FG Deploys Buratai As Ambassador To Benin Republic

Buratai receiving the letter of credence from Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama. Facebook/Foreign Affairs Ministry.

 

The federal government has presented a letter of credence to a former Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai (rtd) as Nigeria’s ambassador-designate to the Benin Republic. 

Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama handed over the letter to the former army chief in Abuja on Tuesday.

A former Chief of Defence Staff General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin (rtd) was also appointed as ambassador-designate of Nigeria to Cameroon.

“Today, the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Geoffrey Onyeama presented Letters of Credence to the Ambassador-Designate of Nigeria to the Republic of Cameroon, Amb. Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin and the Ambassador-Designate of Nigeria to the Republic of Benin, Amb. Tukur Yusufu Buratai,” the ministry posted on its Facebook page.

READ ALSOBuhari Nominates Olonisakin, Other Ex-Service Chiefs As Ambassadors

 

General Olonisakin getting his letter of credence from the minister. Facebook/Foreign Affairs Ministry.

 

Tuesday’s event comes about four months after President Muhammadu Buhari nominated the ex-service chiefs as non-career ambassadors.

Their most recent appointment had equally triggered outcry with critics calling on the Senate to reject their nominations.

But on February 23, 2021, the lawmakers confirmed their nominations. Senate President Ahmed Lawan during the confirmation said the former service chiefs served the country to the best of their abilities.

Senator Lawan urged the executive to utilise their experiences as much as possible and they should be posted to countries where they will be useful.

Ex-Service Chiefs arriving at the Presidential Villa for a security council meeting.

 

On February 18, the former service chiefs were screened by the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs.

The committee which was led by Senator Mohammed Bulkachuwa held a closed session before the service chiefs were ushered into the room for the commencement of the screening.

Buhari appointed the ex-service chiefs in 2015. Before they “voluntarily resigned” earlier in the year, they came under pressure to relinquish their positions due to the escalating levels of violence in the country.

 

 

Japan Top Court Backs Ban On Separate Married Surnames  – Media

A file photo of a court gavel.
A file photo of a court gavel.

 

Japan’s top court on Wednesday ruled a law requiring married couples to have the same family name is constitutional, rejecting plaintiffs who sought the right to keep separate surnames, local media said.

The plaintiffs — three couples — submitted marriage registration documents with different surnames for wives and husbands in 2018. But municipal governments refused to accept the documents, the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper reported.

The plaintiffs argued requiring married couples to choose a single name “is against equality under the law and freedom of marriage, which are guaranteed by the constitution.”

The ruling is in line with a 2015 Supreme Court decision that also found the law constitutional but urged lawmakers to discuss a bill addressing growing calls for flexibility on the issue.

Calls to allow separate surnames have been growing in recent years. The couples argued that the “reasons for the 2015 verdict are no longer valid given changes in society”, Jiji Press said.

Supreme Court officials could not immediately confirm details of Wednesday’s verdict, which was widely reported by local media.

READ ALSO: Biden Goes To Church A Day After Challenge From Bishops On Abortion

Under existing legislation, couples can choose to adopt either the husband or wife’s surname when they marry. But in practice, the vast majority of couples opt for the husband’s name.

The surname rule has been in place since the late 19th century as part of a family system gathering members under one head of household, usually male.

Backers say having a single family name is important to promote family ties and consider efforts to change the rules an attack on traditional values.

AFP

Over 150 Texas Hospital Staff Fired Or Quit Over Vaccine Ruling

Nurse Eunice Lee prepares to give an injection of the Covid-19 vaccine to a health care worker at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood, California on December 16, 2020. (Photo by Brian van der Brug / POOL / AFP)

 

More than 150 employees at the Houston Methodist hospital in Texas were fired or resigned after failing to comply with orders to get a Covid-19 vaccination to continue working there, a hospital spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Officials Houston Methodist told its staff they needed to have received a Covid vaccination by June 7 or be suspended for two weeks.

Hospital spokeswoman Gale Smith told AFP that 153 employees “either resigned in the two-week suspension period or were terminated today.

“The employees who became compliant during the suspension period returned to work the day after they became compliant,” she said.

Nearly 200 staff had been suspended, the New York Times reported, and protests were staged against the mandatory vaccine rule.

