Algeria begins anti-bedbug campaign amid French panic

Pest control technician Lucas Pradalier sprays steam on a bed in a Paris apartment, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023. The French government has been forced to step in to calm a nation increasingly anxious about bedbugs. (AP)
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Updated 06 October 2023
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Algeria begins anti-bedbug campaign amid French panic

  • The Algerian health ministry announced in a statement Thursday “the activation of a health vigilance system”
  • The measures would include “inspections and disinfection of aeroplanes, ships and land transportation... and the strengthening of epidemiological monitoring”

ALGIERS: Algeria has announced “preventative measures” to thwart the spread of bedbugs, after a surge of reported sightings in France, home to a large Algerian diaspora.
Fears are growing that with Paris set to host the Olympic Games in nine months, the surge in visitors could turbocharge numbers of the blood-sucking creatures in the French capital.
The Algerian health ministry announced in a statement Thursday “the activation of a health vigilance system” alongside a series of measures to prevent any infestation linked to harmful insects.
It said the measures would include “inspections and disinfection of aeroplanes, ships and land transportation... and the strengthening of epidemiological monitoring.”
They would be preceded by the “cleaning and sanitising of airports, seaports, and land entries, inspection and sanitising baggage and merchandise liable to contain harmful insects.”
Video footage from France showing bedbugs on trains and in cinemas has spread widely on social media.
Dozens of flights from French airports land in Algeria daily, while the two countries are also connected by ferry.
Fear of the bugs has caused panic in France, with the government under pressure from all sides as the Olympics loom.
One opposition MP even brandished a vial of bedbugs in the National Assembly this week while demanding action.
In the face of this growing anxiety, the government has scheduled an inter-ministerial meeting for Friday to discuss the problem.
Government spokesman Olivier Veran said ministers were keen to “respond to the legitimate anxieties of the French” public.
Bedbugs had largely disappeared from daily life in developed countries by the 1950s, but they rebounded in the past 30 years.
That is thanks to their growing resistance to insecticides, an increase in public travel and a rising proclivity for second-hand goods.
Figures released in July by the French health authorities show more than one in 10 households in the country have been affected by bedbugs in the past five years.


Biden says ‘hoping’ for Gaza ceasefire deal by Ramadan

Updated 16 sec ago
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Biden says ‘hoping’ for Gaza ceasefire deal by Ramadan

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden said Friday he was “hoping” for agreement on a ceasefire deal in the Israel-Hamas conflict by Ramadan.
“I’m hoping so, we’re still working real hard on it. We’re not there yet,” he said of striking a deal before the Islamic holy month that will start on March 10 or 11, depending on the lunar calendar.
 

 


Tunisian judge releases union leader after one-day detention

Updated 02 March 2024
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Tunisian judge releases union leader after one-day detention

  • The UGTT, which has about 1 million members, has been a critical voice after the arrest of activists, businessmen, and journalists since President Kais Saied took charge of most powers in 2021 when he closed parliament

TUNIS: A judge has released a top official in Tunisia’s biggest labor union, one day after he was detained, the union said.
The Tunisian General Labor Union denounced the detention of Tahar Mezzi, saying it was a politically motivated attempt to undermine union rights.
Mezzi is the deputy secretary-general and the union’s head of the private sector.
He was detained two days before a huge protest called by the UGTT against what it said was a “violation of union rights and the disruption of social dialogue.”
A judicial official said the judge also ordered a travel ban on Mezzi.
The UGTT did not say on what grounds Mezzi was detained.
Tunisian authorities were not immediately available for comment.
Since last year, police have arrested at least four senior union officials.
The UGTT, which has about 1 million members, has been a critical voice after the arrest of activists, businessmen, and journalists since President  Kais Saied took charge of most powers in 2021 when he closed parliament.
But the voice of the union, which was widely seen as the biggest force in the country, has been significantly diminished since last year after the arrest of some officials.
Some political parties and activists have accused UGTT of inaction, retreating from its role, and choosing silence instead of confronting Saied’s authoritarian approach.
Saturday’s protest will be the first in months.

