree with a non-functional parliament since January 2020 because his administration failed to hold legislative elections amid a wave of anti-government protests. However, his assassination pushed the country into an unprecedented constitutional and political crisis as the current constitution doesn’t provide for a provision with regards to how to replace an assassinated president.

Moïse had replaced prime minister Claude Joseph with the-then interior minister Henry just two days before his assassination. However, Henry assumed the responsibility on July 19, over a week after Joseph’s initial self-proclaimed rule. Nevertheless, Haitian social movements do not recognize Henry’s mandate as legal.

This new crisis has occurred at a time when there are two major political proposals to resolve the multiple crises facing the country. The proposal promoted by Henry and signed with some opposition forces this weekend, foresees the establishment of a transitional government under his rule until presidential and legislative elections and a constitutional referendum are held next year. It also establishes the creation of a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution, among other measures.

The second, proposed by the Commission to Search a Solution to the Crisis (CRSC), a platform that brings together more than 500 social organizations and progressive political movements, encourages the inauguration of a new interim president by a new national council, made of about 50 people from diverse forces of the country.

 source ;

Trudeau, O'Toole in tight race as Canadians vote in pandemic election

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the snap election hoping to parlay a smooth Covid-19 vaccine rollout – among the best in the world – into a new mandate to steer the nation's pandemic exit.

Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau speaks to supporters during a campaign stop on September 19, 2021 in Maple, Canada.
Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau speaks to supporters during a campaign stop on September 19, 2021 in Maple, Canada. (AFP)

Canadian elections headed for a photo finish with liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is seeking a third term, threatened by a strong challenge from rookie conservative leader Erin O'Toole.

Trudeau called the snap election hoping to parlay a smooth Covid-19 vaccine rollout – among the best in the world – into a new mandate to steer the nation's pandemic exit, without having to rely on opposition party support to pass his agenda.

But the contest, after a bumpy five weeks of campaigning, appears set for a repeat of the close 2019 general election that resulted in the one-time golden boy of Canadian politics clinging to power, yet losing his majority in parliament.

A sudden surge in Covid-19 cases led by the Delta variant late in the campaign, after the lifting of most public health measures this summer, has also thrown a wrench into the works.

At 49, Trudeau has faced tougher bouts and come out unscathed.

But after six years in power, his administration is showing signs of fatigue, and it's been an uphill battle for him to convince Canadians to stick with his Liberals after falling short of high expectations set in his 2015 landslide win.

"The main ballot box question at the start of this campaign was whether the Liberals deserved to have a majority government," said Daniel Beland, a politics professor at McGill University in Montreal.

"But now the question is whether they deserve to stay in power."

Going into the final stretch, the two main political parties that ruled Canada since its 1867 confederation were neck and neck with about 31 percent of voting intentions each and four smaller factions nipping at their heels. 




Voting across Canada's six time zones was scheduled to start in the Atlantic island province of Newfoundland at 1100 GMT and wrap up in westernmost British Columbia at 0200 GMT.

An estimated 27 million Canadians are eligible to cast a ballot to select 338 members of Parliament. To keep his job, Trudeau's Liberals must win a plurality of seats and take at least 170 for a majority.

Due to the pandemic, a significant number of mail-in ballots (1.2 million) are expected, which could mean the results of the election may not be known Monday evening.

Pollster and former political strategist Tim Powers advised not counting Trudeau out.

"I still think Justin Trudeau will win a minority government," he told AFP.

"But is that a win for him?" he added, suggesting Trudeau may be turfed as leader if the Liberals fare poorly at the ballot box.


 'Anti-vaxxer mobs' and China 'counterstrikes' 

The 36-day campaign  the shortest allowed under Canadian law – saw the contenders spar over climate actions, indigenous reconciliation, affordable housing, the recent Afghanistan crisis, mandatory Covid-19 inoculations and vaccine passports.

Rivals criticised Trudeau over the timing of the election during a pandemic.

Meanwhile, the 48-year-old O'Toole was knocked for his backing of Alberta and two other Tory-led provinces' loosening of public health restrictions too soon, with Covid-19 outbreaks now forcing their overwhelmed hospitals to fly patients across Canada for care.

At rallies, Trudeau was dogged by what he described as "anti-vaxxer mobs," including one that threw stones at him.

