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Joe Biden holds first phone call with Palestinian President Abbas, also calls Israeli PM Netanyahu following Gaza bombings — RT World News From “RT World News”



A spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has announced that US President Joe Biden reached out by phone for the first time to discuss the ongoing fighting in the Gaza Strip.

The Saturday call between Biden and Abbas is the first between the two since the US president took office in January. BREAKING: Biden spoke on the phone with Palestinian president Abbas about the situation in Gaza. This was the first phone call between the two leaders since Biden assumed office— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) May 15, 2021Though details about the call are not yet known, the Biden administration has been working to push calm between Palestine and Israel, with the president also contacting Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday. That’s after the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) bombed a building where international media offices for the Associated Press and Al Jazeera were located.Biden spoke to Netanyahu about concerns for civilian casualties to which the prime minister said Israel “is doing everything to avoid harming” people not involved in their conflict with Hamas. 

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Israeli airstrike levels Gaza tower housing AP, Al Jazeera & other international media (VIDEO)

A report about the call from Netanyahu’s office said the prime minister assured Biden that the “uninvolved” were evacuated from the Gaza tower before it was destroyed and he thanked the president for his “support.”Biden stood by Israel earlier this week, saying the US ally has “a right to defend itself” and he hopes the ongoing violence will “be closing down sooner rather than later.” The Israeli military gave journalists working in the building targeted a warning about the strike beforehand, but denied a request for more time for them to retrieve equipment from their offices. A spokesperson claimed the building also housed “Hamas military intelligence.”White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tweeted about the phone call with Biden saying the US has “communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility.” We have communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility.— Jen Psaki (@PressSec) May 15, 2021Like this story? Share it with a friend!







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Japan E-Commerce Rakuten CEO Calls Olympics Suicide Mission From “NDTV News – World-news”



More than 351,000 signatures was submitted to the city’s governor to cancel the event.Holding the Tokyo Olympics this summer would be a “suicide mission” as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage around the world, the head of Japan’s e-commerce giant Rakuten has warned.”It’s dangerous to host the big international event from all over the world,” CEO Hiroshi Mikitani said in an interview with CNN.”So, the risk is too big and… I’m against having the Tokyo Olympics this year,” Mikitani said, describing the Games as “a suicide mission”.On Friday, Japan extended a coronavirus state of emergency as the nation is battling a fourth wave of virus infections.The surge has put pressure on the country’s healthcare system, with medical professionals repeatedly warning about shortages and burnout.With just over 10 weeks until the Games open on July 23, public opinion remains opposed, with most favouring a further delay or cancellation.On Friday, a petition to cancel the Tokyo Olympics with more than 351,000 signatures was submitted to the city’s governor.Mikitani, who has been critical about the government’s handling of the pandemic and hosting the Tokyo Games this year, said it was not too late to scrap the event, saying: “Everything is possible.”But organisers say they can safely hold the Games thanks to virus countermeasures and point to a string of successful recent test events, including some featuring overseas athletes.Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga also told reporters on Friday: “It is possible to hold safe and secure Games. We want to firmly go ahead with preparations.”







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US calls reports of migrant children in buses ‘unacceptable’ From “World News Headlines, Latest International News, World Breaking News – Times of India”



Charter buses arrive at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, escorted by Federal Protective Service Police. File: AP PhotoReports of unaccompanied migrant children being forced to stay overnight in parked buses at the Dallas convention center are “completely unacceptable” if true, US Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said Friday. Dr. Amy Cohen, a psychiatrist and executive director of the advocacy group Every Last One, said a 15-year-old Honduran boy she is working with was held on a bus from Saturday to Wednesday, using the bus bathroom during that time and unable to move about freely or communicate with family. The boy encountered at least three other children who were held as long in the parking lot of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, said Cohen, who also has been in contact with another child who was confined earlier to a bus for an extended period. It is unclear how many children were kept on buses overnight. “This is completely unacceptable,” Becerra said. “We’re quickly investigating this to get to the bottom of what happened, and we’ll work to make sure this never happens again. The safety and well-being of the children is our priority.” The Honduran boy’s experience, first reported by NBC News, comes as Health and Human Services massively expands its capacity to house migrant children until they can be placed with a sponsor in the United States, usually parents or close relatives, while their cases wind through immigration court. It comes in response to the largest influx of unaccompanied children on record. The department, whose lodging is more suited to longer-term stays than Border Patrol holding facilities, has grown its capacity to about 20,000 beds from less than 1,000 in mid-February. It’s opened 14 emergency intake centers, including at the Dallas convention center and other large venues. The Dallas facility opened in February with plans to house up to 3,000 children. Health and Human Services had 20,397 unaccompanied children in its custody as of Wednesday. The government flew the Honduran boy to Seattle to reunite with his mother and uncle after NBC News inquired about his status. MVM Inc., a transportation contractor for the government, said it has “safely and professionally” transported migrant children and families for more than six years. “Over the last seven weeks, the number of children needing escorts in this pandemic environment has increased to more than 7,100, creating challenging travel logistics and resulting in some extended wait times on their way to reunification sites,” the company said in a statement. MVM said it experienced some delays at a 24-hour regional hub where buses meet to get children on their way to join family, which resulted in “a child staying at that site longer than our target wait time of four hours. This is a violation of our policy and we are conducting an internal review of this incident.” The company said the child had access to an air-conditioned bus, food and snacks, bottled water and personal protective equipment. FacebookTwitterLinkedinEMail







