2021-04-16 03:56:00 06:15:00

World News

ABYAN, Yemen: A fighter loyal to Yemen’s separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) holds the separatist flag in this southern province on May 18, 2020. – AFP

DUBAI: Thirty years after unification, Yemen is on the verge of fragmentation as a result of armed conflicts, regional rivalries and foreign interference. On May 22, 1990, to popular acclaim, the leaders of the former North and South Yemen states announced from Sanaa the formation of a new republic that was seen as “the dream of an entire generation of Yemenis”, according to political analyst Saleh Al-Baidhani.

But 30 years on, that dream has faded and the impoverished country has turned into a patchwork of rival zones mired in endless conflicts. Yemen has been embroiled in civil war since 2014 between the government – supported by a Saudi-led military coalition – and Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who now control much of the north, including the capital Sanaa.
The government still holds the central district of Marib and the eastern provinces, while the south is in the hands of the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) – which has made no secret of its intention to declare an independent state. “Our strategic goal, on which we will not concede, is the establishment of an independent state,” STC official Thabet Al-Awlaki told AFP. According to Ali Al-Sarari, an aide to Yemen’s prime minister, the country appears to be faced with two options. Either “fragmentation” as already in place or a “federal nation” resulting from a political agreement which seems a remote possibility, he told AFP. 

Yemen’s unity was the result of “revolutionary transformations”, Baidhani said. The Zaidi monarchy in North Yemen was overthrown in a 1962 coup by nationalist officers. South Yemen, for its part, gained independence in 1967 after a four-year armed revolt against the British, which controlled the key port city of Aden. The political rhetoric of nationalists in the north and socialists in the south – which in 1970 became the only communist state in the Arab world – focused on unification. 

That was achieved in 1990 despite a host of obstacles, including border clashes between the two states’ forces in 1979. Ali Abdullah Saleh, who ruled the north since 1978, became president and Ali Salem Al-Beidh from the south was the vice president. But the honeymoon was short-lived, as officials in the south felt they had been sidelined from power. An attempt by the south to break away in 1994 sparked a brief civil war that ended with it being overrun by northern troops.

According to Hussein Hanachi, director of the Aden Centre for Studies, unification was founded on shaky foundations. “It was then destroyed after the ruling class in the north transformed the situation into one of military occupation after the 1994 conflict,” he told AFP. Hanachi was referring to the dismantling of southern enterprises in favor of northern businessmen and to the distribution of land to supporters of the president.

Saleh clung on to power despite the rise of jihadist groups, economic hardships and ongoing violence. The first real challenge to his rule came with the eruption in 2011 of Arab Spring-inspired protests that brought thousands of Yemenis onto the streets. Saleh finally ceded power in February 2012 after 33 years in charge and his deputy, Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, took over. Saleh was killed in 2017 by his former Houthi rebel allies.
In 2014, the Houthis seized vast swathes of the country including the capital, prompting the intervention of the Saudi-led coalition to support the government. Since then, tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed in a conflict that has triggered what the United Nations terms the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The country is also faced with the coronavirus pandemic which has so far officially killed 20 people, widely considered a vast underestimate given Yemen’s collapsing healthcare system.

A power struggle in the south between the government and separatists – part of the anti-Houthi camp – has further complicated the situation. Just last month, the STC declared self-rule in southern Yemen. “Yemeni unity in its current state has ceased to exist,” Maged Al-Madhaji, executive director of the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies, told AFP. “The war has created a new reality on the ground,” he said. – AFP


WASHINGTON, DC: stages a protest against the handling of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic by US President Donald Trump with signs and white roses to remember the people who died from the disease, near the US Capitol in Washington, DC — AFP

GENEVA: The coronavirus may never go away and populations will have to learn to live with it just as they have HIV, the World Health Organization has warned, as the global death toll from the disease nears 300,000. There were also gloomy forecasts from the US Federal Reserve, which said prolonged shutdowns to stem the spread of the virus could cause lasting economic damage in America.

Washington ratcheted up tensions over the pandemic by accusing China of trying to steal research into a vaccine, while US President Donald Trump upped the rhetoric with a colorful phrase that could anger Beijing. “We just made a great Trade Deal, the ink was barely dry, and the World was hit by the Plague from China. 100 Trade Deals wouldn’t make up the difference—and all those innocent lives lost!” Trump tweeted.

The United States logged more than 1,800 deaths on Wednesday, bringing the nation’s total to 84,059. The president has increasingly looked to pin the blame on China, where the virus first emerged late last year.

Two US security agencies piled further pressure on Beijing Wednesday by saying Chinese hackers were attempting to steal intellectual property related to treatments. “China’s efforts to target these sectors pose a significant threat to our nation’s response to COVID-19,” the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) said.

