US elections live updates: Trump campaign’s reported money woes

US elections live updates: Trump campaign’s reported money woes

Trump goes to Florida and North Carolina amid reported money crunch, New Hampshire and Rhode Island hold primaires.

by 08 Sep 2020 21:28 GMT

    President Donald Trump speaks at the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum in Florida [John Raoux/The Associated Press]

    • President Donald Trump is reportedly weighing giving up to $100m to his campaign as he heads to Florida and North Carolina on Monday, both battleground states. 

    • The US Senate returns to session on Tuesday, as House Democrats launch probe into Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s past Republican fundraising. 

    • New Hampshire and Rhode Island are holding some of the last primaries of the election season to decide who will run for open House and Senate seats in the general election. 

    • The Biden campaign currently has no events scheduled Tuesday, 55 days until the November 3 vote.

    Here are the latest updates: 

    Tuesday, September 8
    16:30 ET – Trump ex-lawyer links 2016 Falwell Jr endorsement to racy photos

    Michael Cohen, the former fixer for Trump, in his new book has tied together for the first time the 2016 presidential endorsement of Trump by American evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr to Cohen’s own role in helping to keep racy “personal” photographs of the Falwells from becoming public.

    As Reuters reported last year, the Falwells enlisted Cohen to keep “a bunch of photographs, personal photographs” from becoming public, Cohen said in a recording, made surreptitiously by comedian Tom Arnold. “I actually have one of the photos,” he said, without going into specifics. “It’s terrible.”

    He later writes, “In good time, I would call in this favor, not for me, but for the Boss, at a crucial moment on his journey to the presidency.”

    In the book, Cohen did not explicitly say that the endorsement was the favour he sought in return for his help in having kept the Falwell photos from getting out. But his account marks the first time he has linked the two issues.

    Read more here


    Evangelical figure Jerry Falwell’s surprise endorsement of Trump is credited with helping the candidate maintain support from religious groups amid several scandals [File: Alex Wong/AFP]

    16:00 ET – House Democrats launch DeJoy probe

    The head of the House oversight panel has launched an investigation and urged the immediate suspension of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy following reports that he illegally reimbursed former employees for political contributions. 

    House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, in a statement, said if the allegations are true, DeJoy faced “criminal exposure” for both violating the campaign finance law and for lying to Congress in a denial during a recent hearing.

    “We will be investigating this issue, but I believe the Board of Governors must take emergency action to immediately suspend Mr DeJoy, who they never should have selected in the first place,” Maloney said.

    I am launching an @OversightDems probe into claims that PMG DeJoy violated election contribution laws. If true, Mr. DeJoy could face criminal exposure—not only for his actions in North Carolina, but also for lying to our Committee under oath. https://t.co/mRvv3GqYWy

    — Carolyn B. Maloney (@RepMaloney) September 8, 2020

    15:30 ET – Trump touts environmentalism during Florida visit

    Trump, in a address at the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse in Florida, lambasted Biden’s agenda, while calling himself the “great environmentalist”.

    At the tax-payer funded event, Trump announced he was extending and expanding a ban on new offshore drilling sites off the Florida coast as well as Georgia and South Carolina. The existing moratorium covers the Gulf of Mexico, and Trump said the new one would also cover the Atlantic coast – a significant political concern in coastal states like Florida.

    “My administration’s proving everyday that we can improve our environment while creating millions of high-paying jobs,” added Trump, whose administration has overturned or weakened numerous regulations meant to protect air and water quality and lands essential for imperiled species, while withdrawing from the international Paris Climate Accord. 

    Trump also claimed that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s environmental plans would “destroy America’s middle class while giving a free pass to the world’s worst foreign polluters.

    State of Denial: Trump vs Climate Change – Fault Lines

    14:15 ET – Kanye West makes presidential ballot in Mississippi

    Kanye West will appear as a presidential candidate on Mississippi’s ballot in November, after being approved as a qualified candidate by the State Board of Election Commissioners on Tuesday.

    The rapper has already qualified to appear on the ballot as an independent candidate in several states, including Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Utah.

    To qualify in Mississippi, he was required to pay a $2,500 fee to the Secretary of State’s Office and get the signatures of at least 1,000 Mississippi voters.


    Kanye West meets with US President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC [Saul Loeb/AFP]

    13:30 ET – Trump and Biden release new battleground ads

    Trump and Biden have released new battleground ads as the November 3 election approaches. 

    An ad released by Donald Trump, which will run in North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, promises the “Great American Comeback” and portrays Biden as willing to shut down the economy again. The former vice president has said he would support another shutdown if the pandemic warranted it. 

    Meanwhile, ads released by Biden’s campaign, which will run in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, promise a “Fresh Start” after what it describes as four years of Trump’s decisive presidency. An ad titled “Sacred” targets elderly Americans. 


    The Biden campaign ad “Sacred” targets elderly Americans [Screen grab/Joe Biden Campaign]

    13:00 ET – Trump travels to Florida in official capacity

    Trump is set to highlight conservation and restoration projects in Florida, where he is traveling in his official capacity, despite his administration overturning or weakening numerous regulations meant to protect air and water quality and lands essential for imperiled species.

    Trump is set to speak beside the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse before holding a campaign rally in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, another must-win state for his reelection.

    The White House said Trump would use the Florida event to discuss his “numerous environmental policy accomplishments,” including signing the Great American Outdoors Act, “protecting America’s pristine natural environments, and funding of countless environmental restoration projects.”

    12:30 ET – Trump confirms he is considering spending own money on campaign

    Trump has confirmed he is considering spending his own money on the campaign, after a report in Bloomberg news said he was weighing giving up to $100 million to his war chest. 

    When asked about spending his own money on Tuesday, Trump said: “If I have to, I will.”

    “Whatever it takes, we have to win,” he added. 

    Trump’s campaign is reportedly running low on funds after going big on early advertising and fundraising spending, according to a New York Times report.  


    President Donald Trump speaks to reporters before boarding Air Force One for a trip to Jupiter, Florida [File: Evan Vucci/The Associated Press]

    12:00 ET – New Hampshire and Rhode Island head to the polls

    Primaries in New Hampshire and Rhode Island will decide who will run for Senate and House seats in the November 3 election. 

    In New Hampshire, US Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, faces two longshot opponents. 

    In Rhode Island, Senator Jack Reed, a Democrat, is running unopposed in the primary. He will face Republican challenger Allen Waters, who is also running unopposed, in the general election. 

    11:30 ET – Obama shares ‘tips’ with Harris on working with Biden

    Former President Barack Obama, in a tweet, has said he wanted to “share a few tips” with Vice Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris about serving with Biden. 

    The tweet included a video of Obama, the country’s first Black president, speaking with Harris, the first Black vice presidential candidate in US history. 

    Great to catch up with our next Vice President, @KamalaHarris. I wanted to make sure to share a few tips about serving alongside our friend @JoeBiden. pic.twitter.com/ncidvmylch

    — Barack Obama (@BarackObama) September 8, 2020

    11:00 ET – Army head says military only sends troops to war as last resort

    The US Army’s head has said that military leaders would only recommend sending troops to combat when it was in the national security interest or as a last resort, but declined to comment on Trump suggesting that leaders wanted to fight wars to keep weapon makers happy.

    “Many of these leaders have sons and daughters that serve in the military, many of these leaders have sons and daughters who have gone to combat or may be in combat right now,” US Army Chief of Staff General James McConville said during an event.

    “I can assure the American people that the senior leaders would only recommend sending our troops to combat when it is required in national security and in the last resort. We take this very, very seriously in how we make our recommendations,” he added.

    Trump on Tuesday said Pentagon officials probably weren’t “in love with me” because “they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.”

    10:30 ET – Biden campaign takes over teens Instagram

    The Biden campaign has taken over the Instagram account of a 15-year-old California supporter who amassed 85,000 followers during the summer break, according to the Verge news site. 

    The @VoteJoe account will now become the campaign’s central point for outreach on Instagram. 

    Campaign officials told the Verge that the account will be used to foster user-generated content from Biden supporters.

    View this post on Instagram

    Kamala Harris is: ✅ Smart ✅ Tough ✅ Ready to lead ✅ The future Vice President of the United States of America This is a movement and we are building a team that works for all Americans. This is our time to take our country back from Trump. Join @votejoe, @joebiden, and @kamalaharris in the battle for the soul of our nation.

    A post shared by Vote Joe (@votejoe) onSep 7, 2020 at 2:44pm PDT

    10:00 ET – Former Obama health adviser says in-person voting ‘like shopping’

    Former President Barack Obama’s health adviser has said that in-person voting is relatively safe, likening it to “shopping”.

    Zeke Emanuel made the comment to the Atlantic magazine in a story published on Tuesday. Experts expect a surge in mail voting in November amid concerns about spreading the virus at polling stations. 

    “There’s a legitimate concern, but I do think we can make it much safer by following the precautions,” he said. “You don’t want people to be disenfranchised by the pandemic, and you should encourage people that it’s safe. It’s like shopping.”

    Is Trump planning to dispute election results if Biden wins? (2:31)

    9:30 ET – Biden condemns Antifa in local news interview

    Democratic candidate Joe Biden, when asked in an interview on Monday if he condemns Antifa, responded: “Yes, I do … violence no matter who it is”. 

    The comment came during an interview with the local NBC affiliate WGAL, amid questioning about violence at racial justice protests that have swept the country since the police-killing of George Floyd in May. 

    “I condemn it across the board,” Biden said of violence at the demonstrations. “The president still hasn’t condemned the far-right folks coming out and protesting and using violence.”

    This is Antifa: Behind the mask of the US anti-fascist movement | Fault Lines (25:34)

    9:00 ET – Trump weighing contributing $100 mn to his campaign

    On the heels of a report that the Trump’s campaign is facing a money crunch after taking a free-spending, and apparently ineffective, approach, a new report said the president is considering adding $100m of his own money to his war chest. 

    Trump has discussed putting up the cash with multiple people, sources familiar with the matter told Bloomberg news, although he has not yet made a final decision. Trump spent $66m on his 2016 campaign.

    To date, the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee has spent more than $800m on Trump’s re-election bid so far. Meanwhile, Biden’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee have spent about half of that, $414m, according to Bloomberg.

    The New York Times first reported on the Trump campaign’s financial woes.

    _______________________________________________________________

    Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the US elections. This is Joseph Stepansky.

    Read all the updates from yesterday (September 7) here.

    Polls show Biden lagging among Latinos in close Florida race

    Polls show Biden lagging among Latinos in close Florida race

    The polls show Trump slightly leading in Latino support, a divorce from 2016 when Clinton carried the demographic.

    08 Sep 2020 20:58 GMT

      Hillary Clinton won the Latino vote in Florida by 62 percent to Trump’s 35 percent, according to exit polls [The Associated Press]

      A series of recent Florida polls spell trouble for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, showing the former vice president and President Donald Trump neck and neck in the battleground state, with lagging support among Latinos.

      A new poll by NBC/Marist shows Trump and Biden nearly tied in Florida, with the president and Biden receiving 48 percent among all likely voters in the state, whose 29 Electoral College votes are considered near-essential for victory. 

      The poll also finds Biden lagging behind Trump when it comes to likely Latino voters, with the president receiving 50 percent support to Biden’s 46 percent. 

      A Quinnipiac poll released last week also showed Trump leading Latino likely voters 45 to Biden’s 43 across the state, while a Bendixen & Amandi poll, conducted from September 1 to September 4 in the left-leaning Miami Dade County, found Trump with 47 percent support of likely Latino voters, compared with Biden’s 46 percent. 

      The new polls indicate potential challenges for Biden in Florida, where exit polls showed 2016 candidate Hillary Clinton carrying the Latino vote 62 percent to Trump’s 35 percent. Clinton lost the state by just 1.2 percentage points. 

      The lag threatens to cut into Biden’s bases of support in the state, particularly among likely Black voters, who support him 83 percent to Trump’s 11 percent, according to the NBC/Marist poll, and elderly voters who Biden leads with 49 percent support compared with Trump’s 48 percent. Exit polls showed Trump winning elderly voters in Florida by 57 percent to Clinton’s 40 percent in 2016. 

      Sleeping giant

      Nationwide, the diverse Latino demographic is set to be the largest minority group among eligible voters in the US in the 2020 election, representing 13.3 percent, according to the Pew Research Center. 

      The group has long been viewed as the sleeping giant in American elections and have traditionally voted Democratic, although less so than Black voters, the other major minority group.

      In 2016, Latinos voted for Clinton 66 percent to Trump’s 28. Meanwhile, Clinton carried the Black vote in that election with 89 percent to Trump’s 9 percent. 

      US 2020 Census: Concerns minority groups will be undercounted (2:33)

      Latinos represented about 20 percent of all eligible voters in Florida in 2016, according to an analysis by Brookings Institution demographer William Frey. They are expected to grow by about three percentage points of the electorate by 2020, according to his projections.

      The demographic in 2016 made up 15.7 percent of the state’s more than 12 million active registered voters, according to Pew. 

      Latino voters in Florida have in the past skewed more conservative than in other states, which some have attributed to the large Cuban-American population. 

      Arab League division over Palestinian cause to dominate talks

      Arab League division over Palestinian cause to dominate talks

      Arab foreign ministers will attend a virtual session against the backdrop of UAE normalising relations with Israel.

      by 08 Sep 2020 20:55 GMT

        A view of a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers after US President Donald Trump announced his Middle East plan [File: Mohamed Abd el-Ghany/Reuters]

        An Arab League meeting on Wednesday will focus on the Palestinian cause after the Israel-UAE “normalisation” deal, with analysts suggesting division rather than usual unity on the issue will dominate the discussion.

