By Ben Blanchard BEIJING (Reuters) - Muslim extremists from China's far western region of Xinjiang have gone to the Middle East for training and some may have crossed into Iraq to participate in the upsurge of violence there, China's special envoy for the Middle East said on Monday. China has repeatedly expressed concern about the upsurge in violence in Iraq and the march of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which has seized much of the north of the country as Baghdad's forces there collapsed. ISIL has renamed itself the Islamic State and proclaimed the establishment of a caliphate on land it has captured in Syria and Iraq. Wu Sike, who has recently returned from the region, told reporters that China was extremely worried about the role of extremist groups in the fighting in Syria and Iraq. "Several hot spot issues in the Middle East have provided living space for terrorist groups, in particular the crisis in Syria has turned this country into a training ground for extremists from many countries," he said. "These extremists come from Islamic countries, Europe, North America and China. After being immersed in extremist ideas, when they return home they will pose a severe challenge and security risk to those countries," added Wu, who has 40 years of diplomatic experience in the Middle East and speaks Arabic. Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur people who speak a Turkic language, has been beset by unrest for years, blamed by Beijing on Islamist extremists who want to establish an independent state called East Turkestan. While many experts outside of China doubt these groups have anywhere near the abilities Beijing accuses them of, some Uighurs have made their way to Afghanistan and Pakistan in recent years. Wu would not put a number on how many Chinese citizens may be in the Middle East either fighting or being trained, saying that he understood from foreign media reports the figure to be about 100. "Mostly they are East Turkestan elements," Wu said, adding that this was one of the topics he talked about on his trip, especially when he was in Turkey, which is home to a large exiled Uighur population. "They won't necessarily all return (to China). Some will remain to participate in the conflict, perhaps crossing into Iraq," he said, without elaborating. U.S. intelligence agencies estimate around 7,000 of the 23,000 violent extremists operating in Syria are foreign fighters, mostly from Europe. China would do all it could to help Middle Eastern countries fight terror as this was also in China's best interests, Wu added. "China is a victim of extremist, terrorist activities, and our support for fighting terrorism in this region is beneficial to us too. As a result China and those countries are in a closely knit community of shared interests." China is Iraq's largest oil client, and its state energy firms, which include PetroChina, Sinopec Group and CNOOC Ltd, together hold more than a fifth of Iraq's oil projects after securing some of its fields through auctions in 2009. Wu, who studied in Iraq in the 1970s, said that despite the violence he was confident in the country's future and China's involvement in its energy sector. "In the long-run China has confidence in the political reconciliation and economic development of Iraq, so we have confidence in the future of this (energy) cooperation," he said. (Editing by Stephen Coates)
- The Telegraph
A tearful Prince Charles makes first public engagement since Prince Philip's death as he inspects flowers and tributes
The Prince of Wales appeared close to tears as he inspected the many flowers and tributes left for his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, by well-wishers today. Prince Charles, 72, accompanied by the Duchess of Cornwall, was clearly moved as he paid an emotional visit to Marlborough House Gardens to read some of the messages left by members of the public, his first engagement since the Duke’s death. Dressed in a blue suit with black tie, he bent to read the tributes, at times looking almost overcome by grief. The Duchess, dressed in black, also looked solemn as she bent to look at the messages, paying particular attention to a model Land Rover with the words “The Duke R.I.P” written on the roof. The flowers are among those left at Buckingham Palace and other royal residences. Although the Royal family asked members of the public to make a donation to charity in the Duke’s memory, rather than leave flowers, many opted to pay their respects in the traditional fashion. Each evening, the tributes are taken, with great care, to the private gardens at Marlborough House at St James’s Palace to be laid out by police officers.
- The Independent
‘Gutfeld! will be back tomorrow,’ news anchor Shannon Bream abruptly announced on Tuesday, just as the comedy show was supposed to begin
A viral video of an army sergeant pushing a Black resident in South Carolina and demanding that he leaves the neighborhood has now resulted in criminal charges. Initially uploaded on Facebook on Monday, the three-minute clip has circulated various media channels before the aggressor was identified as Jonathan Pentland, a 42-year-old U.S. Army sergeant in Columbia, S.C. Pentland has since been charged with third-degree assault, Washington Post reports.
- The Independent
Unveiling of outfits for Team USA and Canada attract controversy — for different reasons
- Associated Press
India's two largest cities imposed stringent restrictions on movement and one planned to use hotels and banquet halls to treat coronavirus patients as new infections in the country shot past 200,000 Thursday amid a devastating surge that is straining a fragile health system. The soaring cases and deaths come just months after India thought it had seen the worst of the pandemic — and have forced the country to delay exports of vaccines abroad. India is a major producer of COVID-19 shots, and its pivot to focus on domestic demand has weighed heavily on global efforts to end the pandemic.