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Jacinda Ardern calls for ‘ethical algorithms’ to help stop online radicalisation | New Zealand From “World news | The Guardian”



Tech companies need to make more progress on algorithms that can drive social media users to become radicalised, New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has said.Along with France, New Zealand is leading a push to rid the world of extremist and terrorist content online – known as the Christchurch Call.The initiative was launched after the deadly mosque attacks in Christchurch in March 2019 that killed 51 people and wounded dozens more, which was livestreamed by the attacker and stored online.Ardern and her co-chair, France’s President Emmanuel Macron, hosted world leaders, tech company executives and affected communities – including Kiwi Muslim leaders – in a virtual Christchurch Call summit early on Saturday.The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, and Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, were among those attending.Ardern said the agreement, which brings together countries and tech companies to try to de-radicalise online spaces, had “such momentum”.“We will not … prevent future atrocities such as what we experienced here on 15 March unless we work together,” she said.The group has devised a new work programme for the next year and among its goals is changing how online content is delivered by tech companies.A key finding of the royal commission into the Christchurch mosque attacks was that the man who carried them out, Australian Brenton Tarrant, who has since been jailed for life without parole, was radicalised on YouTube and other online spaces while viewing white-supremacist material.YouTube’s algorithms link users to videos similar to those they are already watching, meaning viewers are recommended further extreme content. After her country’s experience, Ardern wants to see this change – and believes that it is happening.“That is probably the biggest focus for the Call community over the next year,” she said.“Let’s have that conversation around the ethical use of algorithms, and how they can use be used in a positive way and for positive interventions.“When we look at the environment in which the terrorist for 15 March was radicalised, even in that period in those two years there has been significant change by many of the platforms.“Algorithms are where many of us are looking to.”YouTube chief executive, Susan Wojcicki, said on Twitter her company was continuing “to strengthen our policies, improve transparency, and restrict borderline content”.After holding out on membership for two years, the US joined up as a supporter of the Call this week. China and Russia are not members.The Christchurch Call has also developed a protocol which can intervene to stop the livestreaming of similar attacks.This has occurred on two other occasions, during a 2019 shooting in Halle, Germany and a 2020 attack in Glendale, Arizona.







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US calls reports of migrant children in buses ‘unacceptable’ From “Yahoo News – Latest News & Headlines”



Reports of unaccompanied migrant children being forced to stay overnight in parked buses at the Dallas convention center are “completely unacceptable” if true, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said Friday.Dr. Amy Cohen, a psychiatrist and executive director of the advocacy group Every Last One, said a 15-year-old Honduran boy she is working with was held on a bus from Saturday to Wednesday, using the bus bathroom during that time and unable to move about freely or communicate with family. The boy encountered at least three other children who were held as long in the parking lot of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, said Cohen, who also has been in contact with another child who was confined earlier to a bus for an extended period.It is unclear how many children were kept on buses overnight.“This is completely unacceptable,” Becerra said. “We’re quickly investigating this to get to the bottom of what happened, and we’ll work to make sure this never happens again. The safety and well-being of the children is our priority.”The Honduran boy’s experience, first reported by NBC News, comes as Health and Human Services massively expands its capacity to house migrant children until they can be placed with a sponsor in the United States, usually parents or close relatives, while their cases wind through immigration court. It comes in response to the largest influx of unaccompanied children on record.The department, whose lodging is more suited to longer-term stays than Border Patrol holding facilities, has grown its capacity to about 20,000 beds from less than 1,000 in mid-February. It’s opened 14 emergency intake centers, including at the Dallas convention center and other large venues. The Dallas facility opened in February with plans to house up to 3,000 children.Health and Human Services had 20,397 unaccompanied children in its custody as of Wednesday.The government flew the Honduran boy to Seattle to reunite with his mother and uncle after NBC News inquired about his status.Story continuesMVM Inc., a transportation contractor for the government, said it has “safely and professionally” transported migrant children and families for more than six years.“Over the last seven weeks, the number of children needing escorts in this pandemic environment has increased to more than 7,100, creating challenging travel logistics and resulting in some extended wait times on their way to reunification sites,” the company said in a statement.MVM said it experienced some delays at a 24-hour regional hub where buses meet to get children on their way to join family, which resulted in “a child staying at that site longer than our target wait time of four hours. This is a violation of our policy and we are conducting an internal review of this incident.”The company said the child had access to an air-conditioned bus, food and snacks, bottled water and personal protective equipment.___Spagat reported from San Diego.