 


How Middle East and North African countries can rise to the climate challenge

Updated 10 min 31 sec ago
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How Middle East and North African countries can rise to the climate challenge

  • Saudi Arabia and the UAE leveraging renewables and environmental policies to protect future growth and prosperity
  • Without action now, parts of the MENA region could be uninhabitable by 2050 owing to extreme temperatures and water scarcity

RIYADH/DUBAI: The Middle East and North Africa region is at a crossroads. As temperatures rise, water scarcity intensifies and desertification spreads, the region’s immense economic potential is at risk unless bold action is taken.

Fortunately, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar have been taking steps to adopt sources of renewable energy, not only to meet their own commitments to slashing carbon emissions, but to take a lead in the global energy transition.

The Sakaka Solar Plant project in Saudi Arabia's northern province of Jouf, spread over an area of 6 square kilometers, generates 940,000MWh electricity and supplies enough clean energy to power 75,000 households. (SPA)

This adoption of renewables has come hand in hand with a broader regional push to diversify economies away from oil, invest in carbon capture, storage and utilization, and roll out policies designed to protect natural habitats and expand green spaces.

There is a lot at stake for the MENA region, which is viewed as being uniquely vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Indeed, several studies suggest parts of the region could be uninhabitable by 2050 owing to extreme temperatures and water scarcity.

In November and December last year, Dubai hosted the UN Climate Change Conference, COP28, at which states agreed to a historic set of measures to stop average global temperatures rising 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

People walk outside Expo City in Dubai on December 12, 2023 during the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP28. (AFP)

The agreement called for a “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner ... so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science.”

It also called for the creation of a fund to help vulnerable countries pay for climate-related damage, and the publication of landmark assessments on the world’s progress in mitigating the effects of climate change.

Furthermore, it called for a tripling of renewable energy capacity worldwide by 2030, the speeding up of efforts to reduce coal use, and the adoption of technologies for carbon capture, storage and utilization.

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Although not all nations were satisfied with the text of the deal, it did mark an important step forward, building on the ambitions laid out in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Speaking at the Paris headquarters of the International Energy Agency on Feb. 20, COP28 President Sultan Al-Jaber said that meeting the goals agreed under the “UAE Consensus” would require “unprecedented action” by global stakeholders.

“Solidarity overcame polarization, inclusivity prevailed over finger-pointing and the spirit of partnership brought the best of humanity together,” he said of the COP28 summit.

“To keep this spirit alive and build on the momentum achieved at COP28, the UAE Consensus set a new direction and a clear course correction. We must now turn an unprecedented agreement into unprecedented action. Now is the time for all stakeholders to step up.”

COP28 president Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber is seen on a screen as he speaks during a high-level round table on COP energy and climate commitments organized by the International Energy Agency at its headquarters in Paris on February 20, 2024. (AFP)

While many Western nations appear to be rolling back their climate commitments, the Middle East and North Africa region has risen to the challenge.

One bold example of this is the Saudi Green Initiative, launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2021 to protect the Kingdom’s environment, conserve wildlife, and plant billions of trees, while enabling sustainable economic growth.

 

 

“Since its inception, SGI has implemented a range of initiatives to protect and conserve the Kingdom’s vital ecosystems,” Osama Ibrahim Faqeeha, deputy minister of environment, water and agriculture, told Arab News.

Osama Ibrahim Faqeeha

“For example, the National Greening Program, which is driving nationwide tree-planting efforts across Saudi Arabia and is underpinned by two key guiding principles: firstly, maintaining ecosystem balance, and secondly, utilizing renewable water resources.

“The program follows a nature-based regeneration approach to allow its ecosystems to flourish over time.”

Faqeeha said several dedicated initiatives under the SGI are being actioned to protect biodiversity hotspots through the designation of protected areas.

“SGI also aims to promote sustainability by raising awareness and reducing the adverse impact of economic sectors on the ecosystems, driving all these efforts by engaging all relevant stakeholders from the public, private, and third sectors,” he said.