- The Conversation
Vials of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The use of this particular vaccine has been halted temporarily. Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty ImagesA panel of experts met on April 14, 2021, to review evidence on blood clots that have been reported in seven people after they received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. The panel, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on immunization. It delayed voting on a recommendation to the CDC so that members can further evaluate risk and data. The clotting, which resulted in one woman’s death, led the CDC and FDA on April 13, 2021, to pause use of the J&J vaccine. Dr. William Petri, an infectious disease physician and immunologist at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, answers questions to help put this development in context. What is this potential side effect of the J&J vaccine for COVID-19? The potential side effect is a blood clot in the veins that drain blood from the brain. This is called central venous sinus thrombosis. In the vaccine-associated cases of this, platelets in blood, which are important for making clots, have been lower than normal. This same side effect has been seen in the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine that also uses an adenovirus to deliver the coronavirus spike glycoprotein. In the case of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the clotting disorder has been linked to antibodies against platelet factor 4 (PF4) that are apparently induced by the adenovirus backbone of the vaccine. This antibody causes the clotting disorder by activating platelets to clot. It is important to note that this disorder, called vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia, is not a problem with the mRNA-based Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. How many people have experienced this possible reaction? As of April 13, 2021, about one in a million: Six cases out of the 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine administered in the U.S. These six cases all occurred in women ages 18-48, and from 6 to 13 days after vaccination. That’s about half as likely as getting struck by lightning in a year. A seventh case was included in the ACIP review on April 14. What do I do if I got the J&J shot? The CDC and FDA are recommending that people who have received the J&J vaccine within the last 3 weeks who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath should contact their health care provider. This type of blood clot is treatable with the use of blood thinners or anticoagulants. If a patient has low platelets, however, a doctor would not prescribe the widely used anticoagulant heparin but instead another kind of blood thinner. Untreated, these blood clots can be fatal. CDC and FDA officials explain the reasons for halting the vaccine in a media call. What are the CDC and FDA specifically recommending for the J&J vaccine? Because of this rare occurrence, even though it has not been shown to be due to the vaccine, the CDC and FDA have recommended a pause in use of the J&J vaccine until these cases can be further reviewed. What are the next steps? The CDC convened a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on April 14, 2021. The ACIP is an independent board of 15 scientific and medical experts selected by the health and human services secretary that advises the CDC on vaccines for children and adults. People with ties to vaccine manufacturers are excluded from the ACIP membership because of potential conflict of interest. On April 14, ACIP reviewed the available evidence but did not vote on recommendations because panel members expressed concern that the panel needs more time to evaluate data and risks. The vaccine has been given to 3.8 million people in the past two weeks. Therefore, not enough time has passed to see whether other people might also experience these serious clots. The panel is expected to meet again within a week to 10 days. Is this similar to what happened with the AstraZeneca vaccine in Europe? A similar rare problem of blood clotting with low platelets in the cerebral venous sinus and also in the abdominal veins and arteries has been seen in connection with the use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine used in Europe. There, 182 cases were reported in 190 million doses – again, roughly 1 in 1 million people vaccinated. The European Medicines Agency investigated this and concluded that central venous sinus thrombosis with low platelets should be listed as a possible “very rare side effect” of the AstraZeneca vaccine. On April 13, 2021, Johnson & Johnson announced it was delaying the rollout of its vaccine in Europe in response to the U.S. review. What is the take-home message? The U.S. has a total of three vaccines authorized under emergency use authorization for COVID-19, and this side effect has not been observed in the other two vaccines, developed by Moderna and Pfizer. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines do not use the same technology used in the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines. So vaccination against COVID-19 can continue, while efforts are made to determine if the clotting disorder is related by chance or a true, but extremely rare, side effect of the J&J vaccine. I believe it is a testament to the emphasis by the CDC and FDA on vaccine safety that J&J vaccinations have been paused while this is studied by independent scientists and medical experts. This article was updated on April 14, 2021 to add additional research and the ACIP committee meeting.This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: William Petri, University of Virginia. Read more:6 important truths about COVID-19 vaccinesHow to get COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries – and still keep patent benefits for drugmakers William Petri receives research funding from the NIH, Gates Foundation, PBM C19, and Regeneron Inc.
