COVID-19 Increases Risks for Tens of Thousands of Ethiopian Migrants Stranded in Yemen 

The International Organization for Migration said tens of thousands of Ethiopian migrants stranded in war-torn Yemen are in fear for their lives as COVID-19 spreads throughout the country and life-saving aid is in short supply. More than 1,460 cases of coronavirus, including 418 deaths are reported in Yemen, but aid agencies believe the true number is much higher. As this deadly disease spreads widely throughout local communities, the U.N. migration agency warns thousands of Ethiopian migrants are at greater risk. IOM spokesman Paul Dillon said migrants are subject to forcible relocation, arbitrary detention and abuse, as well as fear of falling sick and dying from COVID-19 with little prospect of receiving treatment. “For nearly six years, Yemen has been an extremely unsafe place to be a migrant. COVID-19 has made this situation worse; migrants are scapegoated as carriers of the virus and as a result, suffer exclusion and violence,” Dillon said. “In addition to the forced removals, fears about COVID-19 have led to migrants in Yemen experiencing verbal and physical harassment, increased detention and movement restrictions.” Ethiopian migrants gather on a pavement where they sleep in Aden, Yemen, June 15, 2020.Yemen traditionally has been a country of transit for impoverished Ethiopians seeking work and a better life in Saudi Arabia. The International Organization for Migration said the number of migrant arrivals in Yemen has decreased by 90% in recent months because of COVID-19 related restrictions. Dillon said most of the stranded Ethiopians are sleeping in the open or in unsafe, abandoned buildings. That puts them at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19. He told VOA access to the migrants has always been difficult in the conflict-ridden country. However, he notes COVID-19 is what he calls a new variable. “We need to ensure that our protocols and our responses to people in need follow strict safety guidelines in order to protect our staff. Some of whom have become ill with COVID-19,” Dillon said. “Many of the people are in urban areas seeking out new places to sleep every night, moving from place to place and that can really challenge the ability to deliver support services to migrants.” IOM spokesman Dillon said the migrants lack basic services including food, clean water and health care. He said his agency’s $155 million appeal to support more than 5.3 million people in Yemen this year is only half funded. If the needed funds are not received, he warns millions of displaced Yemenis and migrants will be left to face the devastating and worsening crisis by themselves.  

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Militia Fires on Darfurians Demanding Better Security 

A group of armed men killed 10 people and injured 17 others in the Fataborno village of Sudan’s Northern Darfur state on Monday, according to local residents. Witnesses told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus program that a group of militia loyal to ousted President Omar al Bashir opened fire on hundreds of people who had gathered at a sit-in to call for increased security.  Resident Suwar Adam Ali, 27,  said he saw gunmen attack three locations, including a camp for internally displaced persons. “At around 12 p.m., a group of militia tried to access the sit-in site in the camp. They also entered the Fataborno market and burned shops and people’s property. They also escaped with dozens of livestock. They fired live bullets on the people,” Ali said. For the past five days, traditional chiefs, religious leaders, local youth and women have staged a sit-in in front of the headquarters of Fatarborno’s administrative unit, demanding the government provide additional security.   Villagers cannot farm their land or graze their cattle because they fear they will be targeted by armed militia in the area, according to Ali. “We are requesting the transitional government to disarm these militia groups, secure the agricultural season, stop forceful displacement, and they should immediately intervene to stop the open sale of illegal drugs in the market,” Ali told VOA. Last week, a high-level government delegation headed by Mohammed Hassan Al Taishi, a member of Sudan’s ruling Sovereign Council, met with Nertiti town residents and agreed to provide additional security in the area, establish local courts and try criminal suspects. The government applauded the citizens of Nertiti for staging peaceful protests to express their demands. Information Minister Faisal Mohammed Saleh told protesters at last week’s rally that government leaders are eager to meet with them and discuss their demands. “We will come and sit with them on the mountains, sit on stone, under the tree or in the desert, and listen to them. This is not because we are angels but because it is our duty,” said Saleh. Northern Darfur military caretaker governor Major General Malik Al Taib Khawjali has declared a 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew in the area.  