Last month, 117 staff members filed a lawsuit against the hospital, accusing it of “forcing its employees to be human ‘guinea pigs’ as a condition for continued employment.”

The lawsuit was dismissed by a judge who said the vaccines’ safety was not at issue, and that Texas law only protects employees from refusing to commit a crime.

“Receiving a Covid-19 vaccination is not an illegal act, and it carries no criminal penalties,” Judge Lynn Hughes wrote.

The judge also reprimanded one of the main plaintiffs behind the lawsuit, nurse Jennifer Bridges, for the analogy that the threat of being fired for not getting vaccinated was like “forced medical experimentation during the Holocaust.”

“Equating the injection requirement to medical experimentation in concentration camps is reprehensible,” Hughes wrote.

But Bridges, who was one of the staff to have lost their job in the protest, told AFP Tuesday their legal push was receiving more support.

“117 people joined us initially. Now we’re about to add another 70. We want Methodist to be held accountable for their actions. We want the public to see that we should not have lost our jobs and that Methodist is not properly giving people informed consent or talking about adverse reactions,” the 39-year-old said.

“I chose not to get this shot because the risks for me are too great. I’ve personally seen adverse reactions within employees and patients. Everything from severe headaches to blood clots, to paralysis, to even death,” she said.

“At my age, my benefits from getting this vaccine aren’t much at all because I only have a one percent chance of dying from the virus anyways.”

Houston houses the world’s largest medical complex, the Texas Medical Center, a sprawling district that includes hospitals and research universities.

The Medical Center employs more than 106,000 health care workers in all, and sees some 10 million patients a year.

As of Tuesday, 65.4 percent of adults in the United States had received one or more doses of the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson shots.

And yet, surveys show that health care workers have been among the greatest vaccine skeptics.

AFP

Members Of Saudi Hit Squad That Killed Khashoggi Were US-Trained – Report

Turkey Widens Khashoggi Search, Quizzes Consulate Staff
In this file photo taken on December 15, 2014, the general manager of Alarab TV, Jamal Khashoggi, looks on during a press conference in the Bahraini capital Manama. MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH / AFP

 

Four members of the Saudi hit squad that killed US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 had received paramilitary training in the United States that had been approved by the State Department, the New York Times reported late Tuesday. 

Khashoggi, a Saudi-born US resident who wrote for the Washington Post, was an outspoken critic of the Saudi leadership, with which he had once been close. He was murdered on October 2, 2018 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by a team of agents sent from Saudi Arabia.

Four of those operatives, the New York Times said, had received training from a private American security group, Tier 1 Group, a move first authorized by the administration of former president Barack Obama in 2014.

That training continued at least until the start of Donald Trump’s presidency, the newspaper said.

It cited a document provided to the Trump administration by a top official from the parent company of Tier 1 Group, the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, who had applied for a senior post at the Pentagon.

In his written testimony, Louis Bremer confirmed that Tier 1 Group did provide training to the Saudi agents, but insisted that the training was  “protective in nature” and “unrelated to their subsequent heinous acts.”

Bremer said that the four members of the kill team received the training in 2017, and that two of them had already participated in a previous course from October 2014 to January 2015.

Photo: [email protected]

 

The US State Department, contacted by AFP, said it could not comment on this information but called for the “responsible use…of American military equipment and training”.

According to a US report released in February, seven members of an elite unit tasked with protecting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman were part of the hit squad that killed Khashoggi.

The New York Times did not specify whether the four operatives trained in the United States belonged to this unit.

The body of the dissident journalist, dismembered on the spot, has never been found. After denying the assassination, Riyadh claimed the murder had been carried by Saudi agents who acted alone.

After an opaque trial in Saudi Arabia, five Saudis were sentenced to death and three sentenced to prison terms. The death sentences have since been commuted.

AFP

Spain And Portugal Risk Early Exits At Euro 2020

Portugal’s midfielder William Carvalho (L) vies with Spain’s forward Gerard Moreno during the international friendly football match between Spain and Portugal at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid in preperation for the UEFA European Championships, on June 4, 2021.
JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

Spain and reigning champions Portugal are at risk of a shock early exit from Euro 2020 on the last day of group matches on Wednesday, while UEFA’s refusal to allow Munich to light the Allianz Arena in rainbow colours has overshadowed a crucial game between Germany and Hungary.