He also received endorsements from former US president Barack Obama and his former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

O'Toole, meanwhile, fumbled over gun control and was warned by Beijing, according to Chinese state media, that his proposed hardline on China – Canada's second-largest trading partner, with whom relations have soured over its detention of two Canadian nationals – would "invite counterstrikes."

Overall, commented Max Cameron, a professor at the University of British Columbia, "this hasn't been a polarising election. There's actually a lot of clustering around the middle."

"This isn't Republicans versus Democrats south of the border," he said, referring to the United States.

"This has been very much a Canadian campaign in which there's a strong consensus around what are the issues and how they have to be tackled."

O'Toole, a relative unknown who became Tory leader only last year, tracked his party to the political center, forcing the Liberals to compete for votes on the left with the New Democrats and Greens, as well as the separatist Bloc Quebecois.

The Conservatives, however, also saw their support clawed in the final week by former foreign minister Maxime Bernier's far right People's Party.

When the final count is in, said University of Winnipeg professor Felix Mathieu, "it's unlikely anyone will have obtained a majority."

Source: AFP



Progressives in Spain protest Colombian president Ivan Duque’s visit to Madrid

 Under Ivan Duque’s right-wing government, paramilitary violence and the humanitarian crisis escalated in Colombia, marked by the systematic murders of political activists, trade unionists, environmentalists, peasants, and Indigenous and Black people 

Progressive groups marched in Madrid to reject the invitation extended to Colombian president Ivan Duque to participate in the city's Book Fair. Photo: PCPE

Progressives and the Colombian groups in Spain protested the participation of Colombian president Ivan Duque at the Madrid Book Fair. On September 12, Sunday, various organizations, including Resistance Madrid-Colombia collectives and For Life, Peace and Justice, marched in the city protesting the invitation to Ivan Duque.

They allege that under his rule, there has been an increase in killings of Colombia’s trade unionists, peasants, and indigenous people. Left parties including the Communist Party of Peoples of Spain (PCPE), Spanish Communist Workers Party (PCOE), Communist Initiative, Proletarian Union, Red Network, etc. also took part in the march, denounced the participation of Ivan Duque in the book fair, and expressed solidarity with the people of Colombia. Ivan Duque will be visiting Madrid on September 16 and 17, as Colombia is the guest of honor at the Madrid Book Fair, which had been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Duque faced widespread international condemnation over his government’s response to the more than two-month-long general strike in Colombia which began on April 28. According to human rights organizations, more than 84 protesters were killed by government security forces.

The national strike, which started to oppose a neoliberal tax reform bill, transformed into a national struggle against the far-right government of President Ivan Duque and his austerity-driven policies and repression.

According to reports, in 2021 alone, 104 social leaders have been murdered in Colombia by security forces and the pro-government far-right militias in Colombia. Paramilitary violence and the humanitarian crisis escalated in Colombia in recent years, marked with the recurring murders of environmentalists, land defenders, human rights activists and leaders of Afro-descendent and indigenous communities, the selective killings of former combatants of the former FARC guerilla group, etc.

In the lead-up to the protest in Madrid against Ivan Duque’s visit, groups including the Communist Party of Peoples of Spain (PCPE), Spanish Communist Workers Party (PCOE), Communist Initiative, Proletarian Union, Red Network, etc. issued a joint statement demanding the Spanish government end military and police collaboration with Colombia and apply the Human Rights clause of the EU-Colombia Free Trade Agreement to hold the Colombian government accountable for its deeds.

In the statement, the communist groups have accused that Colombia is a narco-paramilitary state and President Iván Duque himself financed his political campaign with money from narcotraffickers. The statement has also criticized the Spanish government for inviting human rights violators like Ivan Duque to Spain and also for its complicity in the imperialist attacks against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

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China’s approach to the Taliban is more cautious than it looks


Experts tell TRT World that Beijing will adopt a careful approach to economic engagement with Afghanistan.

After the Taliban takeover of Kabul on August 15, the Chinese government struck an upbeat tone. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying called the militant group “clear-headed and rational”, while the special envoy for Afghanistan described it as “friendly”.