        The run-up to the virtual session has already left a sour taste for the Palestinian leadership.

        On Sunday, the Palestinian Authority (PA) accused the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain of blocking a draft resolution that called on Arab states to adhere to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative plan before normalising ties with Israel.

        The Arab Initiative put forth by Saudi Arabia calls for establishing ties with Israel in exchange for its withdrawal to the 1967 borders, a just solution for Palestinian refugees, and occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

        A senior member of the PA’s governing Fatah faction, Hussein Hamayel, said Bahrain’s opposition to the draft resolution “places it on the side of the enemies of the Arabs and Muslims”.

        However on Tuesday, in a bid to soften its tone, the official spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas said the leader “will not accept insulting the national symbols of Arab nations, including the United Arab Emirates”.

         

        In a statement carried by the official news agency Wafa, Nabil Abu Rudeinah said the state of Palestine is keen on “maintaining brotherly relations with all Arab countries on the basis of mutual respect, with the necessity of the latter adhering to the Arab Peace Initiative”.

        ‘Betraying the cause’

        Announced by US President Donald Trump on August 13, the UAE-Israeli normalisation agreement caught the PA by surprise, which then accused the UAE of betraying the Palestinian cause – long seen as a pan-Arab issue.

        Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said more Arab countries will soon follow in the UAE’s steps, and Bahrain and Oman have both voiced support.

        “The Palestinian cause has traditionally been a unifying theme for the Arab League, which this year appears to be more a cause for division, rendering the Arab League ever more irrelevant in managing the affairs of the Arab world,” said Andreas King, assistant professor of security studies at King’s College London.

        The motion to be put forth by the Palestinian leadership will likely not be endorsed by a number of Gulf states, he added.

        “While there might not be an immediate move by any other Arab state to normalise ties with Israel formally, there will be more exchanges and engagement with Israel, which is no longer tied to the Palestinian cause,” King told Al Jazeera.

        “For the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan, the Arab-Israeli conflict has been relegated to the Israeli-Palestinian problem, which should not be an obstacle to a warming of bilateral ties with Israel.”


        Footprints are placed on images of US President Donald Trump, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a protest in the West Bank city of Nablus [File: Majdi Mohammed/AP]

        Marwa Fatafta, a policy member with the Palestinian policy network Al-Shabaka, agreed, saying geopolitical interests “trump the rights of Palestinians”.

         

        “Many Gulf states have keen interest in formalising ties with Israel and the UAE-Israel was the ice-breaker,” she said. “Normalisation between Israel and Gulf states has already been in the making, and now it is just a matter of timing.

        “What would probably come out from the Arab League is the usual recycled lip-service to the Palestinians,” she added.

        Saudi stance

        The Arab League, in contrast to Abbas’s granted request to hold an emergency session in the aftermath of the US announcing Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan, refused to do the same once news of the UAE-Israel agreement was announced.

        This led to Saeb Erekat, the secretary of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s Executive Committee, to call on Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul-Gheit to condemn the UAE’s normalisation deal with Israel – or step down.

        “If he is not able to issue a statement condemning the UAE-Israeli normalisation, he should resign,” Erekat told PalestineTV.

        And while regional power Saudi Arabia has declared it will not normalise relations with Israel without securing Palestinian interests, Riyadh fell short of condemning the UAE’s decision.

        “Saudi Arabia will verbally endorse the Palestinian cause, the issue of Jerusalem, and the Arab Peace Initiative,” King said. “However, it remains to be seen what Riyadh does in terms of action on the matter.”


        A Palestinian waves a national flag during a protest against Israel’s operations in the Gaza Strip [File: Majdi Mohammed]

        The oil-rich kingdom could choose the opportunity to shore up support for the Arab Peace Initiative, King continued, while simultaneously not taking a solid stance against normalisation, thereby leaving the door open for individual Arab states to deal with Israel as they see fit.

        “With the UAE as a leading Arab state already sacrificing the Palestinian cause to satisfy Emirati national interests with Israel, it will be hard to build firm support for the Arab Peace Initiative in this multilateral setting,” he said.

        Fatafta said Saudi Arabia will stick to the Arab Peace Initiative plan, more for the sake of convenience, while at the same time cultivating warmer ties with Israel.

        “Saudi Arabia indicated on number of occasions over the years that it has interest in cooperating with Israel especially with the growing threat from Iran,” she said.

        “In fact, Saudi Arabia facilitated the normalisation deal between Israel and the UAE by opening its airspace for direct flights between the two countries.”

        NewsFeed

        What’s behind the agreement between UAE and Israel?

        Daniel Prude: Rochester police officials step down amid criticism

        Daniel Prude: Rochester police officials step down amid criticism

        It was unclear who would be in charge of police Tuesday night if demonstrators come out for a seventh straight night

        08 Sep 2020 20:39 GMT

          Rochester Police Chief, La”Ron Singletary said ‘the events over the past week are an attempt to destroy my character and integrity’ [File: Brendan McDermid/Reuters]

          Top police leaders in New York’s third-largest city are retiring en masse amid criticism of the city’s handling of the suffocation death of Daniel Prude, the mayor of Rochester said Tuesday.

          La’Ron Singletary, the city’s police chief, is among those retiring, as is Deputy Chief Joseph M Morabito and possibly other senior commanders, Mayor Lovely Warren said.

          Warren made the surprise announcement of the retirements at a City Council briefing being held online. Council members had expected the chief to appear in person to discuss continuing protests against the death of Prude, a 41-year-old Black man who died several days after an encounter with police March 23.

          Seven police officers suspended over Daniel Prude’s death (2:57)

          “As you all know, this has been a very challenging time for the city of Rochester, and the chief was not asked to give his resignation because I do believe that he’s giving his very best,” Warren told council members.

          In an emailed statement to local TV station WXXI, Singletary said Tuesday that “the events over the past week are an attempt to destroy my character and integrity.”

          “The members of the Rochester Police Department and the Greater Rochester Community know my reputation and know what I stand for,” he said in the statement. “The mischaracterization and the politicization of the actions that I took after being informed of Mr. Prude’s death is not based on facts, and is not what I stand for.”

          Singletary, who spent his entire career inside the Rochester Police Department, was appointed chief in April 2019. He said he looks forward to “continuing to serve our community in my next chapter”.


          Protesters march for the sixth consecutive night of protest on September 7, 2020, following the release of video evidence that shows the death of Daniel Prude while in the custody of Rochester Police in Rochester, New York. [Maranie R Staab/AFP]

          “This is great news,” said Iman Abid, speaking for Free the People ROC, which has held nightly protests since details of Prude’s death emerged. “It says to the people that people are able to move things and to shape things. The police chief wouldn’t retire if it weren’t for something that he felt he was accountable to.”

          But, she said, nightly protests will continue to push other demands, including the resignation of the mayor, defunding and demilitarising of police, and development of a state law barring police departments from responding to mental health crises.

          Warren did not know when the retirements would take effect. It was unclear who would be in charge of police Tuesday night if demonstrators come out for a seventh straight night, as expected. Demonstrators have called for the resignations of both Singletary and Warren, who are both Black.

          Singletary, who spent his entire career inside the Rochester Police Department, was appointed chief in April 2019.

          Officers found Prude running naked down the street put a hood over his head to stop him from spitting, then held him down for about two minutes until he stopped breathing. He died a week later after he was taken off life support.

          His brother, Joe Prude, had called 911 seeking help for Daniel Prude’s unusual behaviour. He had been taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation earlier that night but was released after a few hours, his brother told officers.

          His death sparked outrage after his relatives last week released police body camera video and written reports they obtained through a public records request.

          Seven police officers were suspended a day later, and state Attorney General Letitia James said Saturday she would form a grand jury and conduct an “exhaustive investigation” into Prude’s death.

          Police union officials have said the officers were following their training.

          ‘It hasn’t gone away’: UK sees sharp coronavirus spike – Live

          Gatherings of more than six banned in England: Coronavirus live

          Daily new coronavirus cases have risen across the UK recently, with 2,460 infections reported on Tuesday.

          08 Sep 2020 21:44 GMT

            • South African economic output has shrunk 51 percent in the second quarter, as a strict lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus shut down most activity. 

            • China’s President Xi Jinping has told a ceremony in Beijing that the country had acted in an “open and transparent” manner over the coronavirus.
            • There have been more than 27.3 million cases of coronavirus confirmed around the world, according to Johns Hopkins University, and 892,443 people have died. At least 18.3 million people have recovered. 

            Here are the latest updates:

            Tuesday, September 8
            21:44 GMT – England tightens virus rules as cases mount  

            British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a tightening of rules on social gatherings amid concern at rising infection rates, particularly among young people.

            The law in England will change from next week to reduce the number of people who can gather socially from 30 to six, with some exemptions.

            Johnson’s government also unveiled a new public information campaign entitled “Hands. Face. Space”, to emphasise the importance of hand washing, face coverings and social distancing.

            “We need to act now to stop the virus spreading,” the prime minister said, ahead of a press conference on Wednesday where he will explain the changes.

            More than 41,500 people confirmed to have coronavirus have died in Britain, the worst toll in Europe.

            20:22 GMT – Egypt air to resume direct flights between Cairo and Moscow

            Egypt Air will resume direct flights between Cairo and Moscow as of September 17, at the rate of three flights per week, state news agency MENA reported, citing a statement by the company.

            Travellers to Moscow must obtain a medical certificate with a negative PCR test result for coronavirus (COVID-19) from an accredited laboratory in Egypt, issued 72 hours at most before the date of arrival, MENA added.

            19:15 GMT Jordan reopens main airport after six-month shutdown

            Flights resumed at Jordan’s main airport after a near six-month shutdown to stem cases of the novel coronavirus.

            A Fly Jordan plane carrying 141 passengers from Istanbul landed at Queen Alia Airport near Amman on Tuesday evening, according to the airport’s website.

            It was the first scheduled commercial flight to arrive since Jordan shut its airports and suspended international flights in mid-March.

            Restrictions have hit Jordan’s key tourism industry.

            In a normal year, five million visitors come to Jordan. Tourism generates 14 percent of GDP and employs some 100,000 people.

            19:00 GMT – Canada frets over rising coronavirus cases as schools start to reopen

            Canada is seeing a worrying increase in the number of people infected with the coronavirus as schools across the country are starting to reopen, a top medical official said.

            Coronavirus myths debunked (25:48)

            Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said an average of 545 new cases had been reported daily over the last week, up from around 300 in July.

            Several of the 10 provinces have started to reopen schools this week for the first time since March after investing millions in added protections. Quebec, which welcomed back pupils last month, has already reported several cases.

            Canada has recorded a total of 132,142 COVID-19 cases and 9,146 deaths.

            18:45 GMT – French COVID-19 cases and deaths mount up

            The number of new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in France rose by 6,544 over the last 24 hours to reach a total of 335,524 cases, the health ministry said, as the country battles to avert a second wave of the virus.

            The number of deaths also climbed by 39 over the last 24 hours to reach a total of 30,764.

            France has the world’s seventh-highest COVID-19 death toll, and authorities are scrutinising the data to see what measures might be needed to help it cope with an expected second wave of the virus this winter.

            17:10 GMT – Ireland reports most daily coronavirus cases since May

            Ireland reported 307 new cases of coronavirus, the highest number of cases reported in one day since mid-May, amid concern that new restrictions could be introduced to the capital, Dublin.

            COVID-19: The Beginning of a Pandemic | Between Us (4:39)

            The National Public Health Emergency Team said 182 of the new cases were in Dublin, a city that government minister Simon Harris earlier on Tuesday told journalists was at a “delicate point” due to a surge in cases.

            Newstalk radio earlier cited government sources as saying additional restrictions may be introduced in Dublin and Limerick if cases continue to increase.

            17:00 GMT – Fears Britons abandoning social distancing as COVID-19 cases jump

            Rising numbers of coronavirus cases are leading to fears Britons are easing social distancing measures too hastily, with the United Kingdom’s deputy chief medical officer worrying people had “relaxed too much” over the summer.

            Warning people on Monday that they must continue to follow guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19, Jonathan Van-Tam said: “We have got to start taking this very seriously again.”

            In its latest bulletin on Monday, the health ministry reported 2,948 new cases – the second daily high since May – bringing the total number to 350,100.

            Read more here

            16:45 GMT – Israel imposes week-long restrictions on coronavirus contagion zones

            Israel has begun a week-long campaign of night curfews and school closures in dozens of towns and neighbourhoods with high coronavirus counts, hoping it will help stem a spike in cases.

            Most of the 40 zones subject to the partial lockdowns are identified with Israeli Arabs or ultra-Orthodox Jews, minorities where crowding has helped spread the pandemic.

            Israel, with a population of nine million, has recorded 135,288 cases of COVID-19 and 1,031 deaths.

            Some government officials have called for a nationwide lockdown if the partial measures fail. That could disrupt celebrations of the Jewish high holy days, which run from September 18 to October 10.

            15:30 GMT – Vast majority of virus cases in Karachi asymptomatic: study

            Up to 95 percent of the coronavirus cases in Karachi have been asymptomatic, researchers said, shedding possible light on why Pakistan has been able to weather the pandemic.

            How COVID-19 has affected Pakistan’s wedding industry (2:53)

            Research by the Aga Khan University in Pakistan’s largest city found that more than nine out of 10 people who contracted the coronavirus showed no sign of the disease.

            Public health experts tested 2,000 people from several neighbourhoods across the sprawling metropolis of about 20 million.