Germany need a draw to reach the last 16 but defeat would see Hungary go through and possibly condemn Joachim Loew’s side to another group-stage exit, just like at the 2018 World Cup.

That is unthinkable for the Germans, who beat Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal 4-2 at the weekend to kickstart their campaign but could be without Thomas Mueller due to a knee injury.

The build-up has been overshadowed by the fall-out from UEFA’s decision to block plans by Munich authorities to light the stadium in rainbow colours. The German city wanted to protest at a law passed by Hungary’s right-wing government banning the “promotion” of homosexuality to minors.

UEFA refused “given the political context of the request”, but Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter called the decision “shameful” and announced plans to decorate other city landmarks in rainbow colours instead.

READ ALSO: Summer Series Experience Is Good For Super Falcons, Says Waldrum

‘Like a bottle of cava’ 

France’s forward Kylian Mbappe (R) greets the fans after the win in the UEFA EURO 2020 Group F football match between France and Germany at the Allianz Arena in Munich on June 15, 2021.
Matthias Schrader / POOL / AFP

 

On the field in the same Group F, World Cup holders France take on Portugal in Budapest, where the reigning European champions are in danger.

Portugal will be eliminated if they lose and Hungary win but a draw will definitely take the 2016 champions through to the last 16.

The Portuguese face a France side who have already qualified but will want to win to secure top spot, meaning a theoretically easier tie in the next round.

“We’re guaranteed to qualify and that gives us a bit of peace of mind. From experience I’m not getting caught up in the maths, you have to respect the game,” France coach Didier Deschamps said.

Ronaldo needs just two more goals to match the all-time international scoring record of Ali Daei, who scored 109 times for Iran.

Portugal’s neighbours Spain are in a similarly tricky position heading into their final Group E game against Slovakia in Seville.

Portugal’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo shoots a penalty kick and scores his team’s second goal during the UEFA EURO 2020 Group F football match between Hungary and Portugal at the Puskas Arena in Budapest on June 15, 2021. Alex Pantling / POOL / AFP

 

The 2008 and 2012 European champions have drawn both matches so far against Sweden and Poland.

They need to win this time to be sure of reaching the knockout phase, although a draw would be enough to qualify as a best third-placed team, provided Poland fail to beat Sweden in Saint Petersburg.

“I have a feeling that we are like a bottle of cava that is about to be uncorked,” said coach Luis Enrique.

“As soon as we put in one complete performance and get a big victory, the confidence will come and you will start to see the best of us.”

Slovakia need a point to be certain of progressing, while Robert Lewandowski’s Poland have to beat already-qualified Sweden to advance.

Modric inspires Croatia

On Tuesday Luka Modric inspired Croatia to a 3-1 win over Scotland in Glasgow as the 2018 World Cup runners-up secured their last-16 berth and ended the hopes of Steve Clarke’s men.

Nikola Vlasic put Croatia ahead only for Callum McGregor to equalise, but a brilliant Modric finish with the outside of his right boot made it 2-1 and he then set up Ivan Perisic to secure the victory.

“That’s what you’re up against at this level,” McGregor said of 2018 Ballon d’Or winner Modric.

Croatia advance as runners-up in Group D and will play a last-16 tie in Copenhagen next Monday, while England secured top spot with a 1-0 win over the Czech Republic.

Raheem Sterling’s goal won it for Gareth Southgate’s side, who were already through. They will stay at Wembley in the last 16 but could face France, Germany or Portugal.

“We are not fluent but we have moments where we look a good side,” Southgate said.

The Czech Republic are also through as a best third-placed side.

The British government said more than 60,000 spectators will be allowed to attend the semi-finals and final at Wembley with attendance increased to 75 percent of capacity.

The matches will see the largest crowds assembled at a sporting event in Britain for over 15 months, with numbers previously strictly limited due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The last 18 months have taught us, both on and off the pitch, how integral fans are to the fabric of the game,” said UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin.

“This tournament has been a beacon of hope to reassure people that we are returning to a more normal way of life and this is a further step along that road.”

AFP

US Seizes Iranian State News Websites

Photo: [email protected]

 

US Justice Department said Wednesday it had seized 33 Iranian government-controlled media websites, as well as three of the Iraqi group Kataeb Hezbollah, which it said were hosted on US-owned domains in violation of sanctions.

