Archive for August, 2020

Hamas announce deal with Israel to de-escalate tensions in Gaza Strip as area braces for Covid-19 outbreak

Posted by RT on August 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on Hamas announce deal with Israel to de-escalate tensions in Gaza Strip as area braces for Covid-19 outbreak

The militant group controlling the Palestinian enclave has said it reached an “understanding” with Tel Aviv that would help ease tensions in Gaza following weeks of hostilities as the region fights a Covid-19 outbreak.

An agreement has been reached to “contain the escalation” and halt Israel’s “aggression,” the group said in a statement on Monday, adding that the deal was mediated by a Qatari envoy, Mohammed al-Emadi. Hamas did not provide the exact details of the accord but said that both sides agreed to “restore calm”, adding that the deal would also facilitate a “number of projects” that would benefit Gaza and particularly help it cope with a coronavirus outbreak. 

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A Palestinian police officer gestures during a lockdown after Gaza reported its first  Covid-19 cases © REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
Gaza Strip goes into lockdown as it starts battling its 1st Covid-19 outbreak

The development comes less than a week after the Palestinian territory confirmed four coronavirus cases in a local refugee camp and imposed a lockdown to contain the disease. The situation in the densely populated Palestinian enclave could be particularly disastrous since Gaza’s fragile healthcare system has suffered under a de-facto Israeli blockade for years and its only power plant was shut down some two weeks ago after Tel Aviv cut fuel supplies amid a spike in cross-border skirmishes.

Tensions around the strip have been running high in recent weeks due to escalating hostilities between Israel and Hamas. Palestinian militants launched incendiary balloons into Israeli territory igniting brushfires and occasionally launched some rockets as well. 

Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) retaliated with air strikes and used tanks to hit Hamas targets in the enclave. Israel has also left Gaza virtually without supplies after halting the flow of fuel into the enclave since mid-August and blocking the transfer of goods through the Kerem Shalom crossing around the same time. The Gaza fishing zone was closed as well.

Now, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) – an Israeli Defense Ministry unit coordinating civilian issues between Tel Aviv and the Palestinian authorities – confirmed that some of the restrictions would be lifted as part of the deal.

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Palestinians pass Gaza's power plant after it was shut down, according to Palestinian officials, in the central Gaza Strip, August 18, 2020. © Reuters / Mohammed Salem
Gaza shuts down its only power plant after Israel suspends fuel shipments

"Following efforts to calm the situation, and in light of security consultations led by Defense Minister Benny Gantz, a decision was taken to resume the routine activity of the Kerem Shalom crossing, including the entry of fuel products, starting tomorrow [Tuesday],” COGAT said. The fishing zone will also be opened within 15 nautical miles. 

Some media reports also suggested that the agreement could involve Israel facilitating the entry of medical goods into the Gaza Strip to help combat Covid-19, as well as allowing Qatar to send $30 million in financial aid to the enclave.

Still, Tel Aviv did not appear to be particularly keen on lifting the restrictions as COGAT said the decision would still be “tested on the ground” and, should Hamas fail to abide by its commitments, Israel “will act accordingly.”

Gantz also noted that Israel’s zero tolerance policy toward what he called “security violations” would continue and that Tel Aviv considers “a balloon … just as unacceptable as rockets.” He also put the blame for the health crisis in Gaza on the Hamas leader, Yahya Sinwar, while expressing his hope that Hamas would somehow “take the security aspect away in order to fight corona[virus].” 

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Smoke rises following an Israeli air strike on Gaza, August 18, 2020.
Israel strikes Hamas ‘special forces unit’ in Gaza amid continued rocket & balloon attacks (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

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Palestinians ‘can’t be stuck in the past,’ Trump’s son-in-law laments while backing Israel’s own thousands-year-old claim to land

Posted by RT on August 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on Palestinians ‘can’t be stuck in the past,’ Trump’s son-in-law laments while backing Israel’s own thousands-year-old claim to land

White House adviser Jared Kushner urged Palestinians to make their peace with the newly official alliance between the UAE and Israel – whose leadership refers to its ancient religious texts to justify its own land grabs.

