• Associated Press

    Suicide attack, roadside bomb kill 6 police in Afghanistan

    A suicide truck bomber targeted a police district headquarters in Afghanistan's southern Kandahar province on Wednesday, killing three officers, a local official said. Three other police officers, including a district police chief, were killed in a roadside bombing in eastern Ghazni province. The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks.

  • Lives at risk as trafficking in faulty masks, other gear surges: UN
    AFP Relax News

    Lives at risk as trafficking in faulty masks, other gear surges: UN

    Lives are at risk as the new coronavirus pandemic has led to a surge in the trafficking of substandard masks, sanitisers and other medical products, the UN warned Wednesday. Organised criminal groups -- exploiting fears and uncertainties surrounding the virus -- are providing such products to cater to a sudden surge in demand and the supply gap, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in a report. UNODC said it expected criminals to shift their focus to vaccine-related trafficking once one was developed.

  • Reuters

    Criminals cash in on rush to buy coronavirus protective gear, U.N. says

    A rush by countries to buy personal protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic has created an opportunity for criminal groups, which are peddling sub-standard equipment and likely to move on to medicines soon, a U.N. report said on Wednesday. Criminals have adapted quickly, also running scams where no equipment is supplied at all, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in the report. It gave few specific examples of criminal groups supplying PPE but it said Argentina had placed under investigation an organisation making hand sanitizer, face masks and other PPE that was not authorised for distribution.

  • Australia isolates virus-prone state, Serbs oppose lockdown
    Associated Press

    Australia isolates virus-prone state, Serbs oppose lockdown

    Australia isolated the state of Victoria on Wednesday in a bid to contain the worsening spread of the coronavirus as the city of Melbourne prepared for its second lockdown, an example of a resurgent disease in places that initially succeeded in taming it. Melbourne’s failure to curb the virus in the past three weeks is a starkly different pandemic experience to other parts of the country that have been reporting single-digit daily counts of infections if any. In Serbia, chaos erupted as thousands of protesters fought running battles with police and tried to storm the parliament building in Belgrade on Tuesday after the president announced that a coronavirus lockdown will be reintroduced in the Balkan country.

  • Wedding season brings new virus outbreak in West Bank
    Associated Press

    Wedding season brings new virus outbreak in West Bank

    By the end of May, the Palestinian Authority appeared to have quashed a coronavirus outbreak in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, with only around 400 confirmed cases and just two fatalities in the territory, following a nearly three-month lockdown. Then the wedding invitations went out. Over the last few weeks, infections have skyrocketed across the West Bank, with more than 4,000 new cases and an additional 15 deaths.

  • Bloomberg

    Iraq’s Prime Minister Kadhimi Can Turn Tragedy Into Opportunity

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- For Iraq, the murder of a well-known scholar in Baghdad is a tragedy that stands out from an abundance of adversity. For Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, it is also a leadership test — and just possibly, a political opportunity.The scholar, Husham al-Hashimi, was shot dead on Monday night by gunmen on motorcycles. He was an expert on the Islamic State and Al Qaeda and had advised the government on terrorism and extremist groups. In the past year, he had been focusing more on the Shiite militias, many of them backed by Iran, that permeate Iraqi security and political structures.His trenchant criticism earned him their hatred: His friends say Hashimi received death threats from these groups. And his killing fits a pattern of assassinations. Although nobody has as yet claimed responsibility, the militias must be prime suspects.Prime Minister Kadhimi has promised to bring the killers to justice. The militias represent the greatest threat to social and political order in Iraq. His predecessors have tried, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, to bring them to heel. None of them got very far. Kadhimi might, if he can take advantage of a series of fortunate circumstances — in addition to the unfortunate one of Hashimi’s murder.Kadhimi’s background makes him uniquely qualified for the task. As a former head of Iraqi intelligence, he knows more about the militias than the average politician. His previous job required him to develop relationships in Washington — or more accurately, with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency — and in Tehran.Another crucial element in place is Kadhimi’s choice to lead counter-terrorism operations: He has reinstated Lt. Gen. Abdul Wahab al-Saadi, who was demoted last year by former Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, apparently under pressure from Iran.Kadhimi could also benefit from Tehran’s travails. Caught between American sanctions and a resurgent Covid-19 outbreak, Iran is reportedly struggling to support its Iraqi proxies. Monthly payments to the Shiite groups have been slashed — consolation gifts of silver rings have been poorly received.Iran has not been able to compensate for the loss of its chief puppet-master, Qassem Soleimani, and his Iraqi cats-paw, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who were killed in an American drone strike at the start of the year. Soleimani’s successor, Esmail Ghaani, has struggled to control the militias, who have not been able to rally around a Muhandis-like local leader.Since becoming prime minister in May, Kadhimi has tried fitfully to rein in some of the militias. He ordered raids against prominent groups like Kataib Hezbollah, but those arrested have quickly been released. He has warned groups to end rocket attacks on U.S. targets, but these have continued.What Kadhimi has lacked is the full backing of parliament, where many Shiite politicians take their orders from Tehran, and from ordinary Iraqis. Although he has promised to address the grievances of the young protesters whose “October Revolution” brought down his predecessor, they view him with suspicion as a creature of the discredited political establishment.To take on the militias and their Iranian masters, Kadhimi will need more support from Iraqis of all stripes and from the international community. In the hands of a skillful politician, Hashimi’s murder could serve this cause. The scholar had been popular with the protesters, who have faced the bullets and truncheons of the militias. Although the October revolutionaries have lost some steam since the early spring — thanks to the pandemic and the withdrawal of support from a radical Shiite cleric-politician — the murder could galvanize them.The United Nations, European Union, the United Kingdom and other international representatives have condemned the killing. (Even the Islamic Republic felt obliged to summon some faux dismay.) Kadhimi must now ask for actions to follow words: greater military and intelligence support for Iraq, and diplomatic pressure on Iran.Kadhimi could fail. Tehran retains substantial influence in Baghdad and the will to use it. Even allowing for Iran’s reduced support, the militias are capable of bloodying the nose of any force Kadhimi might muster against them. The Iraqi economy has been devastated by low oil prices and the pandemic. And Kadhimi has yet to demonstrate the political adroitness required to turn a tragedy into an opportunity.Now would be a good moment to start.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Bobby Ghosh is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He writes on foreign affairs, with a special focus on the Middle East and the wider Islamic world.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Associated Press

