Clashes Erupt After Senegal Opposition Leader Arrested

A supporter of Senegal’s opposition leader Ousmane Sonko holds up banner after word that their leader was arrested made its rounds in Dakar, on March 3, 2021. – Senegal’s opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was arrested in Dakar on March 3, 2021, according to his lawyer, ahead of his scheduled court appearance to face a rape charge. Hundreds of supporters rallied in the city before the 46-year-old was due to appear before a judge for the charge, which he has claimed is politically motivated. (Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP)

 

 

Clashes broke out in Senegal’s capital Dakar on Wednesday as opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was arrested ahead of a scheduled court appearance to face a rape charge. 

Sonko, a 46-year-old devout Muslim who is popular with youngsters, had been heading to court to face a charge that he says is politically motivated.

Hundreds of people followed his motorcade, sounding car horns and singing traditional songs.

But opposition supporters and security forces began to exchange rocks and tear gas canisters, and Sonko was arrested on charges of disturbing public order before he reached the court.

Controversy has dogged Sonko since last month, when an employee at a salon where he received massages filed rape charges against him.

The leader of the opposition Pastef party is considered a challenger to President Macky Sall.

He ran against the president in the 2019 vote, but finished third in a race that delivered the incumbent a second term.

Frequently critical of Senegal’s governing elite, Sonko has denied the rape charge and accused the president of conspiring to remove him ahead of 2024 elections.

Security forces on Wednesday took the opposition leader to a gendarmes station in the working-class neighbourhood of Colobane after arresting him, where there were further clashes.

Riot police fired tear gas and stun grenades in a bid to disperse angry protesters, who were throwing projectiles.

It is unclear how many people were injured or arrested.

– ‘Base things’ –
Senegal’s national assembly stripped Sonko of his legal immunity last week, paving the way for a police investigation.

Despite initially saying he would refuse to cooperate — citing procedural irregularities in how his immunity was lifted — Sonko agreed to respect a court summons.

“We will go to the judge, but it is not an abdication,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

The affair has drawn comparisons with Karim Wade, the son of former Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, who was convicted for graft and prevented from running in the 2019 election.

Likewise with ex-Dakar Mayor Khalifa Sall — a rival of the incumbent president’s — who was stopped from running for election after being jailed in 2017 for corruption.

Speaking to French radio last week, President Macky Sall denied that he had engineered Sonko’s legal troubles.

“I have enough things to do than to plot such base things,” he said.

The rape allegation nonetheless comes as uncertainty grows over whether Sall, 59, will seek a third term in 2024.

Presidents in the former French colony of about 16 million people are limited to two consecutive terms, but Sall launched a constitutional review in 2016, raising suspicions he intends to run again.

Other presidents in West Africa — such as Guinea’s Alpha Conde or Ivory Coast’s Alassane Ouattara — have used constitutional changes to win third terms.

Soundcloud To Be First Music App With ‘Fan-Powered’ Artist Payments

(FILES) This file photograph taken on April 19, 2018, shows the logo of the online music streaming company Soundcloud, displayed on a tablet screen in Paris.  (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)

 

 

SoundCloud announced Tuesday it will become the first streaming service to start directing subscribers’ fees only to the artists they listen to, a move welcomed by musicians campaigning for fairer pay.

At the moment, streaming services like Spotify, Deezer and Apple put royalty payments into one big pot and dish them out based on which artists have the most global plays.

Many artists and unions say this system is grossly unfair, giving a huge slice of the pie to mega-stars like Drake and Ariana Grande, and leaving almost nothing for musicians further down the pecking order.

It means that many fans of more niche artists and genres fund music they never actually listen to.

Instead, from April 1, SoundCloud will start directing royalties due from each subscriber only to the artists they stream.

“Many in the industry have wanted this for years. We are excited to be the ones to bring this to market to better support independent artists,” said Michael Weissman, SoundCloud’s chief executive officer, in a statement.

The company said the new payment system — known as “fan-powered royalties” or “user-centric model” — would empower listeners and encourage greater diversity in musical styles.

“Artists are now better equipped to grow their careers by forging deeper connections with their most dedicated fans,” the statement said. “Fans can directly influence how their favorite artists are paid.”

Major record labels are thought to have resisted such a move, in part because the current system allows them to generate massive profits through a relatively small number of huge stars.