            Researchers said more surveys were needed to understand why so many cases appear to be asymptomatic in Karachi, but they suggested Pakistan’s young population might have been a factor.

            To date, Pakistan has confirmed about 300,000 infections and is recording a few hundred new cases per day, while the daily death toll continues to hover in the single digits.

            15:05 GMT – South Africa daily virus cases drop below 1,000, lowest in months

            South Africa has reported fewer than 1,000 new coronavirus infections, the lowest daily increase in three months, as health authorities warn that a second wave remains a risk.

            The country is the hardest-hit in Africa, registering around half of the continent’s more than 1.3 million coronavirus cases.

            But the number of new infections has been declining steadily since an average daily peak of around 12,000 in July.


            A woman has a sample collected for coronavirus testing during the screening and testing campaign aimed to combat the spread of COVID-19 [Themba Hadebe/AP]

            South Africa recorded 845 new cases on Monday, taking its total number to 639,362, according to a health ministry report released overnight.

            It also registered 115 more COVID-19 related deaths, raising its total toll to 15,004.

            14:50 GMT – EU parliament moves Strasbourg session to Brussels over virus

            The European Parliament has cancelled plans to hold a plenary session in Strasbourg next week after the French city was placed in a coronavirus “red zone”.

            Why are people protesting against coronavirus restrictions? | Inside Story (25:15)

            “We are very saddened by this decision, but the transfer of the administrative operation of the European Parliament would mean all the staff would have to be quarantined on their return to Brussels,” said the speaker, David Sassoli.

            13:55 GMT – UN reports first COVID-19 cases inside Syrian refugee camps in Jordan

            Two Syrian refugees at Jordan’s Azraq camp have tested positive for coronavirus, becoming the first confirmed cases to be reported inside a refugee camp in the kingdom, the UN said.

            The Azraq refugee camp is Jordan’s second-largest and home to almost 37,000 refugees. It is located around 100 kilometres east of the capital Amman. 

            Jordan hosts more than 1.2 million Syrian refugees, including some 650,000 registered with the United Nations.

            Read more here

            13:51 GMT – Teachers in Bosnian village build open-air classroom to protect children from COVID-19

            Teachers at an elementary school in the village of Kacuni in central Bosnia have used their summer holiday to build an open-air classroom outside their school to the joy of their students and local community.

            “Our model offers a breath of fresh air both for teachers and students. It allows us to breathe, speak and work freely. I am so proud of it,” said Mirza Begovic, a language teacher at the Kacuni school, which has 1,000 students.

            Bosnia has registered 21,961 cases of COVID-19 and 669 deaths.

            12:45 GMT – Face masks outside compulsory in Turkey

            Turkey has made it compulsory for people to wear face masks outdoors in a bid to combat the spread of the coronavirus, media reports.

            Turkey is experiencing the second peak of its outbreak, and currently, it has 281,509 registered cases.

            12:30 GMT – Dutch coronavirus infections jump to highest level since April

            The number of new coronavirus infections in the Netherlands jumped 51 percent last week to their highest level since the end of April, Dutch health authorities said on Tuesday.

            Newly confirmed infections increased to 5,427 in the week to Tuesday, up from 3,597 in the previous week, while the total number of tests rose 10 percent to slightly more than 180,000.

            Hidden coronavirus tragedies: Dutch elderly forgotten in pandemic (3:03)

             

            12:00 GMT – India weighing Russian offer for Sputnik-V vaccine trial, manufacturing: official

            India has received an offer from Russia to conduct a trial and manufacture its “Sputnik-V” COVID-19 vaccine, with several Indian companies currently studying the proposal, an Indian government official said.

            “The government of India attaches great importance to this offer of partnership from a friend,” said VK Paul, member of the Indian federal government think-tank NITI Aayog.

            India has world’s second-highest number of COVID-19 cases (2:31)

            11:45 GMT – Liberia’s Taylor denied coronavirus jail move

            Judges have rejected a bid by Liberian ex-President and convicted war criminal Charles Taylor to be moved from a British jail, where he claimed he risks dying from coronavirus.

            Taylor is serving a 50-year sentence at Frankland prison near Durham in northeastern England after being convicted in 2012 by a court in The Hague of fuelling civil conflict in Sierra Leone.

            The warlord had argued that due to a “massive outbreak of COVID-19 in the UK” his life was at risk from continued detention and that he wanted to be moved to a “safe third country”.

            11:20 GMT – Hong Kong to further ease virus measures

            Hong Kong is further relaxing social distancing measures, as the territory’s number of new coronavirus cases dwindles.

            Hong Kong reported another six cases of the virus on Tuesday.

            From Friday, the limit on public gatherings will be relaxed to four people, up from two people. Most indoor and outdoor sports facilities, as well as museums, will be allowed to reopen.

            11:00 GMT – Russia completes early trials of second potential COVID-19 vaccine: Report

            Siberia’s Vector virology institute has completed early-stage human trials, known as Phase II, of a second potential Russian vaccine against COVID-19, the state consumer safety watchdog was cited by the Interfax news agency as saying.

            Russia registered its first vaccine candidate, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, in August. Late-stage trials of this vaccine, due to involve 40,000 participants, were launched last week.

            Human trials of the second potential COVID-19 vaccine, a peptide-based jab, began on July 27 and involved a group of 100 volunteers, Interfax cited watchdog Rospotrebnadzor as saying.

            WHO COVID Debrief on global coronavirus vaccine efforts (4:09)

            10:45 GMT – Montenegro: Protests lead to a spike in coronavirus cases 

            Montenegro reported 106 new coronavirus cases, bringing the national total to 5,659.

            The spike came after the government declared the country coronavirus-free. The director of the Institute of Public Health, Boban Mugosa, said that the latest protests have contributed to the rise of numbers. 

            10:30 GMT – UN reports 42 virus cases among Syria staff, families

            More than 40 members of UN staff and their families have caught coronavirus in Syria, a UN official told AFP, warning the illness was spreading in the war-torn country.

            There were about 200 people including “staff and dependents, spouses, children, parents, who have displayed symptoms of COVID19,” said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

            “From these 200, there are 42 staff and dependents who have been confirmed positive with COVID-19,” he added, speaking to AFP from Geneva, without specifying the nationalities of the infected personnel.

            10:15 GMT – ‘Don’t kill your gran’ – the UK sounds COVID alarm

            Ministers and medics are urging the public to get serious again about the coronavirus after a sharp rise in infections raised fears the outbreak was slipping out of control in some parts.

            Close to 3,000 new cases were recorded on Sunday and again on Monday – a sudden jump from numbers much closer to 1,000 for most of August, and the highest since May.

            Health Secretary Matt Hancock said young people had become too relaxed about social distancing and could endanger older relatives through complacency.

            “Don’t kill your gran by catching coronavirus and then passing it on. And you can pass it on before you’ve had any symptoms at all,” he told a BBC radio programme aimed at younger audiences.

            UK scientists warn against lifting lockdown too soon (2:20)

            09:45 GMT – Japan’s Suga says coronavirus will take priority in deciding on snap election

            As Japan’s governing party formally kicked off its leadership race, frontrunner and chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said that preventing the spread of the coronavirus should take priority in any decision to call a snap election.

            Suga, a favourite to succeed incumbent Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is stepping down due to poor health, also stressed that the biggest job for the new prime minister will be to revive the coronavirus-ravaged economy.

            “Thinking about the dissolution of parliament and a general election, of course, we have to prioritize the coronavirus infection situation,” Suga told a news conference.

            09:30 GMT – S.Korea’s Celltrion to begin commercial production of COVID-19 antibody drug

            South Korea’s Celltrion Inc will begin commercial production of its experimental treatment for COVID-19 this month, as it pushes ahead with clinical trials of the antibody drug.

            The company said it planned to make a request soon to regulators for emergency use authorisation of the drug, but that it would start mass production – likely to amount to around one million doses – before receiving that approval.

            The treatment became the country’s first COVID-19 antibody drug to be tested on humans after receiving regulatory approval in July for clinical trials.

            09:15 GMT – Egypt coronavirus cases top 100,000: ministry

            Egypt has detected more than 100,000 COVID-19 infections and reported 5,541 deaths from the virus disease, the health ministry has said. 

            The North African country of more than 100 million people had imposed a night-time curfew from March to June to curb the spread of the illness but since eased restrictions.

            Daily life has since returned in the largest Arab country, with cafes, restaurants and tourist sites again open to the public.

            08:50 GMT – Taj Mahal to reopen even as virus rages in India

            India’s top tourist attraction the Taj Mahal is set to reopen more than six months after it was shut, officials have said, even as the vast nation battles soaring coronavirus infections.

            India, home to 1.3 million people, on Monday overtook Brazil to become the world’s second-most-infected nation with more than 4.2 million cases, behind only the United States.

            “The Taj Mahal will reopen on September 21. All Covid-19 protocols, like physical distancing, masks will be followed,” northern Uttar Pradesh state’s Tourism Department deputy director Amit Srivastava told AFP.


             By mid-March, the iconic Taj Mahal – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – was closed to visitors as part of measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic [File: Sunil Kataria/Reuters]

            08:35 GMT – Philippines expand mandatory wearing of face masks

            The government of the Philippines has expanded its face mask requirement by making the wearing of it mandatory in supermarkets, shopping malls and government venues.

            According to local reports, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) said that in “all other public areas, the wearing of face shields shall be highly encouraged.”

            The Philippines has the most coronavirus infections in Southeast Asia, with 238,727 confirmed cases.

            Philippines faces worst COVID-19 crisis in Southeast Asia (2:38)

            08:20 GMT – Russia reports 5,099 new coronavirus cases, 122 deaths

            Russia has reported 5,099 new coronavirus cases, pushing its national tally to 1,035,789, the fourth-largest in the world.

            Authorities confirmed 122 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 17,993.

            Will the Russian COVID-19 vaccine work? | Inside Story (24:36)

            08:00 GMT – Election countdown starts in Myanmar under virus shadow

            Myanmar’s election campaign begun with Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains widely admired and respected at home despite her tarnished image abroad, hoping for a landslide win to further cement her status as the country’s civilian leader.

            The Nobel laureate’s National League for Democracy (NLD) swept to power in 2015 – the first national polls since the Southeast Asian nation emerged from decades of junta rule.

            Wearing a red face mask, plastic visor and rubber gloves, Aung San Suu Kyi raised the NLD flag – with its fighting peacock symbol – at the party’s office in the capital, Naypyidaw.

            “We want our victory to be the country’s victory,” she said, thanking supporters for flying the NLD colours across the nation.

            07:45 GMT – South Korea: Five people from China test positive for coronavirus 

            Five passengers from China arriving in South Korea have been tested positive for coronavirus since August 16, according to South Korea’s health authorities, raising a question over the credibility of China’s claim of no local infection cases for more than three weeks.

            Among the five people, two were South Korean nationals and three were Chinese nationals. All of them showed no symptoms. 

            China has announced that there have been no new locally transmitted cases of coronavirus since August 16.

            On Tuesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping hosted a ceremony to honour those who have been working to stem the COVID-19 pandemic. The event was widely seen as China’s declaration of a victory over its battle against coronavirus.

            07:30 GMT – Ukraine reports record number of daily coronavirus deaths

            Ukraine has registered a record 57 deaths related to the new coronavirus in the past 24 hours, the national security council said, up from a previous record of 54 deaths registered last week.

            The council said a total of 140,479 cases were registered in Ukraine as of September 8, with 2,934 deaths and 63,546 people recovered.

            Hi, this is Elizabeth Melimopoulos in Doha taking over the live updates from my colleague Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur.

            04:50 GMT – India reports highest number of deaths in a month

            India has reported the most deaths from coronavirus in a month.

            The health ministry says 1,133 people died of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, lifting the total death toll to 72,775.

            The number of cases was 75,809, the lowest daily figure in a week.

            04:00 GMT – Xi says China ‘open and transparent’ on COVID-19

            More from the ceremony in Beijing where President Xi Jinping has been speaking.

            He told the audience that China acted in an “open and transparent” manner over the virus, which first emerged in the central city of Wuhan late last year.

            The country has also made “concrete efforts” to help other nations affected by the disease, he said.


            President Xi Jinping presents the national medal to respiratory disease expert Zhong Nanshan at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing [Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters]

            03:50 GMT – Victoria to strengthen contact tracing as it doubles down on virus

            Victoria is strengthening its contract tracing programme to ensure is maintains a steady decline in cases.

            State Premier Daniel Andrews says the state government will set up five contact tracing teams to focus on different geographic areas of the southeastern state of Australia, making it easier to target specific areas when patients are diagnosed.

            Andrews says the lower daily case figures show the state’s on the right track with its tough lockdowns.

            “I think we’ll be able to take some significant steps soon because the trend is with us, the trend is good,” he said in a televised news conference, referring to more rural areas of the state.

            03:30 GMT – Zhong Nanshan honoured in China special COVID-19 event

            China is holding a special event to recognise its ‘role models’ in the fight against the coronavirus with Zhong Nanshan, China’s top respiratory disease expert, awarded the Medal of the Republic – China’s top honour.

            Zhong was among a group of specialists who first went to Wuhan in January to investigate the mysterious new virus that had emerged at the end of December.

            “We must not lower our guard and must finish the battle,” Zhong said in his acceptance speech.

            China came down hard on doctors in the city who tried to raise the alarm over the disease, and there was outrage after the death of Li Wenliang, an eye doctor who was reprimanded by the authorities for raising his concerns about the new illness with colleagues. Li was ‘exonerated’ in August.