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Calls to tackle caste-based discrimination in US gather steam | Business and Economy News From “Al Jazeera – Breaking News, World News and Video from Al Jazeera”



San Francisco, California, the United States — Civil rights organisations and Dalit rights groups are adding urgency to their calls to end caste-based discrimination in the US after incidents in California and New Jersey have thrust the issue into the spotlight.
Dalits, who were formally referred to as “untouchables”, occupy the lowest position in the complex Hindu caste system and have historically faced discrimination and violence at the hands of members of other castes in India and other parts of South Asia.
Advocates say this discrimination has unfortunately migrated to the US along with workers from the region and is now running rampant in several US industries.
In New Jersey, a complaint was filed on behalf of more than 200 Indian workers in federal court on Tuesday, alleging Dalit workers were forced to work long hours for one-tenth of the state’s minimum wage after being recruited to build a Hindu temple for Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, also known as BAPS.
A lawsuit filed in federal court in New Jersey accuses the leaders of the Hindu organisation known as Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, or BAPS, of human trafficking and wage law violations [File: Seth Wenig/AP Photo]In California, a first-of-its-kind lawsuit is making its way through the courts after a Dalit employee accused his employer, technology giant Cisco, and two of its former engineering managers of allowing caste-based discrimination in the workplace.
The issue is being discussed at the federal level, too. On Monday, the International Commission for Dalit Rights (ICDR), six scholars and a dozen other rights groups submitted a memo to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission asking that caste-based discrimination be added to US federal nondiscriminatory guidelines.
The memo is the latest push from activists for US academic, business and government institutions to take caste-based discrimination seriously.
Understanding casteism
Among the ICDR and other memo signatories’ demands is to include caste as a protected class and enshrine zero tolerance for caste-based discrimination and prejudice in US workplace codes of conduct — something activists say hasn’t happened yet in part because of Americans’ unfamiliarity with the caste system.
“Because casteism takes place in a social context not all Americans are familiar with, it can be very coded and subtle,” Anil Wagde, an attorney with the US branch of Dalit rights organisation the Ambedkar International Center, told Al Jazeera. “It’s important for companies to educate their employees about caste-based discrimination, and to explicitly protect against it.”
Advocacy groups are now working to thrust caste-based discrimination into the spotlight, particularly in industries where it has already allegedly reared its ugly head, such as the technology sector.

The Cisco case was a big deal because it really took away the plausible deniability around the presence of caste-based discrimination in the tech sector.
Raksha Muthukumar, Alphabet Workers Union

“Caste is a brutal form of supremacy,” Wagde said. “If steps aren’t taken now, we run the risk of this system spreading and calcifying in the United States.”
Several technology companies have faced allegations of caste-based discrimination in the workplace in recent years, and in October, 30 Dalit women engineers at Google, Apple, Microsoft and Cisco issued a statement shared with The Washington Post detailing their experiences with anti-Dalit bigotry in the tech sector.
“We also have had to weather demeaning insults to our background and that we have achieved our jobs solely due to affirmative action. It is exhausting,” the women, who asked for anonymity out of fear of retaliation, wrote in the statement.
“We are good at our jobs and we are good engineers. We are role models for our community and we want to continue to work in our jobs. But it is unfair for us to continue in hostile workplaces, without protections from caste discrimination.”
Cisco lawsuit
The women spoke out months after the high-profile lawsuit against Cisco was filed by a Dalit engineer in June 2020.
In the suit (PDF), the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) alleges the engineer, referred to as John Doe to protect his identity, was subjected to a hostile work environment and was “expected to accept a caste hierarchy within the workplace”, which translated into “the lowest status within the team” and less pay, fewer opportunities and other inferior conditions.
But Cisco denies those claims and said its own internal investigation “found no evidence that [the plaintiff] was discriminated or retaliated against on the basis of caste”, the company’s general counsel, Mark Chandler, wrote in a blog post.
While Chandler acknowledged the company “had never encountered a claim of casteism” before this one, he noted that “Nevertheless, Employee Relations management instructed that it be investigated as would be any complaint of discrimination, even though there is no law, federal or state, defining caste as a protected classification.”