Kushner made the somewhat ironic statement after arriving in the UAE on Monday on board a passenger jet completing the first-ever direct flight from Israel. The route was officially established as part of the Abraham Accords between the two countries and the US earlier this month. The decision was hailed by Washington and its allies as “historic,” though Palestine and its allies have deemed it a betrayal by their erstwhile Arab brethren.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a press conference in Jerusalem, on August 30, 2020.
‘No longer waiting for Palestinians’: Israel holds ‘many more’ secret talks with Arab states on normalizing ties, Netanyahu claims

This hasn’t stopped Kushner from continuing to promote it. Donald Trump’s son-in-law told reporters that Palestinians should know peace would be “ready for them…as soon as they are ready to embrace it,” urging the occupied population to accept the help of “the whole region” in getting an economic boost.

We can’t want peace more than they want peace…They can’t be stuck in the past.

The UAE has defended its decision to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel by pointing out that the landmark agreement had postponed Israel’s official annexation of the Jewish-only settlements currently honeycombing the Palestinian territory of the West Bank. However, Palestinians have argued that such a move would merely legitimize the status quo – since the land's occupation continues with Tel Aviv’s backing.

The Palestinian Authority responded to the Abraham Accords with scorn, recalling its ambassador from Abu Dhabi and declaring the agreement belonged in the “garbage can of history.

Jerusalem is not for sale,” PA President Mahmoud Abbas reminded the US. The Palestinians ended diplomatic relations with Washington after the Trump administration moved its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem in 2017 and have categorically dismissed all overtures since as overwhelmingly favoring Israel.

Kushner also thanked Saudi Arabia on Monday for allowing the UAE-Israel flight to pass through Saudi airspace. While Israel and Saudi Arabia have not yet established official diplomatic relations, the two nations have grown quite cozy, and Israeli officials have gone on the record with their expectations that other Arab nations will soon follow Abu Dhabi’s lead in establishing official relations with Tel Aviv.

Such a statement remains controversial, as Islamic doctrine suggests their primary loyalties should be to the Muslim community (umma). Turkey has considered suspending diplomatic ties with the UAE over its befriending Israel, declaring history would never forgive the country’s “hypocritical behavior.” However, while Turkey is majority-Muslim, it also has diplomatic and trade ties with Israel. 

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© Reuters / Kevin Lamarque
Trump says ‘historic’ Israel-UAE deal on diplomatic ties will ‘suspend’ Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands

Despite the Abraham Accords supposedly putting Israel’s annexation of the West Bank on hold, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed shortly after the agreement was signed that recognizing Tel Aviv’s “sovereignty” over Judea and Samaria – parts of the Palestinian West Bank – remains “on the table.”

The Zionist movement laid claim to what is now Israel starting in the late 19th century based on biblical claims suggesting the land was promised to them thousands of years ago. The modern state of Israel was established in 1948, leading to decades of conflict between the area's Jewish and Arab populations as many of the latter were forcibly expelled.

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Maduro pardons 100+ opposition lawmakers to promote ‘national reconciliation’ in Venezuela

Posted by RT on August 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on Maduro pardons 100+ opposition lawmakers to promote ‘national reconciliation’ in Venezuela

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has announced pardons for 110 opposition lawmakers currently facing charges, saying this should promote democracy in the country currently under US sanctions and demands for regime change.

The intent of the pardons is to “promote national reconciliation and the search for peace,” Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez announced on Monday in Caracas. 

The measure was proposed by the Commission for Truth, Justice and Peace and seeks to strengthen democracy and “open channels of political action” within the framework of the Venezuelan Constitution, Rodriguez added.

The government in Caracas is calling for national unity to face the “criminal blockade” by the US and the Covid-19 pandemic, urging the opposition to seek peaceful coexistence through “constitutional, electoral and peaceful ways.”

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FILE PHOTO © REUTERS/Marco Bello/
‘Enough of European colonialism’: Maduro says EU envoy to be expelled after block sanctions 11 Venezuelan officials

Among the pardoned lawmakers are Freddy Guevara, Freddy Superlano, Tomas Guanipa, Miguel Pizarro, Americo de Grazia, Simon Calzadilla and Henry Ramos Allup, who had been stripped of parliamentary immunity. The list includes both opposition politicians who had fled Venezuela and those who have been arrested, such as Gilber Caro and Renzo Prieto.

The recipients will be able to participate in the December 6 parliamentary elections if they so choose, Rodriguez added.

Venezuela has been under US sanctions since January 2019, when opposition politician Juan Guaido declared himself “interim president” and denounced Maduro as illegitimate. Though Washington and a number of its allies have recognized Guaido, all of his attempts to seize power in Caracas – including an attempted military coup – have failed.