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Britain Bans China’s Huawei from New 5G Network

The British government has banned China’s Huawei telecommunications equipment company from playing a limited role in Britain’s new high-speed mobile phone network.Britain’s Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, said the country’s telecommunications operators have until 2027 to remove Huawei’s equipment that is currently used in Britain’s 5G network.Britain’s decision could have wide-ranging implications for relations between the two countries and signals that Huawei may be losing support in the West. Dowden said the ban was imposed after the U.S. threatened to cancel an information-sharing deal due to concerns Huawei’s equipment could allow the Chinese government to penetrate British networks.British Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed in January to give Huawei a limited role in Britain’s high-speed network, but the decision sparked a diplomatic disagreement with the U.S. 

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Iran Executes Man Convicted of Spying for CIA

Iran has executed a former defense ministry employee who was convicted of selling information to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Iran’s judiciary said Tuesday.
 
A judiciary spokesman said Reza Asgari was executed last week for selling information about Iran’s missile program to the CIA. Iran says Asgari sold the information during his last years in the defense ministry and retired in 2016.
 
Iran executed another alleged spy last month. Officials say Jalal Hajizavar admitted in court that the CIA paid him to spy. The judiciary said spy equipment was confiscated from the home of Hajizavar, who also worked at the defense ministry. The judiciary said his wife was sentenced to 15 years in prison for participating in the espionage.
 
The judiciary also said Mahmoud Mousavi-Majd, accused of spying for the United States and Israel, is among those who have yet to be put to death.
 
Iran said last year it had apprehended 17 spies whom it alleged were working for the CIA. 

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Judge OK’s Release of Tell-all Book by Trump’s Niece

A New York state judge lifted a stay on Monday that had temporarily blocked Donald Trump’s niece from publishing a book offering an unflattering look at the U.S. president and his family. Justice Hal Greenwald of the state Supreme Court in Poughkeepsie, New York, denied the request to stop publication and canceled the temporary restraining order he issued on June 30 against Mary Trump and her publisher, Simon & Schuster, at the request of Robert Trump, the brother of the president. Simon & Schuster was due to release the book on Tuesday. Robert Trump said previously that the release of “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man” would violate a confidentiality agreement tied to the estate of his father, Fred Trump Sr., who died in 1999. Mary Trump, a trained psychologist, is Fred Trump’s granddaughter. “Notwithstanding that the Book has been published and distributed in great quantities, to enjoin Mary L. Trump at this juncture would be incorrect and serve no purpose,” Greenwald said in his decision. “It would be moot. … To quote United States v. Bolton, 2020, ‘By the looks of it the horse is not just out of the barn, it is out of the country,'” he wrote. Mary Trump’s attorney, Theodore Boutrous, said in a statement: “The court got it right in rejecting the Trump family’s effort to squelch Mary Trump’s core political speech on important issues of public concern.” Lawyers for Robert Trump could not immediately be reached for comment. The book’s publication comes as the Republican president seeks a second term in the Nov. 3 election. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has described it as a “book of falsehoods.” Mary Trump applies her training in psychology to conclude in the book that the president likely suffers from narcissism and other clinical disorders – and was boosted to success by a father who fueled those traits. She writes of a “malignantly dysfunctional family” dominated by a patriarch, Fred Trump, who showed little interest in his five children other than grooming an heir for his real-estate business. Ultimately, he settled on Donald, she wrote, deciding that his second son’s “arrogance and bullying” would come in handy at the office, and encouraged it. 

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China Warns Weekend Vote for Pro-Democracy Candidates May Have Violated New National Security Law

China is warning the recent vote by pro-democracy parties in Hong Kong to choose candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections there may have violated the new national security law imposed on the financial hub. More than 600,000 Hong Kongers flocked to some 250 polling stations to cast ballots to select the strongest pro-democracy candidates to contest pro-Beijing candidates in September’s Legislative Council elections, defying earlier warnings from Erick Tsang Kwok-Wai, secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs, that the vote might run afoul of the national security law. A statement issued Monday by the Liaison Office, which represents the mainland Chinese government in Hong Kong, called the primary vote “a serious provocation to the current electoral system.”  The statement also criticized the efforts of the vote’s organizers, specifically longtime pro-democracy activist Benny Tai, as an attempt “to seize the power of governance in Hong Kong and stage the Hong Kong version of a ‘color revolution.’”  The term is used to describe popular protest movements around the world that have swept a government from power.People wearing face masks queue up to vote in Hong Kong, July 11, 2020, in an unofficial “primary” for pro-democracy candidates ahead of legislative elections in September.Pro-democracy forces say the goal of fronting candidates for the September elections is to achieve a parliamentary majority that could block passage of the budget and other key legislation, and thereby force the resignation of Chief Executive Carrie Lam.  Under the new security law, anyone in Hong Kong believed to be carrying out terrorism, separatism, subversion of state power or collusion with foreign forces could be tried and face life in prison if convicted. The new law was a response to the massive and often violent pro-democracy demonstrations that engulfed the financial hub in the latter half of last year. Western governments and human rights advocates say the measure effectively ends the “One Country, Two Systems” policy under which Hong Kong was promised a high degree of autonomy after the handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997. 