Caste is a brutal form of supremacy. If steps aren’t taken now, we run the risk of this system spreading and calcifying in the United States.
Anil Wagde, Ambedkar International Center

While Cisco said that it treats casteism as an unacceptable form of discrimination, it did not respond to Al Jazeera’s question about whether the company plans to explicitly add caste to the list of protected identities in its employee code of conduct.
Chandler added that the company would fully support legislation “adding caste to the list of categories having protection against discrimination”, but “will continue to treat caste as an unacceptable form of discrimination for purposes of our internal reviews – as we did in [this plaintiff’s] case”.
John Rushing, an attorney assisting the Ambedkar International Center, which filed an amicus brief in the lawsuit, said that while caste is not expressly protected, it falls into categories that are, such as ancestry.
“If your parents are ‘untouchables’, you inherit that status from them,” Rushing told Al Jazeera. “There’s no doubt that caste-based discrimination falls under discrimination based on ancestry.”

Many Dalits come to the United States in the hope of escaping the bigotry and violence that they live with back home, only to watch with horror as these systems reorient themselves in the United States.
Thenmozhi Soundararajan, Equality Labs

Workers at other Silicon Valley tech companies are also speaking out. In mid-April, the Alphabet Workers Union released a statement in favour of the lawsuit against Cisco and stated that “caste should be recognized as a protected class by the federal government and be included in anti-harassment policies within our industry”, including Google, which is owned by Alphabet Inc.
“The Cisco case was a big deal, because it really took away the plausible deniability around the presence of caste-based discrimination in the tech sector,” Raksha Muthukumar, a spokesperson for the Alphabet Workers Union, told Al Jazeera.
“I think a lot of companies are paying attention now, and it’s time for them to recognise caste as a protected identity,” Muthukumar added.
Google did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment about the company’s intention to take steps to protect against casteism.
The Cisco case is set to resume in September following attempts by Cisco to move the dispute to arbitration and an appeal by California’s DFEH to allow the plaintiff to retain anonymity.
Speaking out
As Dalit activists await an outcome in the Cisco case, calls have been growing for government, academic and business organisations to be more proactive in combatting and educating employees about casteism.
“Many Dalits come to the United States in the hope of escaping the bigotry and violence that they live with back home, only to watch with horror as these systems reorient themselves in the United States,” Thenmozhi Soundararajan, founder of the Dalit rights group Equality Labs, told Al Jazeera.
A 2016 Equality Labs survey of Dalit workers living in the US found that two out of three reported experiencing harassment due to their lower-caste status in the workplace. But while Soundararajan says that such discrimination is common, hearing from Dalits about it is less so.
“Many Dalits try to keep their caste identity hidden,” she said.
Dalit rights groups say the problem is also prevalent in the education system. In the Equality Labs survey, one in three Dalit students reported being discriminated against during their education.

A victory in this (Cisco) case would be a victory for the promise that America offers an opportunity for a new life with equal rights. If this case goes through, Dalits will start speaking out, and there will be many more. If we don’t address this now, it will continue to get worse.
Suraj Yengde, Harvard Kennedy School

The plaintiff in the Cisco lawsuit claims he tried to keep his identity as a Dalit hidden but was outed by upper-caste coworkers who knew him at university back in India.
The Cal State Student Association (CSSA), an organisation representing more than half a million students in California’s state university system, unanimously passed a resolution in April supporting the addition of caste as a protected category, another example of how the issue has become front and centre since the Cisco suit was filed.
But as more Dalits speak up about and use the courts to address caste-based discrimination, Soundararajan said more Dalits are willing to share their own experiences.
“Dalits have been coming forward and sharing their stories of harassment and discrimination with us in a way we haven’t seen before,” said Soundararajan. “One individual told us that they made a mistake on a project and a supervisor from an upper caste told them ‘We know how brainless your people are’.”
Dalits are also viewing the outcome of the lawsuit as a bellwether for their fight for rights and recognition.
“A victory in this [Cisco] case would be a victory for the promise that America offers an opportunity for a new life with equal rights,” Suraj Yengde, a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School who studies caste, told Al Jazeera.
“If this case goes through, Dalits will start speaking out, and there will be many more. If we don’t address this now, it will continue to get worse.”