Neither agency offered evidence to support the allegation.

A vaccine could allow countries and economies to fully re-open from lockdowns and potentially earn millions of dollars for its creators. But the WHO said the virus may never be wiped out entirely.

“This virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities and this virus may never go away,” said Michael Ryan, the global health body’s emergencies director in Geneva. “HIV has not gone away—but we have come to terms with the virus.”

The prospect of the disease hanging around leaves governments across the world facing a delicate balancing act between suppressing the pathogen and getting economies up and running. Trump has been pushing for a swift resumption of economic activity in the US, often against the advice of health officials, as he tries to jumpstart the world’s largest economy before a November election. Top infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci has said re-opening too soon risks triggering uncontrollable outbreaks, but the president Wednesday dismissed that call for caution as “not acceptable”.

In an excerpt of an interview with Fox Business to air in full yesterday, Trump said: “I totally disagree with him on schools.” The tensions between health and the economy were thrown into sharp relief Wednesday when Federal Reserve chief Jay Powell warned of a potential “wave of bankruptcies” that could cause lasting harm.

Border controls

Re-opening of economies continued in earnest across Europe, with officials pushing ahead with plans to restore summer tourism even as fears persist of a second wave of infections. Desperate to save millions of jobs, the European Union set out proposals for a phased restart of travel, with border controls to be eventually lifted, along with measures to minimise transmission.

Some beaches re-opened in France on Wednesday—but only for swimming and fishing—and people in England were allowed to leave their homes more freely.

The return to normality also gathered pace in Asia with Japan set to lift a state of emergency, though not yet in the capital Tokyo and other major cities.

With infections sharply down, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to ease curbs in up to 39 of the country’s 47 prefectures. However, in Latin America the virus continued to surge, with a 60 percent leap in cases in the Chilean capital of Santiago, prompting authorities to impose a total lockdown on the city.

“It should have come a month before, about 20 days before, because there are many infected people,” said Juana Vergara, a retiree.

In Argentina, officials were watching Buenos Aires warily after one of its poorest and most densely populated neighborhoods showed a spike in infections.

But there were also bright spots in the battle. Mauritius declared temporary victory against the virus, saying it had “zero” patients and had not documented a single new case in 17 days. The Indian Ocean island nation had initially surged ahead of other eastern African countries in terms of caseload, hitting a peak of 332 six weeks into its outbreak. Ten people died.

But following one of the strictest lockdowns in Africa, the country has turned the tide.

“We have won the battle thanks to the cooperation of the public,” said health minister Kailesh Jagutpal. “But we have not yet won the war.” –AFP

China on Friday urged the United States to meet it halfway and strengthen cooperation in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic after US President Donald Trump threatened to sever bilateral ties.

Relations between the world's two largest economies have deteriorated in recent weeks, with both sides trading barbs over the origins of the virus that has killed more than 300,000 people.

“To maintain the steady development of China-US relations is in the fundamental interests of the people in both countries, and is conducive to world peace and stability,” said foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian at a press briefing.

“At present, China and the US should continue to strengthen cooperation against the epidemic, defeat the epidemic as soon as possible, treat patients, and restore economy and production. But it requires the US to meet halfway with China.”

The comments came after Trump further hardened his rhetoric towards China, threatening to cut ties with the rival superpower completely as relations have steadily deteriorated over the pandemic.

“There are many things we could do [...] We could cut off the whole relationship,” Trump said on Thursday in an 

" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">interview with Fox Business News.

“You'd save $500 billion if you cut off the whole relationship.”

Trump said that his relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping is “very good” but added: “Right now I just don't want to speak to him."

The threat came a week after a trade call between US and Chinese trade negotiators in which both sides stressed their commitment to the Phase One trade deal reached in January.

However, fulfillment of the deal looks increasingly tenuous in the face of the pandemic and a looming global economic downturn.

Read: Pandemic clouds US-China trade deal, says Trump

In the pact signed in January, China agreed to buy $200 billion more in US goods over two years than it did in 2017 — before the trade war erupted and triggered tariffs on billions of dollars of two-way trade.

Tensions have ratcheted up between Washington and Beijing as they traded barbs over the origin of the pandemic that first appeared in late 2019 in the Chinese city of Wuhan, which Trump has dubbed the “plague from China".