Beijing had for years built an amicable diplomatic relationship with the movement through secret meetings, which burst out into the open in July when the Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi publicly welcomed a high-level Taliban delegation to the northern city of Tianjin.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid recently referred to China as “our most important partner” which is “ready to invest and rebuild our country”, and the group has consistently refused to criticise Beijing’s alleged oppression of its ethnic Uighur population.

China is therefore well-placed to expand its influence in Afghanistan now that the US has left. Breathless western media coverage has predicted a surge of Chinese investment as Beijing seeks to capitalise on NATO’s exit.

Beijing has gloated over the American debacle in Afghanistan, which, it is claimed, offers further proof of the failure of the western democratic model and the superiority of China’s policy of ‘non-interference’.

But there is more trepidation in China than meets the eye. Behind the warm words about the Taliban, lies a cautious attitude to a group viewed by some as fundamentalist and allied with terrorist groups that threaten Chinese interests.

After the July meeting, China’s foreign ministry issued a statement insisting that the Taliban must “make a clean break” with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), an ethnic Uighur militant entity, and other terrorist organisations.

Damage at the Chinese Embassy after a suicide bombing in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, blamed on the ETIM in 2016. The Taliban is accused of maintaining links with the ETIM, also known as the Turkistan Islamic Party, which has sought for decades to establish an independent state in China’s far west.
Damage at the Chinese Embassy after a suicide bombing in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, blamed on the ETIM in 2016. The Taliban is accused of maintaining links with the ETIM, also known as the Turkistan Islamic Party, which has sought for decades to establish an independent state in China’s far west. (AP)

The Taliban reportedly has links to ETIM, and hosted the group in the 1990s during its previous regime. The UN has estimated that there are hundreds of ETIM members in Afghanistan.

The Taliban must abandon its former tradition of “harbouring and even working with terrorist groups” so there can be a “fresh start”, said Wang Huiyao, founder and president of the Center for China and Globalization.

If the Taliban “can work with all factions” and produce a “secure and peaceful Afghanistan”, then China might recognise the Taliban regime, Wang told TRT World. No country has yet recognised the new government, but the Chinese embassy in Kabul remains open.

Lin Minwang, a professor at Fudan University, told TRT World that, “although it is not absolutely certain that the Taliban will cut off ties with terrorist organisations, the Taliban will take China’s core interests into its consideration.”

In a recent interview, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said that the new regime would take measures to prevent ETIM from training, fundraising or recruiting fighters on Afghan territory.

But, when asked if the Taliban would extradite ETIM members to China, Shaheen “did not answer directly”. In the 1990s, the Taliban constrained ETIM at Beijing’s request, but did not expel it from Afghanistan.

There are also concerns in China that the Taliban retains an extremist ideology. Professor Pan Guang of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences said in an interview that, while the Taliban was different from twenty years ago, its “essence has not changed.”  

Zhu Yongbiao, an Afghanistan expert at Lanzhou University, agreed that “on the surface, they will definitely make some changes” but the group’s basic concepts “have not changed much”. “At the core, their regime is still a fundamentalist regime,” according to Zhu.

The Chinese public also appears to be sceptical. A video promoting the Taliban was posted on Weibo by state media outlet People’s Daily in August, only to face criticism for ignoring the group’s supposed links to terrorism. It was eventually taken down.

Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, left, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pose for a photo during their meeting in Tianjin, China, on July 28, 2021. While well-positioned to expand its influence post-US departure, Beijing's worries that Afghanistan under the Taliban could again become fertile ground for extremist groups.
Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, left, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pose for a photo during their meeting in Tianjin, China, on July 28, 2021. While well-positioned to expand its influence post-US departure, Beijing's worries that Afghanistan under the Taliban could again become fertile ground for extremist groups. (Li Ran / Xinhua via AP)

China has repeatedly called for an inclusive government in Afghanistan, but the new Taliban cabinet excludes women and members of other political groups, while containing individuals sanctioned by the US and UN.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi appeared to criticise the cabinet at a recent gathering when he said that the Taliban’s “positive statements” about governance and other issues “must be implemented in specific actions”.

Alienating key factions could fuel resistance against the new regime. After the US ousted the Taliban in 2001, it refused to incorporate remnants of the group into the new political order, giving them an incentive to rebel and launch an insurgency.