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Coronavirus live news: Japan prefectures to declare emergency; calls for ‘surge vaccinations’ in UK | World news From “World news | The Guardian”


7.36am BST
07:36

Almost half the Australians booked on India repatriation flight barred after Covid tests

While people in England seem desperate to get abroad as soon as restrictions lift, the situation is very different for those in India trying to get home to Australia, as Paul Karp and Elias Visontay report for us:
Almost half the Australians due to fly home on the first post-pause repatriation flight out of India have been thrown off the passenger list after they either tested positive to Covid-19 or were deemed close contacts of cases.
Guardian Australia has confirmed that of the 150 vulnerable Australians booked to take the first repatriation flight home from India when the travel ban expires, more than 40 have tested positive to Covid-19. The number who will be unable to fly rises to more than 70 when you factor in the close contacts of those who have tested positive.
The flight is due to leave Delhi after midnight and travel to the Northern Territory where repatriated Australians will quarantine at the Howard Springs facility.
These numbers come from the first Covid test, which is administered 48 hours before flying. There is a second test administered eight hours before flying, meaning it’s possible that more than 70 people will be barred from the flight. Other Australians will not be substituted onto the flight because of the strict processes to prepare for the repatriation flights.
About 10,000 Australian citizens and permanent residents have registered with the government as wanting to return from India. About 1,000 of these people have been deemed vulnerable.
Read more here: Almost half the Australians booked on India repatriation flight barred after Covid tests

7.28am BST
07:28

The UK vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has been on Sky News in the UK, saying that England will push ahead with its plan to lift the Covid-19 restrictions gradually, because even though it is worried about the emergence of a variant first detected in India it believes the vaccines are working.
Reuters report that Zahawi said there were concerns about the presence of the Indian variant in some parts of England but that there was no evidence that the B.1.617.2 variant had a more severe impact on people or was able to escape the vaccines.
“The roadmap from Monday remains in place because the vaccines are delivering, vaccines are keeping people out of hospital and away from severe infection,” he said.

7.21am BST
07:21

Petition against Tokyo Olympics submitted to organisers

A petition calling for the cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics which garnered 350,000 signatures in nine days was submitted to organisers today, reflecting growing public opposition to the event as a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections sweeps Japan.
“Stop Tokyo Olympics” campaign organiser Kenji Utsunomiya said the global festival of sport – already postponed from 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic – should take place only when Japan can welcome visitors and athletes wholeheartedly.
“We are not in that situation and therefore the Games should be cancelled,” he told a news conference. “Precious medical resources would need to be diverted to the Olympics if it’s held.”
Test events for the Olympics are continuing to be held without spectators.

Japanese skater Taisei Kikuchi competes at a men’s park skateboarding test event. The event was held without spectators. Photograph: Franck Robichon/EPA

Kiyoshi Takenaka and Sakura Murakami report for Reuters from Tokyo that the petition was submitted to the Olympic and Paralympic committee chiefs as well as Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike.
Asked about the anti-Games campaign, Tokyo governor Koike said she would continue to work towards a “safe and secure” Olympics.“Though there is a global pandemic, it is important to hold safe and secure Tokyo 2020 Games,” she told a regular press conference.

Updated
at 7.30am BST

7.17am BST
07:17

A reminder that there seems to be some disarray this morning if you were one of those planning to head to Portugal next week from England. The country is on England’s “green list”, but at the other end, Portugal has extended its Covid restrictions. Sean Morrison sums the situation up for the Evening Standard:

The nation’s government decided to extend its “state of calamity” until at least 30 May. Guidance published on the Portuguese Government’s website on Thursday stated that ministers had approved a move to continue the current level of lockdown.
Portuguese Cabinet office minister Mariana Vieira da Silva said in a briefing on Thursday she had “no information to give yet” when asked if restrictions on travel from the UK would soon be lifted.
It is understood the UK Government has been in discussion with Portuguese representatives this week to discuss plans to unlock travel between the two countries.
During the “state of calamity”, entry to Portugal is only allowed if you are a returning resident, according to information on the FCDO website. To enter Portugal, proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken with 72 hours of departure is required.