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China accuses India of violating country’s borders, urges it to withdraw troops

Posted by RT on August 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on China accuses India of violating country’s borders, urges it to withdraw troops

Beijing has reported a new border incident with India in the contested region of Aksai Chin, accusing New Delhi of intrusion into Chinese territory on Monday. China’s military warned it was getting ready for any possible scenario.

Indian troops have broken their promise and trespassed over China’s border again, Senior Colonel Zhang Shuili, spokesperson for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said in a statement.

The official urged India to withdraw its troops from the Chinese-controlled area and “control” them to avoid such incidents in the future. The Chinese military is taking all measures necessary to deal with the situation and is ready to defend China's sovereignty, he warned.

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FILE PHOTO. India's Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers stand guard at a checkpoint along a highway leading to Ladakh. ©REUTERS / Danish Ismail
‘Provocative movements’: India slams China, as it reveals fresh border incident over the weekend

The statement came within hours of New Delhi bringing an earlier border incident to light, accusing China of conducting “provocative military movements” in the area and crossing the border at the weekend.

The two countries have long been at odds over the disputed border in the scarcely-populated mountainous region known as Aksai Chin in China and Eastern Ladakh in India. The dispute has repeatedly resulted in clashes between Indian and Chinese troops stationed in the area.

The latest serious escalation in the region occurred back in June, when rival troops became involved in a violent and deadly brawl. According to media reports, the soldiers used crude homemade weaponry to assault each other, as they do not carry firearms in accordance with an agreement between the two countries.

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Highway construction in Manesar in the northern state of Haryana, India, July 9, 2015.
India to ban Chinese firms from road projects as tensions mount over border dispute

The Indian military later admitted that at least 20 soldiers died in the clash and blamed the incident on China. Beijing, for its part, accused New Delhi of provoking the incident, yet remained tight-lipped on its own casualties.

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Covid-19 pandemic could ‘wipe out’ DECADES of health care progress, WHO warns

Posted by RT on August 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on Covid-19 pandemic could ‘wipe out’ DECADES of health care progress, WHO warns

The coronavirus pandemic could potentially throw humanity’s progress in the field of health care back by decades, the WHO has ominously warned following its first indicative study on the impact of the virus.

Major progress in essential health care services achieved over the past two decades could be “wiped out in a short period of time,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said in the major study, calling it “a source of great concern.” 

An extensive survey conducted between March and June among senior health officials in more than 100 countries showed that almost every one of them experienced disruptions in some vital health services, endangering the lives of people who did not necessarily contract Covid-19. Low and middle-income countries reported the biggest difficulties.

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FILE PHOTO: An Air France airplane lands at the Charles-de-Gaulle Airport in Roissy, near Paris, France © Reuters / Christian Hartmann
Covid-19 could wipe out more than 100 million jobs & over $1 trillion from global tourism industry

Among the most affected services were immunizations and outreach services for some of the most vulnerable people as well as diagnosis and treatment of non-communicable diseases and cancer. Disruptions of family planning and mental health disorders’ treatment were also high on the list. 

Significant delays with any of these services could lead to long-term negative effects on population health, the Geneva-based UN Health body warned. “The impact may be felt beyond the immediate pandemic as, in trying to catch up on services, countries may find that resources are overwhelmed,” the study said, adding that even a “modest disruption” could lead to an increase in morbidity and mortality rates.

Almost a quarter of all nations that took part in the survey also reported disruptions of potentially life saving emergency services like urgent blood transfusions or emergency surgeries. 

The researchers believe that the pandemic has already caused a spike in non-Covid deaths due to the disruption in other health care services, while admitting that the exact impact would be hard to calculate. 

Lockdown measures imposed by governments and financial difficulties experienced by many during the pandemic are cited as reasons for the disruption, in addition to supply interruptions and staff redeployment to treat Covid-19 patients. 

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FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker takes a swab from a police officer for a rapid Covid-19 test in Ahmedabad, India. ©REUTERS / Amit Dave
India breaks US record for biggest daily Covid-19 infections as global tally leaps 25 mn mark

“The survey shines a light on the cracks in our health systems, but it also serves to inform new strategies to improve healthcare provision during the pandemic and beyond,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. He added that the pandemic should be a “lesson to all countries” that health is “not an ‘either-or’ equation.”

“We must better prepare for emergencies but also keep investing in health systems that fully respond to people’s needs throughout the life course,” he said.