    UN states reach deal on declaration marking 75th anniversary

    The 193 members of the United Nations reached agreement on a declaration to commemorate this year’s 75th anniversary of the world organization, recalling the U.N.’s successes and failure and vowing to build a post-pandemic world that is more equal, works together, and protects the planet. General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande announced the agreement Tuesday in a letter to U.N. members. Born out of the horrors of World War II with a mission to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, the United Nations is praised in the declaration as the only global organization that “gives hope to so many people for a better world and can deliver the future we want.”

  • Monuments and statues are falling. But what comes next?
    Associated Press

    Monuments and statues are falling. But what comes next?

    Here, five decades ago, this poor northern New Mexico community saw one of the most violent clash in civil rights history when armed Mexican American ranchers raided a courthouse in a dispute over land grants. It shocked the nation and helped trigger the Chicano Movement. Today, there’s almost nothing in town to honor this historic moment, except for graffiti art on an abandoned gas station and a sentence on a marker.

  • 'Desperation science' slows the hunt for coronavirus drugs
    Associated Press

    'Desperation science' slows the hunt for coronavirus drugs

    “People had an epidemic in front of them and were not prepared to wait,” said Dr. Derek Angus, critical care chief at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Researchers in the United Kingdom managed to enroll one of every six hospitalized COVID-19 patients into a large study that found a cheap steroid called dexamethasone helps and that a widely used malaria drug does not. The study changed practice overnight, even though results had not been published or reviewed by other scientists.

  • Japan battered by more heavy rain, floods, nearly 60 dead
    Associated Press

    Japan battered by more heavy rain, floods, nearly 60 dead

    Pounding rain that already caused deadly floods in southern Japan was moving northeast Wednesday, battering large areas of Japan's main island, swelling more rivers, triggering mudslides and destroying houses and roads. Parts of Nagano and Gifu, including areas known for scenic mountain trails and hot springs, were flooded by massive downpours. Footage on NHK television showed a swollen river gouging into the embankment, destroying a highway, while in the city of Gero, the rising river was flowing just below a bridge.

  • Envoy says US ready to resume talks with North Korea
    Associated Press

    Envoy says US ready to resume talks with North Korea

    President Donald Trump’s point man to North Korea said Wednesday that the U.S. administration is ready to resume stalled nuclear negotiations despite the North’s repeated claims that it has no immediate intent for dialogue with Washington. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun spoke to reporters following meetings with South Korean officials in Seoul, where they reaffirmed the allies' commitment toward a diplomatic approach in resolving the nuclear standoff with the North but avoided specific answers on what was discussed. The meetings came hours after the North’s state media reported that leader Kim Jong Un visited a mausoleum in Pyongyang to pay tribute to his late grandfather and state founder Kim Il Sung on the anniversary of his death.

  • Exhausted cities face another challenge: a surge in violence
    Associated Press

    Exhausted cities face another challenge: a surge in violence

    Still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic and street protests over the police killing of George Floyd, exhausted cities around the nation are facing yet another challenge: a surge in shootings that has left dozens dead, including young children. The spike defies easy explanation, experts say, pointing to the toxic mix of issues facing America in 2020: an unemployment rate not seen in a generation, a pandemic that has killed more than 130,000 people, stay-at-home orders, rising anger over police brutality, intense stress, even the weather. “I think it’s just a perfect storm of distress in America," said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms after a weekend of bloodshed in her city.