7.08am BST
07:08

‘This is the year to take your holiday in Wales’ – Wales first minister Drakeford

The first minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, has just been on BBC Breakfast in the UK, and he has urged Welsh residents to strongly consider domestic holidays this year, rather than travelling abroad, even when restrictions have been lifted.
“This is the year to take your holiday in Wales” said Drakeford. He also said it would be unenforceable to impose restrictions prohibiting Welsh residents travelling to English airports.
The BBC have put up the clip here:

BBC Breakfast
(@BBCBreakfast)
“This is the year to take your holiday in Wales”First Minister of Wales. Mark Drakeford tells #BBCBreakfast why the Welsh government is advising people against going on a foreign holiday even after the rules on international travel are changed. https://t.co/6Z2Bac3X1w pic.twitter.com/HB1S5aBEBk

May 14, 2021

6.50am BST
06:50

Hong Kong is are barring 13,000 refugees from accessing Covid-19 vaccines, writes our correspondent Helen Davidson.
According to a report by the Hong Kong Free Press, the group are not considered eligible because they aren’t residents.
Programmes manager at Christian Action’s Centre for Refugees, Jennifer Moberg Pforte, said there wasn’t a known outbreak in the community yet, but warned of the risk.
“It is almost impossible to maintain social distancing when living in extremely cramped conditions, even if they want to.”
Hong Kong is not a signatory to the UN refugee convention and instead of settling refugees itself, it instead transfers them to a third country. In the meantime, refugees wait in Hong Kong on rolling six-month permits without employment rights, often living in substandard and overcrowded conditions.
“Our immigration status should not be an excuse to prevent us from getting vaccinated,” a 19-year-old asylum seeker told the outlet. “We already face enough discrimination and stereotypes from the public, why exclude us further when all we ask for is that our personal safety and health be cared for just as equally as a Hong Kong resident?”
HKU professor of epidemiology Ben Cowling told HKPF the World Health Organisation has said it was important in terms of public health to ensure the refugee community had access to Covid-19 vaccines.
“They are still a vital part of our community,” he said.About 17% of Hong Kong has received their first shot, and 11.2% their second.
There are concerns among observers of vaccine hesitancy in the city, which has battled waves of moderate outbreaks since last year. It is currently reporting about three community cases a day.

Updated
at 6.55am BST

6.26am BST
06:26

Singapore has announced the strictest curbs on social gatherings and public activities since easing a lockdown last year, amid a rise in locally acquired infections and with new coronavirus clusters forming in recent weeks.
The new measures announced by the health ministry, which will be effective from Sunday to mid June, include limiting social gatherings to two people and ceasing dining in at restaurants.
The authorities said they will review the measures after two weeks to assess if adjustments are needed.

6.15am BST
06:15

Taiwan-made vaccine available by July

A Taiwan-made vaccine will be available for residents by the end of July, president Tsai Ing-wen has said today, writes our correspondent in Taiwan, Helen Davidson.
Taiwan has remained largely unscathed by the pandemic, but has been slow on vaccine procurement, rollout and community take-up.
It has several hundred thousand doses of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine and is expecting orders of mRNA vaccines later in the year, but speaking after a national security meeting on Friday, the president said a locally-made product would be ready and available within three months. Tsai said:

The phase two clinical trials of Taiwan-made vaccines are nearing completion. We expect the first vaccine to be ready in late July.

No details were provided about the vaccine but there are at least three candidates in development. The national security meeting was called in response to Taiwan’s current outbreak involving dozens of cases across several northern counties including Taipei.
Taiwan is now on level two of a four-level alert system, requiring increased mask usage and mandatory check-ins at shops and venues.

6.00am BST
06:00

Greece has officially launched its tourism season as both the government and travel operators hope the country’s natural beauty will bring a much-needed revenue boost after last year’s miserable holiday season, AFP reports.
Speaking from the ancient Greek temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, near Athens on Thursday night, tourism minister Harry Theoharis said: “We are raising anchor. We leave behind the dark clouds of fear and insecurity.”

Tourists at Balos beach on Crete. Photograph: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images

Tourism revenue plunged to €4.28bn ($5bn) in 2020 from €18bn in 2019.
According to government regulations announced on Wednesday, anyone travelling to Greek islands by sea or air must show a vaccination certificate or a negative Covid-19 test result.
Europe’s leading tour operator TUI has scheduled 120 flights to Greece until the end of May, with the first six touching down on Friday and another 15 on Saturday. Some 40 international incoming flights are expected in 14 regional Greek airports on Friday and another 110 on Saturday.
In an early setback, the UK put Greece on its amber travel list, meaning that returning Britons face at least five days in quarantine.