The true scale of the impact might in fact be even bigger than the study implies as it did not include the Americas – a region that is home to some of the worst affected nations, including the United States and Brazil. 

The number of Covid-19 cases across the world has surpassed 25 million while the pandemic-linked death toll has almost reached 850,000, according to figures compiled by the Johns Hopkins University. 

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NASA warns of 25m diameter asteroid close flyby this week, with two even BIGGER space rocks to follow soon after

Posted by RT on August 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on NASA warns of 25m diameter asteroid close flyby this week, with two even BIGGER space rocks to follow soon after

The asteroid early warning system monitored by NASA has posted advance notice of a number of space rocks inbound in the coming days, with one set to travel within just 120,000km of our planet.

On September 1, a 25-meter (three London buses end-to-end) and a 28-meter (one and a half times the length of a bowling lane) asteroid are charted to fly past at a distance of 2.9 million and 121,000 km respectively.  

While the US space agency assured its Twitter followers over the weekend that there’s probably nothing to worry about, for perspective the Moon is 384,400 km away, so it will be quite a close call indeed - astronomically speaking - especially given the risk posed by an object which is estimated to be travelling at a speed of 8.16 km per second. 

According to one Twitter commentator’s calculations, the flyby distance will be roughly the equivalent of twice the round trip distance between Santiago, Chile and Beijing, China.  

 As if a one-two combo of cosmic proportions wasn’t enough, the very next day, the 13-meter-diameter ‘2020 PG6’ is due to fly past harmlessly at a relatively safe distance of 2.2 million kilometers.  

The breathing room will be much appreciated - given how 2020 has gone so far, we could do without being buzzed constantly by cosmic debris. Online commentators couldn’t help but poke fun, asking either for respite from the relentless onslaught of apocalyptic news or, with some gallows humor, asking for one of the space rocks to put an end to a terrible year. 

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Illustration: © GETTY IMAGES / CHRISTOPH BURGSTEDT / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Cutting it close! THREE asteroids inbound this week were only spotted THIS MONTH, NASA reveals

To close out the week, however, will be the grande finale: a 150-meter behemoth - half the height of the Eiffel Tower - labeled ‘2010 FR’ is expected to shoot past us at a distance of 7.4 million kilometers on September 6.  

© NASA Asteroid Watch

Last but not least, bringing an end to the pre-autumnal assault, on September 8 the asteroid 2020 PT4, (measuring 35m in diameter) will zip past at 1.8 million kilometers. 

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Wildfires rage in southern Spain, triggering mass evacuations (VIDEOS, PHOTOS)

Posted by RT on August 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on Wildfires rage in southern Spain, triggering mass evacuations (VIDEOS, PHOTOS)

Over 3,000 people have been evacuated after a massive wildfire broke out in Spain’s southern province of Andalusia. Several separate wildfires are also raging in other regions of the country.

The massive wildfire broke out in the mountainous regions of Andalusia on Thursday. Thousands of hectares have been already burnt out while emergency services are struggling to contain the out-of-control blaze.

The fire triggered the mass evacuation of people living in small remote towns in the area, with over 3,000 people evacuated across the entire region so far.

More than 500 emergency workers, including both civilian and military personnel, have been deployed into the area. The taskforce is backed up by heavy machinery, as well as aerial units.

“It is very difficult to say when the wildfire will be under control,” Juan Sanchez of the Andalusia Forest Fire Department told the AP on Sunday. Windy and dry weather has greatly contributed to the spread of the fires, he said.

A further 70 people have been evacuated from the town of Mula, located in Spain’s southeastern region of Murcia after a wildfire dangerously approached the area.

As of Monday, the Mula fire was declared “stabilized” yet it remained unclear when it will be fully extinguished.

Another wildfire has been raging outside the town of Almonaster la Real in the province of Huelva. Firefighters had to use controlled burning tactics to contain the flames, while hitting the key areas with water-carrying aircraft from above.

Spanish firefighters are also struggling with two separate wildfires that have broken out in the western region of Extremadura.

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© Courtesy of Katelynn Hewlett/Social Media via REUTERS
Scorched Earth: California hit by lightning storms so powerful they reignite wildfires, create fire TORNADOS (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

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Mob ‘justice’: How one feminist’s simple Tweet enraged transgender activists and saw her sacked from her dream job

Posted by RT on August 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on Mob ‘justice’: How one feminist’s simple Tweet enraged transgender activists and saw her sacked from her dream job

On August 24, Sasha White, a 25-year-old literary agent, was fired by the Tobias Literary Agency in New York. She spoke to RT from her California home to explain how one Tweet led to the loss of her job and her livelihood.

