De Villiers set to miss Big Bash due to Covid-19 and family issues

News Network
October 27, 2020

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Dubai, Oct 27: The versatile AB de Villiers has decided to skip the Big Bash League (BBL) this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the upcoming birth of his third child but is open to return in future due to "unfinished business" at Brisbane Heat.

The two factors prompted the former South African skipper to pull out of the T20 league. The 36-year-old is currently playing in the Indian Premier League for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the UAE.

"We are expecting our latest child very soon and with a young, growing family, and the uncertainty around travel and conditions due to Covid-19, we reluctantly decided it wasn't going to be this season," de Villiers said in a statement.

"The Heat were great to us last season and I am very open to returning to the club in future. The team didn't get the results we were hoping for and I consider there is some unfinished business to deal with."

De Villiers signed a contract with the BBL franchise last season and scored 146 runs at an average of 24.33.

The seasoned campaigner has been in fine form in the ongoing IPL, having amassed 324 runs at an average of 54.

Brisbane Heats head coach said the team was keen to have de Villiers' service in the upcoming season.

The Big Bash League is scheduled to start on December 3 with a clash between Adelaide Strikers and Melbourne Renegades.

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Agencies
November 19,2020

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New Delhi, Nov 19: A parliamentary committee questioned Twitter on Thursday over the recent "obscene" tweets by stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra targeting the Supreme Court and the chief justice of India (CJI), and sought reply from the social media giant over the matter within seven days, said the panel's chairperson Meenakshi Lekhi.

This came close on the heels of Twitter apologising in writing to the same parliamentary panel for wrongly showing Ladakh in China and promising to correct the error by the month-end.

Twitter India representatives deposed before the Joint Committee of Parliament on Data Protection Bill on Thursday.

"It is shameful that Twitter is allowing its platform for obscene remarks like the one by stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra against the Supreme Court and the CJI," Lekhi told reporters here.

"Twitter is allowing its platform to be misused for abusing top constitutional authorities, such as Supreme Court and CJI."

She said members of the committee across political spectrum, including Congress MP Vivek Tankha, BSP MP Ritesh Pandey and BJD MP Bhatruhari Mahtab, grilled Twitter representatives on this issue.

Lekhi also said that explanation of Twitter about banning handles and tweets was found to be inadequate.

Meanwhile, Kamra has refused to retract his controversial tweets against the Supreme Court or apologise for them, saying he believes they "speak for themselves".

Earlier, Attorney General K K Venugopal consented to the initiation of criminal contempt proceedings against him for a series of tweets following the apex court giving interim bail to Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami.

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Agencies
November 28,2020

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High-ranking Iranian nuclear physicist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, named by the West as leading the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear programme until its disbanding in the early 2000s, has been assassinated in an ambush near Tehran.

Fakhrizadeh was shot “by terrorists” in his vehicle in Absard, a suburb in eastern Tehran, and he later succumbed to his injuries in what amounted to a “martyr’s death”, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

Local authorities had confirmed Fakhrizadeh’s death several hours earlier and also said that several attackers were killed.

Fakhrizadeh served as the head of the Research and Innovation Organisation of the defence ministry at the time of his death.

Iran’s foreign minister alleged the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh bore “serious indications” of an Israeli role, but did not elaborate.

Israel declined to immediately comment on the killing of Fakhrizadeh, whom Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once called out in a news conference saying: “Remember that name.”

Israel has long been suspected of carrying out a series of targeted killings of Iranian nuclear scientists nearly 10 years ago.

Photos and video shared online showed a Nissan sedan with bullet holes through windshield and blood pooled on the road.

The semiofficial Fars News Agency said witnesses heard the sound of an explosion and then machine gun fire. The attack targeted the car Fakhrizadeh was travelling in, the agency said.

Those wounded, including Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguards, were taken to a local hospital, the agency said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Al Jazeera’s Assed Baig, reporting from Tehran, said that according to Fars News Agency, Fakhrizadeh “came under attack by three-four unknown assailants”.

“They also say three-four people were killed in that incident,” Baig said.

“We have had the head of the Revolutionary Guard say that assassinating nuclear scientists is an attempt by hegemonic powers to stop Iran from gaining new sciences.”

‘Serious indications’ of Israeli role

Iran’s foreign minister called on the international community to condemn “this act of state terror”.

“Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice – with serious indications of Israeli role – shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators,” Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter on Friday.

In a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the UN Security Council on Friday, Iran also said there are “serious indications of Israeli responsibility” in the attack and said it reserves the right to defend itself.