A study by France’s Centre National de la Musique earlier this year found that 10 percent of all revenues from Spotify and Deezer go to just 10 artists at the top.

That has allowed the major labels to amass record revenues over the past year, just as most musicians were thrown into crisis by the cancellation of live tours due to the pandemic.

Earlier this year, label bosses told a British parliamentary commission investigating the streaming economy that it may be too complicated for platforms to shift to fan-based royalty payments.

But SoundCloud said this was exactly wrong — that its computing calculations took just 20 minutes under the new model, compared with 23 hours under the old one.

“The most important takeaway from SoundCloud’s data is that none of the previous modeling has been accurate, that when you actually run a user-centric system, the rewards to artists that have an audience are significantly improved,” said Crispin Hunt, chair of the British Ivors Academy, which has been running a campaign to “fix streaming”.

“It proves the distortion in value that the existing model delivers,” he said.

Former Liverpool Striker Ian St John Dies Aged 82

 

 

Liverpool said Tuesday they are “deeply saddened” by the death of former great Ian St John aged 82 after a long illness.

The Scotland international forward was a pivotal player in the first great Reds side built by Bill Shankly that won two league titles in 1964 and 1966.

St John won a place in Liverpool fans’ hearts forever with one of the most iconic goals in their history as he netted the winner in extra time to secure their first ever FA Cup triumph against Leeds in 1965.

St John scored 118 goals in 425 appearances for Liverpool between 1961 and 1971.

He made an immediate impact after being bought from Motherwell for a then club-record fee of £37,500 in securing promotion to the First Division in the 1961/62 campaign.

Shankly described the arrival of St John and Ron Yeats years later as the “turning point” for the club.

“Liverpool Football Club is deeply saddened by the passing of Reds legend Ian St John, aged 82,” read a Liverpool statement.

St John, who scored nine goals in 21 appearances for Scotland from 1959-65, went on to manage Motherwell and Portsmouth after retiring as a player.

He then formed a popular partnership with former England star Jimmy Greaves on television in their ‘Saint and Greavsie’ programme.

“It is with a heavy heart that we have to inform you that after a long illness we have lost a husband, father and grandfather,” read a statement form the St John family.

“He passed away peacefully with his family at his bedside.

 

 

“We would like to thank all the staff at Arrowe Park Hospital for their hard work and dedication during these very difficult times.

“The family would be grateful for privacy at this extremely sad time.”

St John — who was one of six children and worked for a while in a steelworks like his father Alex who had died when he was six-years-old — had suffered from bladder cancer in 2014.

Motherwell, for whom he scored 80 goals in 113 league games, also issued a statement.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Ian St John. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.”

Former Liverpool and England defender Jamie Carragher who like St John has gone to become a respected pundit tweeted his own tribute.

“RIP Ian St John.

“Another Liverpool Legend sadly passes away. One of the players along with Bill Shankly who made this club what it is today.

“I’ll remember him most on the best football show on tv, The Saint & Greavsie. X”

One In Four People Will Have Hearing Problems By 2050: WHO

This picture taken on April 24, 2020 shows a sign of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva next to their headquarters, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
This picture taken on April 24, 2020 shows a sign of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva next to their headquarters, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus.
Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

 

One in four of the world’s population will suffer from hearing problems by 2050, the World Health Organization warned Tuesday, calling for extra investment in prevention and treatment.

The first-ever global report on hearing said that the causes of many of the problems — such as infections, diseases, birth defects, noise exposure and lifestyle choices — could be prevented.

The report proposed a package of measures, which it calculated would cost $1.33 per person per year.

Against that, it set the figure of nearly a trillion US dollars lost every year because the issue was not being properly addressed.

“Failure to act will be costly in terms of the health and well-being of those affected, and the financial losses arising from their exclusion from communication, education and employment,” said the report.

One in five people worldwide have hearing problems currently, it said.

But the report warned: “The number of people with hearing loss may increase more than 1.5-fold during the next three decades” to 2.5 billion people — up from 1.6 billion in 2019.

Of the 2.5 billion, 700 million would in 2050 have a serious enough condition to require some kind of treatment, it added — up from 430 million in 2019.

Much of the expected rise is due to demographic and population trends, it added.

Poor access to treatment

A major contributor to hearing problems is a lack of access to care, which is particularly striking in low-income countries where there are far fewer professionals available to treat them.

