Thailand welcomes Muslim World League chief in official visit

MWL Secretary General Dr. Mohammad Al-Issa. (Supplied)
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Updated 14 February 2022
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Thailand welcomes Muslim World League chief in official visit

  • Dr. Mohammad Al-Issa received by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha in Bangkok
  • Authorities hope trip will bolster cooperation between Thailand, MWL

BANGKOK: Thailand’s prime minister welcomed on Monday the chief of the Muslim World League, who arrived in Bangkok for meetings with Thai officials and religious leaders.

MWL Secretary General Dr. Mohammad Al-Issa was received by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha upon his arrival.

Thai government spokesperson Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said that the prime minister welcomed Al-Issa’s visit, which is hoped will “lead to close cooperation between Thailand and the MWL.”

Wangboonkongchana said in a statement: “It is hoped that the secretary-general’s visit will bring a close relationship between Thailand and the Muslim world.

“The prime minister stressed that Thailand is ready to support the mission of the MWL.”

Thailand authorities said ahead of the visit that besides meeting officials, Al-Issa would also hold interfaith dialogues with religious leaders in the Southeast Asian nation, where a majority of the population follow Buddhism.

“He is scheduled to give a keynote lecture on the importance of Alliance of Civilizations at Chulalongkorn University,” the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs told reporters last week.

The MWL chief is the first high-ranking visitor from Saudi Arabia to arrive in Thailand since the restoration of ties between the two kingdoms last month.

In late January, the Thai prime minister visited Riyadh on the invitation of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in what was Thailand’s first top leadership visit to Saudi Arabia in three decades.

Dr. Sarawut Aree, director of the Muslim Studies Center at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, told Arab News that the MWL chief's visit would focus on social and cultural cooperation.

“Now with the new Thai-Saudi Arabia relations, the reception and travel are more convenient,” he said.

“The visit can be seen as an encouragement of the restoration of relationships and the connection in the people-level, which is now being more official and convenient.”


Trump mocks Democrats in campaign rally, compares Pelosi to a dog

Updated 7 sec ago
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Trump mocks Democrats in campaign rally, compares Pelosi to a dog

  • Says the Democratic Party is being undemocratic for annointing Biden as its presidential nominee, only to try and yank it away from him
  • With Biden's poll numbers falling after his debate debacle, Trump and his supporters want Biden to stay on in the race

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan: Donald Trump held his first campaign rally on Saturday since he narrowly escaped an assassination attempt one week ago, mocking Democrats and at one point comparing former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to a “dog.”
Trump, who called for national unity in a speech on Thursday as he accepted his party’s presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention, made no mention of that in his remarks before a raucous crowd of supporters in Grand Rapids.
He frequently mocked Democratic President Joe Biden as feeble. He derided senior Democrats, including Pelosi, for trying to persuade Biden to end his re-election bid.
Referring to Pelosi, Trump said: “She’s turned on him like a dog. She’s as crazy as a bed bug.”
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Trump comparing Pelosi to a dog.
Fresh from his nominating convention where his takeover of the Republican Party was cemented, Trump appeared in Grand Rapids with his new vice presidential pick, Senator J.D. Vance from Ohio. They took the stage in their first campaign event together with the Republican Party unified behind them.
In contrast, it is no longer certain that President Joe Biden will be the Democratic Party’s nominee facing Trump in the Nov. 5 election.
Biden has faced calls from some senior Democrats to end his re-election bid after his poor debate performance last month raised concerns over whether he could beat Trump or complete another four-year term.
Trump attacked Democrats, saying they wanted to kick Biden off the ticket after he won their presidential nominating contest.
“They have a couple of problems. No. 1, they have no idea who their candidate is,” Trump said to laughter and jeers. “This guy goes and he gets the votes and now they want to take it away.”
“As you’re seeing, the Democrat Party is not the party of democracy. They’re really the enemies of democracy.”
He added: “And they keep saying, ‘He’s a threat to democracy.’ I’m saying, ‘What the hell did I do for democracy?’
Last week, I took a bullet for democracy.”
Trump referred to the assassination attempt several times on Saturday. “I hope I don’t have to go through that again. It was so horrible,” Trump said.
Opinion polls show a tight race between the Trump and Biden at a national level but Biden trailing Trump in the battleground states that will likely determine the winner.
Many Democrats fear he may not have a realistic path to victory and that the party needs a new candidate to take on Trump.
There was a heavy police presence at Trump’s rally in Grand Rapids on Saturday, with police on every street corner for several blocks.
US Secret Service officers were positioned on the top balconies in the Van Andel Arena, giving them a bird’s eye view of the crowd inside.
Bag searches for those entering the indoor arena earlier in the day were long and thorough, and the Secret Service sweep of the building took about an hour longer than usual.
The rally in Butler, Pennsylvania, last weekend was outdoors. At that event, the gunman was able to scale the roof of a building outside the Secret Service perimeter before opening fire on Trump, clipping his ear, killing a rally-goer and wounding several others.
The Secret Service, which is responsible for protecting Trump, declined to comment on security for the Grand Rapids event. An investigation is under way into the security failures at the Butler rally.
Trump gave a detailed account of his narrow brush with death in his convention speech on Thursday, telling the audience that he was only talking to them “by the grace of Almighty God.”
Trump’s former physician, Ronny Jackson, said on Saturday that the former president is recovering as expected from the gunshot wound to his right ear, but noted intermittent bleeding and said Trump may require a hearing exam.
The bullet fired by the would-be assassin
at the July 13 rally in Pennsylvania came “less than a quarter of an inch from entering his head,” said Jackson, a Republican congressman from Texas who had served as physician to Presidents Trump and Barack Obama.
 