Visitors to leading Iranian media sites like Press TV and Al-Alam, the country’s main English language and Arabic language broadcasters, as well as the Al-Masirah TV channel of Yemen’s Huthis, were met with single-page statements declaring the website “has been seized by the United States Government” accompanied by the seals of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Commerce Department.

The 33 websites were held by the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union (IRTVU), itself controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC).

Both IRTVU and IRGC have been placed on the US sanctions blacklist, making it illegal for Americans, US companies, and foreign or non-American companies with US subsidiaries to have business with them or their subsidiaries.

Kataeb Hezbollah, the Iraqi group which owned three sites that were seized, is a hardline military faction with close ties to Tehran that Washington has formally designated a terror group.

Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), the immediate parent of Al-Alam, reported that other web domains, including Palestine-Al Youm, a Palestinian-directed broadcaster, and an Arabic-language religious and cultural channel were among those seized.

Bahrain’s LuaLua TV, a channel run by opposition groups with offices in London and Beirut, was also frozen by the United States, according to an AFP correspondent in the region.

IRIB accused the United States of repressing freedom of expression and joining forces with Israel and Saudi Arabia “to block pro-resistance media outlets exposing the crimes of US allies in the region.”

On the website of their political wing, the Huthi branded the action “American piracy and copyright confiscation.”

“The government of the United States of America is banning the Al-Masirah website without any justification or even prior notice,” they said.

A-Masirah quickly established a new website, using its name but swapping the .net domain for .com.

Meanwhile, LuaLua and Al-Masirah continued to broadcast new programs, AFP journalists said.

READ ALSO: Biden Goes To Church A Day After Challenge From Bishops On Abortion

‘Malign influence operations’

File photo of the Iranian flag

 

IRTVU was designated for sanctions last year for “brazen attempts to sow discord among the voting populace by spreading disinformation online and executing malign influence operations aimed at misleading U.S. voters,” the Justice Department said.

“IRTVU and others like it, disguised as news organizations or media outlets, targeted the United States with disinformation campaigns and malign influence operations,” the department said in a statement.

US officials meanwhile have tied Kataeb Hezbollah to rocket and other attacks on sites in Iraq where American soldiers and diplomats reside, and say that the groups is supported by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The Justice Department did not identify the US company or companies which owned the domains that hosted the websites, or explain how they had been able to host them contrary to sanctions.

The US action came as Washington seeks to restore the 2015 agreement between Tehran and six major countries to freeze its nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions.

In 2018 then-president Donald Trump ordered the United States to withdraw from the agreement, alleging that Iran was not adhering to its commitments, though independent nuclear inspectors said it was.

Upon taking office this year, President Joe Biden committed to rejoining the agreement and talks with Iran on what both sides would do to resume the pact have gone on for weeks.

EU negotiator Enrique Mora said on Sunday that those involved in the talks were “closer” to saving the Iran nuclear deal but that sticking points remain.

The US action also came just after Iranians chose ultraconservative cleric Ibrahim Raisi as president in an election the US State Department characterized as neither free nor fair.

AFP

No Booze, No Autographs: Tokyo 2020 Unveils Fan Rules

The Olympic Rings are pictured in front of the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne on March 21, 2020. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP.

 

No alcohol, no hugs, no cheers and no autographs: Tokyo Olympic organisers unveiled tough new rules for spectators at the pandemic Games on Wednesday, as they marked one month until the opening ceremony.

Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto warned festivities “will have to be suppressed” to keep the Games safe, and conceded that organisers will need to be “creative” to stoke a party atmosphere.

Games chiefs decided on Monday to allow up to 10,000 spectators into competition venues, but Hashimoto warned them not to expect the kind of festival mood currently being enjoyed by football fans at Euro 2020.

“In Europe, the venues are filled with celebration,” she said.

“Unfortunately, we may not be able to do the same.”

Spectators will need to clear several antivirus requirements, including temperature checks and mask-wearing, just to get into venues — with no refunds available for those who can’t.

Once inside, they are forbidden from cheering or “making direct contact with other spectators” and will be asked to go straight home after events end.

Asking athletes for autographs or “expressing verbal support” is also a no-no, as is waving a towel or “any form of cheering that could create a crowd”.

“The festive mood will have to be suppressed — that has become a major challenge,” Hashimoto told reporters.

“People can feel joy in their hearts, but they can’t be loud and they have to avoid crowds,” she added.