The debate had been opened by Space X and Tesla CEO Elon Musk with a two-word Friday evening Tweet, “Pronouns Suck.” White’s thoughtful intervention came 24 hours later on Saturday, July 25. She responded, “The reason i think pronouns suck is because thinking of people as ‘they/them’ and pretending they’re not male or female is like color/race blindness for gender. It won’t help sexism or toxic masculinity. Men and women have unique and distinct experiences... which should be acknowledged, examined, and critiqued but not obfuscated. Gender nonconformity (with acceptance of biological reality) successfully defies gender roles but switching pronouns reinforces these same roles.”

Her Twitter bio announces that “gender non-conformity is wonderful.” I asked her what she meant. She explained that, “Your biological sex doesn’t have to determine how you move through the world, how you dress, how you act, or who you love or who you are. As a feminist, I see society putting us into boxes and that hurts us. Gender non-conformity is a way of pushing back against that.”

But her idealism is tempered by realism. She added that it is not so wonderful to deny biological sex. “It’s so important – crucial – for feminism to be able to use language that specifies the experiences that women go through because of the state of being female. We need sex specific language to work on those issues.”

However, as JK Rowling also found out this summer, women who stand up for their sex-based rights risk a maelstrom of protest from the mob on social media. By denying the central catechism of gender identity ideology, that we can choose our sex, women have been denounced as bigots, transphobes and ‘TERFs’. The attacks are brutal, and in White’s case they went to her employer.

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© First Day / CBBC / BBC
'First Day', the drama about a transgender 12yo, shouldn’t be on the BBC children’s channel. It’s harmful, shameless propaganda

Her employer’s reaction wasn’t immediate – there was a delay of one month – but it was clinical. White explained that she received an email from her boss on Sunday 24 August. “They were seeing a Twitter mob coming for them. It was just one Tweet that actually did it. My boss emailed me a Tweet  and he said, ‘What is this about?’’’

On Twitter, White had noticed the start of a pile-on. But before she had the chance to get through to her boss on the phone, a second email arrived in her inbox to tell her she had been fired. Her boss had scrolled through her Twitter feed – on that personal account – and decided they had to part ways.

The time between the two emails was 27 minutes. White was devastated, “I was shaken; I felt sick to my stomach. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me. I didn’t know then that there was going to be even a single message of support. It felt like a punch in the gut. I felt like I wasn’t just losing a job, I was losing my career. I had been smeared publicly.”

White told me that she had been Tweeting on her personal account – not one connected to her employer, but under her own name, because, “I felt I could defend anything I posted. I knew it was controversial but I could stand behind it with my face and my name.”

She tried to call her boss but only got through to voicemail and, with that, went into a very lonely night, horrified at the unfolding situation. She did manage to speak to him briefly the next day. Despite White’s protests that she was being fired for feminist views, the decision had been made. She recalled that her boss went on to say that the tweet was “Not hateful per se but it invalidated trans identities, and trans people don’t see it that way.”

I am trans and I sympathise with White’s views – they certainly don’t invalidate my identity. But once again, decisions are being made by people who are not trans in order to satisfy the adherents of this ideology that is eating away at our society.

White had only just started her job – as a literary assistant agent – two days before the offending Tweet, and after almost a year as an unpaid intern. She proudly explained that she had just signed her first client, and “When I got that job, I felt it was my dream job and dream career because it was so perfect for my skills and my interests.”

But that came to a swift and sudden end in a political debate about women’s rights. The impact was profound. “When I saw myself being smeared on Twitter and misrepresented, I deleted Twitter from my phone and asked my brother to keep his eye on it in case people were posting my private details or making violent threats.

“If it hadn’t been for all the people who noticed and said they thought it was wrong regardless of whether they agreed with me, they just didn’t think I should have been fired for my speech… that made all the difference. Because otherwise it would just have happened, and nobody would have known or cared about it, and I would have been left out in the cold.

“But it caught on and hit a nerve. I just hope that the next time an employer thinks about firing someone for their speech, they remember the backlash this time.”