Residents protest over power cuts in southern Russian city

Updated 21 July 2024
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Residents protest over power cuts in southern Russian city

  • One video posted on the Baza Telegram channel appeared to show police making at least two arrests during Saturday’s protest

MOSCOW: Residents angry over recent power cuts in southern Russia staged a rare public protest on Saturday in the city of Krasnodar, posts on social media said, as the local governor blamed a heatwave for causing the blackouts.
The south of Russia has been affected by unusually hot weather that has caused mass power outages in several regions and led to the shutdown earlier this week of one of four power units at the Rostov nuclear power plant, the region’s largest.
The unit has been put back into operation since then.
“There has been abnormal heat in the Krasnodar region for a week now. The load on the energy system is colossal. I know and understand all the indignation of residents due to power outages,” Veniamin Kondratyev, the governor of Krasnodar region, said on the Telegram messaging app.
He said power capacities were not currently sufficient to meet peak demand during the hot summer months.
One video posted on the Baza Telegram channel appeared to show police making at least two arrests during Saturday’s protest.
Russian authorities have clamped down on any protest activity, especially politically laced dissent, since the start of the conflict with Ukraine in February 2022, and public protests are very rare given the risk of arrest.


Nigeria fines Meta $220m for ‘violations’

Updated 21 July 2024
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Nigeria fines Meta $220m for ‘violations’

  • Meta’s platforms — WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram — are among the most popular social media in the country.

LAGOS: Nigeria has issued a $220 million fine against Meta, the parent company of Facebook and WhatsApp, for “multiple and repeated” violations.
The country’s Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) on Friday accused Meta of violating the country’s data protection and consumer rights laws on Facebook and WhatsApp.
The FCCPC’s chief executive officer Adamu Abdullahi said the investigations the commission carried out in conjunction with the Nigeria Data Protection Commission between May 2021 and December 2023 showed that it engaged in “invasive practices against data subjects/consumers in Nigeria.”
Abdullahi accused Meta of discriminatory practices, abuse of market dominance, sharing Nigerians’ personal data without authorization and denying Nigerians the right to determine how their data are used.
Apart from the hefty fine, the FCCPC boss insisted that Meta must “comply with prevailing law and cease the exploitation of Nigerian consumers and their market abuse.”
It ordered the company to “desist from future similar or other conduct/practices that do not meet nationally applicable standards.”
Meta did not immediately respond to a request for a response to the fine. But the FCCPC said the company was aware of its 38-month investigation.
About three quarters of the 200 million people in Africa’s most populous country are younger than 24 — a generation that is also hyper-connected to social media.
The country had some 164.3 million Internet subscriptions as of March, according to the figures published by the National Communication Commission (NCC) on its website.
Meta’s platforms — WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram — are among the most popular social media in the country.
The minister for communication and the digital economy, Bosun Tijani, said in December that there were “over 51 million WhatsApp users in Nigeria.”
The European Union (EU) accused Meta at the beginning of July of breaching the bloc’s digital rules, paving the way for potential fines worth billions of euros.
The EU said Meta’s new ad-free subscription model for Facebook and Instagram “forced millions of users” in the bloc to pay to avoid data collection or agree to share their data with Facebook and Instagram to keep using the platforms for free.


