Brazil's Bolsonaro rejects coronavirus vaccine from China

The Brazilian people will not be anyone’s guinea pig, said Bolsonaro. (AFP)
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Updated 22 October 2020

Brazil's Bolsonaro rejects coronavirus vaccine from China

SAO PAULO: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday rejected the announced purchase of 46 million doses of a potential vaccine against the coronavirus being developed by a Chinese company and tested in a state governed by a political rival, prompting some to question if he was allowing politics to steer public health decisions.
“The Brazilian people will not be anyone’s guinea pig,” Bolsonaro said on his social media channels, adding that the vaccine has not yet completed testing, which is the case with all potential vaccines for the virus. “My decision is to not purchase such a vaccine.”
Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello had announced the purchase Tuesday in a meeting with Sao Paulo Gov. João Doria, a foe of Bolsonaro’s whose state is participating in the vaccine’s development through its Butantan Institute. The cost of the acquisition was estimated at 2 billion reais ($360 million).
“Butantan’s vaccine will be Brazil’s vaccine,” Pazuello said.
A Brazilian Health Ministry document issued Monday and shared by Sao Paulo’s government Wednesday confirmed that the ministry had put in writing its intention to buy the doses of the “Butantan Vaccine-Sinovac/Covid-19” for an estimated price of $10.30 each.
The document made explicit the purchase was contingent upon the health regulator’s approval. Bolsonaro told journalists that protocol will be canceled.
Claudio Couto, a political science professor at Getulio Vargas Foundation, a university, felt the president’s move had little to do with the virus and was more a way to hurt Doria, who is widely cited as a likely challenger to Bolsonaro’s 2022 reelection bid.
“His concern is to be a strong candidate for reelection, and that often means giving trouble to his adversaries,” Couto said.
Bolsonaro and Doria have had an adversarial relationship since the start of the pandemic, with each taking opposite stances regarding stay-at-home recommendations and restrictions on activity. The governor, whose state is Brazil’s most populous, heeded the counsel of public health experts and adopted such measures, which the president blasted, arguing the economic fallout could kill more than the disease.
Brazil has confirmed more than 153,000 deaths from COVID-19, the second most in the world, behind only the US The South American nation has also reported 5.2 million confirmed cases of coronavirus infections, the world’s third highest tally.
“It isn’t ideology, it isn’t politics, and it isn’t the electoral process that saves. It is the vaccine,” Doria told reporters in the national capital, Brasilia.
During a brief news conference in the Sao Paulo countryside, Bolsonaro shot back at Doria, accusing the governor of playing politics by hurrying out a vaccine in an effort to buoy his popularity. The president also accused his adversaries, including Doria, of “promoting a narrative of terrorism since the start of the pandemic.”
Brazil has a long tradition of immunization programs. The South American country has a struggling, but universal public health care system, that has been key to stopping outbreaks of measles, yellow fever and other diseases.
Bolsonaro has said no one will be forced to get a coronavirus vaccine. But his comments Wednesday reflected particular skepticism of the vaccine being developed by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac.
He has often expressed mistrust of the Asian power, which is Brazil’s biggest trading partner, particularly on the campaign trail in 2018. He called China “heartless” and said that under his watch it wouldn’t be allowed to buy up Brazil.
“THE CHINESE VACCINE OF JOÃO DORIA,” Bolsonaro wrote on social media Wednesday. ″For my government, any vaccine, before it is made available to the population, must be PROVEN SCIENTIFICALLY.″
Despite that nod to scientific rigor, Bolsonaro for months touted the healing powers of hydroxychloroquine even as studies indicated the anti-malarial drug was ineffective against the coronavirus and caused harmful side effects.
In June, Brazil’s government announced a deal with Oxford University and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to purchase 100 million doses of its potential coronavirus vaccine.
It has become common practice for governments to purchase doses of promising coronavirus vaccines, to build a stockpile in case they are proven effective. That investment is usually not refundable if the shot fails.
Earlier, the executive secretary of Brazil’s Health Ministry said in a televised statement that there had been a misunderstanding in the announcement about buying the CoronaVac vaccines.
“There is no intention to buy vaccines from China,” said Antonio Elcio Franco, who added there will be only “a Brazilian vaccine” made at the Butantan Institute in Sao Paulo. Those shots, however, would still be based upon Sinovac’s research.
At least two governors, including Flavio Dino in Maranhao state, said they would fight Bolsonaro’s administration if it refused authorization for a vaccine that works, whatever its provenance.
“We don’t want a new war,” said Dino, another adversary of the president. “Governors will go to Congress and to courts to ensure that the population has access to all vaccines that are efficient and safe. Health is a bigger asset than ideological or electoral disputes.”