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Kenya Buries First Doctor to Succumb to COVID-19   

Kenyan doctors are continuing to treat scores of coronavirus patients, a day after paying final respects to the country’s first doctor to succumb to the virus. Health officials in protective clothing brought Dr. Doreen Adisa Lugaliki for burial Monday, in a service attended by a few relatives.  Chibanzi Mwachonda, deputy Secretary-General of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union said 38-year-old Dr. Lugaliki’s death was so painful doctors labeled the day “Black Monday.” Lenny Lugaliki, Dr. Lugaliki’s brother, acknowledged she was a diabetic, but said her sudden death four days after being admitted to the hospital was a shock.  He said the family was looking ahead to bringing her home and caring for her so she could get on with her life. Nearly 200 people have died of the novel coronavirus in Kenya and more than 10,200 others have tested positive for the virus. 

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New York City Reports No COVID Deaths in 24 Hours

New York City, once the center of the U.S. COVID-19 outbreak, has had its first 24-hour period with no coronavirus deaths. “This disease is far from beaten,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday, the first day without any reported COVID deaths since the first case was reported March 1.  “We look around the country and we see what so many other Americans are going through, so many other states and cities hurting so bad right now,” said de Blasio. “So, no one can celebrate, but we can at least take a moment to appreciate that every one of you did so much to get us to this point – 24 hours where no one died. Let’s have many more days like that.” De Blasio says he is particularly concerned about the growing number of people in their 20s contracting the coronavirus. He urged them to wear masks and social distance.  “I understand for so many younger adults, it has been a really difficult time — cooped up, disconnected, away from loved ones … and I understand that people are just yearning to break out from that,” said de Blasio, who added that young people have to realize that everyone is vulnerable. Also Monday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an emergency health order that requires visitors from states with high rates of COVID-19 to provide information about their in-state accommodations or face a penalty of up to $2,000, “If you fail to provide it, you will receive a summons with a $2000 fine. We’re serious about enforcing quarantine,” the governor tweeted.NY is issuing an emergency health order: Out-of-state travelers from designated high-COVID states must provide their contact information upon arrival.If you fail to provide it, you will receive a summons with a $2K fine.We’re serious about enforcing quarantine.— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) July 13, 2020Last week, he tweeted the 19 states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah. One of them, Florida, reported its second-highest total number of cases for a single day, a day after setting the record for most new cases for a single day, 15,300. During the height of the New York outbreak, the worst day high was 12, 274 cases.  In California Governor Gavin Newsom Monday extended the closure of bars, restaurants, gyms, churches, and amusement centers from 19 counties to the entire state.NEW: #COVID19 cases continue to spread at alarming rates.CA is now closing indoor operations STATEWIDE for:-Restaurants-Wineries-Movie theaters, family entertainment-Zoos, museums-CardroomsBars must close ALL operations.— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) July 13, 2020“The data suggests not everybody is practicing common sense,” Newsom said as the number of new cases began rising since some businesses began reopening in May.  In Maryland, three immigration courts reopened Monday in Baltimore while the U.S. Justice Department reported a backlog of more than 1 million cases. No spectators or relatives were allowed in the courtroom, and everyone entering the buildings was required to wear a mask. Courts in other cities began to hear cases in mid-June. Immigration courts across the country suspended all non-deportation and non-detention-related hearings in March when the coronavirus outbreak began. But some judges and lawyers have balked at returning to the courts, saying they don’t feel safe. They note that many immigration hearing rooms are small and wedged into federal office buildings instead of conventional courthouses with large rooms.  Canada’s largest province, Ontario, will continue to ease restrictions later this week.  Starting Friday, indoor gatherings will grow from a 10-person limit to 50 people. Outdoor gatherings of up to 100 people will be allowed as long as participants remain 2 meters apart. Gyms, movie theaters and restaurants will reopen. But Toronto will be the exception and many closings and limits on gatherings in Canada’s largest city will stay in place for now. A woman in Heilongjiang Province, China, spread COVID-19 to an estimated 71 people simply by riding in an elevator, according to a research letter published Monday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the CDC, the 25-year-old woman returned to China from the U.S. in mid-March and was quarantined in her home. After others in her apartment building became sick, researchers tested the woman based on her travel and concluded she was an asymptomatic COVID-19 carrier and had started the spread by infecting at least one of her neighbors in the elevator. Researchers say this case shows how even a single case of the disease can result in “widespread community transmission.” Wearing face masks in supermarkets and stores in England will be mandatory starting next week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office announced Monday. Face coverings are already required on buses and subways in London and other English cities. Other European countries, including Germany, Greece, Italy and Spain already require face coverings in stores. A new study by Britain’s Academy of Medical Sciences says it is possible a second COVID wave this winter could kill as many as 120,000 people in U.K. hospitals if the medical facilities are not adequately prepared. This is a “reasonable worst-case scenario” and stresses that this is just a possibility and not a forecast. It urges the medical community to take “intense preparations” now, including a national information campaign and increased capacity for testing.  