            Commending role models signals #China‘s victory in the hard-won battle against the deadly #coronavirus: epidemiologists https://t.co/K8pYHXXGRJ pic.twitter.com/wicpRQ6vPE

            — Global Times (@globaltimesnews) September 8, 2020

            Never has a building been more aptly named: Outstanding individuals, set to be honored for the parts they played in the nation’s COVID-19 fight, travel to the Great Hall of the People in Beijing https://t.co/jPKTJsFodI #ThankyouCOVID19Heroes pic.twitter.com/2itUE75GlV

            — China Xinhua News (@XHNews) September 8, 2020 

            03:15 GMT – South Korea daily cases below 200 for sixth straight day

            South Korea has reported 136 new cases of coronavirus, the sixth day in a row that the number has been below 200, according to Yonhap.

            The country’s been trying to control a spike in cases that begun in August 14 and has been linked to a church service and a political rally in central Seoul.

            The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says stricter distancing measures are beginning to have an impact although the emergence of case clusters remains a concern. 

            02:50 GMT – Antigen tests in focus as Bali cases surge

            Medical experts are linking a surge in coronavirus cases on the Indonesian island of Bali to the inaccurate, low-cost rapid antibody test kits that are being used to screen domestic visitors.

            Foreign tourists can’t travel to the popular island, but Indonesians have been able to do so since July 31.

            Since then, the island’s tourist authority says it has been welcoming an average of 3,000 domestic tourists every day.

            But along with the tourists’ return it has also seen a spike in coronavirus cases, and health experts say the use of cheap, but unreliable, antigen tests could be creating a false sense of security.

            You can read more on that story here.


            Balinese people, who are Hindu, wear protective suits during a cremation ceremony called ‘Ngaben’ in Klungkung last month. The island has seen a growing number of cases since domestic tourism resumed in August [Made Nagi/EPA]

            01:40 GMT – Japan to tap emergency reserve for $6.3b for coronavirus vaccines

            Japan has approved the use $6.3 billion from its emergency budget to secure coronavirus vaccines.

            The government says it hopes to have enough vaccine for every citizen by the middle of next year, providing any innoculation for free.

            01:30 GMT – Japan’s economy shrinks more than thought in Q2

            It seems Japan’s economy shrank even more than initially thought in the second quarter to the end of June.

            The government initially said the economy contracted by 7.8 percent compared with the first quarter.

            Now it’s taken a closer look at the figures and says it shrank 7.9 percent.

            It’s the country’s worst economic contraction in its modern history.

            Japan shrinks: Coronavirus sends economy into record contraction

            00:15 GMT – Victoria in Australia reports 55 new cases, eight deaths

            Victoria state has reported 55 new cases of coronavirus and a further eight deaths.

            The southeastern state now accounts for about three-quarters of Australia’s 26,377 cases. Melbourne, its capital city, is under a strict lockdown and curfew until September 28. 

            #COVID19VicData for 8 September, 2020. Yesterday there were 55 new cases reported and 8 lives lost. Our thoughts are with all those affected. More information will be available later today. pic.twitter.com/GEo5Iio7vU

            — VicGovDHHS (@VicGovDHHS) September 7, 2020

            00:00 GMT – South Korea doctors say they will return to work

            Doctors’ associations in South Korea say their members are returning to work after a weeks-long strike over government plans to reform the medical system.

            The Korean Intern Resident Association (KIRA), which represents interns and residents, at general hospitals, says the doctors will resume work from 7am (22:00 GMT), Yonhap News Agency reported.

            A separate committee representing physicians and clinicians who also took part in the strike says its members will also report for duty.

            The Korean Medical Association, the country’s largest doctor’s group, reached an agreement with the government to end its strike on Friday, as coronavirus cases surged.

            —-

            Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur and will be keeping you updated over the next few hours.

            Read all the updates from yesterday (September 7) here.

            Israel, UAE to sign deal at White House on September 15: Reports

            Israel, UAE to sign deal at White House on September 15: Reports

            High-ranking officials from all nations will be present for signing of the historic, controversial normalisation deal

            08 Sep 2020 20:07 GMT

              US Presidential Advisor Jared Kushner and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien pose with members of the US-Israeli delegation to the UAE following a normalisation accord [Heidi Levine/Pool/EPA-EFE]

              US President Donald Trump will hold a September 15 signing ceremony for the Middle East agreement normalising relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, according to reports citing senior US officials.

              The officials said senior delegations from both countries will likely be led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Emirati Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the brother of the UAE crown prince.

              Netanyahu confirmed his participation on Twitter, with the Israeli leader saying he is “proud to leave for Washington next week at the invitation of President Trump and to participate in the historic ceremony at the White House on the establishment of a peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates”.

              Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
              “I am proud to leave for Washington next week at the invitation of President Trump and to participate in the historic ceremony at the White House on the establishment of a peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.”

              — PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) September 8, 2020

              The officials, who were not authorised to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the ceremony would either be on the South Lawn, the Rose Garden or inside depending on the weather.

              As part of the deal, announced at the White House on August 13 following what officials said were 18 months of talks, the Gulf state agreed to normal relations with Israel, while Israel agreed to continue with plans to suspend its annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank.

              The deal has come under fire from Palestinians and their regional allies, who claim it endangers the Palestinian position in stalled negotiations that are meant to lead to an independent state for the occupied people.

              Normalisation without further concessions from Israelis, who have long been criticised for land grabs in the West Bank, amounts to international recognition of Israeli sovereignty over these areas, they claim. 


              Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat, US President Donald Trump’s Senior Advisor Jared Kushner and the UAE’s National Security Advisor Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan held a meeting in Abu Dhabi in August [Ministry of Presidential Affairs/WAM/Handout via Reuters]

              The UAE presented the agreement as taking Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the West Bank off the table. But Israel’s Netanyahu insisted the pause was “temporary”.

              Palestinian officials have also warned that should Arab-majority nations recognise Israel, it could signal widespread acceptance of the status quo. Serbia recently announced it would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which Palestinians view as the capital of their future state. 

              Saab Erekat, a senior Palestinian official, slammed Serbia’s decision to move its embassy, saying it makes “Palestine a victim” of Trump’s re-election hopes.

              “Palestine has become a victim of the electoral ambitions of President Trump, whose team would take any action, no matter how destructive for peace … to achieve his re-election” in November, Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said on Twitter.

              Palestine has become a victim of the electoral ambitions of President Trump, whose team would take any action, no matter how destructive for peace and a rules-based world order, to achieve his re-election. This, just like the UAE-Israel agreement, isn’t about Middle East Peace.

              — Dr. Saeb Erakat الدكتور صائب عريقات (@ErakatSaeb) September 4, 2020

              But the Trump administration has showcased the agreement as a major achievement in diplomatic affairs.

              The August 13 announcement has been followed by the first direct commercial flight between the countries, the establishment of telephone links and commitments to cooperate in numerous areas. Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, was onboard the flight.

              The UAE has also ended its boycott of Israel, which allows trade and commerce between the oil-rich Emirates and Israel, home to a thriving diamond trade, pharmaceutical companies and technology start-ups.

              Myanmar troops confirm atrocities against Rohingya: rights group

              Myanmar troops confirm atrocities against Rohingya: rights group

              Two soldiers reportedly admitted to killing dozens of villagers in northern Rakhine state, burying them in mass graves.

              08 Sep 2020 19:40 GMT

                Two soldiers who deserted from Myanmar’s army have testified on video they were ordered to kill and rape Muslim Rohingya villagers, a human rights group said Tuesday.

                The comments appear to be the first public confession by soldiers of involvement in army-directed massacres, rape and other crimes against Rohingya in the Buddhist-majority country, and the group Fortify Rights suggested they could provide important evidence for an ongoing investigation by the International Criminal Court.

                More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh since August 2017 to escape what Myanmar’s military called a clearance campaign following an attack by a Rohingya armed group in Rakhine state.

                Myanmar’s government has denied accusations that security forces committed mass rapes and killings and burned thousands of homes.

                Fortify Rights, which focuses on Myanmar, said the two army privates fled the country last month and are believed to be in the custody of the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands, which is examining the violence against the Rohingya. 

                According to Fortify Rights, privates Myo Win Tun, 33, and Zaw Naing Tun, 30, who served in separate light infantry battalions, gave “the names and ranks of 19 direct perpetrators from the Myanmar army, including themselves, as well as six senior commanders … they claim ordered or contributed to atrocity crimes against Rohingya”.

                US law firm says Myanmar committed genocide against Rohingya

                 

                 

                Myo Win Tun said the commander of the 15th Military Operations Center gave an order to “shoot all you see and all you hear” when raiding Muslim villages. He said in one operation they killed and buried 30 people: “eight women, seven children and 15 men and elderly”. 

                The commander ordered his unit to “exterminate all Kalar” – a derogatory name for the Rohingya – and they shot the men in their foreheads and kicked their bodies into a hole, he said. They also raped the women before killing them and he admitted to carrying out one rape.

                UN agencies and human rights organisations have extensively documented atrocities carried out against the Rohingya by Myanmar security forces. The International Court of Justice agreed last year to consider a case alleging that Myanmar committed genocide against the group. The court’s proceedings are likely to continue for years.

                The reports said the men had been in the custody of the Arakan Army group, which is now fighting Myanmar government troops in Rakhine state, when they made the admissions and were later taken to The Hague in the Netherlands, where they could appear as witnesses or face trial.

                A spokesman for the International Criminal Court (ICC), based in The Hague, said it did not have the men in custody.

                151024190547465

                “No. These reports are not correct. We don’t have these persons in the ICC custody,” said spokesman Fadi el-Abdallah.

                ‘Enormous move’

                Payam Akhavan, a Canadian lawyer representing Bangladesh in a filing against Myanmar at the ICC, said the two men had appeared at a border post requesting the protection of the government and had confessed to the mass murder and rape of Rohingya civilians in 2017.

                “All I can say is that those two individuals are no longer in Bangladesh,” he said.

                A spokesman for the Arakan Army, Khine Thu Kha, said the two men were deserters and were not held as prisoners of war.

                He did not comment further on where the men were now but said the group was “committed to justice” for all victims of the Myanmar military.

                Myanmar has repeatedly denied allegations of genocide, saying its military operations in 2017 were targeting Rohingya rebels who attacked police border posts.

                Speaking from the Hague, Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen said that the case had been stalled for a long time because Myanmar is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, the basis for ICC. But with Bangladesh being a signatory, the ICC has ruled that is has jurisdiction over the case

                “Part of the crimes that happened in Myanmar, were happening in Bangladesh as well. For example, the forced deportations, where hundreds of thousands of ethnic Rohingya were deported to Bangladesh. That’s why the case has been speeding up since last November,” she said.

                “The court has ordered the investigation to be continued and if we have these two former military men… if they say they were involved and have given a very detailed account of what they did and who was with them, then this will be an enormous move for this investigation.”

                ‘Credible and corroborative’

                Antonia Mulvey, executive director of Legal Action Worldwide, said if the evidence turns out to be credible, it would be a huge push for the investigation.

                “While the ICC has made no comment on whether or not they have them [the men] in custody, the stories [of the soldiers] are said to be credible and corroborative,” she said explaining the statements included a mention of ordered killings and rape. 

                “While they [the soldiers] may be very low in the ranks, we hope more will come forward. There was shown to be a clear chain of command,” she added.

                The ICC is investigating the crime against humanity of forced deportation of Rohingya to Bangladesh, as well as persecution and other human rights violations.

                “The office does not publicly comment on speculation or reports regarding its ongoing investigations, neither does the office discuss specifics of any aspect of its investigative activities,” a statement from the ICC prosecutor’s office said.

                151024190547465

                Myanmar is also facing charges of genocide at the International Court of Justice, also in The Hague, though that body does not bring cases against individuals or hear witnesses.

                In 2015, before the alleged 2017 genocide, Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit revealed the inner workings of the Myanmar regime, drawing on documents from the Myanmar military, an unpublished United Nations report and other government paperwork.

                Those documents, assessed by Yale University Law School and the International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary University of London, constituted “strong evidence” of a state-led genocide according to experts.

                NewsFeed

                Aceh communities embrace rescued Rohingya refugees

                Trump ex-lawyer links 2016 Falwell Jr endorsement to racy photos

                Trump ex-lawyer links 2016 Falwell Jr endorsement to racy photos

                Michael Cohen claims in his newly released book that a pivotal 2016 nod from Falwell was linked to a prevented scandal.

                08 Sep 2020 19:29 GMT

                  President Donald Trump and Jerry Falwell, president of Liberty University, on stage during a commencement at Liberty University on May 13, 2017, in Lynchburg, Virginia [Alex Wong/Getty Images via AFP]

                  In his book released today, Michael Cohen, the former fixer for US President Donald Trump, ties for the first time the 2016 presidential endorsement of Trump by American evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr to Cohen’s own role in helping to keep racy “personal” photographs of the Falwells from becoming public.

                  As Reuters reported last year, the Falwells enlisted Cohen to keep “a bunch of photographs, personal photographs” from becoming public, Cohen said in a recording, made surreptitiously by comedian Tom Arnold. “I actually have one of the photos,” he said, without going into specifics. “It’s terrible.”

                  In, Disloyal: The Memoir, Cohen described thinking that his involvement in the Falwell photo matter would be a “catch and kill” – the practice of American tabloids to obtain and then suppress unfavourable stories about celebrities – “but in this case it was just going to be kill.”

                  He later writes, “In good time, I would call in this favor, not for me, but for the Boss, at a crucial moment on his journey to the presidency.”

                  Cohen has said that he helped persuade Falwell to endorse Trump just before Republican voters gathered in Iowa in February 2016 to nominate a presidential candidate.