Beijing does not wish to see renewed instability across the border. “If Afghanistan is still in chaos in the future, China has reason to worry that it will likely become a hotbed of terrorist forces,” said Professor Hongda Fan of Shanghai International Studies University.

The Chinese government has long been concerned that NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan would destabilise the country and exacerbate threats against China’s interests, including in Pakistan and Central Asia where it has large investments.

“After the United States pulls troops out of Afghanistan, terrorist organizations positioned on the frontiers of Afghanistan and Pakistan may quickly infiltrate into Central Asia,” said President Xi in a secret speech leaked to the New York Times.

Wang Huiyao would like to see a greater role for the UN in Afghanistan. “If necessary, a UN peacekeeping force should be sent there,” Wang said, echoing other Chinese analysts, but hoped that the Taliban would be able to maintain order.

The uncertain security situation is likely to deter major Chinese investment, despite heated predictions in western media that Beijing will eagerly incorporate Afghanistan into its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and pounce on the country’s natural resources.

Recent terrorist attacks on Chinese workers in Pakistan, combined with the delayed progress of its economic plans there, will likely make companies even more hesitant to embroil themselves in another high-risk market.

Mei Xinyu, an economist at China’s Ministry of Commerce, urged caution in a recent article, arguing that Afghanistan’s development environment is “grim”, that the country is “insignificant” to the BRI and that “large-scale investment” should be “delayed”.

Beijing’s principal concern will be working to contain any security threats emanating from Afghanistan.
Beijing’s principal concern will be working to contain any security threats emanating from Afghanistan. (AP)

Ye Hailin, a South Asia expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, raised doubts about the Taliban’s ability to stabilise the country. If the group cannot govern, Ye warned, “the relevant countries will not be willing to regain investment”.

Scholars interviewed by TRT World agreed that China would adopt a careful approach to economic engagement. “China will go to Afghanistan to invest and carry out infrastructure projects only after the new Afghan government is stable,” said Hongda Fan.

While China will provide some humanitarian assistance, “Chinese investment will still be more cautious,” said Lin Minwang. Beijing has already offered more than $30 million of aid, including food and coronavirus vaccines.

Small- and medium-sized Chinese businesses have apparently continued to operate in Kabul after the Taliban takeover and appear eager to pursue new economic opportunities in the country.

But China’s state-owned enterprises are reportedly approaching Afghanistan with “extreme caution” according to Chinese state media. The risk of instability, combined with very limited infrastructure, are major obstacles to progress.

Chinese efforts to extract Afghanistan’s copious natural resources during the US-led war failed. In 2007 a consortium won the concession for copper extraction at Mes Aynak, but that project never got off the ground due to weak security and contractual issues.

Sanctions on the Taliban are another problem. An employee of MCC Group, one of the companies which secured the rights to Mes Aynak, said that sanctions “are something beyond our scope as an enterprise".

While China has managed to get around sanctions on Iran, to some extent, major projects have stalled and Chinese investments in the country remain lower than in the UAE. Rumours of a $400 billion China-Iran investment deal are believed to be greatly exaggerated.

A closer parallel to Afghanistan can be found in Syria, which has also been devastated by conflict and terrorism and now suffers under heavy western sanctions. China was expected to play a role in Syria’s reconstruction but its involvement has so far been minimal.

Neither the Taliban nor China’s foreign ministry responded to requests for comment.

Source: TRT World 

Rupert Stone is an Istanbul-based freelance journalist working on South Asia and the Middle East.


Central Bank of Turkey to test digital lira on new platform


The monetary authority will collaborate with technology stakeholders to establish the ‘Digital Turkish Lira Collaboration Platform’ to facilitate the research and development of a CBDC.

The Turkish central bank has established a new platform to expand research into the potential benefits of introducing a digital version of the Turkish lira.

The digital lira project, which started with the completion of the proof-of-concept phase, now moves on to the next stage with the participation of technology stakeholders.

On Wednesday, the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey (CBRT) said it secured agreements with defence and technology firms Aselsan, Havelsan, and the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) to cooperate for research and development of the digital currency.

The CBRT stated that it “continues to research the potential benefits of introducing a digital Turkish lira to complement the existing payments infrastructure.”

For the first phase, the bank will create a prototype “Digital Turkish Lira Network” and conduct limited, closed-circuit tests with the assistance of its new technology partners.