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Despite Americans’ Second Thoughts, Czechs Admire Woodrow Wilson 

The legacy of former U.S. president Thomas Woodrow Wilson is going through a harsh re-examination by supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, but in at least one country abroad, his place in history is undisputed. Wilson, who occupied the White House from 1913 to 1921, “is being criticized for his allegedly racist views as far as I know,” said Zdenek Beranek, the Czech Republic’s second-ranking diplomat in Washington.  The Czech people do not approve of any form of racism, Beranek said in an interview with VOA, but “we appreciate what he did for our nation. … Wilson invested his political capital to the independence of my country.”   Wilson, known internationally for his role in reshaping world affairs after World War I, has recently come under scrutiny amid a national movement to remove statues of Confederate generals and other historic leaders accused of having owned slaves or supported racial segregation.  A statue of former US President Woodrow Wilson is unveiled in Prague, Czech Republic, Oct. 5, 2011.Princeton University, one of America’s leading educational institutions, recently removed his name from its school of public policy because of his support for segregationist policies. In a sign of how problematic his legacy has become, the governor of New Jersey has decided to not sit behind a desk used by Wilson when he held that office.  Wilson, described by some as the most highly educated of all American presidents, served as a professor for many years before rising to become president of Princeton, then governor of New Jersey and then president of the United States. Until recently, he was best known for his handling of the presidency during the First World War — a period that saw the rise of the United States as a political and military power. In January 1918, as the war was drawing to a close, Wilson announced the Fourteen Points and laid the foundation for the Treaty of Versailles, which ended the war.   During the war years, he was influenced by the entreaties of Czech exile Tomas G. Masaryk, a fellow academician-turned-politician who, with Wilson’s crucial help, would go on to help establish the new country of Czechoslovakia and become its first president.  Wilson is said to have been deeply moved when he learned that a document drafted by Masaryk and other leading figures to proclaim the right of the Czech and Slovak peoples to self-governance was modeled after the American Declaration of Independence.   “You could say our very independence was declared on American soil,” Beranek said. The Czechs honored Wilson with a larger-than-life full-sized statue erected in central Prague; they also named their main railway station after him.   The statue was knocked down and the railway station renamed when the country became a Soviet satellite after World War II. But after Moscow lost its grip on the region in 1989, a new statue was erected in its place. The train station was not renamed, but it stands on Wilsonova, or Wilson Avenue. 

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Over 600,000 Hong Kongers Vote in Opposition Primary