                  Falwell not only publicly vouched for Trump’s Christian virtues but also barnstormed with the candidate. His backing of Trump – a twice-divorced candidate who had talked about grabbing women’s genitals and engaged in extramarital affairs – was one of the major surprises of the 2016 campaign.

                  In the book, Cohen did not explicitly say that the endorsement was the favour he sought in return for his help in having kept the Falwell photos from getting out. But his account marks the first time he has linked the two issues.

                  Earlier this year, CNN quoted Cohen as saying, “There is absolutely no connection between the photos and my personal request to the Falwells to assist the Trump campaign.” How that comment jibes with what he has written in his book is unclear.

                  Cohen did not immediately respond to efforts by Reuters to reach him.

                  Now -former Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr and Becki Tilley speak during a town hall meeting on the opioid crisis as part of First Lady Melania Trump’s ‘Be Best’ initiative in March 2019 [File: Ethan Miller/Getty Images via AFP ]

                  Neither Jerry nor Becki Falwell immediately responded to Reuter’s requests for comment. The White House dismissed Cohen’s account.

                  “Michael Cohen is a disgraced felon and disbarred lawyer, who lied to Congress. He has lost all credibility, and it’s unsurprising to see his latest attempt to profit off of lies,” press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told Reuters.

                  Cohen, who was convicted of campaign finance violations and other crimes, is serving the remainder of his three-year term in home confinement.

                  Falwell, who at the time of the 2016 endorsement ran Liberty University, stepped down as president of Liberty late last month after Reuters reported that a business associate alleged a years-long affair with Jerry and Becki Falwell.

                  Salacious allegations 

                  That associate, Giancarlo Granda, told Reuters the relationship involved him having sex with while Jerry Falwell watched. Jerry Falwell has denied involvement, saying the sexual relationship was between his wife and Granda only.

                  Falwell’s departure from Liberty marked a dramatic fall for one of the most powerful figures in the US evangelical Christian movement. He was widely credited with helping persuade many Christians concerned about Trump’s past to accept him as a repentant sinner.

                  Trump and Biden on the offensive as US general election kicks off (2:34)

                  In his book, Cohen wrote that he had become close to the Falwells in 2011, once securing tickets for one of their daughters to see Justin Bieber perform. He called the Falwells “dear friends, more like family to me.”

                  But he also makes clear that, as in the smaller assistance in securing the Bieber tickets, he saw the help he offered the Falwells in the photo matter as transactional – and enormously significant.

                  “Like the Bieber favor a few years earlier, this would have a huge impact on the 2016 election, evangelicals, the Supreme Court and the fate of the nation,” Cohen writes.

                  “If Becki Falwell was seen half-naked by the students of Liberty University, let alone evangelicals all over the country, it would be an unmitigated disaster,” he writes.

                  After succeeding at keeping the photos from being released, Cohen writes that he “called Becki and reassured her that the pictures wouldn’t get out, but I could hear the fear and sadness in her voice. I reassured her I wouldn’t let her down, and I didn’t.”

                  “There it was: my second chit with the Falwells,” he writes. “In good time, I would call in this favor, not for me, but for the Boss, at a crucial moment on his journey to the presidency.”

                  Belarus opposition figure ‘detained’ at Ukraine border

                  Belarus opposition figure ‘detained’ at Ukraine border

                  Belarus border officials say they detained protest leader Kolesnikova after reports she had been abducted in Minsk.

                  08 Sep 2020 18:52 GMT

                    Belarusian protest leader Maria Kolesnikova has been detained while trying to enter Ukraine on Tuesday, according to Belarusian border officials, a day after her allies said she was grabbed off the street by masked men.

                    The circumstances of her attempted journey to Ukraine were not immediately clear, with some media reports initially suggesting she made it across the border, something border guards on both sides later denied.

                    The opposition movement on Monday said unidentified men took Kolesnikova in central Minsk and drove her off in a minivan, while two other activists disappeared later.

                    Those two allies successfully crossed into Ukraine in the early hours of Tuesday, the Ukrainian border service said.

                    “Kolesnikova has now been detained, I can’t say concretely where she is, but she has been detained,” Anton Bychkovsky, a representative of the Belarusian border service, told Reuters news agency by phone.

                    “She was detained in connection with the circumstances under which they [the group] left the territory of Belarus,” he said.

                    Belarus protest leader ‘abducted’ after mass anti-gov’t march

                    The official Belta news agency said she had been travelling with the two other activists who made it into Ukraine. Kolesnikova could not immediately be reached for comment.

                    Belta quoted border officials as saying the three had tried to cross the border in a BMW car about 4am and said Kolesnikova’s car accelerated sharply after being confronted by a border guard.

                    “Kolesnikova was outside the vehicle. In fact, she was pushed from it and it continued moving towards the Ukrainian side,” Belta quoted the border service as saying.

                    According to the Interfax Ukraine news agency, Kolesnikova ripped up her passport to thwart an attempt to deport her to neighbouring Ukraine.

                    Deputy Ukrainian Interior Minister Anton Gerashchenko said on Facebook that Kolesnikova, who had been missing for the past 24 hours, had successfully prevented “a forcible expulsion from her native country”.

                    Belarusian journalist Andrei Vaitovich told Al Jazeera that because Kolesnikova ripped up her passport, this “proves once again that this departure wasn’t voluntary”.

                    He said: “She didn’t [want] to leave the country. She told me a couple of days ago she will stay here, until the end. Today, what we saw once again proves that the Belarusian authorities just tried to kick out from the country the main opposition figures so they can’t lead the protest.”

                    Lukashenko critic

                    Police in Minsk were cited by Russia’s Interfax news agency as saying on Monday that they had not arrested Kolesnikova.

                    Kolesnikova, a member of the opposition coordination council, was the last of three female politicians left in Belarus who joined forces before an August 9 presidential election to try to challenge veteran incumbent Alexander Lukashenko.

                    A vocal critic of Lukashenko, she has played an important role in weeks of mass demonstrations and strikes by protesters who accuse Lukashenko of rigging his re-election.

                    Lukashenko, who has been in power for the last 26 years, denies that allegation and has accused foreign powers of trying to topple him in a revolution. He has responded with a crackdown which some of those detained say includes torture and beatings.

                    Lukashenko on Tuesday said he would not step down, despite the wave of protests, but did not rule out early presidential elections during an interview with Russian media, a radio journalist reported.

                    Lukashenko said his supporters would be attacked if he left, said Roman Babayan, editor in chief of the Moscow Talks radio station.

                    The Stream

                    Belarus protests: Can Lukashenko survive?

                    House Democrats launch probe into Postmaster General Dejoy

                    House Democrats launch probe into Postmaster General Dejoy

                    The investigation comes amid reports that Dejoy illegally reimbursed former employees for political campaign donations.

                    08 Sep 2020 18:10 GMT

                      Former employees reportedly allege Postmaster General Louis DeJoy reimbursed them for making campaign donations to candidates he favoured [File: Tom Williams/The Associated Press]

                      The head of the United States House of Representatives oversight panel has launched an investigation and urged the immediate suspension of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy following reports that he illegally reimbursed former employees for political contributions. 

                      House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, in a statement, said if the allegations are true, DeJoy faced “criminal exposure” for both violating the campaign finance law and for lying to Congress in a denial during a recent hearing.

                      “We will be investigating this issue, but I believe the Board of Governors must take emergency action to immediately suspend Mr DeJoy, who they never should have selected in the first place,” Maloney said.

                      DeJoy defends actions: Postmaster grilled by Democratic-led panel (2:04)

                      The move follows accusations by former workers at DeJoy’s company that he reimbursed employees with large bonuses for campaign contributions to his preferred Republican politicians, an arrangement that would violate federal campaign finance law. The Washington Post and the New York Times both reported the allegations during the weekend, citing multiple unnamed former employees.

                      President Donald Trump on Monday said he would support an investigation into campaign contributions involving DeJoy, a Trump donor who is already facing a political firestorm after changes he implemented before the November election that critics said could delay mail-in balloting.

                      When asked during Monday’s news briefing at the White House if there should be an investigation in DeJoy’s conduct, Trump responded:  “Sure. I think let the investigations go.” 

                      When asked if DeJoy should resign if wrongdoing is uncovered, Trump said,  “Yeah, if something can be proven, always.”

                      On Tuesday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows defended DeJoy and accused Democrats of launching a political probe in an election year.

                      “Louis DeJoy is an honourable man,” Meadows told reporters at the White House. “I’m sure he’ll cooperate completely, and we serve in a great country where you’re innocent until proven guilty.”

                      Postal service disruption

                      The House Oversight Committee is already investigating USPS operational changes DeJoy ordered, which some have suggested are part of a larger scheme to undermine mail-in voting in the November 3 election.

                      We know the Postmaster General is sabotaging the @USPS. And now we’ve learned that he may have broken federal and state campaign finance laws. Louis DeJoy must resign – and if he won’t, the Board of Governors should use their power to remove him. https://t.co/LDBcwCEEVw

                      — Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) September 7, 2020

                      The committee sent DeJoy a subpoena last week seeking related documents. New York’s attorney general has also separately filed a lawsuit over the issue.

                      Democrats have accused him of deliberately disrupting the Postal Service as millions of Americans consider whether to cast their vote by mail, saying the changes could slow down mail delivery and delay ballots. 

                      California fires rage as winds continue and power is shut off

                      California fires rage as winds continue and power is shut off

                      Fire risk is high across California, with two of the three largest fires burning in the San Francisco Bay area.

                      08 Sep 2020 17:29 GMT

                        Pacific Gas and Electric workers standing along Highway 168 as the Creek Fire advances near Alder Springs, California [AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez]

                        New wildfires ravaged bone-dry California during a scorching Labor Day weekend trapping campers and prompting the state’s largest utility to turn off power to 172,000 customers to try to prevent its power lines and other equipment from sparking more fires.

                        California is heading into what is traditionally the teeth of the wildfire season, and already it has set a record with two million acres (809,000 hectares) burned this year. The previous record was set just two years ago and included the deadliest wildfire in state history – the Camp Fire that swept through the community of Paradise and killed 85 people.

                        That fire was started by Pacific Gas & Electric power lines. Liability from billions of dollars in claims from that and other fires forced the utility to seek bankruptcy protection. To guard against new wildfires and new liability, PG&E last year began pre-emptive power shutoffs when conditions are exceptionally dangerous.


                        Jeremy Hedrick holding his son as smoke from the Creek Fire fills the air in a marina, where campers were being held due to impassable roads, caused by the fire in Shaver Lake, California [AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez] 

                        That is the situation now in Northern California, where strong and dry winds are expected until Wednesday. PG&E received criticism for its handling of planned outages last year. The utility said it has learned from past problems, “and this year will be making events smaller in size, shorter in length and smarter for customers”.

                        Two of the three largest fires in state history are burning in the San Francisco Bay Area. More than 14,000 firefighters are battling those fires and about two dozen others around California.

                        The fire danger is also high in Southern California, where new fires were burning in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Diego counties. The US Forest Service on Monday decided to close all eight national forests in the region and to shutter campgrounds statewide.

                        “The wildfire situation throughout California is dangerous and must be taken seriously,” said Randy Moore, regional forester for the Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region that covers California. “Existing fires are displaying extreme fire behaviour, new fire starts are likely, weather conditions are worsening, and we simply do not have enough resources to fully fight and contain every fire.”

                        Remote towns evacuated as California wildfire grows (1:23)

                        Lynne Tolmachoff, spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said it is “unnerving” to have reached a record for acreage burned when September and October usually are the worst months for fires because vegetation has dried out and high winds are more common.

                        While the two mammoth Bay Area fires were largely contained after burning for three weeks, firefighters struggled to corral several other major blazes ahead of the expected winds. Evacuation orders were expanded to more mountain communities on Monday as the largest blaze, the Creek Fire, churned through the Sierra National Forest in Central California.

                        It was one of many recent major fires that have displayed terrifyingly swift movement. The fire moved 24 kilometres (15 miles) in a single day during the weekend and burned 145.04 square km (56 square miles). Since starting on Friday from an unknown cause. it has burned 549sq km (212sq miles).

                        Debra Rios was not home on Monday when the order came to evacuate her hometown of Auberry, just northeast of Fresno. Sheriff’s deputies went to her ranch property to pick up her 92-year-old mother, Shirley MacLean. They reunited at an evacuation centre.

                        “I hope like heck the fire doesn’t reach my little ranch,” Rios said. “It’s not looking good right now. It’s an awfully big fire.”

                        Mountain roads saw a steady stream of cars and trucks leaving the community of about 2,300 on Monday afternoon.


                        Los Angeles Fire Department firefighters work to douse brush fires in the Sepulveda Basin in the Sherman Oaks area of Los Angeles [AP Photo/Richard Vogel] 

                        Firefighters working in steep terrain saved the tiny town of Shaver Lake from flames that roared down hillsides towards a marina. About 30 houses were destroyed in the remote hamlet of Big Creek, resident Toby Wait said.

                        “About half the private homes in town burned down,” he said. “Words cannot even begin to describe the devastation of this community.”

                        A school, church, library, an historic general store and a major hydroelectric plant were spared in the community of about 200 residents, Wait told the Fresno Bee.

                        Sheriff’s deputies went door to door to make sure residents were complying with orders to evacuate. Officials hoped to keep the fire from pushing west towards Yosemite National Park.

                        On Monday night, a military helicopter tried but failed to land near Lake Edison to rescue people trapped by the fire, the Fresno Fire Department said on Twitter. The department tweeted: “Military pilots tried valiantly to land but heavy smoke conditions prevented a safe approach, another effort will be made shortly to evacuate the trapped people in Lake Edison and China Peak using night vision.”

