WHO halts hydroxychloroquine trial for coronavirus

The World Health Organization said that it will temporarily drop hydroxychloroquine – the malaria drug US President Trump said he is taking – from its global study into experimental COVID-19 treatments, saying that its experts need to review all available evidence to date.

In a news briefing on Monday, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that in light of a paper published last week in the Lancet, that showed people taking hydroxychloroquine were at higher risk of death and heart problems than those that were not, there would be “a temporary pause” on the hydroxychloroquine arm of its global clinical trial.

“This concern relates to the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine in COVID-19,” Tedros said, adding that the drugs are accepted treatments for people with malaria or auto-immune diseases.

Burundi election commission says Ndayishimiye new president

Burundi’s election commission has declared the governing party’s candidate, Evariste Ndayishimiye, as the winner of the country’s presidential election.

The retired army general won 68.72 percent of the votes in last week’s ballot, while Agathon Rwasa, the main opposition leader, received 24.19 percent, the body said on Monday.

Since Ndayishimiye has received over 50 percent of the vote, he has avoided a runoff.

Ndayishimiye was picked by the governing CNDD-FDD party to succeed outgoing President Pierre Nkurunziza, whose controversial decision to seek a third term in the last election in 2015 sparked mass unrest, violence and an opposition boycott.

Before the officials results came in, Rwasa had already alleged foul play, saying early numbers showing his National Congress for Liberty party heading for a bruising defeat were a “fantasy”.

The commission said that 87.7 percent of registered voters had turned out to cast their ballots in last week’s elections, which also included the election of members of parliament and local officials.

First democratic transfer in 58 years

The May 20 vote, which was contested by seven presidential hopefuls, is meant to usher in the first democratic transfer of power in 58 years of independence.

There were few international election monitors on Wednesday after the government said they would have to spend 14 days in quarantine to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Rwasa has already hinted he would not take to the streets in protest and would appeal to the Constitutional Court, though he considers the process imperfect. The final election results will be declared by the Constitutional Court on June 4.

Ndayishimiye is expected to be sworn in for a seven-year term in late August, when Nkurunziza’s term ends.

It is unclear whether Ndayishimiye would be able to rule free from interference by Nkurunziza, who in February was elevated by Parliament to the rank of “supreme guide for patriotism” and will remain chairman of the party’s highly influential council of elders.

Burundi has been increasingly isolated since the 2015 election, when eruptions of violence left at least 1,200 dead and saw 400,000 flee the country.

Persisting turmoil has lead foreign donors to cut ties, further scuttling the economy of Burundi, one of the poorest country’s in the world.

Meanwhile, accusations of major human rights violations have escalated. 

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

I almost quit Barca – Messi

Lionel Messi has revealed how he ‘wanted to leave’ Barcelona in 2016 due to the scrutiny on him amid a tax row with the Spanish government.

Messi is the finest player in LaLiga and league chief Javier Tebas has previously admitted he was left ‘scared’ at the idea the Argentine could leave.

Speaking to radio station RAC1, Messi explained how along with his father Jorge he felt he was being ‘mistreated’.

The pair were found guilty of tax fraud and handed a 21-month suspended prison sentence.

“At that time, with the mess of the treasury, I wanted to leave, not for wanting to leave Barca but wanting to leave Spain,” Messi told RAC1.

“I felt that I was being very mistreated and I didn’t want to stay here. I never had an official offer because everyone knew my idea to stay here.

“It was very difficult for me and my family because people don’t know much about what’s going on.

The truth is that it was hard for everything that happened but it is better that my children were small and did not know. It was very difficult for me and my family because people don’t know much about what’s going on.”

The case found that Messi, along with Jorge, was guilty of defrauding the Spanish government of €4.1m between 2007 and 2009.

A ruling found them guilty of using tax havens in Belize and Uruguay to conceal earnings from image rights, leading Messi to contemplate his footballing future in the country.

Messi subsequently appealed the verdict in 2017 and it was rejected by Spain’s Supreme Court – instead, it was changed to a £223,000 fine. Jorge’s sentence was also reduced from a 15-month sentence to a €180,000 fine.