“Those are the areas where we need to be creative, and we are putting in a lot of effort to come up with a new way of celebrating.”

Spectators will also have to do without alcohol, even though it is allowed at other sporting events currently being held in Japan.

Hashimoto said the ban was decided “to alleviate the concerns of the public as much as possible.”

‘True values’

file photo of Olympic Tokyo 2020

 

With the July 23 opening ceremony nearing, organisers are scrambling to finalise preparations and win over a sceptical public, pledging the Games will be safe for locals and participants.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, former athlete Hashimoto said a stripped-back Games was a chance to refocus attention on the “true values” of the Olympics.

“In recent years when I was participating as an athlete, there were concerns that this (event) has become so huge,” she said.

“This time, I feel that the true values of the Olympic and Paralympic Games are finally being discussed.”

Hashimoto rejected the suggestion that the complications of Tokyo 2020 might put off future hosts, as Olympic officials face a dwindling number of cities eager for the expensive undertaking.

“I see this as one opportunity to present the essence of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and to change the format of the Games, so that other cities will be willing to hold the Games in the future,” she said.

It may not be a line that convinces everyone, with athletes facing tough restrictions including daily testing and a ban on travel except between venues and the Olympic Village.

Domestic opposition to the Games has softened in recent weeks, but around half of Japan’s public still don’t want the event to open in four weeks’ time, polls show.

On Saturday, a Ugandan Olympic coach tested positive on arrival in Japan, despite the team reportedly being vaccinated and testing negative before travel.

The rest of the delegation has now been put in quarantine until July 3.

The frantic pace of preparations may have taken its toll on Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, who has been admitted to hospital suffering from exhaustion.

Addressing fears of a fun-free Games, Hashimoto said hoped the Olympics would showcase Japan’s “culture of hospitality and caring about each other.”

“I hope such spirit of caring about each other, will become the legacy of the Games.”

AFP

D’Tigers Coach Invites 12 NBA Players For Tokyo Olympics Camping

The D’Tigers are aiming for a medal finish at the 2020 Olympic Games.

 

Nigeria’s men’s basketball team coach Mike Brown has listed 12 NBA players in a 49-man squad as the D’Tigers begin preparations for the 2020 Olympic Games.

Monte Morris of Denver Nuggets, Miye Oni who plays for Utah Jazz, Toronto Raptors’ OG Anunoby; and Kz Okpala of Miami Heat are among the players invited for camping in California, US.

Others are Festus Ezeli, Precious Achiuwa (Miami Heat), Udoka Azubuike (Utah Jazz), Jahlil Okafor (Detroit Pistons), Josh Okogie (Minnesota Timberwolves), Gabe Vincent (Miami Heat), Al-Farouq Aminu (Chicago Bulls), Jordan Nwora (Milwaukee Bucks) and Chimezie Metu (Sacramento Kings).

The team’s captain Ike Diogu (Bameso, Dominican Rep) was also named in the side alongside 2015 NBA champion Festus Ezeli.

Fuenlabrada’s (Spain) Obi Emegano, Ike Iroegbu (Elan Chalon, France), Ike Nwamu (Samara, Russia), and Michael Gbinije (BC Nevèżíe, Lithuania) were also invited for the camping.

According to the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF), the players started arriving in the camp on June 20 for the first phase of the exercise.

Nigeria will play in Group B alongside Australia and winners of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Serbia and Croatia.

READ ALSO: No Booze, No Autographs: Tokyo 2020 Unveils Fan Rules

D’TIGERS’ FULL SQUAD FOR TOKYO GAMES 

D’Tigers Head Coach Mike Brown.

 

Below is the full list of players invited by the coach:

Monte Morris (Denver Nuggets), Miye Oni (Utah Jazz), OG Anunoby (Toronto Raptors), Kz Okpala (Miami Heat), Festus Ezeli, Precious Achiuwa (Miami Heat), Udoka Azubuike (Utah Jazz), Jahlil Okafor (Detroit Pistons).

Josh Okogie (Minnesota Timberwolves) will join other NBA players who include Gabe Vincent (Miami Heat), Al-Farouq Aminu (Chicago Bulls), Jordan Nwora (Milwaukee Bucks) and Chimezie Metu (Sacramento Kings), Ike Diogu (Bameso, Dominican Rep).