                        Updated info on MCI event at FYI: rescue efforts were unsuccessful, military pilots tried valiantly to land but heavy smoke conditions prevented a safe approach, another effort will be made shortly to evacuate the trapped people in Lake Edison and China Peak using night vision.

                        — Fresno Fire PIO (@FresnoFire) September 8, 2020

                        In Southern California, crews scrambled to douse several fires that roared to life in searing temperatures, including one that closed mountain roads in Angeles National Forest and forced the evacuation of the historic Mount Wilson Observatory. Late Monday night, the Los Angeles County Fire Department told residents of Duarte, Bradbury and Monrovia near the forest to get ready for a possible evacuation.

                        Cal Fire said a blaze in San Bernardino County called the El Dorado Fire started Saturday morning and was caused by a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device used by a couple to reveal their unborn baby’s gender. In eastern San Diego County, a fire destroyed at least 10 structures after burning 41.44sq km (16sq miles ) and prompting evacuations near the remote community of Alpine in the Cleveland National Forest.


                        Firefighters battling the Creek Fire as it threatens homes in the Cascadel Woods neighbourhood of Madera County, California [AP Photo/Noah Berger]

                        California has seen 900 wildfires since August 15, many of them started by an intense series of thousands of lightning strikes in mid-August. There have been eight fire deaths and more than 3,300 structures destroyed.

                        Homes were also burned to the ground in Oregon and Washington amid strong winds and high temperatures hitting the Pacific Northwest.

                        Washington County Sheriff Brett Myers told Spokane TV station KXLY fire had destroyed up to 80 percent of the homes in the town of Walden.

                        Local resident Shannon Thornton recounted the hasty evacuation, as she surveyed the ruins of her home. “Everything is gone,” she said, adding that she was still looking for her cat.

                        The Lionshead Fire in Oregon grew to 65sq km (25sq miles) by Monday and the Beachie Creek Fire reached 2sq km (500 acres) as fire officials prepare for high winds and dangerous conditions across both wildfires late Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

                        Fire officials overseeing the Evans Canyon Fire in southeast Washington state issued a Red Flag Warning until Monday due to strong winds, low humidity and warm temperatures.

                        UN rights chief demands Russia investigate Navalny case

                        UN rights chief demands Russia investigate Navalny case

                        Germany, where the Russian opposition figure is being treated, says he was poisoned by a military-grade nerve agent.

                        08 Sep 2020 17:23 GMT

                          German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said her government concluded Navalny was poisoned with Novichok [File: Pavel Golovkin/AP Photo]

                          The top United Nations human rights official called on Russia on Tuesday to conduct or cooperate with a full independent investigation into Germany’s findings that opposition figure Alexey Navalny was poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent.

                          Navalny was removed from a medically induced coma and is responding to speech, Berlin’s Charite hospital said on Monday. It has been treating Navalny since he was airlifted to Germany after falling ill on a Russian domestic flight last month.

                          Navalny is the most popular and prominent opponent of President Vladimir Putin.

                          Moscow says it has seen no evidence he was poisoned.

                          “It is not good enough to simply deny he was poisoned and deny the need for a thorough, independent, impartial, and transparent investigation into this assassination attempt,” Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement.

                          “It is incumbent on the Russian authorities to fully investigate who was responsible for this crime – a very serious crime that was committed on Russian soil.”

                          Kremlin denies Russia poisoned Alexey Navalny (1:51)

                          ‘Profoundly disturbing’

                          German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her government concluded Navalny, 44, was poisoned with Novichok, the same substance the United Kingdom said was used against Russian double agent Sergey Skripal and his daughter, both of whom survived, in an attack in England in 2018.

                          “The number of cases of poisoning, or other forms of targeted assassination, of current or former Russian citizens, either within Russia itself or on foreign soil, over the past two decades is profoundly disturbing,” Bachelet said.

                          Her spokesman, Rupert Colville, cited the Skripal case and the poisoning of Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko, who was killed in London in 2006.

                          200902170314989

                          “These are not materials that you can buy in a pharmacy or a farm shop or a hardware store,” Colville said of Novichok and Polonium-210, with which Litvinenko was poisoned.

                          Proper legal processes have not been carried out in previous incidents, resulting in “close to total impunity” in Russia, he said.

                          ‘Bluffing’

                          Responding to the situation, Russia’s foreign ministry said it had summoned the German ambassador to Moscow over the statements made by Berlin concerning Navalny.

                          Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused Germany of “bluffing” in a statement on her Facebook page.

                          US politicians called on President Donald Trump’s administration on Tuesday to investigate the suspected poisoning of Navalny. 

                          “If the Russian government is once again determined to have used a chemical weapon against one of its own nationals, additional sanctions should be imposed,” House Representatives Eliot Engel and Michael McCaul said in a letter to Trump.

                          The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter. Trump said on Friday his administration had not yet seen proof that Navalny was poisoned. 

                          Navalny poisoned: Germany has ‘unequivocal’ proof of nerve agent (1:54)

                          Bolivia court blocks deposed leader Evo Morales’ bid for senate

                          Bolivia court blocks deposed leader Evo Morales’ bid for senate

                          The ruling eliminates Evo Morales from having parliamentary immunity against sedition and other charges against him.

                          08 Sep 2020 17:20 GMT

                            Former Bolivian President Evo Morales in Buenos Aires, Argentina where he is living in exile [File: Agustin Marcarian/Reuters]

                            A Bolivian court has blocked deposed former President Evo Morales from seeking a seat in the Chamber of Senators in the country’s October elections, arguing that the ex-leader, living in Argentina, does not meet residency requirements.

                            Morales sent a tweet saying he would not appeal Monday’s decision, though he said before the ruling that the court was acting “under threats and pressures,” and he considered the ruling “political and illegal”.

                            The ruling eliminates the possibility that Morales could obtain parliamentary immunity against sedition and other charges against him, but his Movement Toward Socialism party still controls the Legislative Assembly and polls indicate it remains the frontrunner for the October 18 vote.

                            Bajo amenazas y presiones de procesos, el dirimidor tomó una decisión política ilegal e inconstitucional. La historia demuestra que podrán inhabilitar a Evo pero no podrán proscribir al pueblo.

                            — Evo Morales Ayma (@evoespueblo) September 7, 2020

                            After 14 years in power, Morales resigned under pressure from the military and police on November 10 amid widespread protests and disturbances alleging he was attempting to fraudulently claim re-election. He went into exile, first in Mexico and later in Argentina.

                            After several people in the line of succession also stepped aside, conservative Senator Jeanine Anez claimed the interim presidency. Her administration has tried to reverse many of Morales’s leftist policies and foreign alliances.

                            A recent poll by the Unitel televison network showed the candidate of Morales’ party, Luis Arce, supported by 26 percent of those surveyed, trailed by former President Carlos Meza, Anez and five other candidates. It is likely a second round would be held.


                            A woman holding a sign reading, ‘Paedophiles will not return’ during a protest outside a court of justice before an appeal filed by former President Evo Morales in an attempt to qualify as a candidate for senator in the October 18 general elections, was rejected, in La Paz, Bolivia [David Mercado/Reuters]

                            Last month, Bolivia’s justice ministry filed a complaint against Morales for statutory rape and human trafficking in connection to his alleged relationship with a 16-year-old girl.

                            Morales denounced the complaint as part of a “dirty war”.

                            Bolivia’s deputy minister of transparency, Guido Melgar, said the government had reviewed photographs, audio files and messages that the woman, now 19, sent to the former president by mobile phone when she was underage.

                            “This suggests that there was a relationship of infatuation between the two people,” Melgar said. “According to the information, this lady went everywhere with Morales when he was president.”

                            The woman, however, accused the police of forcing her to say she had a relationship with Morales, in a letter sent to Bolivia’s Ombudsman’s Office.

                            “I have been a victim of police harassment,” she said in the letter. “They told me that if I did not say everything they imposed on me, they would prosecute me for sedition and terrorism. They forced me to testify under pressure, without a lawyer.”

                            Malta using ‘despicable, illegal tactics’ to turn away migrants

                            Malta using ‘despicable, illegal tactics’ to turn away migrants

                            Amnesty report says Malta arranged ‘unlawful pushbacks to Libya’ and diverted migrant boats to Italy.

                            08 Sep 2020 16:57 GMT

                              Malta has taken in 2,162 sea migrants between January and August compared with 3,405 over the whole of 2019, according to IOM [File: Anne Chaon/AFP]

                              An Amnesty International report has blamed Malta for using “ever more despicable and illegal tactics” to turn away migrants and refugees from North Africa.

                              In its report released on Tuesday, Amnesty said Malta has arranged “unlawful pushbacks to Libya”, diverted migrants boats to Italy and illegally detained “hundreds of people on ill-equipped” offshore quarantine ferries.

                              The rights group also criticised Maltese authorities for signing a new agreement with Libya to stop migrants and refugees leaving the conflict-ridden country.

                              “Malta is stooping to ever more despicable and illegal tactics to shirk their responsibilities to people in need,” Amnesty researcher Elisa De Pieri said.

                              “Shamefully, the EU and Italy have normalised cooperation with Libya on border control, but sending people back to danger in Libya is anything but normal.” 

                              200113175312357

                              It also said in the report “some of the actions taken by the Maltese authorities may have involved criminal acts being committed, resulting in avoidable deaths, prolonged arbitrary detention, and illegal returns to war-torn Libya”.

                              “The authorities also used the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to declare that Malta was not a safe place to disembark – to discourage people from seeking safety and a decent life in Europe.”

                              Amnesty recalled that 27 people rescued by Danish tanker Maersk Etienne on August 4 are still at sea as no disembarkation has been offered to them. 

                              On Monday, three international organisations called on Mediterranean countries to take in the migrants, saying their situation was becoming dire. 

                              Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela has said his country is not responsible for them. However, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), International Organization for Migration (IOM) and International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) accused governments of breaking international law by refusing to allow the migrants to leave the ship.

                              “International law and maritime conventions place clear obligations on ships and coastal States to ensure people in distress are rescued and promptly disembarked in a place of safety,” the three organisations said. 

                              “The Maersk Etienne fulfilled its responsibilities, but now finds itself in a diplomatic game of pass the parcel.”

                              In May, Malta’s Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo said the country’s migration centres were holding twice the number of people they were designed for, and Malta was at the mercy of people smugglers.

                              “We want to protect the rights of people seeking protection, but we can only do so much. We are being left alone. Words of sympathy are not enough; we need practical help,” he said referring to the EU.

                              Malta is the EU’s smallest member state. According to the IOM, it has taken in 2,162 migrants from the sea between January 1 and August 20, compared with 3,405 in 2019.

                              Malta and Italy have long said they are disproportionately affected by Europe-bound sea migration from North Africa, and that there is insufficient burden-sharing across the European Union.

                              The positions of both Valletta and Rome hardened in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, amid concerns migrants could have turned into virus spreaders.

                              Human rights groups have repeatedly warned that migrants stuck in Libya, or forcibly returned there, are exposed to torture, exploitation and abuse.

                              According to Amnesty, “7,256 people were ‘pulled back’ to Libya by the EU-supported Libyan Coast Guard” between January and August 27, often with the help of Frontex and other EU operations. 

                              Rescuing migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean

                              Trump reverses Obama bid to prevent racism in US housing

                              Trump reverses Obama bid to prevent racism in US housing

                              Removal of rule that sought to end racial segregation and discrimination in country’s housing appears to be election campaign strategy.

                              by 08 Sep 2020 16:50 GMT

                                Effective from Tuesday, the Trump administration is replacing an Obama-era rule that sought to end racial segregation and discrimination in American housing.

                                President Trump says the rollback of the rule, which forced cities to report on housing discrimination in their communities, is to give local governments more freedom from federal regulations.

                                But the move also fits neatly into Trump’s campaign strategy that ties race to the safety of suburban communities.

                                Al Jazeera’s Heidi Zhou-Castro has the story.

                                Clicks stores to remove TRESemme products after backlash over ad

                                Clicks stores to remove TRESemme products after backlash over ad

                                Advertisement showed Black woman’s hair described as ‘frizzy and dull’, and a white woman’s hair described as ‘normal’.

                                08 Sep 2020 16:44 GMT

                                  Clicks said all employees responsible for publishing the advertisement have been suspended [EPA]

                                  South Africa’s Clicks Group has said it will remove all TRESemme products from its shelves after an advertisement posted on the retailer’s website was accused of being racist.

                                  The advertisement, commissioned by the TRESemme hair company and carried on the Clicks pharmacies’ website, compared two photos of Black women’s hair with two photos of white women’s hair, labelling the Black women’s hair “dry and damaged” and “frizzy and dull”, while the white women’s hair labelled was “fine and flat” and “normal”.

                                  The pharmacy retailer removed the advertisement and apologised, as did TRESemme South Africa.

                                  Clicks said all employees responsible for publishing the advertisement have been suspended and it had accepted the resignation of a senior executive.

                                  The advertisement caused an outcry on social media and sparked protests led by far-left opposition party the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) which demanded stores be shut nationwide for at least a week.

                                  The advertisement also drew criticism from the government with the minister for Small Business Development, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, rejecting Clicks’s apology saying it was “meaningless” and called for the TRESemme products to be removed from its shelves.

                                  Unilever SA, TRESemme’s parent company, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

                                  The removal of the products from Clicks’s shelves did not stop South Africans from taking to social media to show their anger.