Since nearly 80 percent of people with hearing loss live in such countries, most are not getting the help they need.

Even in richer countries with better facilities, access to care is often uneven, said the report.

And a lack of accurate information and the stigma surrounding ear disease and hearing loss also prevents people from getting the care they need.

“Even among health-care providers, knowledge relevant to prevention, early identification, and management of hearing loss and ear diseases are commonly lacking,” it noted.

The report proposed a package of measures, including public health initiatives from reducing noise in public spaces to increasing vaccinations for diseases such as meningitis that can cause hearing loss.

It also recommended systematic screening to identify the problem at key points in people’s lives.

Among children, it said, hearing loss could be prevented in 60 percent of cases.

“An estimated one trillion US dollars is lost each year due to our collective failure to adequately address hearing loss,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in the report.

“While the financial burden is enormous, what cannot be quantified is the distress caused by the loss of communication, education and social interaction that accompanies unaddressed hearing loss.”

Spike Lee Makes HBO Documentary For 9/11 Anniversary

Spike Lee
(FILES) Spike Lee is making a documentary for HBO charting New York’s recovery from the 9/11 terror attacks through to the coronavirus pandemic, WarnerMedia announced March 1, 2021. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP)

 

 

Acclaimed film director Spike Lee is making a documentary for HBO charting New York’s recovery from the 9/11 terror attacks through to the coronavirus pandemic, WarnerMedia announced Monday.

The multi-part documentary will be released to commemorate the 20th anniversary later this year of the coordinated Al-Qaeda attack on the World Trade Center that killed almost 3,000 people.

“With over 200 interviews, we dig deep into what makes NYC the greatest city on this God’s earth and also the diverse citizens who make it so,” said Lee, who is producing and directing the project.

WarnerMedia said in a statement the documentary would offer “an unprecedented, sweeping portrait of New Yorkers as they rebuild and rebound, from a devastating terrorist attack through the ongoing global pandemic.”

It added that the documentary will be released “later this year,” without specifying a date.

It will air on HBO and its streaming service HBO Max.

Lee earlier made a documentary for HBO on Hurricane Katrina. “When the Levees Broke” was released in 2006.

“(W)e treasure Spike’s singular capacity to chronicle and pay tribute to the human toll of these historic events while bearing profound witness to the strength and resiliency of the human spirit,” said Lisa Heller and Nancy Abraham, HBO’s co-heads of documentary films.

Amazon Accused Of Race-Gender Bias In Workplace

 

 

A lawsuit filed in US federal court on Monday accused Amazon of keeping women and Black employees down while publicly talking up the need for diversity and social justice.

Charlotte Newman, who is Black and heads Underrepresented Founder Startup Business Development at Amazon Web Services, said in the suit she has been harassed, sexually assaulted, and kept from advancing to positions she deserved in the corporation.

“Like so many other Black and female employees at Amazon, Charlotte Newman was confronted with a systemic pattern of insurmountable discrimination based upon the color of her skin and her gender,” attorneys argued in the lawsuit.

Newman is asking for her case to be heard by a jury, and to be awarded unspecified cash damages.

“Amazon works hard to foster a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture, and these allegations do not reflect those efforts or our values,” an Amazon spokeswoman said in reply to an AFP inquiry.

“We do not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind and thoroughly investigate all claims and take appropriate action.”

Amazon is digging into allegations made in the lawsuit, the spokeswoman added.

Newman said she was hired as a public policy manager at Amazon four years ago, quickly doing work typically assigned to higher level employees and paid less than white co-workers.

In June of last year she filed a written complaint about harassment by a male executive and “discriminatory attitudes” expressed by managers at Amazon, according to the suit.

Later that year, she filed a complaint with the Office of Human Rights in Washington, DC, the filing said.

Practices at Amazon include putting Black employees into lower paying jobs at levels beneath their qualifications and skills, and then making them wait longer for promotions, the suit contended.

A number of Black women at Amazon, and particularly its cloud services division, have spoken of having their hair touched without consent or being criticized for not being friendly enough, according to the suit.

“Racial and sexual discrimination exists in Amazon’s corporate corridors, not just its warehouses – it simply takes a different form,” the lawsuit charged.

“Amazon has failed to seriously grapple with these issues among its management.”