سعودی عرب کی الحرمین الشریفین کے انتظامی امور کی ذمہ دار جنرل پریزیڈینسی نے کورونا وائرس کا پھیلاؤ روکنے کے لیے مسجد الحرام کے داخلی دروازوں پر آزمائشی بنیادوں پر جدید ازخود تطہیری عمل

(سیلف اسٹیرلائزیشن) گیٹس نصب کر دیے ہیں۔

سماجی رابطے کی ویب سائٹ ٹوئٹر پر حرمین کے اکاؤنٹ سے جاری بیان میں کہا گیا کہ 'پریزیڈینسی نے مسجد الحرام میں جدید سیلف اسٹیرلائزیشن گیٹس نصب کرنے کا عارضی تجربہ کیا ہے، اگر یہ تجربہ کامیاب ہوا تو مسجد الحرام کے مختلف حصوں میں یہ گیٹس نصب کیے جائیں گے۔'


العربیہ کی رپورٹ کے مطابق ان گیٹس کی تنصیب کے بعد اب مسجد الحرام کے صحن میں داخل ہونے والے کسی بھی شخص کو پہلے ازخود تطہیر کے لیے نصب گیٹ سے گزرنا ہوگا، وہاں اس پر سر تا پاؤں جراثیم کش اسپرے کیا جائے گا اور مصفا کیا جائے گا۔

یہ بھی پڑھیں: کورونا وائرس: سعودی عرب کا مساجد میں نماز تراویح کی ادائیگی پر پابندی کا اعلان

واضح رہے کہ مسجد الحرام میں ان گیٹس کی تنصیب سے ایک ہفتہ قبل تھرمل کیمرے بھی نصب کیے گئے تھے۔

یہ طاقتور کیمرے بیک وقت 25 افراد کے جسمانی درجہ حرارت کی پیمائش کرسکتے ہیں، اب یہ کیمرے بھی مسجد الحرام کے داخلی دروازوں پر نصب کیے گئے ہیں۔

رواں ماہ کے اوائل میں مدینہ منورہ میں مسجد نبویؐ میں بھی اسی طرح کے تھرمل کیمرے نصب کیے گئے تھے۔

یاد رہے کہ سعودی عرب کی حکومت نے مارچ میں مکہ مکرمہ اور مدینہ منورہ میں 24 گھنٹے کا کرفیو اور مکمل لاک ڈاؤن نافذ کردیا تھا اور مسجد الحرام اور مسجد نبویؐ میں تاحکم ثانی عام لوگوں کا داخلہ بند کردیا تھا۔

تاہم رمضان کے آغاز سے قبل سعودی حکومت نے شہروں میں نافذ لاک ڈاؤن میں نرمی کردی تھی، لیکن مکہ مکرمہ میں بدستور لاک ڈاؤن نافذ ہے۔

مزید پڑھیں: مکہ کے سوا سعودی عرب میں کرفیو جزوی طور پر اٹھا لیا گیا

سعودی عرب نے مارچ میں کورونا وائرس کی وبا کو پھیلنے سے روکنے کے لیے سلطنت میں تمام مساجد کو باجماعت نمازوں کے لیے بند کردیا تھا۔

خیال رہے کہ جمعرات کو بھی سعودی عرب میں کورونا وائرس کے ایک ہزار 793 نئے کیسز سامنے آئے جس کے بعد ملک میں متاثرین کی تعداد 33 ہزار 731 ہوگئی ہے۔

سعودی وزارت صحت نے مزید 10 اموات کا بھی اعلان کیا جس کے بعد یہاں جاں بحق افراد کی تعداد 219 ہوگئی ہے۔

NEW YORK CITY: A man walks past a store going out of business on Tuesday in the Brooklyn borough in New York City. -AFP

WASHINGTON: Like a global tsunami, the coronavirus pandemic has caused a huge loss of life and taken a massive economic toll. In the US economy, skyrocketing unemployment is the most-visible sign of the devastation: almost overnight, at least 30 million workers lost their jobs. The April employment report, due out Friday, is expected to show the unemployment rate soaring into double digits, perhaps as high as 20 percent, far surpassing the worst of the global financial crisis and reaching levels not seen since the Great Depression last century.

The US government and central bank worked at a stunning pace to rush out aid and financing to workers and businesses to try to prevent a complete economic collapse, but there is a growing fear that the temporary shutdowns imposed to contain the spread of the virus will become permanent for many companies.

The coronavirus has infected nearly 1.2 million people in the United States and killed around 70,000, according to a count from Johns Hopkins University, and analysts fear some of the economic damage may be permanent. “We took the elevator down, but we’re going to need to take the stairs back up,” Tom Barkin, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, said in a recent speech.

Despite nearly $3 trillion in financial aid approved by Congress in March alone and trillions more in liquidity provided by the Federal Reserve, the US economy contracted by 4.8 percent in the first three months of the year-a period that included only a couple of weeks of the strict business shutdowns. The second quarter could see the economy plunge by twice that amount.

The worst is yet to come
The data on the jobs market has become so bad so fast that there are no comparisons. Statisticians in the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which produces the monthly unemployment report, are using natural disasters as a point of reference. “The closest that we have in terms of what was in our playbook has been usually hurricanes, because they tend to be large and impact significant periods of time, or areas,” BLS Associate Commissioner Julie Hatch Maxfield told AFP.