  • US general sees smaller but enduring troop presence in Iraq
    Associated Press

    US general sees smaller but enduring troop presence in Iraq

    Six months after a deadly American airstrike in Baghdad enraged Iraqis and fueled demands to send all U.S. troops home, the top U.S. general for the Middle East is talking optimistically about keeping a smaller, but enduring military presence there. Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, met Tuesday with Iraq's new prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, and said afterward that he believes the Iraqis welcome the U.S. and coalition troops, especially in the ongoing fight to keep Islamic State militants from taking hold of the country again. “I believe that going forward, they’re going to want us to be with them,” McKenzie told a small group of reporters, speaking by phone hours after he left Iraq.

  • Brazil's president says hydroxychloroquine to cure his virus
    Associated Press

    Brazil's president says hydroxychloroquine to cure his virus

    Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro says he is confident that he will swiftly recover from the new coronavirus thanks to treatment with hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug that has not been proven effective against COVID-19. Bolsonaro said he tested positive for the new coronavirus on Tuesday after months of downplaying its severity while deaths mounted rapidly inside the country. As of Tuesday, his fever had subsided, he said, and he attributed the improvement to hydroxychloroquine.

  • Mary Kay Letourneau, teacher jailed for raping student, dies
    Associated Press

    Mary Kay Letourneau, teacher jailed for raping student, dies

    Mary Kay Letourneau, a teacher who married her former sixth-grade student after she was convicted of raping him in a case that drew international headlines, has died. Letourneau was a married mother of four having difficulties with her marriage in 1996 when Vili Fualaau was a precocious 12-year-old in Letourneau’s class at Shorewood Elementary in Burien, a south Seattle suburb. Letourneau, then 34, initially told officers the boy was 18, raising suspicions that something sexual was going on.

  • Window into virus surge: Death, recovery at Houston hospital
    Associated Press

    Window into virus surge: Death, recovery at Houston hospital

    Ten people, each in two layers of protective equipment, surrounded her hospital bed. At the foot of the bed, Dr. Joseph Varon called out a rhythm: one-two, one-two, one-two. At least 10 people who were at the funeral later developed coronavirus symptoms, according to her daughter, who fell sick herself.

  • China blackmailing dissenters in US to return home – FBI chief
    The Guardian

    China blackmailing dissenters in US to return home – FBI chief

    Christopher Wray condemns campaign against ex-pats and says Beijing espionage is ‘greatest threat to US economic vitality’Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, the FBI director has said.In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property and to our economic vitality”, Christopher Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves.Fox Hunt was launched six years ago by President Xi Jinping, ostensibly to pursue corrupt officials and business executives who had fled abroad. Beijing has celebrated its claimed successes, publicising the return of hundreds of economic fugitives, and issuing wanted lists of those still at large. The Obama administration complained about the activities of undercover agents in 2015.Wray said the operation’s principal aim now was to suppress dissent among the diaspora.He told the Hudson Institute in Washington: “China describes Fox Hunt as some kind of international anti-corruption campaign. It is not. Instead, Fox Hunt is a sweeping bid by Xi to target Chinese nationals who he sees as threats and who live outside of China, across the world.“We’re talking about political rivals, dissidents and critics seeking to expose China’s extensive human rights violations.”The FBI director said: “Hundreds of these Fox Hunt victims that they target live right here in the United States, and many are American citizens or green card holders. The Chinese government wants to force them to return to China, and China’s tactics to accomplish that are shocking.“For example, when it couldn’t locate one Fox Hunt target, the Chinese government sent an emissary to visit the target’s family here in the US. The message they said to pass on: the target had two options, returned to China promptly or commit suicide.”Wray said that Fox Hunt operations, directed by China’s ministry of public security, were also under way in other countries, and the FBI had been cooperating with its partners to foil Chinese efforts at intimidation. He said Chinese nationals in the US were often coerced by thinly veiled threats against their families back in China.Asked about other coercive tactics used, he replied: “Use your imagination. You’re not going to be far off.”He appealed to anyone in the US who thought they were a Fox Hunt target to “please reach out to your local FBI field office”.Wray portrayed China as an aggressive rival with little or no regard for international or national laws. He said that nearly half the FBI’s 5,000 active counter-intelligence cases were China-related.“We’ve now reached a point where the FBI is now opening a new China-related counterintelligence case every 10 hours,” he said. “Of the nearly 5,000 active counterintelligence cases currently underway across the country, almost half are related to China.”China was using leverage, pressure or persuasion through intermediaries on federal, state and local officials, as well as US corporations and media, to win support for Chinese foreign policy positions. Wray said such efforts had been stepped up during the coronavirus outbreak, aimed at generating praise for Beijing’s handling of the pandemic.Although he did not say whether China backed either Donald Trump or his presumptive Democratic rival, Joe Biden, he claimed China was pushing its preferences for the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.“China’s malign foreign influence campaign targets our policies, our positions, 24/7, 365 days a year,” Wray said. “So it’s not an election-specific threat; it’s really more of an all-year, all-the-time threat. But certainly that has implications for elections and they certainly have preferences that go along with that.”The FBI director said that China was also involved in mass hacking, identity theft and intellectual property espionage, and there are 1,000 investigations into “China’s actual and attempted theft of technology” in all the bureau’s 56 field offices.“The people of the United States are the victims of what amounts to Chinese theft on a scale so massive that it represents one of the largest transfers of wealth in human history,” Wray said.He said China was “engaged in a whole-of-state effort to become the world’s only superpower by any means necessary”. “The stakes could not be higher.”In an interview on Tuesday, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said that the US was considering banning the social media platform TikTok and other Chinese-made apps.India banned TikTok and over 50 other Chinese apps last week, in the wake of clashes on the China-India border in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed.“We’re certainly looking at it,” Pompeo told Fox News. “With respect to Chinese apps on people’s cellphones, I can assure you the United States will get this one right. I don’t want to get out in front of the president, but it’s something we’re looking at.”