Myanmar’s Suu Kyi Hit With Two New Criminal Charges

Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi arrives for a meeting with Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang (not pictured) at the Presidential Palace at the sideline of the World Economic Forum on ASEAN in Hanoi on September 13, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / KHAM

 

 

Ousted Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was hit with two new criminal charges in a court appearance via video link on Monday, one month after a military coup triggered relentless mass protests.

Suu Kyi has not been seen in public since being detained on February 1, and her court appearance came as demonstrators marched across the country defying an escalation of deadly force by the junta.

At least 18 people were killed Sunday as troops and police fired at demonstrators in cities across Myanmar, according to the United Nations, which cited its own credible information.

State broadcaster MRTV said late Monday that more than 1,300 people were arrested and eleven killed on Sunday, adding that security forces have been directed not to use live rounds against protesters.

Suu Kyi, 75, was already facing obscure criminal charges for possessing unlicensed walkie-talkies, as well as violating coronavirus restrictions by staging a campaign event during last year’s election.

She is now also accused of breaching communications laws as well as intent to incite public unrest, her lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said.

“We cannot say for sure how many more cases Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will face in this period,” he told reporters in Naypyidaw.

Suu Kyi has reportedly been kept under house arrest in the capital of Naypyidaw, an isolated city purpose-built under Myanmar’s previous junta.

The military has justified its takeover, which ended a decade-long democratic experiment, with unfounded allegations of widespread fraud in last November’s national elections, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won in a landslide.

A committee of deposed lawmakers from her party on Monday said that due to the “atrocities and acts of terrorism of the military the streets and communities across Myanmar have become battlefields.”

– ‘Evil era’ –
Hundreds of thousands of people have marched over the past month opposing the coup.

The military has steadily escalated the force used in trying to contain the uprising, beginning with tear gas and water cannons. Weekend violence saw a major escalation as security forces fired rubber bullets and live rounds.

Protesters however remain defiant.

“I’m here as a frontliner because I don’t want my son to grow up in this evil era,” a student called Eric told AFP, adding he had a 10-month-old baby.

AFP independently confirmed 11 deaths in Sunday’s violence, although there were fears the toll was much higher. There were no reports of deaths on Monday.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group estimates that security forces have killed about 30 people since February 1.

On Monday demonstrators in Yangon used bamboo poles, sofas and tree branches to erect street barricades, while police responded with stun grenades and tear gas.

In one clash broadcast live on Facebook and verified by AFP, unarmed protesters fled after a volley of shots were fired.

It was unclear if the security forces had fired live rounds or rubber bullets.

Several journalists documenting assaults by security forces have also been detained in recent days, including an Associated Press photographer in Yangon.

Two reporters from China’s state-run Xinhua news agency were “hit with rubber bullets while they were covering protest near Myaynigone junction this morning,” a journalist friend of theirs told AFP.

Foreign pressure continued to rise, as Germany and Italy summoned Myanmar’s envoys in their capitals to demand an end to the violent repression.

“Such deadly violence against peaceful demonstrators cannot be justified,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert, voicing “consternation” over the crackdown.

The United States has been one of the junta’s most outspoken critics.

“We condemn the Burmese security forces’ abhorrent violence against the people of Burma & will continue to promote accountability for those responsible,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted Sunday, using the country’s old name.

Southeast Asian foreign ministers are set to discuss the Myanmar crisis at informal online talks hosted by Brunei on Tuesday.

“We hope all sides in Myanmar will exercise utmost restraint and engage in dialogue in order to achieve peaceful resolution of the situation and the return to normalcy for the interests of the Myanmar people,” the Thai foreign ministry said in a statement.

 

Third Woman Accuses NY Governor Of Sexual Harassment

(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 26, 2020 Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo speaks during a press conference at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) at Wall Street in New York City. – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo formally referred himself for investigation March 1, 2021 over allegations he sexually harassed two former aides, as he faced criticism for suggesting the women had “misinterpreted” him. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP)

 

 

A third woman on Monday accused Andrew Cuomo of inappropriate behavior, just hours after the New York governor formally referred himself for investigation over similar allegations from two former aides.

Cuomo has faced growing criticism, including from within his own Democratic Party, for suggesting the two ex-aides had “misinterpreted” him.

Anna Ruch, 33, told The New York Times that she met Cuomo at a wedding in September 2019. During the reception, he put his hand on her bare lower back — which she pushed away — and asked if he could kiss her.