Poland calls on EU to stress ties with US to counter Russian ‘disinformation’

Updated 21 July 2024
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Poland calls on EU to stress ties with US to counter Russian ‘disinformation’

  • Poland calls for positive action ahead of the US presidential election
  • The Kremlin has said it would not meddle in the November US election

BRUSSELS: Poland wants the European Union to launch a campaign in the United States to raise awareness with the American public about the importance of the joint relationship.
In a paper prepared for an EU foreign ministers’ meeting on Monday, Poland calls for positive action ahead of the US presidential election on Nov. 5 to counter what it describes as Russian “disinformation” aimed at sowing division between the EU and Washington.
“At this critical moment in history, it is imperative that we collectively take swift and robust action to strengthen the transatlantic relations through strategic communication about the EU in the US,” the paper, seen by Reuters, says.
It adds: “This means scaling up our de-bunking and, even more importantly, pre-bunking of Russian disinformation and launching campaigns which set the record straight about where Europe stands today and about the benefits of diplomacy, collective security and open society.”
The Kremlin has said it would not meddle in the November US election. It has also dismissed US allegations that it orchestrated campaigns to sway the 2016 and 2020 US presidential elections.
Poland’s paper said Russian state media and online accounts tied to the Kremlin were spreading and amplifying misleading content about US immigration and border security, misstating the impact of immigration, highlighting stories about crimes committed by immigrants, and warning of dire consequences if the US does not crack down at its border with Mexico.
“We should expect much more is to come, as eroding support for Ukraine remains Russia’s top priority. We need to remind the American public, especially the younger generation of the deliverables our decades-long partnership has brought to the US economy,” the paper said.
Poland has said it has been the target of numerous Russian attempts at destabilization and election interference because of its role in supplying military aid to its neighbor Ukraine, allegations Russia has dismissed.
“We should raise awareness among the American public about the size of European aid to Ukraine and how that effort helps save Ukrainian lives,” the Polish paper said in reference to claims by US presidential candidate Donald Trump that European aid to Ukraine was much smaller than that of the US
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the EU has provided 107 billion euros ($116.38 billion) to Ukraine and has agreed on a further 50 billion euros for the next four years.
The US Council on Foreign Relations estimates US support for Ukraine at $107 billion.


US to take ‘hard look’ at fighter project, top official says

Updated 21 July 2024
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US to take ‘hard look’ at fighter project, top official says

  • Kendall: The idea of using drones or Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) will remain part of the proposed initiatives
  • The Air Force faces heavy costs for renewing its land-based nuclear deterrent and developing the B-21 bomber.

RAF FAIRFORD, England: The US will closely dissect its plans for a Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) platform — a future family of fighters and drones — before deciding whether to go ahead, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said on Saturday.
The cost of the future F-22 replacement has come under scrutiny after topping $300 million each, three times the cost of an F-35. But Kendall also highlighted evolving threats, in an apparent reference to rapidly arming China.
The idea of using drones or Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) will remain part of the proposed initiatives, he said.
“Before we make the commitment that we are close to making, we want to make sure we have got the right design concept,” Kendall said at Britain’s Royal International Air Tattoo, the world’s largest military air show.
“NGAD was conceived before a number of things: before the threat became so severe, before CCAs were introduced into the equation and before we had some issues with affordability that we are currently facing,” Kendall told reporters.
“So we are going to take a hard look at NGAD before moving forward, but the family of systems which includes a crewed platform and CCAs and weapon systems and communications ... is still very much the concept that we are pursuing.”
The Air Force faces heavy costs for renewing its land-based nuclear deterrent and developing the B-21 bomber.
“Before we commit to the 2026 budget, we want to be sure we are on the right path,” Kendall told reporters.
Analysts attending the air show said the depth of the review suggested the Air Force wanted to refresh its view on whether NGAD remained well adapted to threats posed by China as its schedule slips into the 2030s.
“NGAD is a whole series of programs under the umbrella of capabilities that the Air Force wants in order both to better deter China and to fight and win if necessary,” said Vago Muradian, editor of Defense & Aerospace Report.
“The Chinese are changing how they’re going to fight. So the question that a budget-constrained Air Force is asking is whether the tens of billions of dollars is the right investment, or are there better ways of achieving some of these same aims.”
Boeing and Lockheed Martin are widely seen as competing to win the core fighter part of the project.
The rethink has captured attention in Europe where Britain’s crewed-uncrewed GCAP project, in partnership with Japan and Italy, may face scrutiny in an upcoming UK defense review and France, Germany and Spain are working on the FCAS/SCAF project.
Partners in GCAP are expected to give an update at the opening of the Farnborough International Airshow on Monday.