5.48am BST
05:48

The UK government is under growing pressure to deploy “surge vaccinations” in Covid hotspots, with some local authorities pushing to extend the offer of jabs to over-18s to stop the spread of a coronavirus variant.
Boris Johnson said he was anxious about the spread of the variant first detected in India, as cases more than doubled in a week. Some government advisers are concerned that his roadmap out of lockdown should be slowed down until the infections are under control.
Infection cases jumped from 520 to 1,313 in a week, according to Public Health England (PHE), which said it was “actively monitoring the impact of this variant and its severity”.
Full story here:

5.32am BST
05:32

Japan will declare a state of emergency in three more prefectures

Japan will declare a state of emergency in three more prefectures hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said on Friday, in a surprise move reflecting growing concerns about the virus’s spread.Hokkaido, Okayama and Hiroshima will on Sunday join Tokyo, Osaka and four other prefectures under a state of emergency until May 31, said Nishimura, who is also in charge of coronavirus countermeasures.The government had originally proposed a more targeted “quasi-emergency” declaration for Hokkaido, Okayama and Hiroshima, and two other prefectures. The lesser declaration now covers eight of Japan’s 47 prefectures.“There were various views expressed at the meeting (with experts). Based on those views, we retracted our original proposal and came up with this new one and got approval for it,” Nishimura told reporters after the meeting.The rising state of emergency declarations come as Japan grapples with a surge of a more infectious strain just 10 weeks before the Tokyo Olympics are due to start.Experts say medical resources are being pushed to the brink, while Japan’s vaccination drive has been the slowest among advanced nations with just 3% of the population vaccinated, according to Reuters data.

5.10am BST
05:10

Summary

Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic with me, Helen Sullivan.
As always, you can find me on Twitter @helenrsullivan.
Japan will declare a state of emergency in three more prefectures hit hard by Covid, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said on Friday, in a surprise move reflecting growing concerns about the virus’s spread.
Meanwhile UK ministers are under growing pressure to deploy “surge vaccinations” in Covid hotspots, with some local authorities pushing to extend the offer of jabs to over-18s to stop the spread of a coronavirus variant.
Here are the other key recent developments:

Fully vaccinated Americans no longer have to wear a mask in most settings, the Center for Disease Control said on Thursday. Joe Biden called it “a great day for America in our long battle against coronavirus”.
UK cases of an Indian variant have more than doubled in the past week, according to Public Health England data. Figures published on Thursday evening show there are 1,313 cases of the VOC-21APR-02 variant in the country, up from 520 the previous week.
Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, said it was a variant of concern. “We are anxious about it,” he said when asked by reporters.
The four most worrying variants have been detected in virtually all parts of the Americas, a World Health Organization expert said.
French health authorities reported 19,461 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, representing a weekly rise of less than two per cent for the first time in almost a year, Reuters reports. The total number of hospitalisations for the disease fell by 598, decreasing for the 10th day in a row to 23,656, the lowest since October 31.
The Philippines is set to ease of some coronavirus restrictions in the capital and nearby provinces, with daily infections well down from a peak six weeks ago.
The United Arab Emirates have approved the emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine for children, the government announced.
Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said the country is on track for herd immunity, predicting 33 million people will be vaccinated by mid-August.
Malaysia has reported its highest number of new coronavirus cases in more than three months.
The number of cases of the Indian Covid variant in Northern Ireland has increased to at least 12, it has been reported.
A South African report into excess deaths over the past year suggests more than 133,000 people in the country have died from Covid, far more than the official tally of nearly 55,000.









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Joe Biden Calls Lifting Of Indoor Mask Rule “Great Day” From “NDTV News – World-news”