“I was so confused and shocked and embarrassed,” Ruch told the Times. “I turned my head away and didn’t have words in that moment.”

Cuomo became a national star last spring with his straight-talking yet empathetic coronavirus briefings that contrasted sharply with then-president Donald Trump’s dismissive approach to the pandemic.

Ruch’s testimony comes just days after former aide Charlotte Bennett told The New York Times that he sexually harassed her last year.

Bennett’s allegations Saturday came just four days after another ex-aide, Lindsey Boylan, described unwanted physical contact from Cuomo.

Earlier Monday, New York attorney general Letitia James said that Cuomo’s office had written to her granting her request to set up an independent probe into the accusations.

“This is not a responsibility we take lightly as allegations of sexual harassment should always be taken seriously,” James said in a statement.

The referral letter noted that the findings of the investigation will be “disclosed in a public report,” James added.

– ‘Inappropriate and aggressive’ –
Cuomo said Sunday he was “truly sorry” if his conduct had ever been “misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation” as he faced mounting pressure over the scandal.

He has denied ever inappropriately touching or propositioning anyone.

On Sunday, the 63-year-old bowed to pressure to grant an independent investigation.

He initially chose a former federal judge to lead the probe but high-profile figures in his own party said that was insufficiently transparent.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday slammed Cuomo’s statement responding to the allegations.

“That’s not an apology. He seemed to be saying, ‘Oh, I was just kidding around.’ Sexual harassment is not funny. It’s serious,” said de Blasio, a long-time rival of Cuomo’s.

A member of the Sexual Harassment Working Group, a group of former New York parliamentary aides which fights harassment, described Cuomo’s comments as “insulting.”

“He’s not taking any accountability. We have no reason to think he’s not going to repeat this behaviour again,” Rita Pasarell told the Guardian in comments tweeted by the group.

Bennett described the governor’s response as “the actions of an individual who wields his power to avoid justice” in a Monday night statement to the Times.

“I stand with Anna Ruch,” Bennett tweeted separately. “His inappropriate and aggressive behavior cannot be justified or normalized.”

Boylan also tweeted her support, writing that Ruch’s account made her “feel sick.”

According to the 25-year-old Bennett, Cuomo said in June that he was open to dating women in their 20s, and asked her if she thought age made a difference in romantic relationships, the Times reported.

While Cuomo never tried to touch her, “I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” she said.

On Wednesday, Boylan said in a blog that Cuomo had harassed her when she was working for his administration, from 2015 to 2018.

Boylan, 36, alleged that the governor had given her an unsolicited kiss on the lips, suggested that they play strip poker and went “out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs.”

Freezer Firm To Launch Probe After Japan Vaccines Spoiled

An employee opens an ultra low-temperature freezer at a cold room of the Bexen Medical company facilities in the Spanish Basque city of Hernani, on November 18, 2020, where the Basque Country will store the vaccine for COVID-19 by Pfizer pharmaceutical laboratory after its expected arrival on December 26, 2020. 
ANDER GILLENEA / AFP

 

 

Japan said Tuesday an investigation would be launched after more than 1,000 coronavirus vaccine doses had to be thrown out when a freezer storing them malfunctioned.

A medical institution reported that 172 vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which must be kept between -80 and -60 degrees centigrade, were rendered useless after the freezer breakdown over the weekend, Japan’s health ministry said, wasting up to 1,032 doses.

Japan began its inoculation programme on February 17 — just over five months before the Tokyo Olympics — and has so far only approved the Pfizer/BioNTech drug.

Japanese government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said Tuesday that the cause of the malfunction was not yet clear, but the firm that installed the freezer would investigate and report back.

Kato said Japan had installed around 100 vaccine freezers nationwide by the end of February.

“We would like to respond quickly to whatever is necessary, based on what the results of the investigation carried out by the company that installed it,” Kato said.

Japan began vaccinating healthcare workers in mid-February, with the minister in charge of the process admitting he had “no idea” how much of the population would receive the jab before the Olympics, which start on July 23.

As of March 1, it had administered first doses to nearly 32,000 doctors and nurses, according to vaccine minister Taro Kono.

The country has reached deals with three major drug firms to buy enough doses for its population of 126 million.

But it was also scrambling to secure enough special syringes needed to extract six full doses from each vial of the Pfizer vaccine.