Obi Emegano (Fuenlabrada, Spain), Ike Iroegbu (Elan Chalon, France), Michael Oguine (BC Souffelweyersheim, France), Zaid Hearst (Alba Fehervar, Hungary), Ike Nwamu (Samara, Russia) and Michael Gbinije (Nevèżíe, Lithuania).

Talib Zanna (Hapoel Tel-Aviv, Israel), Emmanuel Omogbo (Vellaznimi, Kosovo), Christian Mekowulu (Treviso, Italy), Tonye Jekiri (Baskonia, Spain), Abdul-Malik Abu (Fethiye, Turkey), Chima Moneke (Orleans, France), Amanze Egekeze (Gries/Oberhoffen, France), Calab Agada (Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Israel), TK Edogi (St. Chamond, France), Joshua Ajayi (Hermine Nantes, France), Keith Omoerah (Poitiers, France) & Michael Eric (CSKA Moscow of Russia).

Festus Ezeli, UC Iroegbu, Ike Ndugba (2021 NBA draft prospect), Mike Okauru (UNC- Wilmington), Ben Uzoh (Hoopers), Michael Adewunmi (UT-Rio Grand Valley), Aminu Mohammed (Georgetown Univ), Manny Obaseki (Texas A&M University), Elijah Olaniyi (Stony Brook Uni) & Chibuzo Agbo (Texas Tech Uni).

Gideon George (BYU), Makenzie Mgbako (Gill St. Bernard School), Warith Alatishe (Oregon State Uni), Efe Abogidi (Washington State Univ), Stephen Domingo (Lakeland Magic), Emeka Okafor, Clifford Omoruyi (Rutger Uni) & Ekpe Udoh (Beijing RF, China).

Italy Says Face Masks Won’t Be Mandatory From June 28

File photo: Homemade protective face masks are prepared by Sarah, a 45-year-old volunteer, who sews face masks to be distributed to people in need, at her home in Vincennes, eastern suburbs of Paris, on May 7, 2020, on the 52nd day of a strict lockdown in France to stop the spread of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). – (Photo by GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)

 

Face masks will no longer be compulsory in Italy, one of the countries in Europe worst hit by the coronavirus, from June 28, the health ministry said Monday.

The lifting of the mask requirement would come into effect in regions labelled “white” under Italy’s classification system for how rapidly the virus is spreading, Health Minister Roberto Speranza wrote on Facebook.

This includes all Italian regions except the tiny Aosta Valley in the far northwest.

Speranza’s announcement came on advice from Italy’s   Comitato Tecnico Scientifico (CTS) scientific advisory panel, which said people should still have masks at hand for events with a higher risk of spreading the virus-like large gatherings.

READ ALSO: Uganda Tightens Restrictions As COVID-19 Cases Surge

File photo of pupils waiting behind floors markers prior to enter the Luigi Einaudi technical high school in Rome on September 14, 2020, for the start of the school year, during the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus.  (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP)

 

By June 28, experts predict all of Italy will be classified a “white” zone, with just 21 deaths and 495 new cases recorded nationwide on Monday.

The country has recorded 127,291 deaths since the pandemic reached it in early 2020, with 4.25 million infections.

So far 30 percent of people over 12 have been vaccinated, or around 16 million out of a population of 60 million.

More than 46 million vaccine doses have been administered in Italy.

AFP

Denmark Thump Russia To Make Euro 2020 Knockout Stage 


Denmark’s players celebrate at the end of the UEFA EURO 2020 Group B football match between Russia and Denmark at Parken Stadium in Copenhagen on June 21, 2021. Martin Meissner / POOL / AFP

 

Denmark made it through to the last 16 of Euro 2020 on Monday after a convincing 4-1 win over Russia which alongside Belgium’s victory against Finland meant they finished second in Group B.

Goals from Mikkel Damsgaard, Yussuf Poulsen, Andreas Christensen, and Joakim Maehle gave the Danes their first win of the tournament on a joyous evening at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen.

Delirious fans showered each other with beer as Denmark rattled in the goals that allowed them to end the group stage in party mood after the trauma of Christian Eriksen’s mid-match collapse in their opening fixture against the Finns.

Denmark will face Wales in the last 16 in Amsterdam on Saturday.