- The New York Times
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott may have been overly optimistic Sunday when he said on Fox News that his state could be “very close” to herd immunity — the point where so much of the population is immune to COVID-19, either from being vaccinated or previously infected, that the virus can no longer spread. “When you look at the senior population, for example, more than 70% of our seniors have received a vaccine shot, more than 50% of those who are 50 to 65 have received a vaccine shot,” Abbott, a Republican, told Chris Wallace. Wallace had asked why statewide infection, hospitalization and death rates were more under control than in other states, despite Texas reopening many activities and eliminating mask mandates. “I don’t know what herd immunity is," Abbott said, "but when you add that to the people who have immunity, it looks like it could be very close to herd immunity.” Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times Michael Osterholm, a public health researcher and director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, said, “There is no way on God’s green earth that Texas is anywhere even close to herd immunity.” He added: “Look no further than Michigan and Minnesota, which have much higher rates of vaccination than Texas. And we’re already seeing widespread transmission.” About 19% of people in Texas are fully vaccinated, while the numbers are 22% in Michigan and 24% in Minnesota. Estimates of what it would take to reach herd immunity have edged up since the pandemic began, ranging from requiring immunity in 60% to more than 90% of the population to halt transmission. No one is sure what the level should be, Osterholm said. “Anybody who will tell you exactly what the level of herd immunity is is also likely to want to sell you a bridge.” He predicted that within a few weeks or a month, Texas and other parts of the U.S. south and west would see rising case rates like the levels now occurring in the Upper Midwest and Northeast. A major factor in the relentless spread of the virus is the increasing proportion of cases caused by the coronavirus variant first identified in Britain and known as B.1.1.7, which is more contagious than the form of the virus that first emerged. That variant “surely resets the meter” and makes herd immunity harder to achieve, Osterholm said. Additional variants could further complicate the forecast. “These variants are game changers,” he said. “They really are. It’s really remarkable.” This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
- The Telegraph
The Taliban have denounced the new American plan for troops to quit the country by September 11, saying it breaches an earlier agreement negotiated with Donald Trump. Joe Biden's decision to leave America's longest war before the symbolic anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, rather than May 1 as agreed under Mr Trump , will justify “countermeasures” the insurgent movement said. The hardline Islamist militants made their first official response to Mr Biden's announcement of an unconditional withdrawal, as America's top diplomat visited Kabul to try to sell the pull out. A statement from the insurgents said that “delaying the withdrawal date of forces by several months, all makes evident to the world that America cannot be trusted nor is it committed to its pledges and promises.” It went on: “Now as the agreement is being breached by America, it in principle opens the way for the Mujahideen of Islamic Emirate to take every necessary countermeasure, hence the American side will be held responsible for all future consequences, and not the Islamic Emirate.” Joe Biden confirmed earlier this week that he would pull troops out of Afghanistan 20 years after they first arrived to topple the Taliban regime harbouring Osama bin Laden. Mr Biden's secretary of state, Antony Blinken, flew to Kabul on Thursday to show support for the Afghan government hours after the White House had announced an unconditional withdrawal. Ashraf Ghani's government is heavily reliant on American support in the face of the Taliban, but has claimed it can stand without US troops. Mr Blinken tried to reassure Mr Ghani that the United States would remain committed to Afghanistan, saying Washington will "intensify" its diplomacy to do "everything we can" to advance efforts to secure a peace agreement between Kabul and the insurgents. "The reason I'm here, so quickly after the president’s speech last night, is to demonstrate literally, by our presence, that we have an enduring an ongoing commitment to Afghanistan," he said.
Legal and psychological experts weighed in on James Charles' claim that desperation led to his sexting scandal.
- The Independent
The bill aims to expand the number of Supreme Court justices from nine to 13
- The Independent
The company’s revenue has tripled since the change was implemented
- The Independent
Sanctions follow allegations of election interference and a hacking campaign
A 24-year-old American golfer who isn't even on the PGA Tour yet won $1.2 million at the Masters and is reveling in his newfound fame
Will Zalatoris beat all but one player at the Masters this weekend in his debut at Augusta National.
- The Independent
Changes to official badge follow months of debates and research into its origins
- The Independent
‘Congress itself is the target’: Capitol police overlooked intel and were ordered to hold back during riot, report finds
Days before attack, law enforcement officials were warned Stop the Steal campaign could attract ‘white supremacists, militia members’ and other violent groups
- Associated Press
At its start, America’s war in Afghanistan was about retribution for 9/11. Then it was about shoring up a weak government and its weak army so that Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida could never again threaten the United States. With bin Laden long since dead and the United States not suffering another major attack, President Joe Biden is promising to end America’s longest war and move on to what he believes are bigger, more consequential challenges posed by a resurgent Russia and a rising China.
- Associated Press
A bus overturned while trying to pass a truck on a highway in southern Egypt on Tuesday, causing a collision that killed at least 21 people and injured three others, authorities said. The bus was travelling from Cairo when it turned over and was hit by the truck on a road in the southern province of Assiut, 320 kilometers (199 miles) south of Cairo, Assiut Gov. Essam Saad said in a statement. The country’s public prosecutor's office said the road was being reconstructed and there were no lights or traffic signs.
- Kansas City Star
“She still cannot walk, talk or eat like a normal 5-year-old,” family said in an update on their GoFundMe page.
- The Independent
Journalist hit in face with non-lethal round while covering protests over police killing of Daunte Wright
The incident is one of many police attacks against journalists during protests
- The Independent
Kim Potter: Former police officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright arrested on manslaughter charges
Killing of 20-year-old Black man has sparked protests and unrest in Minnesota city