Over 600,000 Hong Kongers cast their ballots in the democratic camp primaries elections over the weekend, far exceeding the organizer’s expected turnout in a poll widely seen as a sign of continuing opposition to the new national security law imposed by Beijing.  The election, held 10 days after the law took effect, aims to select the strongest pro-democracy candidates to contest pro-Beijing candidates in September’s Legislative Council elections.  Benny Tai, one of the vote’s organizers, described the turnout as “a miracle created by Hong Kongers.” He told the press that during the two-day unofficial vote, 592,000 electronic ballots and 21,000 paper ballots were tallied, more than three times his expected turnout of 170,000.  “Hong Kong people have made history again,” Tai said. “Hong Kong people have demonstrated to the world, and also to the authorities, that we have not given up to strive for democracy.” Although the primaries were only for the opposition, the level of participation is seen as a guide to popular opinion in the financial hub of 7.5 million people.   The last punch Defying warnings from Erick Tsang Kwok-Wai, secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs, that the vote might run afoul of the national security law, residents young and old flocked to over 250 polling stations staffed by thousands of volunteers. A voter who gave her name only as Chan told VOA that in addition to expressing her dissatisfaction with the new national security law, she came to vote for future generations. With the awareness that these efforts might not change what the Chinese Communist Party does to Hong Kong, she said that Hong Kongers have to show they would not easily give up.  “This is the last punch by the Hong Kong citizens, and that’s why we are all coming out to vote. We understand this vote is unofficial, but we want to tell the government that we want ‘One Country, Two Systems,’ and Hong Kong needs democracy,” Chan said. Another voter, Wong, echoed that he wished to express his dissatisfaction with the new national security law through his ballot.  “On the surface, few people dare to talk. But most of my friends do not like this new national security law,” he told VOA. “With no designated agency in Hong Kong to explain the law, every government official can enforce it according to their own understanding. It’s like what we used to read in Chinese history, you can be thrown into prison because of your words.”   District Councilor Janet Ng told VOA that the voter turnout reflected people’s distrust of the Hong Kong government.  “Everyone is feeling the chills of the new national security law, so they want to voice their opinions through their ballots,” Ng said, “They don’t want the future generation to live like their mainland counterparts.” ‘We can’t be intimidated’ Meanwhile, some pro-democracy activists fear authorities may yet try to stop some candidates from running in September’s election.  Sunny Cheung, a candidate in the West Kowloon district, told VOA even if he wins the primary election, he might face disqualification in the official Legislative Council election.  “Every ballot is a show of support for us. For people like Joshua Wong and me … we might be disqualified. We might be arrested. But now, people are coming out to speak. … We Hong Kongers value populist expression,” Cheung said.  He urged all Hong Kongers to come out and vote in future elections, adding that the first democratic vote after the implementation of the national security law has shown that “we Hong Kongers can’t be intimidated. We Hong Kongers can’t be defeated.” 

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The Infodemic: The Role Children Play in Spreading COVID-19

Fake news about the coronavirus can do real harm. Polygraph.info is spotlighting fact-checks from other reliable sources here​.Daily Debunk”Fact check: What role do kids play in spreading the coronavirus?” CNN, July 10​Social Media DisinfoFILE PHOTO: Various N95 respiration masks at a laboratory of 3M, in Maplewood, Minnesota, U.S. REUTERS/Nicholas Pfosi/File PhotoClaim: Face masks are useless against COVID-19.Verdict: FalseRead the full story at: FactCheck.orgFactual Reads on CoronavirusCoronavirus research updates: Massive contact-tracing effort finds hundreds of cases linked to nightclubsNature wades through the literature on the new coronavirus — and summarizes key papers as they appear.
— Nature, July 10

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Ghana’s Organic Farming Growing in Popularity During Pandemic

In Ghana and West Africa, organic food is growing in popularity as people try to stay healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. But organic produce is not easily regulated, and some consumers are paying extra for unverified claims. Farmers across the region are creating their own system, with support from international bodies, to certify organic produce. Stacey Knott reports from Accra.Camera: Stacey Knott  Produced by: Stacey Knott 
 

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Google Plans to Invest $10 Billion in India

Google announced it will invest $10 billion in India in an effort to make the internet more “affordable and useful” to the more than one billion people living there. “This is a reflection of our confidence in the future of India and its digital economy,” CEO Sundar Pichai said in a statement Monday. The money, to be spent through a new Google for India Digitization Fund over the next five to seven years, will invest in India’s technology sector.  FILE – Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during a visit to El Centro College in Dallas, Oct. 3, 2019.”We’ll do this through a mix of equity investments, partnerships, and operational, infrastructure and ecosystem investments,” said Pichai. This new investment represents Google’s biggest commitment to India yet. These investments focus on increasing access to the internet throughout India, as well as aiding businesses with the transition to online operations.  Much of this will be accomplished through a focus on using apps and new software platforms. Google aims to use this move to enlarge internet access beyond English and into more local languages throughout India. Google also hopes to use its investments for the public good, working to improve areas as broad as education, agriculture and health. “As we make these investments we look forward to working alongside Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi and the Indian government, as well as Indian businesses of all sizes to realize a shared vision for a Digital India,” Pichai said. “Our goal is to ensure that India not only benefits from the next wave of innovation but leads it.” 
 