The Danes came into the match with no points from their first two matches but knowing a win over Russia by two goals or more and defeat for Finland would guarantee them passage from the group as the second-placed team.

During the match’s opening ceremony a huge Denmark shirt with “Eriksen 10” written on it was unfurled to deafening cheers from supporters, after which a rousing rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was belted out from the stands.

The sense that this was a pure sporting occasion after the troubles of recent days was highlighted by the chorus of boos that greeted the Russian team onto the pitch.

Once the match got underway, Denmark continued with the same aggression as in their defeats to Finland and Belgium but initially struggled to create chances against a solid Russian team who were content to keep things tight.

The nominal home team, Russia enraged the Danish fans by taking their time over set-pieces and throw-ins as early as midway through the first half.

However, it was the Russians who had the first chance of the game, Aleksandr Golovin driving towards the goal and fashioning a great scoring opportunity only to shoot straight at Kasper Schmeichel from close range.

Damsgaard’s moment

Denmark’s defender Andreas Christensen (R) shoots and scores his team’s third goal during the UEFA EURO 2020 Group B football match between Russia and Denmark at Parken Stadium in Copenhagen on June 21, 2021. Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP / POOL

 

They were left to rue missing that chance six minutes before the break when Damsgaard showed why he was picked to replace Eriksen as Denmark’s playmaker.

The Sampdoria winger, who only turns 21 early next month, looked like he had all the time in the world when he unleashed a curling strike that whipped past Matvei Safonov and caused an eruption of celebrations in the stands.

Their tails up and the crowd now bouncing in unison, Jannik Vestergaard came close to making it two in as many minutes when he headed a corner just wide.

Denmark continued to press after the restart but their second came in almost comical circumstances on the hour mark.

Poulsen could hardly believe his luck when Daler Kuzyaev’s miscued back-pass rolled straight to him in front of the Russian goal, leaving him the simple task of rolling into an empty net and giving Denmark the two-goal lead they needed to finish second should Belgium win.

Soon after the already rowdy fans in the Parken let out possibly the loudest cheer of the night as news of Romelu Lukaku’s opener against Finland filtered through, but they were soon dampened by that goal being ruled out and Russia being awarded a penalty which was slotted home by Artem Dzyuba.

They were on their feet again with 15 minutes remaining thanks to Lukas Hradecky’s own goal which put Belgium a goal ahead and Denmark in second place.

Denmark were now charging forward and Safonov had to pull off three incredible saves in quick succession before Christensen rammed home a superb long-range strike in the 79th minute.

READ ALSO: Summer Series Experience Is Good For Super Falcons, Says Waldrum

Denmark’s defender Joakim Maehle (2nd-L) celebrates with teammates after scoring his team’s fourth goal during the UEFA EURO 2020 Group B football match between Russia and Denmark at Parken Stadium in Copenhagen on June 21, 2021. Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP / POOL

 

As the fans, who had made a tremendous racket all game, began their celebrations for making the knockout stage, Denmark ended the group stage in style when Maehle slotted home the fourth three minutes later to complete a perfect evening.

The players and coaching staff then all huddled together in the centre circle before breaking out into wild celebrations amid fantastic cheers from the stands.

AFP

Former President Gbagbo Files For Divorce After Three Decades

In this file photo, former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo enters the courtroom of the International Criminal Court in The Hague on January 15, 2019, where judges were expected to issue rulings on requests by Gbagbo and ex-government minister Charles Ble Goude to have their prosecutions thrown out for lack of evidence.  Peter Dejong / ANP / AFP

 

Ivory Coast’s former president Laurent Gbagbo filed for divorce Monday from his wife of three decades, his lawyer said, days after his highly anticipated return to the country.

Gbagbo’s lawyer Claude Mentenon said in a statement that after years of “repeated rejected requests for Simone Ehivet to consent to an amicable separation”, the ex-president had asked an Abidjan court for a divorce.

The announcement comes four days after Gbagbo returned to Ivory Coast following a decade’s absence, during which he was tried for crimes against humanity during the post-election conflict of 2010-11.

Simone Gbagbo wielded significant political influence as first lady, and was arrested alongside her husband in April 2011 after he refused to concede defeat, sparking a conflict that left some 3,000 people dead.

Gbagbo was sent to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where he was definitively acquitted in March after a lengthy trial.