6 combatants, 2 workers killed in fresh violence in Kashmir

Updated 16 October 2021

6 combatants, 2 workers killed in fresh violence in Kashmir

  • Police blamed militants fighting against Indian rule for the Saturday attacks in the region’s main city and a village in southern Kashmir
  • Following the spate of killings last week, authorities have detained over 1,000 people in a sweeping crackdown across the Kashmir Valley

SRINAGAR, India: Assailants fatally shot two non-local workers in two targeted attacks in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Saturday night, police said, days after five people were killed in a similar fashion in the disputed region.
The killing comes hours after police said government forces killed four suspected militants in the last 24 hours and claimed three of them were involved in last week’s killings of three members of minority communities.
Police blamed militants fighting against Indian rule for the Saturday attacks in the region’s main city and a village in southern Kashmir and called the killings “terror attacks.”
In a first incident in Srinagar, police said militants fired at a Hindu street vendor from India’s eastern state of Bihar. He died on the spot, police said.
An hour later, a Muslim worker from northern Uttar Pradesh state was shot and critically wounded in southern Litter village of Pulwama district. Police said he later died at a hospital.
Last week, assailants fatally shot three Hindus, a Sikh woman and a local Muslim taxi driver in the region in a sudden rise in violence against civilians that both pro- and anti-India Kashmiri politicians widely condemned.
Also Saturday, two militants were killed in a gunfight with government forces in southern Pampore area, police said. Another two rebels were killed in two separate gunbattles with Indian troops in Srinagar and southern Pulwama district on Friday.
Police said three among the slain rebels were involved in the killings of prominent local Hindu chemist and two schoolteachers of Hindu and Sikh faiths.
Following the spate of killings last week, authorities have detained over 1,000 people in a sweeping crackdown across the Kashmir Valley.
Meanwhile, the Indian army said the death toll in a gunfight with rebels that raged on Thursday in a forested area of southern Mendhar town climbed to four as troops Saturday recovered the bodies of two soldiers missing in action.
On Monday, five Indian soldiers were killed in the deadliest gunbattle with militants this year in contiguous forested area of Surankote town.
Lt. Col. Devender Anand, an Indian army spokesman, said troops continued with search operations in both the areas.
India and Pakistan claim the divided territory of Kashmir in its entirety.
Rebels in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir have been fighting New Delhi’s rule since 1989. Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goal of uniting the territory, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
India insists the Kashmir militancy is Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Pakistan denies the charge, and most Kashmiris consider it a legitimate freedom struggle. Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.


Macron condemns ‘inexcusable’ crackdown on 1961 Paris protest of Algerians

Updated 16 October 2021

Macron condemns ‘inexcusable’ crackdown on 1961 Paris protest of Algerians

  • Macron told relatives and activists on the 60th anniversary of the bloodshed that ‘crimes’ were committed on the night of October 17, 1961
  • Macron acknowledged that several dozen protesters had been killed, ‘their bodies thrown into the River Seine’ and paid tribute to the memory of the victims

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday condemned as “inexcusable” a deadly crackdown by Paris police on a 1961 protest by Algerians whose scale was a taboo covered up for decades by French authorities.
Macron told relatives and activists on the 60th anniversary of the bloodshed that “crimes” were committed on the night of October 17, 1961 under the command of the notorious Paris police chief Maurice Papon.
He acknowledged that several dozen protesters had been killed, “their bodies thrown into the River Seine” and paid tribute to the memory of the victims.
The precise number of victims has never been made clear and some activists fear several hundred could have been killed.
Macron “recognized the facts: that the crimes committed that night under Maurice Papon are inexcusable for the Republic,” the Elysee said.
“This tragedy was long hushed-up, denied or concealed,” it added.
Macron, the first French president to attend a memorial ceremony for those killed, observed a minute of silence in their memory at the Bezons bridge over the Seine on the outskirts of Paris where the protest started.
His comments that crimes were committed went further than predecessor Francois Hollande, who acknowledged in 2012 that the protesting Algerians had been “killed during a bloody repression.”
However, as expected, he did not issue a formal apology. He also did not give a public speech, with the Elysee issuing only the written statement.
Papon was in the 1980s revealed to have been a collaborator with the occupying Nazis in World War II and complicit in the deportation of Jews. He was convicted of crimes against humanity but later released.


Mental illness may have triggered Norway bow-and-arrow attack

Updated 16 October 2021

Mental illness may have triggered Norway bow-and-arrow attack

  • Espen Andersen Brathen is believed to have acted alone when he killed four women and a man, aged between 50 and 70, in several locations in Kongsberg where he lived
  • While authorities said the attack bore the hallmarks of an act of terror, they seemed to be leaning toward the theory that it was the act of a mentally unstable person

KONGSBERG, Norway: A bow-and-arrow attack in Norway that left five people dead this week appears to have been motivated by mental illness, authorities indicated Friday, as the perpetrator was ordered to be kept in a medical facility.
Espen Andersen Brathen, a 37-year-old Danish citizen who converted to Islam and is believed to have been radicalized, has confessed to the Wednesday killings in police questioning.
He was in custody in a medical facility on Friday pending a psychiatric evaluation.
“The strongest hypothesis after the first days of the investigation is that illness is in the background,” police inspector Per Thomas Omholt told reporters on Friday.
Police were however keeping other possibilities open, and have investigated a range of motives including “anger, revenge, impulse, extremism, illness and provocation,” Omholt said.
The psychiatric evaluation, which could take several months, is necessary to determine whether Brathen can be held legally responsible for his actions.
“This indicates that things are not exactly as they should be,” his lawyer Fredrik Neumann said, referring to his client’s mental health.
“A complete judicial assessment will clarify that,” he told the Norwegian newspaper VG.
Omholt said Friday that Brathen had admitted to the acts but did not admit guilt.
While authorities said the attack bore the hallmarks of an act of terror, they seemed to be leaning toward the theory that it was the act of a mentally unstable person.
“There is no doubt that (it) appears as if it could be an act of terror, but it’s important that the investigation continues and that we establish the motive of the suspect,” the head of Norway’s intelligence service PST, Hans Sverre Sjovold, said Thursday.
“This is a person who has been in and out of the health system for some time.”
Four women and one man were killed and three people injured in the attack in the town of Kongsberg, and police said a bow and arrows and two other undisclosed weapons were used before he was arrested.
Brathan was known to PST, which is in charge of Norway’s anti-terrorism efforts, but few details have emerged about why. According to public broadcaster NRK, the first warning was in 2015.
“There were fears linked to radicalization previously,” police official Ole Bredrup Saeverud told reporters.
Those reports dated to last year or earlier, and police said they had followed up at the time.
Norwegian media reported that in 2018 the PST had warned that he could commit “a small-scale attack.”
It also said that Brathen was subject to two prior court rulings, including a restraining order against him regarding his parents after threatening to kill his father, and a conviction for burglary and purchasing narcotics in 2012.
Local media also unearthed a video Brathen allegedly posted on social media in 2017, in which he issued a “warning” and declared his Muslim faith.
Speaking anonymously, one of Brathen’s neighbors described him as a big person with a crew cut and a serious demeanour, who was always seen “alone.”
“No smile, nothing in the face. He was just staring,” the neighbor told AFP.
Brathen is believed to have acted alone when he killed four women and a man, aged between 50 and 70, in several locations in Kongsberg where he lived.
Flowers and candles were placed in front of the various crime scenes in Kongsberg, a town of 25,000 people still reeling from the attack.
Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store, who took office on Thursday following elections last month, visited the town on Friday.
“We stand together when crisis strikes. For those of who have political responsibility, the safety of our citizens is the most important thing,” he said in a speech.
Svein Westad, a 75-year-old pensioner wandered aimlessly on Hyttegata street, where two of his neighbors and close friends were killed in their homes.
“I’m totally broken into pieces, I cannot say anything more than that. I will never get over this,” he told AFP.
“They should have caught him immediately,” he said, referring to criticism against the police for arresting Brathen more than 30 minutes after the first reports came in.
Norway rarely experiences such violence, but 10 years ago Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in the country’s worst massacre since World War II.


Taliban pledge to step up security after deadly Daesh attack in Kandahar

Updated 16 October 2021

Taliban pledge to step up security after deadly Daesh attack in Kandahar

  • Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack on the Fatima Mosque in Kandahar on Friday
  • Attack on the largest Shiite mosque in Kandahar came a week after a similar in the northern city of Kunduz

KABUL: Taliban authorities pledged to step up security at Shiite mosques as hundreds of people gathered on Saturday to bury the victims of the second Daesh suicide attack on worshippers in a week.
Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack on the Fatima Mosque in Kandahar that saw a group of suicide bombers shoot their way into the mosque before blowing themselves up among the worshippers during Friday prayers.
A health official said the casualty toll from the attack stood at 41 dead and 70 wounded but could rise further. “Some of the wounded are in a critical condition and we are trying to transfer them to Kabul,” he said.
On Saturday, large crowds gathered to bury the white-shrouded victims in a mass grave in the southern city of Kandahar.
The head of Kandahar police said units would be assigned to protect the Shiite mosques which have so far been guarded by local volunteer forces with special permission to carry weapons.
“Unfortunately they could not protect this area and in future we will assign special security guards for the protection of mosques and Madrasas,” he said in a statement posted on Twitter by a Taliban spokesman.
The attack on the Fatima Mosque, the largest Shiite mosque in Kandahar, also known as the Imam Bargah mosque, came a week after a similar attack on a mosque in the northern city of Kunduz, which killed as many as 80 people.
Attacks on Shiite mosques and targets associated with the Hazara ethnic minority, who make up the biggest Shiite group in Afghanistan, were regular occurrences under the former Western-backed government.
There has been deep shock as the attacks have continued since the Taliban seized power in August, tarnishing the movement’s claim to have brought peace to Afghanistan after decades of war.
Since the takeover, Daesh have conducted dozens of operations, from small scale attacks on Taliban targets to large-scale operations such as Friday’s suicide bombing, killing scores of civilians


UK PM Johnson visits church where lawmaker was stabbed to death

Updated 16 October 2021

UK PM Johnson visits church where lawmaker was stabbed to death

LEIGH-ON-SEA: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday visited the church where lawmaker David Amess was stabbed to death a day earlier in what police say they are treating as a terrorist attack.
Amess, 69, from Johnson's Conservative Party, was knifed repeatedly in the attack at about midday on Friday in Leigh-on-Sea, east of London, during a meeting with constituents.
Johnson, interior minister Priti Patel, and leader of the opposition Labour Party Keir Starmer were among those to lay flowers in tribute to Amess at the scene of the murder.
Johnson and Starmer stood side by side in a moment of silence before leaving. On Friday, Johnson said Britain had lost a fine public servant and a much-loved friend and colleague.
In a statement early on Saturday, police said the early investigation had revealed a potential motivation linked to Islamic extremism.
Police arrested a 25-year-old British man at the scene on suspicion of murder, adding it is believed he acted alone.
Amess in the second lawmaker in little over five years to be murdered while out meeting constituents, after Jo Cox was shot and stabbed in June 2016, a few days before Britain voted to leave the European Union.