But even devastating events, like Hurricane Katrina in 2005, were regional-not national and certainly not global. The job losses spread from airlines and hotels to restaurants and factories as states ordered lockdowns and then closed schools, sending initial claims for unemployment insurance surging from mid-March, with 20 million posted in the four weeks of April alone.

But those figures could underestimate the true size of the shock, since many people have not been able to file for benefits, and others do not qualify.
The official unemployment rate in March jumped from a historic low of 3.5 percent to 4.4 percent, with 701,000 jobs lost. But the monthly data, which are separate from the jobless claims reports, are calculated only during the pay period that includes the 12th day of each month, so they too missed the real picture. BLS said the survey of households likely underestimated the jobless rate, which should have been 5.4 percent.

April will be far worse, with some economists projecting jobs losses at 28 million and a 17 percent unemployment rate. And as more businesses report their data, job losses in March are expected to be revised higher as well.

False rebound, slow comeback
By comparison, job losses during the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009 totaled 8.6 million and the unemployment rate peaked at 10 percent. Even among workers who are still employed, many have seen their hours cut. Economists also fear the gains made during the economic expansion from 2009 in incorporating more minorities into the workforce are being eroded.

“It’s now clear the economy was in a downdraft much more rapidly than anyone expected,” Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton, told AFP. The expansive government aid programs mean the US might see a temporary pickup in hiring in May and June, Swonk said. But if small businesses aren’t fully back to normal by July, which will be determined by whether consumers feel safe enough to go back to restaurants and shops, “they’re going to have to lay them off again,” she said.

Last week, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell warned about the lingering damage caused by the temporary shutdowns and said it “will take some time for us to get back to a more normal level of unemployment.” -AFP


Confirmed cases of coronavirus near 2 million worldwide

The US has recorded more than 1,500 deaths during the past 24 hours.

BEIRUT: A Lebanese bakery manager, wearing a protective face mask amid the COVID-19 outbreak, poses for a picture in the capital Beirut, in this file photo.-AFP

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s food importers, already hit by a dollar crunch, have struggled to book new cargoes as the coronavirus pandemic threatens supplies and sparks fears of even more painful price hikes. Some vendors are delaying shipments and refusing new orders to Lebanon – which relies heavily on imports – as the spread of the virus slows global food supply chains. This comes at a grim time for Lebanon. A financial crisis has wiped out about half the value of the currency and sent prices skyrocketing for months.

Supply disruptions, twinned with the hard currency squeeze, risk fueling more inflation as poverty levels rise. Prices of consumer goods have nearly doubled in the past six months. Food importers like Hani Bohsali said pressure was piling on stocks, already reduced by banking controls that force buyers to get scarce dollars on an informal market.

Last week, Bohsali was told Moroccan sardines were no longer available after fishermen stopped going out-and even if they did, tins from Spain were running thin. Before that, a cooking oil shipment from Ukraine and lentils from Australia were each postponed a month because of labor shortages. “Everything is slowing down and I fear that globally, the worst is yet to come,” he said.

Food security
As major state buyers from Saudi Arabia to Egypt look to beef up their strategic stocks, for the first time in years Lebanon’s government is thinking of importing wheat itself, a job usually left to private mills. Economy Minister Raoul Nehme told Reuters the cabinet had authorized importing 80,000 tons though this was not “in the works today”.

“It is just a measure to be ready at any point in case we need it, for food security…to have an additional security stock.” The government has warned that foreign currency reserves plummeted to “dangerous” levels, pledging to keep them for key goods: wheat, fuel and medicine.

Buyers of staples like grains worry other countries will hold back shipments as the pandemic drags on or choose not to prioritize the small nation of around six million. “The interruptions because of the lack of cash dollars, the lockdowns abroad, we’re going to see the impact in two months,” said Nabil Fahed, an importer who heads the supermarket syndicate. “The supplies will not be there…I’m really worried about this”.

‘Nobody selling’
With a tiny industrial sector and scant natural resources, Lebanon’s economy produces few goods. Fahed, who owns a major supermarket chain, said prices for most goods have risen 45-50%, with some already running out. Any harsher shortages could still be a few months off. Importers put stocks of most goods at 1-2 months and supermarkets remain largely full despite some panic shopping during Lebanon’s shutdown.

“I work on wheat, flour, rice and sugar, and nobody is selling anything,” said Paul Mansour, owner of Crown Mills. “Whatever is already booked, there’s a delay. For any new business, there’s nothing in the market.” “This will drag on and get very bad,” he said. “If goods are delayed beyond a month, there’s going to be a serious issue of stocks.” – Reuters


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