One million jobs: The price of Mexico’s virus lockdown

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador says the novel coronavirus could cost up to one million jobs, as many industries considered not essential remain shut.

The Mexican economy was already in recession before the pandemic struck and some investment banks have forecast an economic contraction as large as 9 percent this year, with only a gradual recovery in 2021.

“My prediction is that with coronavirus, a million jobs will be lost,” Lopez Obrador said in a televised speech on Sunday. “But we will create two million new jobs.”

The job loss number matches the estimate by the country’s business coordinating council, CCE.

Lopez Obrador’s government has repeatedly said it has the outbreak under control but has since posted record numbers for new cases and deaths.

Earlier this month, his government issued guidelines for restarting operations in carmaking, mining and construction in Latin America’s second-largest economy that is linked to the United States and Canada through a free trade agreement.

Lopez Obrador said on May 14 that the reopening of economic, social and educational activities would be “cautious and gradual”, beginning with regions of the country least affected by the disease. The plan includes a “traffic light” coding system that will inform the public in different states which businesses and activities are safe to resume.

In April, the finance ministry said in an annual economic report used to guide the budget that the economy could contract by as much as 3.9 percent this year, adding that the numbers incorporated a “drastic” impact from coronavirus.

SOURCE: REUTERS NEWS AGENCY

Coronavirus: Nightclubs reopen in China

Nightclubs have begun to reopen in China as coronavirus curbs are eased.

All customers have to give their names and numbers before entering and go through a temperature check.

Charles Guo, owner of 44KW in Shanghai, told Reuters that business was slow to begin with because people were “quite worried about their safety” but had picked up by the end of last month.

All staff wear masks and gloves, while door handles, toilets and other surfaces are disinfected every hour. Customers are not required to wear masks, but hand santiser is freely available and drinks are served in disposable glasses.

Russia seeks 18-year prison term for ex-US Marine in spy trial

Prosecutors in Russia’s spy trial have asked a court to sentence former US Marine Paul Whelan to 18 years in prison for allegedly accepting state secrets, according to his lawyer.

Monday’s court session in Moscow saw lawyers on both sides make their closing arguments, ending a proceeding that has strained ties with Washington and fuelled speculation of a prisoner exchange.

Paul Whelan’s lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov told reporters that the prosecutor had requested 18 years “in a harsh regime colony” for his client.

“To be honest, we are in shock,” he said outside the court, where the trial was held behind closed doors.

Whelan reacted calmly to the prosecutor’s “very harsh” demand, the lawyer said. “He is behaving with dignity.”

Zherebenkov said the prosecutor believed Whelan to be an officer – “at least a colonel” – at the US defence intelligence agency.

Whelan said in court that “he did not do any spying and was not collecting any secret information”, the lawyer said.

The sentencing of the 50-year-old US national, who also holds British, Canadian and Irish passports, is expected on June 15.

Whelan was arrested in December 2018. He has said he visited Russia to attend a wedding and was framed when he took a USB drive from an acquaintance thinking it contained holiday photos.

“In a just system, the court would acquit Paul based on the lack of evidence,” Whelan’s brother David said in a statement before the hearing. “But we expect a wrongful conviction and can only hope that the sentence is at the lighter end of the range.”

The trial, which began in March this year, has continued behind closed doors in a Moscow courtroom despite the coronavirus pandemic and diplomatic protests.

The US has condemned Whelan’s detention saying there was insufficient evidence to hold him.

US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan criticised Whelan’s treatment in detention last month, saying it was “intolerable” that he was being barred access to medical care and has not been allowed to speak to the family.

Whelan, who was head of global security of a US auto parts supplier at the time of his arrest, last year asked for the prosecutor and judge to be removed from the case.

He claimed that evidence he provided was ignored and the court was biased in favour of the prosecution and security services.

He used earlier court hearings to appeal to journalists and US President Donald Trump, and claimed he was being mistreated, not given full translations of documents and rarely granted access to his lawyer.