Japan is running a cautious rollout programme and is planning to initially vaccinate 40,000 healthcare workers across the country, before administering jabs to around 3.7 million more in March.

Vaccines for around 36 million people aged 65 or older are set to start from April.

Twitter To Block Users Who Persist With COVID-19 Lies

In this file photo illustration, a Twitter logo is displayed on a mobile phone on May 27, 2020, in Arlington, Virginia. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP
In this file photo illustration, a Twitter logo is displayed on a mobile phone on May 27, 2020, in Arlington, Virginia. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP

 

 

Twitter said Monday it will start labeling misleading tweets about COVID-19 vaccines and boot users who persist in spreading such misinformation.

The one-to-many messaging service introduced a “strike system” that will gradually escalate to a permanent ban after the fifth offending tweet.

“We believe the strike system will help to educate the public on our policies and further reduce the spread of potentially harmful and misleading information on Twitter,” the San Francisco-based company said in a blog post.

“Particularly for repeated moderate and high-severity violations of our rules.”

Twitter users will be notified when a tweet is labeled as misleading or needs to be removed for breaking the platform’s rules, earning a strike, according to the company.

The second and third strikes will each result in the violating account being blocked for 12 hours.

With a fourth violation, an account will be sidelined for seven days. A fifth strike will get accounts permanently suspended, Twitter said.

Twitter late last year began calling on users to remove dangerously misleading Covid-19 claims, including suggestions that vaccines are used to harm or control people.

The service also targeted baseless claims about adverse effects of vaccines or questioning the reality of the pandemic.

Since then, Twitter has removed more than 8,400 tweets and notified some 11.5 million accounts worldwide about violations of its Covid-19 information rules.

The strike system is similar to what Twitter applies to election-related misinformation, which led to former US president Donald Trump being permanently banned for repeated violations, including language that the platform said could incite violence and questioning the integrity of the voting process.

Covid-19 vaccination campaigns are taking place in many countries in an effort to keep people healthy and return to pre-pandemic lifestyles.

YouTube and Facebook are among the online platforms that have taken steps to fight the spread of lies about the pandemic and vaccines.

US To Impose Sanctions On Russia For Navalny Poisoning: Report

This handout picture provided by the Babushkinsky district court on February 12, 2021, shows Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, charged with defaming a World War II veteran, standing inside a glass cell during a court hearing in Moscow. (Photo by Handout / Moscow’s Babushkinsky district court press service / AFP) 

 

US President Joe Biden’s administration is preparing to impose sanctions on Russia for the poisoning and imprisonment of Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny, CNN reported Monday.

Citing two administration officials, CNN wrote that the United States will coordinate with the European Union to determine what the sanctions will entail and their exact timing.

According to one official, a potential option is an executive order that would trigger sanctions on Russia for repeated attacks on US democracy, including the SolarWinds cybersecurity hack and placing bounties on US soldiers in Afghanistan, CNN wrote.

The sanctions would be Biden’s first on Russia, and would be a marked departure from his predecessor Donald Trump’s approach to dealing with Moscow.

Trump was often accused of taking a soft line towards Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, particularly during their 2018 summit in Helsinki when he backed Putin’s claim that Moscow didn’t interfere in the 2016 US election — despite American intelligence agencies pointing to the contrary.

The European Union approved sanctions on four senior Russian officials earlier Monday, as UN human rights experts called earlier Monday for an international probe into Navalny’s poisoning and his immediate release.

The EU sanctions are on four justice and law enforcement officers involved in Navalny’s detention. The four are the first individuals to be targeted under the EU’s new human rights sanctions regime, which came into effect in December. They will be banned from travelling to the EU and any assets held there will be frozen.

Meanwhile, Agnes Callamard, the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, and Irene Khan, the top expert on freedom of opinion and expression, insisted on the need to ensure accountability for Navalny’s “sinister poisoning.”

They demanded his “immediate release” from a Russian penal colony, where he was transferred last week from a Moscow prison.

Navalny was jailed last month after returning to Moscow from Germany, where the 44-year-old had spent months recovering from a poisoning with a banned nerve agent he blames on Putin. The Kremlin denies it was behind the attack.

The imprisoning of Putin’s best-known opponent sparked nationwide protests that saw thousands of demonstrators detained and triggered calls in the West for Navalny’s release.