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North Macedonia: Ballot Boxes Carried to Quarantined Homes

Election officials in North Macedonia carried ballot boxes to the homes of voters suffering from COVID-19 or in quarantine Monday, at the start of three days of voting in a general election that was delayed for months by the pandemic. Wearing white coveralls and other protective gear, the officials were visiting the homes of some 700 people who registered to vote in the pandemic but were unable to travel to polling stations. It is the first time elections have been held on a weekday, with the date set after the original April 12 vote was postponed due to the pandemic.After the delays, special provisions were made for those quarantined due to the virus. Of the roughly 5,000 people quarantined, just over 700 have registered to vote. Prison inmates, the elderly and the ill vote on Tuesday before the polls open Wednesday.  North Macedonia is holding its first parliamentary election under its new country name, with voters heading to the polls during an alarming spike of coronavirus cases in this small Balkan nation.The country has been run by a caretaker government since January following the resignation of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev after the European Union failed to set a date for North Macedonia to begin accession talks. Parliament elected a temporary government consisting of members of both main parties, with the sole aim of organizing the election.  Opinion polls in the run-up to Wednesday’s vote indicate a close race between coalitions led by the former governing Social Democrats and the center-right opposition VMRO-DPMNE party. The opposition is eager to return to power after losing the last election in 2016 following a decade running the country.Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Social Democrat-led coalition “Mozeme” (We Can) and the VMRO-led coalition “Obnova” (Renewal) are campaigning mostly through small gatherings and video messages.The caretaker government handled the coronavirus outbreak relatively well until May, imposing a lockdown that kept the number of infections and deaths low. But after authorities eased restrictions and opened the borders, North Macedonia saw an increase in new cases and deaths that have placed it among the most badly affected European nations in terms of the number of deaths and confirmed cases per capita.With more than 8,000 infected people and about 380 deaths in this country of around 2 million people by Sunday, the pandemic and its devastating economic consequences have become the main election issue. The opposition accuses Zaev’s party of being unable to deal with the outbreak or pull the country out of recession.North Macedonia is one of the poorest countries in Europe with a per-capita GDP of about $6,100. About a half of its 2 million people live on the brink of poverty.Polls suggest neither party will win the 61 seats needed in the 120-member parliament to be able to govern alone, meaning a coalition government with a smaller ethnic Albanian party is likely. A total of 15 parties and coalitions are running.Zaev, the Social Democrat leader, has touted his success in securing the country’s NATO membership after sealing a historic 2017 deal with neighboring Greece over the country’s name. Greece had been blocking the country’s NATO accession for three decades, objecting to the use of the name “Macedonia” which it said harbored expansionist claims on its own province of the same name.Zaev also signed a friendship deal with Bulgaria, part of a push to resolve issues with neighboring countries and prepare for EU membership.  The Social Democrats beat the populist conservative VMRO-DPMNE party in 2016 after a decade of autocratic rule by its then-leader Nikola Gruevski, who fled to Hungary to avoid serving a two-year jail sentence for abuse of power and corruption. Hungary granted him political asylum and North Macedonia is seeking his extradition.Gruevski’s successor, Hristijan Mickoski, moved VMRO-DPMNE toward the center-right and is appealing to voters disappointed with the country’s name change and the deal with Bulgaria. He also accuses the Social Democrats of corruption, influencing the judiciary, nepotism and destroying the economy.”These are elections when we decide on the future of our families, elections in which we need to make our ancestors proud,” Mickoski said during a recent television debate with Zaev. “The choice now on July 15 is between injustice, humiliation, and on the other hand justice and dignity.”The Social Democrats point to their success in achieving NATO membership and promise EU accession and a revival of the economy with billions in foreign investments.  “We have proved that North Macedonia could be a friend with everybody, made smart deals that brought the country into NATO and enabled a green light for the start of accession talks with the EU after 15 years,” Zaev said.If neither party wins enough seats to form a government, the largest ethnic Albanian party, the Democratic Union for Integration, or DUI, is the most likely coalition partner.  DUI has been in coalition governments for the past 18 years, and now says it is “high time” for an ethnic Albanian to head the government.Its slogan “Pse Jo?” (Why not?) was chosen to challenge the last “remaining ethnic taboo” of an ethnic Albanian being named prime minister. DUI has already chosen a long-retired politician for the post.Ethnic Albanians make up about a quarter of North Macedonia’s population. They took up arms against government forces in 2001, and the six-month conflict ended with a Western-brokered deal granting them greater minority rights, including making Albanian the country’s second official language.  Both main parties have rejected DUI’s idea.Over 1.8 million people are eligible to vote at nearly 3,500 polling stations. About 2,000 domestic and 130 international observers will monitor the process.Masks are compulsory during voting, and a two-meter distance must be kept from election officials. Authorities are assuring voters the process will not endanger their health. 