Biden implored those yet to be completely vaccinated to keep wearing masks for now.Washington, United States: President Joe Biden told Americans on Thursday that the lifting of the rule on indoor mask wearing was “a great day” in the fight against Covid-19 and that they could now “smile again.””I think it’s a great milestone, a great day,” he said in a nationally televised address at the White House.In often emotional remarks, Biden declared a major victory in the more than year-long battle which has seen more than half a million Americans die.However he noted that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) decision to stop recommending masks for all indoor activities applied only to people who have received both shots of vaccines.Biden implored those yet to be completely vaccinated to keep wearing masks for now.”Please protect yourself until we get to the finish line. Because as great as this announcement is, we don’t want to let up. We all know how tough this virus us. The safest thing for the country, is for everyone to get vaccinated,” he said.Biden spoke about the hundreds of thousands of deaths and the lives upended for millions more as they missed family gatherings and important rituals.The Democrat then heaped praise on ordinary Americans who, he said, had met the challenge head on — and better than in some other countries.”You’ve endured all this. When your country asked you to get vaccinated, you did. The American people stepped up. You did what I consider to be your patriotic duty. That’s how we got to this day. As president, I can say I’m pleased… but not surprised,” he said.”As the virus tragically rages in other countries, as other nations, even wealthy nations, are mired in the challenges of slow vaccine rollout and poor economic conditions, things are very different here.”Biden noted that coronavirus cases are down in 49 of 50 states, saying deaths were down 80 percent to their lowest level since April 2020, when the disease was just taking a grip.However, “it’s going to take a little more time,” he said. “Most people under the age of 65 aren’t vaccinated yet.”Although pleading for patience, he invited those vaccinated to once again experience the pleasure of smiling.”Take your mask off. You’ve earned the right to do something that Americans are known for all around the world: greeting others with a smile,” he said.”As tough as this pandemic’s been, we will get through it. We will rebuild our economy, reclaim our lives and get back to normal,” he said.”Laugh again, we’ll know joy again and we’ll smile again. Now, we’ll see one another smile, look at the smiles on other people’s faces.” (Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)







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Rashida Tlaib Accuses Israeli PM Netanyahu of ‘War Crimes,’ Calls for Accountability : worldnews From “World News”



Can she call out Hamas too? That’s what this conflict needs. Accountability for your OWN SIDES atrocities. Pointing fingers just keeps it going.I’m Jewish living in America. I support Israel. I don’t support Netanyahu, far right nationalists provoking violence, or settlements in the West Bank. I support a two state solution with access for all to all holy sites.I want accountability for those who commit crimes like destroying Arab properties as retaliation for rockets they didn’t shoot.Not so hard to do, see?







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Israel calls up 9,000 reservists amid fighting with Hamas : worldnews From “World News”



Let’s put aside the current conflict for just a moment – I’m not trying to get into why Israel and Palestine (vis a vis Hamas and other terror elements) are at each others throats.First – let’s identify that the US essentially is giving Israel a billions dollar coupon to spend with the US Defense Industry (Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon, and hundreds of other defense contractors), so we aren’t shipping them boxes of cash, but rather creating a subsidized business opportunity for our own defense contractors.Second – this isn’t fully one sided. Israel, in partnership with these companies, create new technologies that can be useful for the US Defense establishment. Tech related to the Iron Dome and other solid defense tools for one. Advanced technology for many of the planes Israel buys. Just to mention a few.Then there is probably the larger question of why US wants an ally in Israel at all, considering the backlash that events like the current conflict create. Nobody wants this, it’s not good for the supporters of this partnership. From a right leaning view, Israel has a very solid military and considering their neighbors, they’re in a great place to have vested interests. From a left leaning view, consider their neighbors – You want to talk about democratic states (their ability to form a government representative of the majority is why they’ve had so many elections over the past few years) with liberal views on women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, freedom of expression, religion, etc? All of that is allowed in Israel. Outside their borders, those lifestyles get a bit more controversial.Here’s the thing – few in Israel are actually celebrating what’s happening. They don’t enjoy running to bomb shelters when the sirens blare. The broader population doesn’t enjoy the military push that Israel is carrying out – their sons and brothers are the ones Israel puts on the front line to do that. Extremists who celebrate these events are not condoned by your everyday Israeli. Most just want to live their lives free of fear.I can’t tell you the mindset of your everyday Palestinian, but from what I’ve seen, this uprising is being celebrated. Every Israeli action is a rallying cry to fight back, and every punch thrown (rockets launched out of Gaza, rocks thrown, fires started, riots conducted) is being celebrated. Every life lost is a reason to take an eye for an eye. Death begets death until Israel is wiped away.This conflict isn’t simple, the international relationships are not simple. It’s not a case of telling Israel to stop and open its borders and just be happy go lucky about their neighbors. It’s not a case of telling Palestine to simply accept the hand their dealt and be happy go lucky about their neighbors either. But the voices we hear have been predominantly dealing in absolutes, as if only one side is in the right, or one side is in the wrong. That is not the case, and neither side should be treating it as such.You’ll probably read into my statement and find a pro-Israel lean, and that’s true, but I do try to add some nuance to my perspective. I’ll be downvoted for this, but that’s fine.







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