“Based on the results of those tests, the CBRT will unveil advanced phases of the pilot study that will reflect a broader participation,” the regulator said.

“The CBRT also plans to carry out tests that may diversify the coverage of the Digital Turkish Lira R&D Project into areas such as blockchain technology, the use of distributed ledgers in payment systems, and integration with instant payment systems.”

The monetary authority said the results of the first phase will be announced in 2022 after the tests are completed.

“After capacity measurements of different technological alternatives are completed and the architectural setups are finalised, it will be decided whether the existing technologies can meet the economic, legal and financial requirements of the digital Turkish lira.”


The rise of CBDCs

CBDCs are the digital form of fiat money, giving holders a direct claim on the central bank and allowing them to make instant electronic payments. CBDCs differ from digital money like cryptocurrencies, which are private and decentralised.

With the growing popularity of Bitcoin and the distributed ledger technology (DLT) that underpin cryptocurrencies, central banks around the world have been researching the concept and design of digital currencies for several years.

Turkey revealed its intentions to explore a central bank digital currency (CBDC) in 2019, after it was mentioned in President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Annual Presidential Program.

According to the Bank of International Settlements (BIS), 80 percent of central banks around the world are engaging in research, experimentation or development of CBDCs, with 40 percent already testing pilot programs.

China’s digital yuan trials are currently at the most advanced stage of any CBDC project to date. The US announced a series of private sector-led pilot programmes in May, while India and Nigeria announced in July their intentions to launch pilots in the near future.

Source: TRT World

The Texas abortion ban ensures only the privileged get access to reproductive care

 For too long, politicians relied on the Supreme Court to uphold the right to an abortion. Now that the Texas law has been allowed to take effect, its prime targets are low-income people of color. 

Organizations like the National Latina Institute have been mobilizing against the restrictive abortion ban. Photo: National Latina Institute

Texas, with the help of conservative justices on the US Supreme Court, has made abortion all but illegal for most pregnant people living within state borders. Republican state legislators passed a draconian and diabolically innovative bill that Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law in May ensuring that all abortions after six weeks of gestation can be subject to lawsuits brought by any individual anywhere against anyone involved in the procedure. That includes the patient, their medical provider, or even their Lyft driver. Those seeking abortions will likely need to leave Texas, effectively making the procedure out of reach of the poorest residents of the state.

Blair Wallace, of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, told, “We know the brunt of this will fall on our Black and brown communities and our poor communities the most.” Only those with the financial resources and ability to take time off work can travel to neighboring states to terminate a pregnancy. Already abortion providers in Louisiana are fielding calls from desperate Texans seeking abortions, leading to longer wait times.

Imani Gandy, senior legal analyst for, explained to me in an interview that the Texas law is “really, really pernicious,” because it is “using taxpayer dollars to provide a bounty for bounty hunters to go attacking or harassing abortion providers.”

In fact, the hundreds of Republican-led state-level legislative attacks against abortion have cost taxpayers millions of dollars in legal fees of both pro-choice and anti-abortion forces. According to the Washington Post, “states have paid at least $9.8 million in abortion providers’ [attorney] fees,” in the last four years alone. This is money that could be put to better use—such as providing health care to low-income residents that includes abortion and other reproductive medical care.

For a party that has been railing in favor of “individual liberties” when it comes to lifesaving masks and vaccinations during a pandemic, asserting that a series of electrical impulses between newly formed cells are more important than a person’s bodily autonomy is the height of hypocrisy and reeks of performative politics.

Indeed, Republicans may be victims of their own success, having relied on the Supreme Court for years to preserve the seminal Roe v. Wade precedent against most egregious anti-abortion laws in order to score political points with evangelical voters. According to one legal analyst for, Mark Joseph Stern, “it seems undeniable that Republicans did not anticipate this abrupt triumph over Roe, instead assuming that the Texas law would be blocked by the courts.”

Gandy called the Texas law “patently unconstitutional,” and pointed out that “no federal appeals court has upheld” it, which is why pro-choice activists and legal scholars had expected the nation’s highest court to intervene. Except that the Supreme Court is currently, as Gandy described, “hyperpartisan and captured by conservatives.”