                                  It is not about hair… or weaves… or about skin lightners…it is about RACISM… each advert being a mini action of aggression against who I am as a black child and leaving a cut and every apology leaving a scar…. we are full of scars… #stopbeingtone-deaf#STOPRACISM

                                  — Yolanda Cuba (@Yolandacuba) September 8, 2020

                                  CLICKS MALL OF AFRICA

                                  Clicks can no longer avoid accountability.

                                  We demand Justice. #Kubo!!!#clicksmustfall https://t.co/I48RfUS4zh pic.twitter.com/BlxyO7sbtr

                                  — TYRONE MKANSI (@Tyrone_Mkansi) September 8, 2020

                                  On Tuesday, some Clicks stores in South Africa remained closed after demonstrators damaged seven shops the previous day.

                                  “We recognise this event has had a significant impact on our people and our customers and we have taken a decision to close our stores for a day on Wednesday 9 September,” Clicks CEO Vikesh Ramsunder said in a statement.

                                  On Tuesday, courts blocked the EFF from preventing the opening of Clicks stores and intimidating employees and customers, local news broadcaster eNCA reported.

                                  EFF denied the report, claiming they will continue their protests until Friday.

                                  It should be clear to Clicks that the court has not declared the protest illegal and accordingly, the lawful and peaceful protests continue until Friday. #clicksmustfall

                                  — Economic Freedom Fighters (@EFFSouthAfrica) September 8, 2020

                                  It is unclear what effect store closures would have on the company, which has already warned that trading would be tough for the rest of its financial year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

                                  Makers of consumer packaged goods have reconsidered their marketing following global protests against racial injustice. Several brands have scrapped Black advertising mascots. 

                                  Race for coronavirus vaccine looms over presidential campaigns

                                  Race for coronavirus vaccine looms over presidential campaigns

                                  Trump has said a vaccine could be ready before November, despite health experts warning that is unlikely.

                                  08 Sep 2020 16:42 GMT

                                    Critics fear the political significance of a vaccine could affect its safe development [File: Carlos Barria/Reuters]

                                    The prospect of a vaccine to shield Americans from coronavirus infection emerged as a point of contention in the White House race as President Donald Trump accused Democrats of “disparaging” for political gain a vaccine he repeatedly has said could be available before the election. 

                                    “It’s so dangerous for our country, what they say, but the vaccine will be very safe and very effective,” the president pledged Monday at a White House news conference. 

                                    Trump levelled the accusation a day after Senator Kamala Harris, the Democrats’ vice-presidential candidate, said she “would not trust his word” on getting the vaccine.

                                    WHO COVID Debrief on global coronavirus vaccine efforts (4:09)

                                    “I would trust the word of public health experts and scientists, but not Donald Trump,” Harris said. 

                                    Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden amplified Harris’s comments Monday after he was asked if he would get a vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Biden said he would take a vaccine, but wants to see what the scientists have to say, too.

                                    Biden said Trump has said “so many things that aren’t true, I’m worried if we do have a really good vaccine, people are going to be reluctant to take it. So he’s undermining public confidence.”

                                    Still, the former vice president said, “If I could get a vaccine tomorrow I’d do it, if it would cost me the election I’d do it. We need a vaccine and we need it now.”

                                    The back-and-forth over a coronavirus vaccine played out as three of the candidates fanned out across the country on Labor Day, the traditional start of the two-month sprint to the election. Harris and Vice President Mike Pence campaigned in Wisconsin and Biden went to Pennsylvania. Trump added the news conference to a schedule that originally was blank.

                                    ‘They’ll say anything’

                                    Harris, a California Democrat, said in a CNN interview broadcast Sunday that she would not trust a coronavirus vaccine if one were ready at the end of the year because “there’s very little that we can trust that … comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth.” She argued that scientists would be “muzzled” because Trump is focused on getting re-elected.

                                    Trump dismissed her comments as “reckless anti-vaccine rhetoric” designed to detract from the effort to quickly ready a vaccine for a disease that has killed about 190,000 Americans and infected more than six million others, according to a count by Johns Hopkins University.

                                    “She’s talking about disparaging a vaccine so that people don’t think the achievement was a great achievement,” Trump said, answering reporters’ questions as he stood at a lectern placed at the front door of the White House on the Pennsylvania Avenue side of the mansion.

                                    “They’ll say anything,” he said. 

                                    Trump and Biden on the offensive as US general election kicks off (2:34)

                                    Trump insisted he has not said a vaccine could be ready before November, although he has said so repeatedly and as recently as Friday.

                                    The president then proceeded to say what he had just denied ever saying.

                                    “What I said is by the end of the year, but I think it could even be sooner than that,” he said about a vaccine. “It could be during the month of October, actually could be before November.”

                                    Under a programme Trump calls “Operation Warp Speed”, the goal is to have 300 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine in stock by January. He has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on what amounts to a huge gamble since vaccine development usually takes years.

                                    Vaccine politics

                                    Concerns exist about political influence over the development of a vaccine, and whether one produced through this process will be safe and effective.

                                    Dr Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, told CNN last week that it is unlikely but “not impossible” that a vaccine could win approval in October, instead of November or December.

                                    Fauci added that he’s “pretty sure” a vaccine would not be approved for Americans unless it was both safe and effective. 

                                    Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, has said the agency would not cut corners as it evaluates vaccines, but would aim to expedite its work. He told the Financial Times last week that it might be “appropriate” to approve a vaccine before clinical trials were complete if the benefits outweighed the risks.

                                    COVID-19 vaccine: Safety concerns as countries rush for cure (2:24)

                                    White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, meanwhile, has given assurances that Trump “will not in any way sacrifice safety” when it comes to a vaccine. And executives of five top pharmaceutical companies pledged that no COVID-19 vaccines or treatments will be approved, even for emergency use, without proof they are safe and effective.

                                    Some concerns were sparked by a letter dated August 27 in which Dr Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, asked governors to help government contractor McKesson Corp make sure vaccine distribution facilities are up and running by November 1. 

                                    Redfield did not say a vaccine would be ready by then. 

                                    Three COVID-19 vaccines are undergoing final-stage, or phase three, clinical trials in the US. Each study is enrolling about 30,000 people who will get two shots, three weeks apart, and then will be monitored for coronavirus infections and side effects for anywhere from a week to two years.

                                    Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi launches election campaign

                                    Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi launches election campaign

                                    Country’s leader has kicked off her governing party’s campaign – before November’s general election.

                                    by 08 Sep 2020 16:39 GMT

                                      Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi has kicked off her governing party’s campaign – before November’s general election.

                                      It is likely there could be a delay because of a recent rise in coronavirus cases.

                                      The election commission is set to decide whether the vote will still go ahead as planned.

                                      Al Jazeera’s Florence Looi reports.

                                      Iraq: The changing face of Baghdad’s historic neighbourhoods

                                      Iraq: The changing face of Baghdad’s historic neighbourhoods

                                      Concrete skeletons now punctuate a skyline previously peppered with palm trees as flats gradually usurp old homes.

                                      by 08 Sep 2020 16:23 GMT

                                        Apartments are popping up despite regulations only allowing single-family dwellings, while erasing part of Baghdad’s architectural heritage [Haider Hamdani/Al Jazeera]

                                        Baghdad, Iraq – A relentless cacophony of construction noise rings out across Harthiya, heralding the unstoppable encroachment of a growing megacity on this once quiet neighbourhood of central Baghdad. 

                                        Concrete skeletons punctuate a skyline previously peppered with palm trees, as apartment blocks gradually usurp sprawling one-family homes.

                                        When newlyweds Hind Jameel and Waleed Ahmed first moved to Harthiya in the 1970s, their quaint bungalow encapsulated Baghdad’s look at the time: sand-coloured brick buildings with arched walkways surrounded by lush, spacious gardens. Inside, wood-clad walls, hand-painted mirrors and antique furniture transplant visitors back to a time many remember as Baghdad’s golden era.

                                        Half a century later, the elderly couple’s home is among a few of its kind left in a neighbourhood they barely recognise.

                                        “Before, every house had a garden. Now, it’s all concrete,” lamented Ahmed, 82, who used to work for the ministry of trade prior to his retirement. “Everyone is building new houses with fascinating things, but the area is becoming worse.”


                                        Aysser al-Ameri stands in a house he recently purchased in Baghdad’s old Shewake neighbourhood. It features old Baghdadi architectural designs, including an inner courtyard and wooden balcony called, ‘shanasheel’. Al-Ameri plans to demolish the house to build a new one [Haider Hamdani/Al Jazeera] 

                                        Harthiya, like much of Baghdad, has been irreparably altered amid a post-2003 construction boom that has gone largely unregulated. Driven by commercial interests and enabled by a dysfunctional state, it has gradually chipped away at Baghdad’s architectural heritage and upended the city’s urban fabric.

                                        Instead of expanding outward, the city is cannibalising its old districts. 

                                        Eight-hundred-square-metre plots have been carved up to accommodate multiple homes, with concrete swallowing every inch of greenery to make space for additional housing. Traditional building techniques suited for Baghdad’s hot climate have been replaced with cheaper and glitzier designs.

                                        High walls equipped with cameras loom where low fences once conveyed a sense of familiarity. On Al Kindi street, the avenue that cuts through the neighbourhood, residential homes have long given way to multistorey clinics, medical supply stores, and malls. 

                                        The rapid rise in population density risks making the area unlivable in a city that already ranks rock-bottom on Mercer’s quality of life index. In the afternoons, Harthiya’s narrow streets are clogged with traffic. Water is running low, and during sweltering summer days, heat radiates from the concrete long after sunset, as there is no longer enough greenery left to absorb it.

                                        “It makes me very sad,” said Jameel, 79, who used to work for an insurance company. “Everything was better in the past. Not just the buildings and streets, also the social life.”


                                        Baghdad’s Harhtiya neighbourhood, nestled alongside Zawra park, used to be a quiet area with spacious one-family homes. Like the rest of Baghdad, it has been substantially altered by a post-2003 construction boom that has gone largely unregulated [Haider Hamdani/Al Jazeera]

                                        Back in the ’70s, Jameel recalled, Harthiya was mostly inhabited by university graduates and civil servants, who were granted access to subsidised plots. She knew most of her neighbours, and they often spent evenings visiting one another.

                                        But the tightly knit community began to unravel as conflicts, and then sanctions, engulfed Iraq, prompting many educated families to leave the country.

                                        Ihsan Fethi, an architect and urban planner, whose PhD from The University of Sheffield focused on the preservation of old Baghdad, was among them.

                                        “Baghdad is losing its identity. The whole city is in a terrible state of decay,” he told Al Jazeera, speaking over the phone from Jordan.

                                        Fethi used to live in Harthiya, but left after the UN imposed a crippling embargo against Saddam Hussein’s government in 1991. Fethi’s family home, built in 1954, was sold and torn down, the plot carved up to accommodate four houses instead of one.

                                        It is a pattern that has been repeated across Baghdad with new structures frequently violating building codes that dictate minimum plot size, the maximum number of floors, and the percent of built-up area.

                                        “It’s all illegal,” said Fethi, who used to work in the municipality in the 1980s. “The real estate developers are controlling what’s going on the ground, not the municipality.”


                                        Women walk past a traditional house in Baghdad’s Shewake neighbourhood. Many of the buildings have collapsed due to neglect, while others have been demolished to make way for new structures [Haider Hamdani/Al Jazeera] 

                                        Fines for building violations are too small to serve as an effective deterrent when compared to soaring real estate prices. But the main culprit, many experts agree, is corruption, which skyrocketed in the wake of the 2003 US-led invasion as political parties tightened their grip over state institutions.

                                        “Everybody in the municipality, from the most junior to the most senior, is corrupt,” Fethi said. “And you cannot enforce laws with corruption.”

                                        Given the widespread nature of infractions, the municipality should be raking in substantial revenues from penalties, resources it desperately needs to fund maintenance of Baghdad’s dilapidated public infrastructure.

                                        The municipality section in charge of Harthiya declined to speak to Al Jazeera. But a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity said only a small fraction of revenues from building penalties reaches state coffers.

                                        A real estate agent who deals with the office on a daily basis to facilitate transactions for his clients shed light on its inner workings.

                                        Every day, he explained, municipality workers make their rounds to monitor construction sites. When they notice irregularities – for example, a building with an extra floor – a deal is struck with the builder.

                                        The municipality workers pocket a bribe and, in turn, reduce the official penalty to a symbolic value. The builder pays the fine and gets a receipt, which allows him to continue building.

                                        The scheme has permeated the entire municipality, the real estate agent alleged, with each department taking a cut. 

                                        “The problem goes to the very top. Whoever was appointed by the parties has to pay their dues,” the real estate agent said, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “There are some good people, but they can’t say anything because of the power of the parties that control the municipality.” 


                                        Qabs Kana’an and his children walk through Iraq Gate in central Baghdad. His family moved here in 2019 from Baghdad’s Wazirya neighbourhood because of better services [Haider Hamdani/Al Jazeera] 

                                        Old Baghdad disappearing

                                        This is not the first time Baghdad has undergone a rapid architectural change. Repeated cycles of destruction and reconstruction have left little of its ancient heritage intact.

                                        The city was established in 762 as the capital of the Abbasid caliphate, but the oldest house still standing dates back less than 250 years. In the 19th century, Ottoman rulers destroyed the Abbasid-era city walls to make room for wider streets, precipitating the destruction of the old city that had lain within. 

                                        An influx of rural populations in the mid-20th century further accelerated demolition of traditional Baghdadi homes.

                                        “The new occupants of the old city had absolutely no understanding of the value of the architectural heritage of those old parts,” Fethi said.

