Omicron spreads in Europe at “lightning speed”: French Prime Minister



International Desk, Barta24.com, Dhaka
Photo: Collected

Photo: Collected

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French Prime Minister Jean Costex has said that the Omicron variant is spreading in Europe at “lightning speed". He also said that the situation in France would worsen early next year. The warning came hours after the United States imposed a strict travel ban on France, BBC reported.

Following the remarks of the French Prime Minister, the French authorities imposed new restrictions on travel to and from the United Kingdom. New sanctions have also been announced in Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands.

Omicron variants of the coronavirus have been identified in at least 89 countries around the world. The World Health Organization said it is spreading much faster than the Delta variant. In just three days, the number of victims has doubled.

Concerns have also been raised in Europe and America about the rising rate of Omicron infection. Scientists consulting with the British government said hospitals will be under tremendous pressure if tougher measures are not taken to stem the spread of the virus.

Among the countries in Europe, the UK has so far identified the highest number of omicrons. On Friday (December 17), 15,000 Omicrons were detected in the country.

According to the latest figures from the European Union, 8 crore 90 lakh Corona infections have been reported in Europe so far, and about 15 lakh people died from Corona.

Joe Biden Arrives in Asia



News Desk, Barta24.com
Joe Biden Arrives in Asia

Joe Biden Arrives in Asia

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U.S. President Joe Biden arrives in Asia for the first time as president. He’s traveling to South Korea and Japan, but the subtext of the trip is that it’s all about China.

Joe Biden touched down in Asia on May 20 for the first time in his presidency, kicking off a high-profile trip meant to bolster ties with regional allies and launch a new trade initiative.

During the four-day long tour, Biden will have a key opportunity to reinforce partnerships with South Korea and Japan and reaffirm the region’s longstanding importance to U.S. foreign policy—especially with regard to China.

“China fits into this as a primary target, there’s really no better way to put it,” said Yun Sun, a senior fellow at the Stimson Center, who noted that Beijing has remained a top priority on Washington’s national security agenda. The “U.S. is trying to strengthen its coordination and cooperation with allies and partners in order to deal with China more effectively,” she said.

Biden’s first stop is Seoul, where he will meet with the new South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol; from there, he will head to Japan for meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. The tour will culminate with a Quad summit in Tokyo, convening Biden, Kishida, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the winner of Australia’s Saturday election.

In Tokyo, Biden is also expected to officially unveil the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a new U.S.-led initiative that would be designed to strengthen trade and supply chains in the region.

“The message we’re trying to send on this trip is a message of an affirmative vision of what the world can look like if the democracies and open societies of the world stand together to shape the rules of the road,” said U.S. national security advisor Jake Sullivan. “We think that message will be heard everywhere. We think

Jake Sullivan. “We think that message will be heard everywhere. We think it will be heard in Beijing.” 

But neighboring North Korea could disrupt hopes for a smooth trip. Both U.S. and South Korean officials have warned that Pyongyang could be plotting to conduct a nuclear or missile test to coincide with the tour, and Sullivan said the White House is bracing for the worst-case scenarios. “We are preparing for all contingencies, including the possibility that such a provocation would occur while we are in Korea or in Japan,” he said.

If Pyongyang conducted a test during the trip, it “will add another layer of urgency,” said Sun. But at the same time, she added, “a North Korea provocation is not going to be a big surprise because even before the Biden administration, I think people were anticipating that North Korea is going to act out.”

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Hunger in Africa Due to Russia-Ukraine War



News Desk, Barta24.com
Hunger in Africa Due to Russia-Ukraine War

Hunger in Africa Due to Russia-Ukraine War

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When two of the world’s largest grain producers are at war, the consequences are felt at dinner tables around the world. Nowhere has that been more evident than in Africa.

The coronavirus pandemic and a drought in South America strained global agricultural markets. Then as Russia invaded Ukraine, food prices skyrocketed. Last month, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s food price index reached a record high.

At least 14 African countries import half of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine, according to the F.A.O. Eritrea depends on them entirely for its wheat. East Africa has been worst hit as drought and local conflict have disrupted farming. In Somalia, which relies on Russia and Ukraine for more than 90 percent of its wheat, the war affected Eid celebrations — even samosas became unaffordable.

“What became evident to me during my trip is that the drought, pandemic-related supply disruptions and now the war in Ukraine have created and exacerbated a full-blown food crisis in Somalia — and in many countries across East Africa,” said Abdi Latif Dahir, The Times’s East Africa correspondent, who spent two weeks reporting from Somalia.