Of the five justices who chose to let the ban remain, three were appointed by former President Donald Trump as a gift to evangelical voters. Robert P. Jones, author of White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity, wrote a year ago that “white evangelicals’ political behavior is animated by racial resentment,” and that this demographic “will be the most powerful force in hindering this work for racial justice and reconciliation.” Given that low-income people of color are likely to be the most impacted by the Texas ban, this prediction appears prescient.

It isn’t solely Trump’s fault that the right to an abortion is on its way out. Maine’s supposedly moderate and pro-choice Republican Senator Susan Collins in 2018 cast a deciding vote for Trump’s anti-abortion nominee for the Supreme Court. In voting to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was one of five justices choosing to let the Texas abortion ban stand, Collins now bears partial responsibility for beginning the end of abortion rights in the United States.

Even Democrats bear some blame. A party that has upheld the right to an abortion as the centerpiece of its feminist agenda has done remarkably little to ensure the law is preserved from the Supreme Court’s increasingly activist conservative justices. In the nearly 50 years since the Roe v. Wade decision, Democrats have enjoyed political power in the House, Senate, and White House simultaneously four times—under Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and now Joe Biden—and could have passed legislation protecting the constitutional right to an abortion so that it didn’t hinge on the Supreme Court’s political makeup.

In the short term, corporations like Uber and Lyft have offered to pay the legal fees of any of their drivers who might get sued for transporting a pregnant person to get an abortion. Some celebrities are announcing their own boycotts of the state of Texas, and the city of Portland, Oregon, is also considering a boycott.

But none of these commercial responses are a substitute for decisive government action ensuring that all Americans, especially low-income communities of color, have an equal right to access abortion care. In the wake of the Texas abortion ban taking effect, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House of Representatives would soon take up a vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act, which, if passed, would ensure that the right to an abortion was cemented in law.

While Gandy denounced Democratic inaction, saying, “we’ve had Democrats in office that have not bothered to codify Roe,” she added that the lawmakers’ inaction “really underscores how powerful the anti-abortion lobby is.” A majority of Americans support the right to an abortion, and yet the demands of the anti-abortion minority have held the nation hostage to its whims.

Although Biden’s Justice Department has filed a lawsuit and is seeking an injunction to stop the law from being enacted in Texas, critics point out that it is a long shot. Now, six other states, including Florida and Mississippi, are hoping to follow in Texas’ footsteps and pass similar abortion bans. The train has left the station, so to speak.

In addition to legislation like the Women’s Health Protection Act, activists want Biden to use his executive powers right now to protect abortion access. Kristin Ford of NARAL Pro-Choice America said, “The White House should make clear their commitment to this critical legislation to ensure no other state has the opportunity to follow in Texas’ footsteps.”

According to Gandy, “the bottom line is, there will always be abortion.” In light of the Texas ban, the questions center on “how people are going to access it, and who the lack of access is going to affect most—which is poor people, and people of color.”

Nations like Poland and Nigeria offer a glimpse of the mental and physical toll in store for Americans if the Texas ban were to take hold nationwide. Polish women are suffering from a mental health epidemic as a result of their nation’s abortion ban. In Nigeria, dangerous back-alley abortion procedures are endangering lives.

Other nations offer a different path. Shortly after the Texas ban took effect, Mexico’s Supreme Court decriminalized abortion, setting the stage for a nationwide legalization of the procedure. And, in France, where abortions are legal for pregnancies up to 12 weeks of gestation, the government says it will begin offering free contraception for everyone under the age of 25.

Here in the United States, California is bucking the terrifying state-by-state anti-abortion trend by considering a bill that will make the medical procedure cheaper, and even free of charge. Already it is one of only six states that require health insurance plans to cover abortion care. California State Senator Lena Gonzalez said, “We’re taking a stance, not just to make abortions available but to make them free and equitable.” Indeed, if such a trend were pursued nationally, the right to control one’s body would not be relegated to the privileged among us.

Sonali Kolhatkar is the founder, host and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. She is a writing fellow for the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute. 

Uttrakhand High Court confers designation of “Senior Advocate” to 40 Advocates.

 Uttarakhand High Court 

The Uttrakhand High Court has conferred designation of “Senior Advocate” to 40 advocates in the Full Court meeting. The designation has been done in view of the "Section 16(2) of Advocates Act 1961".