                                        Though poor conservation policies and lack of law enforcement are largely to blame for the disappearance of heritage buildings, intermittent conflict added to the destruction. A 1980s survey commissioned by the municipality counted 4,100 heritage houses in several old districts on the eastern bank of the Tigris River. Today, only about 900 are left. 

                                        “It brings me to tears,” said Amal Hafudh, whose unit at Baghdad’s central municipality is supposed to regulate reconstruction of heritage buildings, but which she said lacks the necessary authority and means.

                                        More than 90 percent of heritage buildings in Baghdad are in the hands of private individuals, who have few incentives to maintain them.

                                        “The owners want money, but we don’t have the budget to buy their houses,” Hafudh lamented.

                                        Many end up destroying their old homes without demolition permits to then present the municipality with a fait accompli.

                                        “They open the water for a week, and the house will collapse from inside. Or they’ll set it on fire and claim that it was an electricity spark,” Hafudh told Al Jazeera. 


                                        A 1983 study on the conservation of Baghdad’s old Bataween area commissioned by Baghdad municipality took stock of existing heritage and created plans on how to preserve it. The plans were not implemented [Haider Hamdani/Al Jazeera] 

                                        One can still get a taste of what old Baghdad looked like.

                                        In the Shewake neighbourhood on the western banks of the Tigris, narrow alleyways are lined with houses from the early 20th century, complete with fine stone engravings, inner courtyards, and ornamental wooden balconies called, “shanasheel”.

                                        But here, too, modern structures are gradually replacing old ones as homeowners strike a pragmatic approach towards housing.

                                        “There’s no use in renovating,” said Aysser al-Ameri, as he points to the broken shanasheel in a house he recently bought for his son and which he plans to demolish. Ameri’s family has lived here for generations. His father and grandfather both built shanasheel, but he never learned the trade. “The expertise required to restore it back to how our grandfathers used to build no longer exists.”

                                        Restoring old buildings is also more expensive than building a new one from scratch, and the government offers no incentives or expertise. 

                                        “It’s all in the hands of the government,” al-Ameri said. “There are some carpenters who still exists, but they are expensive because it’s all handwork. If the government provided support, then the houses could be restored.”


                                        Iraq Gate is a flagship residential real estate development in central Baghdad. The project includes 49 buildings with 5,160 apartments. It will also feature a hospital, school, a police station and its own sewage treatment plant [Haider Hamdani/Al Jazeera]

                                        Further north along the Tigris, another jewel of old Baghdadi architecture is at risk of vanishing. Kadhumiya, named after the seventh Imam buried here, houses his eponymous shrine that draws millions of pilgrims every year. 

                                        The area surrounding the shrine has been designated as a historic area, subject to special building regulations that prohibit demolition of old buildings and that require new houses to have a historic facade to preserve the area’s look. 

                                        But walking through Kadhumiya’s packed streets, historic buildings are few and far between. Instead, newly built shops and hotels hoping to take advantage of the high footprint now dominate the main arteries leading up to the shrine.

                                        The head of Kadhumiya municipality said building violations only occurred during the years immediately following the 2003 invasion, when the country reeled from violence and chaos. But Al Jazeera saw several recently completed structures that broke the law.

                                        Amal Hafudh at the heritage department complained the local municipality in Kadhumiya was not enforcing the heritage department’s directives. 

                                        “They build, then the local municipality workers come, the builder pays and they continue,” she said. 


                                        Riyadh Jamil, project manager at Iraq Gate, looks out onto the construction site. So far six of the 49 buildings have been completed [Haider Hamdani/Al Jazeera] 

                                        ‘Sign of development’ 

                                        As the population of Iraq’s capital approaches 10 million, the demand for modern housing has become more urgent.

                                        Overlooking Zawra park and Harthiya, Iraq Gate is Baghdad’s flagship real estate project. Developed by Iraqi company Almco Group, the apartment complex features 49 buildings, a hospital, and an international school, catering to an embattled middle class that yearns for stability and better quality of life. 

                                        The slick sales office is packed with potential buyers poring over layouts of apartments with standards rarely found in Baghdad: built-in air conditioners, double-glass windows, fireproof doors, and marble from Italy.

                                        “We need these buildings in Baghdad. It’s a sign of development,” said project manager Riyadh Jamil. Because Jamil sourced materials in bulk from abroad, circumventing expensive middlemen in Iraq, the apartments sell at a competitive price compared to nearby, upper-middle-class neighbourhoods.

                                        But for all its prospects, Iraq Gate exemplifies the crippling effect of a mismanaged bureaucracy that has failed to plan for Baghdad’s development.


                                        Waleed Ahmed looks out on his garden at his 1970s home in Baghdad’s Harthiya neighbourhood. Few of the new buildings include gardens, which are important to absorb the heat during sweltering summer days [Haider Hamdani/Al Jazeera]

                                        The project was postponed for over five years because the army would not vacate the land allocated by the Ministry of Finance. Bureaucratic hurdles delayed it further.

                                        “The hardest part was Baghdad municipality,” said Namir Al Akabi, the chairman of Almco Group. “From the mayor down to the general directors are all politically appointed. When they are appointed politically, they are just not qualified. And their loyalty is to the party rather than to Baghdad or the municipality.”

                                        The mayor of Baghdad, Thikra Alwash, declined to be interviewed for this article.

                                        Even as the project provides much-needed housing, its central location raises concerns over sustainability. Once complete, the 5,160 apartments will add an estimated 25,000 residents to an already congested area, increasing pressure on the city’s public electricity, water and sewage infrastructure.

                                        “The infrastructure outside the project is the government’s job,” Akabi said. “But I’m having to do the outside infrastructure on my own account.” Almco paid for the rehabilitation of a major sewage line that connects to Iraq Gate, Akabi said, but it was not clear whether that would be enough to sustain the drastic increase in population density.


                                        An old building featuring stone engravings and an ornate wooden balcony (shanasheel) in Baghdad’s Shewake district. This is one of the few historic buildings owned by the government [Haider Hamdani/Al Jazeera] 

                                        “It will be crowded,” acknowledged Qabs Kana’an, who moved here from Baghdad’s Waziriya neighbourhood in 2019. But the benefit of 24-hour electricity, a sense of security and recreational areas for the children outweighed those concerns. “There is no comparison to my old neighbourhood,” he said.

                                        Asked whether he thought these high rise buildings were the future of Baghdad, the 41-year-old replied: “It’s the reality. The old areas like Harthiya are finished, it’s all stores now.” 

                                        It is a reality that is also beginning to dawn on Hind Jameel and Waleed Ahmed, the elderly couple from Harthiya. 

                                        They have given up hope that their three adult sons who live abroad will eventually return to Iraq. The house next door, which the couple built in the 1980s for their eldest son, is being sold. Even before the transaction was complete, the buyer demolished the old wooden stairs inside and built up a large part of the garden.

                                        At least for now, the couple’s own house remains a well-guarded vestige, one that bears witness to how much the city has changed.  

                                        “I will never sell. This is my home,” Jameel said. “If there’s no home, there can be no homeland.”


                                        Hind Jameel holds up an old family photo inside her house in Baghdad’s Harthiya neighbourhood. All of her three adult sons have left Iraq [Haider Hamdani/Al Jazeera]

                                        First COVID-19 cases confirmed in Jordan camp for Syrian refugees

                                        First COVID-19 cases confirmed in Jordan camp for Syrian refugees

                                        People who were in contact with the two infected refugees are being tested and isolated, according to the UNHCR.

                                        08 Sep 2020 15:54 GMT

                                          Palestinian refugees wait in front of the Amman New Camp health centre to register their names to get medication amid concerns over the spread of coronavirus in Amman [File: Muhammad Hamed/Reuters]

                                          The UN refugee agency said on Tuesday it confirmed two coronavirus cases in the Azraq camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan, which is home to more than 40,000 people who have fled their country’s civil war.

                                          They are the first infections to be detected among Syrians living in refugee camps in Jordan. The UNHCR said the two patients were transferred to quarantine facilities after testing positive late Monday, and their neighbours have been isolated as more testing is carried out.

                                          “It is a reminder that everyone has been affected by this epidemic, and solutions must be addressed through international solidarity and cooperation,” UNHCR said in a statement.

                                          UNHCR spokesman Mohammad Hawari said the two patients were transferred to an isolation centre on the Dead Sea. Those who were living with them, as well as their neighbours, were moved to an “isolation zone” inside the camp, and everyone who had contact with them is being tested.

                                          Hawari added the camp hospital has 14 beds designated for patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. But he said officials are concerned the virus could easily spread among the crowded population.

                                          Testing has already been carried out for all individuals they were in contact with and isolation procedures implemented. We await the results and continue to closely monitor the situation. (3/3)

                                          — UNHCRJordan (@UNHCRJordan) September 8, 2020

                                          Azraq is home to about 40,000 Syrian refugees, while the larger Zaatari camp in Jordan houses around 80,000. Jordan hosts a total of more than 650,000 Syrian refugees, most of whom live outside of camps. At least four Syrian refugees living outside the camps in Jordan have tested positive, with three of them recovering.

                                          To date, the kingdom has reported 2,478 coronavirus cases and 17 related deaths.

                                          More than 5.5 million Syrians have fled the country since the war broke out in 2011, with most settling in neighbouring countries where they often live in close quarters and struggle to make ends meet. Coronavirus lockdowns have taken a heavy toll on the region’s economies, making it even harder for refugees to find work.

                                          Experts and aid agencies have warned of potentially catastrophic outbreaks in the world’s refugee camps, where sanitation is often poor and social distancing is nearly impossible.

                                          More than 70 million people worldwide have fled their homes because of war and unrest, and up to 10 million live in refugee camps and informal settlements.

                                          NewsFeed

                                          Syrian refugees grow crops in old mattresses

                                          Trump administration replaces Obama-era racial segregation rule

                                          Trump administration replaces Obama-era racial segregation rule

                                          President Trump says the rollback of the rule, which forced cities to report on housing discrimination in their communities, is to give local governments more freedom from federal regulations.

                                          08 Sep 2020 14:05 GMT

                                            Effective from Tuesday, the Trump administration is replacing an Obama-era rule that sought to end racial segregation and discrimination in American housing.

                                            President Trump says the rollback of the rule, which forced cities to report on housing discrimination in their communities, is to give local governments more freedom from federal regulations.

                                            But the move also fits neatly into Trump’s campaign strategy that ties race to the safety of suburban communities.

                                            Al Jazeera’s Heidi Zhou-Castro has the story.

                                            In new Brexit turmoil, UK may break law in ‘limited way’

                                            In new Brexit turmoil, UK may break law in ‘limited way’

                                            Brexit talks threatened amid reports UK attempting to renege on divorce terms as head of gov’t’s legal department quits.

                                            08 Sep 2020 13:53 GMT

                                              The UK says the EU has failed to understand it is now independent – especially when it comes to fishing and state aid [File: Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters]

                                              The United Kingdom headed into a fresh round of Brexit trade talks acknowledging it could break international law but only in a “limited way” after reports it may undercut its divorce treaty with the European Union.

                                              As the pound fell sharply on Tuesday on fears of a no-deal exit, the government’s legal department head, Jonathan Jones, quit in disagreement with a plan to overwrite parts of the Withdrawal Agreement treaty signed in January.

                                              The UK left the European Union on January 31 but talks on new trade terms have made little headway as the clock ticks down to an October 15 deadline, and then the end of the status-quo transition arrangement in late December.

                                              As diplomats gauged whether Johnson was blustering or serious about allowing a tumultuous finale to the four-year saga, the UK insisted it would abide by the treaty.

                                              Asked if anything in the proposed legislation potentially breached international legal obligations or arrangements, Northern Ireland minister Brandon Lewis said, “Yes, this does break international law in a very specific and limited way.”

                                              “We are taking the powers to disapply the EU law concept of direct effect required by Article 4 in a certain, very tightly defined circumstance,” he told Parliament.

                                              He added that the government supported the Northern Ireland protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement and there was “clear precedence” for what the UK was planning.


                                              European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, right, and the British prime minister’s Europe adviser, David Frost [File: Yves Herman, Pool Photo via AP]

                                              Amid warnings from the EU that if it reneged on the divorce deal there would be no agreement governing the roughly $1 trillion annual trade, former Prime Minister Theresa May said the government risked serious damage to its international image.

                                              “The government is now changing the operation of that agreement,” May, who resigned after her own Brexit deal was repeatedly rejected, told Parliament.

                                              “Given that, how can the government reassure future international partners that the UK can be trusted to abide by the legal obligations of the agreements it signs?” May asked.

                                              The Financial Times said the government’s “very unhappy” legal head Jones walked out in protest against the possible plan to undercut the withdrawal agreement in relation to the protocol for British-ruled Northern Ireland.

                                              The prospect of a messy divorce between the EU’s $16 trillion and the UK’s $3 trillion economies pushed sterling to two-week lows with traders betting there was more volatility to come.

                                              “We need to see more realism from the EU about our status as an independent country,” said David Frost, the UK’s top Brexit negotiator, adding that the UK was ramping up no-deal preparations.

                                              The latest round of negotiations in London are likely to be tough: the UK said the EU has failed to understand it is now independent – especially when it comes to fishing and state aid.

                                              The EU, weary of wrangling, said it needs specifics from London and that the UK cannot make its own rules and have preferential access to its markets.

                                              “A disorderly Brexit would not be good for Europe, it would be a real disaster for Britain and its citizens,” German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told Reuters.

                                              British officials say they can make do with an Australia-style arrangement. Australia is negotiating a free trade deal with the EU to improve its market access, but for now, largely trades with the bloc on World Trade Organization terms.