“Any price increases globally, no matter how marginal to some communities they may seem, they hurt the poor countries the most because in their spending, the biggest share goes to food,” said Wandile Sihlobo, an agricultural economist at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. “Yes, we can talk about the challenges that Africa faces, but the important question is, What is Africa doing about this?”

The F.A.O. warned that the number of people facing a food crisis in West and Central Africa could quadruple — to 41 million this year from 10.7 million before the pandemic. Flooding and drought in parts of southern Africa are also a concern

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Global Crisis and Ethical Imperative of Our Time



Dr. Mahfuz Parvez, Associate Editor, Barta24.com
Joseph Camilleri, Emeritus Professor, La Trobe University.

Joseph Camilleri, Emeritus Professor, La Trobe University.

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"Momentous challenges are pressing in on us on all sides. One day it is Covid, the next day Ukraine, the day after the ravages of climate change, then the many ugly faces of racism. The list goes on", worte Joseph Camilleri, Emeritus Professor at La Trobe University, a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Social Sciences, and convener of the initiative Conversation at the Crossroads.

In an article tittled 'The Best of Times, The Worst of Times' published by 'Toda Peace Institute' of Japan, Joseph Camilleri raised five crucial questions in the context of onging global situation and consequently suggested  six-step process which are very important for peace building and conflict resolution.

Against the backdrop of the contemporary crisis, look at the questions raised by Professor Joseph Camilleri, who has authored or edited over thirty books and written over 120 book chapters and journal articles, covering issues of security, dialogue and conflict resolution, theories of international relations, the role of religion and culture in the contemporary world, and the politics of the Asia-Pacific region and has convened several major international dialogues and conferences, most recently Towards a Just and Ecologically Sustainable Peace (2019):

  1. Are these just unconnected afflictions, or symptoms of a deeper ailment?
  2. How do we make sense of it all?
  3. Can we go beyond political spin, propaganda, platitudes?
  4. How do we communicate with others about all this?
  5. How can we respond?

According to Professor Joseph Camilleri, "we are witnessing Russia’s military thrust into Ukraine, and its appalling consequences, with no resolution of the conflict yet in sight. It graphically encapsulates the turbulence of our age. At the end of the fourth week of fighting, UN estimates suggest some 1,200 civilian lives lost, and close to 2,000 injured, not to mention the thousands of military casualties on both sides.To this gruesome scorecard must be added the wholesale destruction of infrastructure, some 6.5 million internally displaced people, and close to 4 million forced to flee the country."

Professor Joseph Camilleri pointed out the the Russia no doubt has legitimate grievances fuelled by successive waves of NATO expansion that have brought the US-led military alliance right to Russia’s doorstep. The coming to power of a government in neighbouring Ukraine intent on joining NATO has added fuel to the fire. Many Russians, not just Putin, feel they have been subjected to relentless provocation and humiliation, and the Russian minority in Ukraine to intimidation and harassment. But none of this justifies the use of force, or the terrible suffering to which the people of Ukraine have been subjected.

"The imposition of hefty sanctions by the United States and its allies is more likely to hurt ordinary Russians than the oligarchs. Freezing the assets of Russian Central Banks and Russian sovereign funds, excluding Russia from the SWIFT messaging system, suspending the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, and a host of other poorly thought out measures will adversely impact other economies and an already fragile global financial system", Professor Joseph Camilleri added.

He also mentioned, "as for the vitriol levelled against Putin by the United States and some of its more boisterous allies, it will do little to facilitate a negotiated settlement of the conflict. Accusations of war crimes would carry greater moral authority, if they had been levelled with equal force against Western leaders responsible for the destruction showered upon the people of Iraq and Afghanistan."

Professor Joseph Camilleri observed the role of mainstream Western media has been less than helpful. Alleged facts and interpretations offered by the Ukrainian military and political elite are headline news, while Russian voices, including those of independent Russian scholars, are barely heard. As for US military and intelligence sources (often unnamed) and their acolytes in think tanks with loud voices, their assessments are taken as gospel.

"The cumulative toll of half truths, disinformation and outright deception—political, cultural and psychological—will be felt for years to come", he stated.

The most respected Political Scientist warned that the most distressing casualty is the possible, perhaps probable, return to a full-scale Cold War. Senseless talk of no-fly zones, the escalating delivery of lethal military aid to the Ukraine, the foolhardy damage done to nuclear power plants, and the foolish use of nuclear threats have made this one of the most perilous moments since WWII.