  • AP Explains: Bolsonaro has downplayed virus fears for months
    Associated Press

    AP Explains: Bolsonaro has downplayed virus fears for months

    Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for months flirted with the new coronavirus as he flouted social distancing at lively demonstrations and encouraged crowds during outings from the presidential residence, often without a mask. Here's a look at what Bolsonaro has said as the tally grew.

  • US gives formal notice it is withdrawing from World Health Organisation next year
    The Independent

    US gives formal notice it is withdrawing from World Health Organisation next year

    The US announced it would withdraw from the World Health Organisation in a statement Tuesday.The United Nations announced the country would withdraw from the organisation after it received a letter from president Donald Trump more than a month ago.

  • Associated Press

    Russia and China veto cross-border aid to Syria's northwest

    Russia and China vetoed a U.N. resolution Tuesday that would maintain two border crossing points from Turkey to deliver humanitarian aid to Syria’s mainly rebel-held northwest for a year, which the United Nations says is crucial to save millions of lives. Russia, Syria's close ally, immediately circulated a draft Security Council resolution that would authorize the delivery of aid through a single crossing point from Turkey for six months.

  • Missouri kid camp virus outbreak raises questions of safety
    Associated Press

    Missouri kid camp virus outbreak raises questions of safety

    Missouri leaders knew the risk of convening thousands of kids at summer camps across the state during a pandemic, the state's top health official said, and insisted that camp organizers have plans in place to keep an outbreak from happening. An overnight summer camp in rural southwestern Missouri has seen scores of campers, counselors and staff infected, the local health department revealed this week, raising questions about the ability to keep kids safe at what is a rite of childhood for many. Missouri is one of several states to report outbreaks at summer camps.

  • Hezbollah chief blasts US envoy as 'military ruler'
    AFP

    Hezbollah chief blasts US envoy as 'military ruler'

    Hezbollah chief Hasan Nasrallah Tuesday blasted the US ambassador to Lebanon as a "military ruler" who was inciting tensions after she accused the party of stealing billions from state coffers. Tensions have soared between the powerful Iran-backed Shiite party and the outspoken envoy, Dorothy Shea, since she accused the party last month of spiriting away billions of dollars of state money at a time of acute economic crisis.

  • Reuters

    WHO says received reports of U.S. formal withdrawal

    The World Health Organization has received reports that the United States formally notified the U.N. Secretary General of its withdrawal from the WHO, it said on Tuesday, but has no further information at this stage. "We have received reports that the US has submitted formal notification to the UN Secretary General that it is withdrawing from WHO effective 6 July 2021," a spokesman said in an emailed statement. The United Nations earlier on Tuesday said it received formal notification of the decision by President Donald Trump more than a month ago.

  • Reuters

    UK would leave the EU on Australia terms if no deal reached, Johnson tells Merkel

    Britain is prepared to leave the European Union on the same terms as Australia has with the bloc if it cannot agree on a future trading deal, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Germany's Angela Merkel in a telephone call on Tuesday. "On the future relationship, the prime minister underlined the UK's commitment to working hard to find an early agreement out of the intensified talks process," a Downing Street spokeswoman said. "He also noted that the UK equally would be ready to leave the transition period on Australia terms if an agreement could not in the end be reached."

  • Trump Administration Officially Begins United States' Withdrawal From World Health Organization
    Complex

    Trump Administration Officially Begins United States' Withdrawal From World Health Organization

    A senior administration official confirmed the White House has submitted a formal notice of withdrawal to members of Congress and the United Nations.