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US Set for First Federal Execution in 17 Years

The U.S. federal government is set to execute an inmate for the first time in 17 years, after a federal appeals court ruling on the matter Sunday.
 
Daniel Lewis Lee, a member of a white supremacist group from Yukon, Oklahoma, was convicted of murdering a family of three, including an 8-year-old girl in 1996.
 
Sunday’s decision follows a string of appeals, during which even the family of the victims opposed the execution.
 
Lee’s family had filed an appeal saying that traveling thousands of kilometers to witness the execution in a small room where social distancing is not possible would put them at risk of contracting the novel coronavirus.
 
Lee is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 4pm local time on Monday at a federal prison in Indiana.
 
Last month, he U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied a legal challenge to a new lethal injection protocol proposed for federal executions, clearing the way for the Trump administration to resume executing federal death row inmates for the first time in nearly two decades.
 

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How the Discovery of Fresh Water Will Bolster Chinese Claims in a Disputed Sea

Discovery of a rare freshwater reserve under one of its land holdings in a widely disputed sea gives China a boost in occupying the islet and offers it a new defense for its sovereignty claims if they land in international court.A freshwater lens is forming under Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea, Chinese researchers said in the peer-reviewed publication Hydrology Journal. The lens created by tidal activity will take 20 years to become “stable” at 15 meters thick, the South China Sea Institute of Oceanology researchers in Guangzhou said in the May 2020 study.“Having this freshwater access evidently will change the quality of life and change their ability to station people on the artificial island,” said Yun Sun, East Asia Program senior associate at the Stimson Center research organization in Washington.Most among the hundreds of islets in the 3.5 million-square-kilometer sea are semi-submerged or too small to support freshwater supplies. China used reclaimed land to build up Fiery Cross Reef to its current 274 hectares and now operates an airbase there with several hundred personnel.The presence of water could mildly help China in any international court case to argue that Fiery Cross deserves a 370-kilometer-wide ocean exclusive economic zone, analysts say. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam contest all or parts of China’s claims to the sea. They prize the waterway for its fisheries plus undersea reserves of oil and gas.The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea considers an islet’s ability to sustain life or economic activity when deciding whether a country can draw up an exclusive economic zone, but in 2016 the Permanent Court of Arbitration rejected that right for Taiping Island, a Taiwanese-controlled Spratly feature with its own water supply.China leads the other claimants in firepower, technology and scientific research. It may have explored other South China Sea holdings for freshwater as well but found some only on Fiery Cross Reef, Sun said. Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines claim sovereignty over the same reef.Finding water will at least boost Chinese morale, said Alexander Huang, strategic studies professor at Tamkang University in Taiwan.“These are somewhat psychological building blocks,” Huang said. They imply, he said, that the Chinese “are making progress, they are moving on, but I don’t think in real terms they can actually use the limited freshwater to do anything so strategically.”A local freshwater source will cut the costs of shipping water to Fiery Cross Reef or desalinating it, analysts note. That advantage would make it easier to station troops there. Woody Island, a Chinese-held South China Sea feature with about 1,000 long-term residents, collects rainwater and gets additional water shipped in.But the freshwater lens won’t give China enough water to support a “sizable” fighting force on the ground, Huang said.“It doesn’t change the balance of power in the region,” said Carl Thayer, Southeast Asia-specialized emeritus professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia. “It doesn’t give China a stronger leg up in any aspect. You could catch rainwater and store it and treat it and drink it, if you have the space.” 

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