'How might we get out of this mess?' according to Professor Joseph Camilleri "the short answer is: with great difficulty." But as a contribution to the conversation, he proposed a six-step processl based on two principles: that the silencing of guns is crucial, but not enough; and that key issues are invariably interlinked, and must be approached holistically.  He outlined the steps as follows:

  1. Immediate ceasefire (ideally a UN monitored ceasefire) which can be sustained only when each side gains something and concedes something: Moscow stops the use of force and Kyiv enters into substantive negotiation on Russia’s legitimate grievances.
  2. No further delivery of lethal military aid to Ukraine and a massive international programme to deal with the humanitarian crisis.
  3. Phased withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukrainian territory once negotiations on Russia’s longstanding concerns make substantial headway.
  4. Use of good offices: the UN Secretary-General and key governments with effective access to either or both sides (e.g. China, France, Turkey, South Africa, India) can all play an important role in different ways and at different stages of the negotiating process.
  5. Establishment of a sizeable UN peacekeeping forceonce Russian forces have withdrawn. Such a peacekeeping operation may be needed for some considerable time (US, Russian and allied forces should not form part of part of this operation).
  6. These arrangements should make way for a longer-term series of negotiations between Russia, the United States and their European allies with a view to advancing nuclear disarmament agreements as well as significant steps towards demilitarisation. These arrangements would form part of a new European wide framework of common, cooperative and comprehensive security that encompasses climate change and other critical environmental issues.

"None of this will happen overnight or without a massive global awakening of human wisdom and energy. Possibilities for renewal are discernible. Intellectuals, artists and scientists around the world, religious leaders, small media outlets, countless advocates and engaged citizens toiling away on different fronts offer an inspiring alternative to what is", he said with importance.

"At the same time", he said, "our capacities to communicate and connect with others, not just in our personal networks but nationally and internationally, are expanding almost exponentially. These possibilities, however, remain embryonic. We are witnessing a growing awareness of the multifaceted ailment which afflicts the human condition at this time. But it is not enough."

"If the public conversation is to rise to the challenge and generate more insightful and energetic engagement, we must go beyond symptoms and explore what lies behind the ailment. Nor can we stop there. We must think through what a healthier condition, a preferable state of affairs might actually look like" he noted.

Professor Joseph also said, "If substantial change is envisaged—let’s say a substantial shift in current security policies, or effective media regulation, or a climate friendly energy policy—one thing is clear: the way ahead is strewn with roadblocks. Many are content to point the finger at short sighted, incompetent or corrupt leaders. If only it were that simple. Powerful interests are often hidden from public view. Deeply entrenched community mindsets are often resistant to change. Some of our institutions may no longer be fit for purpose. How are these roadblocks to be overcome?"

He concluded with an optimistic view that these are issues that call for a sustained and wide-ranging public conversation within and between countries. But such an ambitious exploration cannot rely on the knowledge or insights of a few. The ethical imperative of our time is to enhance our collective capacity to make a difference."

Dr. Mahfuz Parvez, Professor, Political Science, University of Chittagong and Associate Editor, Barta24.com.

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More than One Million Covid-related Deaths in U.S.



News Desk, Barta24.com, Dhaka
Photo: Collected

Photo: Collected

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The United States has passed more than one million Covid-related deaths, says the White House. The U.S. on Wednesday (11May) surpassed 1 million Covid-19 deaths, according to data compiled by NBC News — a once unthinkable scale of loss even for the country with the world's highest recorded toll from the virus.

The number — equivalent to the population of San Jose, California, the 10th largest city in the U.S. — was reached at stunning speed: 27 months after the country confirmed its first case of the virus.

President Joe Biden said the country was marking "a tragic milestone" and each death was "an irreplaceable loss".

It's the highest official total in the world - although the World Health Organization believes the true death toll may be much higher elsewhere.

The U.S. has also recorded more than 80 million Covid cases, out of a 330 million population.

The first confirmed case was reported on 20 January 2020, when a man flew home to Seattle from Wuhan in China.

The 35-year-old survived, after 10 days of pneumonia, coughs, fever, nausea and vomiting. But deaths began to be reported just a few weeks later.

Mmeanwhile, more U.S. families are choosing cremation. While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a surge in the industry, some are taking it a step further and turning the ashes of their loved ones into diamonds.

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