Russian authorities have barred journalists and embassy employees from attending recent hearings because of the coronavirus epidemic.

Zherebenkov said three defence witnesses failed to show up to a hearing last week over coronavirus fears.

Whelan’s case has raised speculation that the US and Russia could be positioning themselves for a prisoner swap, possibly involving Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, imprisoned in the US on drug smuggling charges.

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: AC Milan striker suffers calf injury

AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic suffered a problem with his calf in training on Monday, the club have said.

Reports suggested the latest injury to the 39-year-old Swede could be career threatening but Milan told BBC Sport he will have tests on Tuesday.

“We will know the entity of the problem [then],” said a statement.

Former Manchester United striker Ibrahimovic rejoined Milan on a six-month deal in December scoring four goals in 10 appearances.

Meanwhile, the Italian government will decide on Thursday if and when the Serie A season can return to action.

Clubs were given permission to return to full group training from 19 May, while sides voted to restart the season on 13 June.

The Italian football federation has set 20 August as the deadline for finishing the season, with the new campaign starting on 1 September.

Serie A was suspended on 9 March with 12 full rounds and four outstanding fixtures still to play. Juventus are top of the league, a point ahead of Lazio.

Iran Breaks Through US Blockade to Deliver Oil to Venezuela

The Most Revolutionary Act

The Iranian 'Fortune' tanker arrives in Venezuelan territory amid threats from the U.S.

The Iranian ‘Fortune’ tanker arrives in Venezuelan territory amid threats from the U.S. | Photo: teleSUR

Telesur

The shipment of gasoline by the Islamic Republic of Iran to Venezuela corresponds to the diplomatic strengthening and trade agreements between the two countries.

The Iranian ‘Fortune’ vessel, loaded with fuel for Venezuela, arrived in Venezuela on Sunday at the port of the El Palito refinery, located in the municipality of Puerto Cabello, on the coasts of Carabobo state, reported the teleSUR correspondent, Madelein García.

The ship arrived on Saturday in Venezuelan waters and was escorted by boats, helicopters and planes of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) of the South American country.

The first ship arrived after loading gasoline in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas in March; its journey began on May 16. In the next few days, four more ships will reach Venezuelan shores.

[…]

The FANB escort faced threats the United States (USA)…

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When Rape Becomes a Game

The Most Revolutionary Act

Power

Directed by Jeanny Gering (2014)

Film Review

Power is a disturbing documentary about a South African martial arts expert Debi Stevens and her efforts to fight India’s rape culture by teaching Indian girls to defend themselves. The film was produced following the 2012 gang rape and murder of a 23 year old physiotherapy intern on a Delhi bus.

In addition to showing excerpts from some of Stevens’s classes, Power provides disturbing insights into a cultural framework that makes it “okay” for 75% of India’s urban males population to sexually assault women. As in the Middle East, India’s extremely patriarchal and misogynist culture, combined with a large population of permanently unemployed males seems to set the stage for this kind of violence against women.

I found this film particularly instructive in view of recent publicity about migrants committing group sexual assaults in Cologne – in a variant of the Arab…

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Sexual Violence Against Women in New Zealand

A really imbalanced society where virtually every cultural law puts the woman at a disadvantage would give room for all sort of vices against the women folk

The Most Revolutionary Act

She’ll Be Right

Directed by Frances Pavletch and Carl Naus (2020)

Film Review

She’ll be Right is a film about New Zealand’s extremely high rate of sexual violence against women. In a recent survey at Otago University, more than 1/3 of female students reported incidents of sexual assault. The format consists of a succession of soundbites from #MeTooNZ activists interspersed with a variety of video clips illustrating the issues they raise.

The film highlights a number of factors contributing to New Zealand’s sexual assault epidemic, including

  • New Zealand’s binge drinking culture
  • the link between colonization and male privilege
  • a culture that values men over women and teaches men sexual entitlement
  • consent laws that place the burden on women to say no, rather than requiring men to seek consent
  • an adversarial legal system that makes no pretense of trying to ascertain the factual basis of victim complaints (only 13% of rape…

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