Saudi Arabia's National Greening Program has been in full swing since 2021. (SPA)

Other significant steps the Kingdom has taken to safeguard biodiversity include the establishment of a dedicated national environmental framework, underpinned by the National Environment Law.

Several agencies have been established to carry out this work, including the National Center for Wildlife, National Center for Vegetation Cover, National Center for Environmental Compliance, and the National Center for Waste Management.

Under his ministry’s oversight, Faqeeha said these agencies “regulate and monitor critical environmental domains linked to biodiversity conservation, such as terrestrial, marine, and coastal ecosystems, land and vegetation cover, environmental media, waste management, (and) underscore the commitment to biodiversity conservation in the Kingdom.”

The picture is similar in the UAE. Under the General Environment Policy of 2021, authorities are working to preserve ecosystems, promote diversification and economic prosperity, integrate climate change and biodiversity considerations into various sectors, and support the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030.

Keeping its marine waters constantly clean is part the UAE's sustainability goals. (Supplied)

All these plans are crucial if countries in the Middle East and North Africa region hope to address the effects of climate change, which are already impacting precipitation patterns, causing water scarcity and harming agriculture, thereby threatening livelihoods and food security.

In the Gulf states, in particular, climate change is already contributing to an increase in the salinity of groundwater. According to a report by the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, Gulf water supplies will come under additional strain over the next 20 years due to the region’s booming population and the scarcity of rainfall.

Officials in these countries believe it is therefore critical to plan now in order to mitigate and adapt to these challenges if they are to protect future growth and prosperity.

 


Shoukry: Egypt hopeful of Gaza ceasefire deal before Ramadan

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, attends the Antalya Diplomacy Forum in Antalya, Turkey, Friday, March 1, 2024. (AP)
Updated 02 March 2024
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Shoukry: Egypt hopeful of Gaza ceasefire deal before Ramadan

  • Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Malki, speaking at the same panel with Shoukry, said Israel would not announce a ceasefire unless international pressure is imposed on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government

ANTALYA: Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on Friday said Cairo was hopeful that talks could agree on a ceasefire in Gaza before the start of Ramadan.
Gaza truce talks have been taking place in Paris since last week in what appears to be the most serious push for weeks to halt the fighting in the Palestinian enclave between Israeli forces and Hamas and to secure the release of Israeli and foreign hostages.
“I can say that we have reached a point of understanding. We will still exert every effort with our brothers in Qatar, the US, and others close to the negotiations. We are hopeful that we can reach a cessation of hostilities and exchange of hostages,” Minister Sameh Shoukry said at the Antalya Diplomacy Forum in Turkiye.
“Everyone recognizes that we have a time limit to be successful before the start of Ramadan,” he said.
A proposed deal from the start of Ramadan on March 10 and 11 includes a 40-day pause in all military operations and the exchange of Palestinian prisoners for Israeli hostages at a ratio of 10 to one, a senior source close to the talks told Reuters on Tuesday.
“We will continue to strive in collaboration with the United Nations, with our partners to relieve the suffering of the Gazan people and to increase the level (of aid). This cannot happen practically without the cessation of hostilities,” Shoukry said.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Malki, speaking at the same panel with Shoukry, said Israel would not announce a ceasefire unless international pressure is imposed on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
“If we are not able to reach a ceasefire in the next two or three weeks, is clear we will see another round of attacks on Rafah and the continuation of a genocide,” he said.
Also on Friday, Abu Ubaida, the spokesperson for Al-Qassam brigades, said seven hostages who had been held in Gaza were killed as a result of Israeli bombardment.
It was not immediately clear when the seven died.
The Al-Qassam brigades confirmed that the number of hostages killed due to Israel’s military operations in Gaza has now exceeded 70 captives, Abu Ubaida added in a statement on Telegram.