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© Abigail Shrier "Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters" / Blackstone Publishing, 2020
A mutilation of young lives: How the radical transgender bandwagon is wrecking girls’ bodies and destroying their mental health

Unfortunately, opportunity for legal redress is limited in the United States. She explained that, “Employees in the US don’t have all the rights we need.” But while she plans to take no action against her now former employer, she has no intention of keeping quiet. “Definitely not,” she said. “That ship has sailed. This started because I was talking about gender identity but it’s about the freedom of speech. We have to give everyone the freedom to say their opinion because that’s how we develop thought, and how we can challenge injustice.”

She explained that she would be delighted if there were opportunities to develop her career in publishing, but in the meantime, she plans to invest more time in plebity.org, a platform for philosophical discussions and long-form interviews. White’s podcast on the site – Crossroads – covers feminism, literature and criminal justice.

For one so young, she has both wisdom and moral courage. She told me that her friends are on the same page as her but find it hard to talk openly. “One of us says something that goes against gender identity ideology and others express relief because of the worry of being called a bigot.”

But if change comes it will come through those people like White who are prepared to speak the truth “even if their voice shakes”; closing the interview, she chose to paraphrase Rosa Luxemburg, “You don’t feel your chains unless you move.”

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Peace deal signed by Sudan & rebel groups after 17 years of conflict

Posted by RT on August 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on Peace deal signed by Sudan & rebel groups after 17 years of conflict

The government of Sudan and an alliance of major rebel groups have signed a long-awaited peace agreement. It is hoped it will end the protracted armed conflict, which has claimed some 300,000 lives in the African nation.

The signing ceremony in Juba, the capital of neighboring South Sudan, took place on Monday, two days after the terms of the agreement were finalized. The host nation helped mediate the peace talks, which started last year.

The peace agreement covers major issues like security, land ownership, power sharing and rehoming of refugees. Some 2.5 million people have been displaced since the conflict between predominantly Arab government forces and non-Arab rebels in the western Darfur region erupted in 2003, according to the UN. An estimated 300,000 people have been killed during the fighting.

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FILE PHOTO © REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
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The rebel alliance, which signed the deal, includes groups from the South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions, which are tied to a larger civil war in Sudan. The provinces remained under Sudanese sovereignty when the non-Arab part of the country split in 2011 to form sovereign South Sudan.

The peace talks were made possible by the downfall of Sudan’s long-time strongman leader Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted in April last year after staying in power for two decades. The transitional government made negotiations with the rebels one of its top priorities.

There were previous attempts to end the Sudanese conflict, with one peace accord signed in Nigeria in 2006 and another one in Qatar in 2010, both of which later collapsed.

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WATCH: Huge anti-govt demonstrations held across Mauritius in wake of botched oil spill response

Posted by RT on August 31, 2020  |   Comments Off on WATCH: Huge anti-govt demonstrations held across Mauritius in wake of botched oil spill response

Tens of thousands of Mauritians took to the streets of the capital to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth and his cabinet for their botched handling of an oil spill which threatens the country’s economy.

An estimated 75,000 people took to the streets of the capital Saint Louis over the weekend, the country's largest anti-government protests in decades, following a slow and lackluster response to an oil spill in early August. 

The Japanese bulk carrier MV Wakashio struck a reef in southeast Mauritius and spilled roughly 1,000 tons of oil into the pristine Indian Ocean waters offshore the island. A 15 kilometer (9 mile) stretch of the coastline is now stained with oil as volunteers attempt to halt the spread of the slick.

© French Army command/Handout via REUTERS

Environmental volunteers have erected makeshift oil barriers to stem the spread while experts from Japan and Britain are investigating the extent of the spill and its potential impact on the local flora and fauna, which include major mangrove forests filled with endangered species of animal. 

Meanwhile, some 34 melon-headed whales were found dead or seriously ill near the spill while the carcasses of roughly 40 dolphins are being examined for traces of oil in their system which may have contributed to their sudden and untimely deaths. 

The threat to wildlife sparked outrage across the small island nation though an autopsy of two of the dead animals found no traces of oil.

Protesters bore signs which read, “Your incompetence is destroying our island,” “You have no shame,” and “I've seen better Cabinets at IKEA” after the prime minister blamed bad weather for the botched clean up response. 

Experts are warning that the economic impact on the Mauritian economy, which is largely dependent on tourism, could be felt for decades.

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A file photo of a US B-2 Spirit bomber refueling at Diego Garcia © Reuters / US Department of Defense
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