Simone Gbagbo was sentenced to 20 years’ prison in Ivory Coast for “violating state security”, but was released in 2018 after seven years of detention as part of an amnesty.

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Gbagbo’s homecoming comes after his once-bitter rival, current President Alassane Ouattara, embraced his return in the name of national reconciliation.

Laurent and Simone Gbagbo, who have two daughters, married in 1989 and campaigned alongside each other for the introduction of multi-party elections in the 1990s.

The 76-year-old ex-president, has been in a relationship for several years with 47-year-old former journalist Nady Bamba.

AFP

Iran’s Raisi Calls For Effective Nuclear Talks, Rules Out Biden Meet

Iranian ultraconservative cleric and president-elect Ebrahim Raisi gives a news conference after voting in the presidential election. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)

 

Iran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi said on Monday he will not allow nuclear negotiations for the sake of negotiations, in his first news conference since winning election last week.

Raisi also ruled out meeting US President Joe Biden but said there were “no obstacles” to resuming diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, the Sunni-ruled regional rival of Shiite Iran, which have been severed for five years.

Raisi, 60, won Friday’s election in which more than half the voters stayed away after many political heavyweights had been barred from running and as an economic crisis driven by US sanctions has battered the country.

Raisi, an ultraconservative cleric who heads Iran’s judiciary, will replace moderate President Hassan Rouhani — whose landmark achievement was a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers — in August.

“Any negotiations that guarantee national interests will certainly be supported, but… we will not allow negotiations to be for negotiations’ sake,” Raisi said of the nuclear talks.

“Any meeting must produce a result… for the Iranian nation,” he added.

The 2015 deal saw Iran accept curbs on its nuclear capabilities in return for an easing of sanctions, but former US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew three years later and ramped up sanctions, prompting the Islamic republic to pull back from its nuclear commitments.

Trump’s successor Biden has signalled his readiness to return to the deal and state parties — also including Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — have lately been negotiating its revival in Vienna.

The European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said Sunday that there was “no reason to believe” that Raisi’s government would take “a different position” in the talks than its predecessor.

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No’ to Biden meet

US President Joe Biden holds a press conference after the US-Russia summit in Geneva on June 16, 2021. (Photo by PETER KLAUNZER / POOL / AFP)

 

An austere figure from the Shiite Muslim clerical establishment, Raisi smiled and raised his hands as he arrived for Monday’s press conference.

When asked by a Russian media outlet whether he would meet Biden and try to “fix” issues between them in the event the nuclear talks lead to the US lifting sanctions on Iran, he replied, flatly: “No”.

Raisi also said his administration would be open to restoring ties with Iran’s regional foe Saudi Arabia.

“There are no obstacles from Iran’s side to re-opening embassies… there are no obstacles to ties with Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Ties between Tehran and Riyadh were cut in 2016 after Iranian protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions following the kingdom’s execution of a revered Shiite cleric.

The two sides have been engaged in talks hosted by Baghdad since April to improve relations.

Raisi, who is subject to US sanctions imposed over the executions of political prisoners in 1988, has in the past denied he played a role in the killings.

‘Always defending human rights’

France’s foreign ministry said Monday that it had “taken note” of Raisi’s victory and that it remained “fully mobilised” to implement the 2015 nuclear deal.

“We reaffirm the concerns we have regularly expressed regarding the human rights situation in Iran,” it added in a statement.

At Monday’s news conference, Raisi accused the west of violating human rights.

“All that I have done through my years of service has always been towards defending human rights,” said the Iranian president-elect.

Raisi, whose black turban signifies direct descent from Islam’s Prophet Mohammed, is seen as close to the 81-year-old supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate political power in Iran.

His victory had been widely anticipated after the Guardian Council, made up of 12 clerics and jurists, had approved just seven candidates, all men, out of a field of almost 600 hopefuls.

Three of those vetted candidates dropped out two days before the vote.

Raisi said there was a “massive” voter turnout in Friday’s election.

“This meaningful presence of the people, their massive presence, came about despite the coronavirus situation, despite the many enmities and psychological warfare of the Iranian nation’s enemies,” he said.

Turnout reached 48.8 percent, a record low for a presidential poll since Iran’s 1979 revolution ousted the US-backed monarchy.

Participation had been expected to be low in a country where many have been demoralised by years of painful economic crisis that was brought on by a crippling US sanctions regime and worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

AFP