Hunger Drives Displaced Mozambicans To Risk Going Home For Food

Internally displaced persons wait in line during a United Nations World Food Program’s distribution at the “3 de fevereiro escola” school in Matuge district, northern Mozambique, on February 24, 2021.  (Photo by Alfredo Zuniga / AFP)

 

 

Brutal jihadist violence forced them to flee their homes, but now hunger has driven some in Mozambique to risk their lives by sneaking back to their old residences to gather food — or even resume farming.

Nearly 670,000 people have been displaced by an extremist insurgency that has raged for three years in northern Mozambique.

Some have moved in with host families, some are living in temporary shelters, while others have resettled in newly-created safe villages.

But a critical lack of food has led to a brave few returning to their old homes to forage for whatever they can.

 

A child plays with a car tire in the Tara Tara district of Matuge, northern Mozambique, February 24, 2021. – The place functions as a center for internally displaced persons (IDPs) who fled their communities due to attacks by armed insurgents in the northern part of the Cabo Delgado province. Currently, there are 500 families, according to government figures. (Photo by Alfredo Zuniga / AFP)

 

lal Dady said that one day he left his new home in the Metuge resettlement camp to scour his granaries in Quissanga, a district in Cabo Delgado province where the Islamists are waging their bloody campaign.

“I got chestnuts and other food products to feed my family,” said the 22-year-old father of one.

Some are even more daring.

Mussa Cesar, 43, confessed that he goes back to Quissanga — an eight-hour walk — to work on his old farmland.

“I have been going to Quissanga for my field. I stay there around three days, cultivating and then come back,” he said, sitting under a tree and playing a traditional draughts game with friends.

“And I bring back manioc for my family here,” he said.

“We just don’t do the fishing, because we are afraid.”

 

Internally displaced persons await in line during an United Nations World Food Program’s distribution at the “3 de fevereiro escola” school in Matuge district, northern Mozambique, on February 24, 2021 – Food packages are distributed at the site for displaced families from Ibo, Mocimboa Da Praia, and Macomia places that have been attacked by armed insurgents in the last two years north of the province of Cabo Delgado. (Photo by Alfredo Zuniga / AFP)

 

Voucher programme

Attacks by shadowy jihadists affiliated to the Islamic State skyrocketed last year in gas-rich province, triggering a humanitarian crisis.

The number of violent incidents has dropped significantly, according to conflict data collating organisation ACLED, but the security situation is still precarious across the province.

Local authorities warned AFP journalists not to use some roads not far from the resettlement camps, because they were unsafe.

Villagers in the far-north Palma district, the home of a multi-billion-dollar natural gas project targeted by the militants, are particularly vulnerable.

The World Food Programme (WFP) distributed vouchers in December and January which locals use to buy food from shops.

But Cristina Graziani, head of the WFP field office in the provincial capital Pemba, said that programme was now “difficult to sustain because the stores are facing the same difficulties to restock commodities in Palma”.

Even before the insurgency struck, Cabo Delgado was already one of the poorest provinces in Mozambique, itself ranked among the world’s poorest countries.

The UN announced this week that 1.3 million people in Cabo Delgado and neighbouring Niassa and Nampula provinces are in need of humanitarian aid, with 950,000 facing “severe hunger”.

Tussle over food aid

The scramble for food is evident in the Pemba neighbourhood of Paquite Quete, where many displaced people have moved in with locals.

The locals complain that they are being excluded from humanitarian food aid, despite having taken in extra mouths to feed.

Widow Josina Fernando, 34, who is hosting 30 people who fled from the hard-hit district of Macomia, is angry at not being considered for food handouts.

“One day there was a distribution and I went there, but was sent away,” she said.

 

Women await in line during an United Nations World Food Program’s distribution at the “3 de fevereiro escola” school in Matuge district, northern Mozambique, on February 24, 2021  (Photo by Alfredo Zuniga / AFP)

 

But some of the displaced also say they are missing out.

Fernando’s neighbour Nassab Hassane fled from Macomia and now lives with 27 people in the home of a family member.

He claims he has not received any help since arriving in Pemba four months ago.

“We never have received any vouchers, I don’t even know the colour of a voucher. They give them to the natives, not to refugees who are eligible,” the 44-year-old said.

WFP’s Graziani said that aid is channelled to those who have been registered.

She added that the local authorities of each neighbourhood handle registration, “to avoid conflicts between the displaced and the locals”.