“Warning against any adventuristic measures by the United States and Israel against my country, particularly during the remaining period of the current administration of the United States in office, the Islamic Republic of Iran reserves its rights to take all necessary measures to defend its people and secure its interests,” Iran’s UN envoy, Majid Takht Ravanchi, wrote in the letter, which was seen by Reuters news agency.

Fakhrizadeh, 63, had been a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and was an expert in missile production. Fars said that is why Israeli secret services had long sought to eliminate him for many years.

A military adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused Israel of killing Fakhrizadeh to try to provoke a war.

“In the last days of the political life of their … ally [US President Donald Trump], the Zionists (Israel) seek to intensify pressure on Iran and create a full-blown war,” commander Hossein Dehghan tweeted.

He said Fakhrizadeh’s work will continue to be a “nightmare” for Iran’s enemies.

Fakhrizadeh was one of “the people who are fighting without any claims behind the scenes of political battles and achieved martyrdom in this path”, Dehghan tweeted.

The US Pentagon declined to comment on reports of the attack.

‘More detrimental to Iran’s antagonists’

Mohammad Marandi, a professor at the University of Tehran, told Al Jazeera that the assassination “is going to make Iranians more assertive when it comes to dealing with its antagonists” and that it was too late for hostile entities to do anything about Iran’s nuclear programme.

“Fifty years ago, if they carried out this attack it would’ve had an impact. But now Iran’s nuclear programme is developed, it’s highly diverse. It has many young scientists and these murders will be more detrimental to Iran’s antagonists, I believe, than Iran,” Marandi said.

“[Fakharizadeh] was one of the first generation of people in Iran who helped develop nuclear technology.”

Fakhrizadeh led Iran’s so-called Amad (Hope) programme. Israel and the West have alleged it was a military operation looking at the feasibility of building a nuclear weapon in Iran. Tehran has long maintained its nuclear programme is peaceful.

The International Atomic Energy Agency says the Amad programme ended in the early 2000s. Its inspectors now monitor Iranian nuclear sites.

The assassination comes as Trump, who has been fervently backed by Israel in his “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran, is slated to leave office in less than two months after losing the presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden.

In recent weeks, multiple reports by American media have said, citing unnamed sources, that Trump has been seriously considering a military attack on Iran, even on its main nuclear site in Natanz.

In May 2018, Trump unilaterally withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and imposed harsh economic sanctions that have only escalated since.

In the first European reaction to Fakhrizadeh’s assassination, Carl Bildt, co-chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations, said the attack may be related to Biden’s promise to return to the nuclear deal.

“It’s not unlikely that this targeted killing was part of efforts to prevent the Biden administration from reviving diplomacy with Iran and going back to the nuclear agreement,” he tweeted.

In the past year, the Trump administration has also tried to make it harder for a Biden administration to come back to the nuclear accord through retargeting Iranian entities and individuals that were already sanctioned with new terrorism-related designations.

Friday’s assassination marks the second high-profile targeted killing of a top Iranian official after IRGC Quds Force chief General Qassem Soleimani’s killing in a US air strike in January this year.

Hillary Mann Leverett, founder of political consultancy group Stratega, said while the killing was not as “shocking” as that of Soleimani’s assassination, it was still “very disturbing”.

“It is certainly one of the most high-level assassinations we have seen in the past year,” she told Al Jazeera over Skype from Mclean, Virginia.

“I think it is intended to stoke tensions particularly in this interim period between the current administration and the Biden administration.”

“The Trump administration have openly said that they will exert what they call ‘maximum pressure’ in its most maximum essence between now and when they have to leave office on January 20,” Leverett said.

Iran has previously called the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” strategy an instance of “economic and medical terrorism”.

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Agencies
November 22,2020

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Washington, Nov 23: The overall number of global coronavirus cases has topped 58.5 million, while the deaths have surged to more than 1.38 million, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

In its latest update on Monday, the University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed that the current global caseload and death toll stood at 58,542,174 and 1,386,454, respectively.

The US is the worst-hit country with the world's highest number of cases and deaths at 12,226,643 and 256,741, respectively, according to the CSSE.

India comes in second place in terms of cases at 9,095,806, while the country's death toll soared to 133,227.

The other countries with more than a million confirmed cases are Brazil (6,071,401), France (2,191,180), Russia (2,071,858), Spain (1,556,730), the UK (1,515,802), Argentina (1,370,366), Italy (1,408,868), Colombia (1,248,417) and Mexico (1,025,969), the CSSE figures showed.

Brazil currently accounts for the second highest number of fatalities at 169,183.

The countries with a death toll above 20,000 are Mexico (100,823), the UK (55,120), Italy (49,823), France (48,807), Iran (44,802), Spain (42,619), Argentina (37,002), Russia (35,838), Peru (35,549), Colombia (35,287) and South Africa (20,903).

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