 


Biden approves military airdrops of aid into Gaza after chaotic encounter left more than 100 dead

Updated 01 March 2024
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Biden approves military airdrops of aid into Gaza after chaotic encounter left more than 100 dead

  • Biden said the airdrops would begin soon and that the United States was looking into additional ways to facilitate getting badly needed aid into the war-battered territory
  • Will “seek to open up other avenues in, including possibly a marine corridor,” Biden said

WASHINGTON: The US will begin airdropping humanitarian assistance into Gaza, President Joe Biden said Friday, a day after more than 100 Palestinians were killed during a chaotic encounter with Israeli troops.
The president announced the move after at least 115 Palestinians were killed and more than 750 others were injured, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry, on Thursday when witnesses said Israeli troops opened fire as huge crowds raced to pull goods off an aid convoy.
Biden said the airdrops would begin soon and that the United States was looking into additional ways to facilitate getting badly needed aid into the war-battered territory to ease the suffering of Palestinians.
“In the coming days we’re going to join with our friends in Jordan and others who are providing airdrops of additional food and supplies” and will “seek to open up other avenues in, including possibly a marine corridor,” Biden said.
The president twice referred to airdrops to help Ukraine, but White House officials clarified that he was referring to Gaza.
Israel said many of the dead were trampled in a stampede linked to the chaos and that its troops fired at some in the crowd who they believed moved toward them in a threatening way. The Israeli government has said it is investigating the matter.
Biden made the announcement while hosting Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni at the White house.
“Aid flowing to Gaza is nowhere nearly enough,” Biden said. “Now, it’s nowhere nearly enough. Innocent lives are on the line and children’s lives are on the line. We won’t stand by until we get more aid in there. We should be getting hundreds of trucks in, not just several.”
The White House, State Department and Pentagon had been weighing the merits of US military airdrops of assistance for several months, but had held off due to concerns that the method is inefficient, has no way of ensuring the aid gets to civilians in need and cannot make up for overland aid deliveries.
Administration officials said their preference was to further increase overland aid deliveries through the Rafah and Kerem Shalom border points and to try to get Israel to open the Erez Crossing into northern Gaza.
The incident on Thursday appeared to tip the balance and push Biden to approve airdrops. White House national security spokesman John Kirby said that airdrops are difficult operations, but the acute need for aid in Gaza informed the president’s decision.
He stressed that ground routes will be continued to be used to get aid into Gaza, and that the airdrops are a supplemental effort.
“It’s not the kind of thing you want to do in a heartbeat. you want to think it through carefully,” Kirby said. He added, “There’s few military operations that are more complicated than humanitarian assistance airdrops”
Biden in his visit with Meloni at the White House on Friday also sought to assure European leaders that the US remains behind Ukraine even as he’s been unable to win passage of a supplemental foreign aid package that includes $60 billion for Ukraine in addition to $35 billion for Israel and Taiwan. The legislation has passed the Senate, but Republican Speaker Mike Johnson has refused to put it up for a vote in the House.
Ahead of Meloni’s visit, White House officials said they don’t have good answers for allies about finding an end to the impasse with House Republicans and reopening the American spigot of aid to Kyiv that’s badly needed as Ukraine tries to fend off Russia’s invasion.
Biden, along with top Democrats and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, strongly urged Johnson during a White House meeting this week to take up the foreign aid package, but Johnson responded by saying that Congress “must take care of America’s needs first.”
The leaders’ agenda also discussed the US, Egypt and Qatar to broker an extended ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, Italy’s priorities for a G7 presidency, migrant flows into Italy from North Africa, and their countries’ China policies.
Biden said earlier this week that he was optimistic that a ceasefire deal could be reached by early next week. But he acknowledged that a prospective deal may have been set back after Israeli troops on Thursday fired on a large crowd of Palestinians racing to pull food off the aid convoy.
With Meloni by his side, Biden on Friday expressed cautious optimism that a deal can still be struck.
“We’ve been working and hopefully we’ll know shortly,” Biden said.
Meloni said solving the humanitarian crisis in Gaza was Italy’s top priority.
“We need to coordinate our actions to avoid an escalation, and this regard we fully support the US mediation efforts,” she said.