The notification issued by the Uttrakhand High Court notifies that “Hon'ble the Full Court has been pleased to designate the following Advocates as Senior Advocates of this Court in light of "Section 16(2) of Advocates Act, 1961.”

Section 16(2) of Advocates Act, 1861 entails that An advocate may, with his consent, be designated as senior advocate if the Supreme Court or a High Court is of opinion that by virtue of his ability, 3 [standing at the Bar or special knowledge or experience in law] he is deserving of such distinction.

About “Senior Advocate” Designation

Senior Advocate is an advocate who has been designated as such by either the Supreme Court or the High Court. A Senior Advocate cannot file a vakalathnama, appear in the Court without another advocate or advocate-on-record, cannot directly accept an engagement to appear in a case or draft pleadings.



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Understanding the Australia-UK-US alliance

 Newsclick’s Prabir Purkayastha analyses the recently announced AUKUS alliance and its positions on China. He also talks about the role of European powers and the economic consolidation of Eurasia

In this episode of Mapping Faultlines, Newsclick’s Prabir Purkayastha analyses the recently announced AUKUS alliance and its positions on China. He also analyses the role of European powers and the economic consolidation of Eurasia.

 source ; Newsclick 

Stockpiled vaccines must be given to poorer nations' – latest updates


Covid-19 has infected more than 229M people and killed over 4.7M. Here are virus-related developments for September 20:

Boxes of AstraZeneca vaccines, redeployed from the Democratic Republic of Congo, arrive at a cold storage facility in Accra, Ghana on May 7, 2021.
Boxes of AstraZeneca vaccines, redeployed from the Democratic Republic of Congo, arrive at a cold storage facility in Accra, Ghana on May 7, 2021. (Reuters)

Monday, September 20, 2021

Fauci: Data on booster shots weeks away

Data needed to determine the advisability of booster shots of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines is just weeks away, chief US medical adviser Dr Anthony Fauci said as officials signaled they expected boosters would be recommended for a broad swath of Americans.

US health regulators already have begun to consider a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. 

A US Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday recommended a third shot of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people age 65 and older or at high risk, but declined to endorse boosters for the wider population.

People who have received the two-dose Moderna vaccine or one-dose J&J vaccine are still awaiting guidance on possible booster shots.

Comedian Chris Rock contracts virus

Chris Rock said he has been diagnosed with the virus and sent a message to anyone still on the fence: “Get vaccinated.”

The 56-year-old comedian wrote on Twitter: “Hey guys I just found out I have COVID, trust me you don’t want this. Get vaccinated.”

Rock has previously said he was vaccinated. Appearing on “The Tonight Show” in May, he called himself “Two-shots Rock” before clarifying that he received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“You know, I skipped the line. I didn’t care. I used my celebrity, Jimmy,” he told host Jimmy Fallon.

'Stockpiled vaccines must be given to poorer nations'

A vaccine summit being hosted by US President Joe Biden must come up with a plan this week to transfer 100 million stockpiled vaccines to poorer countries before they reach their expiry date, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said.

Biden is due to convene a virtual summit on Wednesday on the margins of the UN General Assembly, aimed at boosting vaccinations worldwide with the goal of ending the pandemic by the end of 2022.

Brown said he had sent Biden and fellow G7 leaders research by Airfinity, a scientific information and analytics company, which found 100 million vaccines stockpiled in rich countries in the northern hemisphere would expire by December without being used.

Out of 5.7 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines administered around the world, only 2% have been in Africa.

Brazil registers 244 more deaths in 24 hours

Brazil registered 244 more deaths and 9,458 additional cases, according to data released by the nation's Health Ministry.

The South American country has now registered a total of 590,752 total deaths and 21,239,783 total confirmed cases.

On Saturday, Brazil registered over 150,000 cases, due to a backlog of cases in Rio de Janeiro that had not been previously reported to the Health Ministry.

Mexico adds nearly 5,000 new cases

Mexico reported 4,983 new confirmed cases and 200 deaths, according to Health Ministry data, bringing the total number of infections since the pandemic began to 3,569,677 and 271,503 fatalities.

The ministry has previously said the real numbers are likely significantly higher.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies