Former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad in stable condition in hospital

Media gather outside National Heart Institute where former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad as on Jan. 22, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 22 January 2022

Former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad in stable condition in hospital

  • The 96-year-old has been receiving treatment at the National Heart Institute in Kuala Lumpur for the past two days

KUALA LUMPUR: Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad is in a stable condition after being admitted to a specialist heart hospital for the third time in just weeks, his daughter said Saturday.

The 96-year-old has been receiving treatment at the National Heart Institute in Kuala Lumpur for the past two days, Marina Mahathir said.

Media descended on the hospital as news spread that Mahathir had been admitted again, and current Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob also paid him a visit.

In a statement, his daughter said he was receiving follow-up treatment after a procedure at the same facility about a fortnight ago.

“His condition is now stable and he has been responding well to treatment,” she said.

His family “requests that people pray for him to make a full recovery,” she added.

Mahathir also spent several days at the hospital in December for a check-up.

He has had numerous heart problems over the years, suffering several heart attacks and undergoing bypass surgery.

Mahathir is one of Malaysia’s most dominant political figures, having served twice as prime minister for a total of 24 years.

He was leader from 1981 to 2003, then returned to power in 2018 at the age of 92, heading a reformist coalition in the wake of the huge 1MDB corruption scandal.

But that administration collapsed in 2020 due to infighting.


Biden signs landmark gun measure, says ‘lives will be saved’

Updated 6 sec ago

Biden signs landmark gun measure, says ‘lives will be saved’

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden on Saturday signed the most sweeping gun violence bill in decades, a bipartisan compromise that seemed unimaginable until a recent series of mass shootings, including the massacre of 19 students and two teachers at a Texas elementary school.
“Time is of the essence. Lives will be saved,” he said in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. Citing the families of shooting victims he has met, the president said, “Their message to us was, ‘Do something.’ How many times did we hear that? ‘Just do something. For God’s sake, just do something.’ Today we did.”
The House gave final approval Friday, following Senate passage Thursday, and Biden acted just before leaving Washington for two summits in Europe.
“Today we say, ‘More than enough,’” Biden said. “It’s time, when it seems impossible to get anything done in Washington, we are doing something consequential.”
The legislation will toughen background checks for the youngest gun buyers, keep firearms from more domestic violence offenders and help states put in place red flag laws that make it easier for authorities to take weapons from people adjudged to be dangerous.
The president called it “a historic achievement.”
Most of its $13 billion cost will help bolster mental health programs and aid schools, which have been targeted in Newtown, Connecticut, and Parkland, Florida, and elsewhere in mass shootings.
Biden said the compromise hammered out by a bipartisan group of senators from both parties “doesn’t do everything I want” but “it does include actions I’ve long called for that are going to save lives.”
“I know there’s much more work to do, and I’m never going to give up, but this is a monumental day,” said the president, who was joined by his wife, Jill, a teacher, for the signing.
After sitting to sign the bill, Biden sat reflectively for a moment, then murmured, “God willing, this is gonna save a lot of lives.”
He also said they will host an event on July 11 for lawmakers and families affected by gun violence. The president spoke of families “who lost their souls to an epidemic of gun violence. They lost their child, their husband, their wife. Nothing is going to fill that void in their hearts. But they led the way so other families will not have the experience and the pain and trauma that they had to live through.”
Biden signed the measure two days after the Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday striking down a New York law that restricted peoples’ ability to carry concealed weapons. And Saturday’s ceremony came less than 24 hours after the high court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision, which had legalized abortion nationwide for nearly five decades.
“Yesterday, I spoke about the Supreme Court’s shocking decision striking down Roe v. Wade,” Biden said. “Jill and I know how painful and devastating the decision is for so many Americans. I mean so many Americans.”
He noted that the abortion ruling leaves enforcement up to the states, some of which have already moved to ban abortion or will soon do so. Biden said his administration will “focus on how they administer it and whether or not they violate other laws, like deciding to not allow people to cross state lines to get health services.”
Asked by reporters about whether the Supreme Court was broken, Biden said, “I think the Supreme Court has made some terrible decisions.” He walked away without answering more questions, noting, ” “I have a helicopter waiting for me to take off.”
While the new gun law does not include tougher restrictions long championed by Democrats, such as a ban on assault-style weapons and background checks for all firearm transactions, it is the most impactful gun violence measure produced by Congress since enactment a long-expired assault weapons ban in 1993.
Enough congressional Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the steps after recent rampages in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas. It took weeks of closed-door talks but senators emerged with a compromise.
Biden signed the bill just before departing Washington for a summit of the Group of Seven leading economic powers — the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan — in Germany. He will travel later to Spain for a NATO meeting.

UK PM Johnson vows to lead Conservatives to next election

Updated 25 June 2022

UK PM Johnson vows to lead Conservatives to next election

  • Earlier this month, Johnson survived a vote of confidence by Conservative lawmakers
  • Fears that Johnson could have become an electoral liability may prompt lawmakers to move against him

KIGALI: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed on Saturday to lead his Conservative party into the next national election, which could be more than two years away, despite two bruising by-election defeats that have led to renewed calls for him to quit.
Earlier this month, Johnson survived a vote of confidence by Conservative lawmakers, though 41 percent of his parliamentary colleagues voted to oust him, and he is under investigation by a committee over whether he intentionally misled parliament.
On Friday, Conservative candidates lost two elections to the House of Commons held to replace former Conservative incumbents who had to step down, one after being convicted of sexual assault and the other for watching pornography in parliament.
The election defeats suggest the broad voter appeal which helped Johnson win the 2019 election may be fracturing after a scandal over illegal parties held at Downing Street during coronavirus lockdowns.
Fears that Johnson could have become an electoral liability may prompt lawmakers to move against him, at a time when millions of Britons are struggling with rising food and fuel prices.
However, Johnson said he did not expect to face another internal challenge from within his party.
When asked on the final day of a trip to Rwanda for a Commonwealth summit if he would fight another confidence vote, Johnson told reporters: “What? We just had one of those things and I’m very happy to have got a bigger mandate from my parliamentary party than I got in 2019.”
Asked if he felt the question of his leadership was settled, the prime minister said: “Yes.”
Under existing party rules, Johnson’s leadership cannot be formally challenged again for another year.
Asked if he would lead the Conservatives into the next election, which is due no later than December 2024, Johnson said: “Will I win? Yes.”
Johnson blamed the by-election defeats partly on months of media reporting of lockdown parties at the heart of government.
“I think that actually people were fed up of hearing about things I had stuffed up, or allegedly stuffed up, or whatever, this endless, completely legitimate, but endless churn of news,” he said.
Earlier on Saturday, Johnson told BBC radio he rejected the notion that he should change his behavior.
“If you’re saying you want me to undergo some sort of psychological transformation, I think that our listeners would know that that ... is not going to happen.”

PARTY TROUBLE
Johnson’s explanation for the defeat may do little to ease frustration in the Conservative Party.
A wave of resignations by senior ministers might force Johnson out before the next national election. The party’s chairman, Oliver Dowden, quit after the by-election defeats.
Former Conservative leaders Michael Howard and William Hague are the latest senior party figures to call for Johnson to go.
Asked what his message was for Conservative lawmakers who fear they could lose their seats at the next election, Johnson said: “We have to focus on the things that matter to voters, get it right on the cost of living, the economy.”
Johnson refused to comment on a report in The Times newspaper that he had planned to get a donor to fund a 150,000-pound ($184,000) treehouse for his son at his state-provided country residence.
The story comes months after his party was fined for failing to accurately report a donation which helped fund the refurbishment of his Downing Street apartment.
“I’m not going to comment on non-existent objects,” Johnson said when asked if he planned to use a donor’s money to build the treehouse. ($1 = 0.8155 pounds)


Quake-hit Afghan village struggles back to life as aid trickles in

Updated 25 June 2022

Quake-hit Afghan village struggles back to life as aid trickles in

  • Many of village dwellings, workshops and stores were destroyed by Wednesday's earthquake
  • Almost every family lost at least one member — and most lost many more

WUCHKAI, Afghanistan: A ruined village in eastern Afghanistan, just 10 km from the epicenter of this week's deadly earthquake, is struggling back to life as aid trickles into the isolated region.

Wuchkai, three hours away from the nearest town of any substance, can only be reached by a narrow, rutted dirt road -- with space for just one vehicle in places.
Isolated, without electricity and water, the village sprawls over a large basin surrounded by imposing hills and bisected by an almost-dry river.

Many of the village dwellings, workshops and stores were destroyed by Wednesday's 5.9-magnitude earthquake, whose epicenter was recorded on the other side of the hills that flank it.

More than 1,000 people were killed in the quake -- the country's deadliest in over two decades -- with Wuchkai alone accounting for at least three dozen.

Now the survivors are trying to find shelter in the ruins of their homes, desperately dependent on the aid convoys that have started to arrive.

"I ask and expect the world and the government to provide us with the basic things we need to live," says Raqim Jan, 23.

Jan lost 11 members of his extended family when their single-story dwelling caved in on them as they slept early Wednesday.

Almost every family lost at least one member -- and most lost many more -- so they are coming together to share resources.

Jan now lives with four other families -- including 15 women and about 20 children -- in three large tents set up near their ruined homes.

Help has arrived, but he worries for how long it will last.

"The tents, food and flour that we have received for a few days are not enough," Jan says, as a communal fire for cooking sends smoke spiraling above the makeshift campsite.

Nearby, children are playing -- seemingly oblivious to their plight -- while babies wail for attention.

A cow tied to a pole ruminates as chickens strut around the dusty compound, pecking at nothing in the dust.

The village men make occasional forays into the ruins of their houses, looking to salvage whatever valuables can be found in the debris.

But they tread gingerly, as any walls still standing are cracked -- threatening to collapse at any moment -- and aftershocks are still being felt.

A violent tremor killed five people in the same district early Thursday.

In the center of Wuchkai, a steady stream of aid vehicles arrive, kicking up clouds of dust from roads that are finally drying after days of torrential rain.

While the big operators appear organized -- such as the World Food Program and Doctors Without Borders -- smaller Afghan-led distribution is more chaotic.

Tempers flared as dozens of villagers scrambled over the back of a truck Thursday, trying to grab bags of beans that had been donated by a businessman from Kabul.

A platoon of armed Taliban grabbed one particularly exuberant young man and roughed him away in their vehicle.

Not far away, bent double under the weight of the bundle, Kawsar Uddin, 20, and his uncle carry a tent that will become the family's temporary home.

Faced with the influx of aid that is now arriving, Uddin is skeptical of the motivation and accuses aid organizations of staging "photo ops".

"They have distributed food and tents," he said. "But some are doing business on the blood of Afghans."


Beijing to reopen schools, Shanghai declares victory over COVID

Updated 25 June 2022

Beijing to reopen schools, Shanghai declares victory over COVID

  • The two major cities were among several places in China that implemented strict COVID-19 measures

SHANGHAI/BEIJING: Beijing on Saturday said it would allow primary and secondary schools to resume in-person classes and Shanghai’s top party boss declared victory over COVID-19 after the city reported zero new local cases for the first time in two months.
The two major cities were among several places in China that implemented curbs to stop the spread of the omicron wave during March to May, with Shanghai imposing a two month-long city-wide lockdown that lifted on June 1.
The efforts, part of China’s adherence to a zero-COVID policy that aims to eradicate all outbreaks, have brought case numbers down but many of the heavy-handed measures have fueled anger and even rare protests and taken a heavy toll on the economy.
Beijing shut its schools in early May and asked students to move to online learning amid a spike in locally transmitted COVID cases. Senior year students at middle and high schools were allowed to return to classrooms from June 2.
On Saturday, with case numbers trending lower in recent days, the capital’s education commission said all primary and secondary school students in the capital can return to in-person classes from Monday. Kindergartens will be allowed to reopen from July 4.
The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Sports said separately that sports activities for the young can resume at non-school locations on June 27 in areas where no community cases have been reported for seven consecutive days, with the exception of basement venues, which will remain shut.
The Universal Beijing Resort, which had been closed for nearly two months, reopened on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Shanghai reported no new local cases — both symptomatic and asymptomatic — for June 24, the first time the Chinese economic hub had done so since Feb. 23.
Shanghai Communist Party chief Li Qiang said at the opening at the city’s party congress on Saturday that authorities had “won the war to defend Shanghai” against COVID by implementing the instructions of Chinese President Xi Jinping, and that Beijing’s epidemic prevention decisions were “completely correct.” The city, however, remains on edge. Most students have not been allowed to resume in-person classes and dining indoors is still banned. It also plans to continue conducting mass PCR testing for its 25 million residents every weekend until the end of July.


Oslo shooting suspect is Norwegian of Iranian descent: police

Updated 25 June 2022

Oslo shooting suspect is Norwegian of Iranian descent: police

  • Attack is being treated as a possible ‘terrorist act’
  • Motive behind attack remains unclear

OSLO: An overnight shooting in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, that killed two people and wounded more than a dozen is being investigated as a possible terrorist attack, Norwegian police said Saturday.
In a news conference Saturday, police officials said the man arrested after the shooting was a Norwegian citizen of Iranian origin who was previously known to police but not for major crimes.
They said they had seized two firearms in connection with the attack: a handgun and an automatic weapon.
The events occurred outside a nightclub and in nearby streets in central Oslo.
Police spokesman Tore Barstad said 14 people were receiving medical treatment, eight of whom have been hospitalized.
Olav Roenneberg, a journalist from Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, said he witnessed the shooting.
“I saw a man arrive at the site with a bag. He picked up a weapon and started shooting,” Roenneberg told NRK. “First I thought it was an air gun. Then the glass of the bar next door was shattered and I understood I had to run for cover.”
Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said in a Facebook post that “the shooting outside London Pub in Oslo tonight was a cruel and deeply shocking attack on innocent people.”
He said that while the motive was unclear, the shooting had caused fear and grief in the community.
Christian Bredeli, who was at the bar, told Norwegian newspaper VG that he hid on the fourth floor with a group of about 10 people until he was told it was safe to come out.
“Many were fearing for their lives,” he said. “On our way out we saw several injured people, so we understood that something serious had happened.”
Norwegian broadcaster TV2 showed footage of people running down Oslo streets in panic as shots rang out in the background.
Norway is a relatively safe country but has experienced violent attacks by right-wing extremists, including one of the worst mass shootings in Europe in 2011, when a gunman killed 69 people on the island of Utoya after setting off a bomb in Oslo that left eight dead.
In 2019, another right-wing extremist killed his stepsister and then opened fire in a mosque but was overpowered before anyone there was injured.

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