EU Council condemns military coup in Myanmar, ready to impose sanctions

Agencies
February 22, 2021

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Brussels, Feb 22: The European Union (EU) has strongly condemned the military coup in Myanmar and is considering sanctions against the individuals responsible for ousting the country's civilian government, the EU Council said on Monday.

"The European Union calls for de-escalation of the current crisis through an immediate end to the state of emergency, the restoration of the legitimate civilian government and the opening of the newly elected parliament," the Council said in a statement published on its website.

The council called for the results of the democratic elections held on November 9, last year to be respected and demanded that the military must renounce its action.
The European Union is "deeply concerned about reports of intimidation". Strong engagement with civil society and support for human rights defenders and journalists will remain a key priority, the council said.

The EU Council also added that it was ready to impose sanctions against the individuals responsible for the military coup.

"In response to the military coup, the European Union stands ready to adopt restrictive measures targeting those directly responsible. All other tools at the disposal of the European Union and its Member States will be kept under review. The European Union will seek to avoid measures which could adversely affect the people of Myanmar/Burma, especially the most vulnerable. The Council invites the High Representative and the European Commission to develop appropriate proposals in this regard," the Council's statement read further.

The Council also said that the bloc will continue to provide humanitarian assistance, in accordance with the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, to refugees and displaced persons in Myanmar/Burma and the region, including the Rohingya, in line with its longstanding engagement and its pledges during the International Rohingya Donor Conference that it co-chaired on 22 October 2020.

"In this context, the EU repeats its call for free and unhindered humanitarian access and stands ready to step up its humanitarian assistance for all needs, if required. The Council reiterates the need to address the root causes of the crisis in Rakhine State and to create conditions necessary for the safe, voluntary, sustainable and dignified return of refugees and displaced persons, in accordance with international standards," the council added.

On February 1, Myanmar's military seized power, announcing a one-year state of emergency and vowing to take action against alleged voter fraud during the November 8 general election, which was won by Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party.
The military said it was committed to the democratic system and vowed to hold new and fair elections after the state of emergency ended. 

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Agencies
February 22,2021

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Veracruz, Feb 22: Six members of Mexico's military were killed when the plane they were in crashed in the southeastern state of Veracruz.

A statement from Mexico's Secretary of Defence on Sunday said the accident took place in the morning when the air force's Learjet 45 was taking off from the airport in the city of Xalapa.

The statement did not say what caused the crashed or how many people were on board the plane. But it said that six members of the military were killed and an investigation was underway.

Local media reported that the plane left and runway and burst into flames.

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Agencies
February 13,2021

Image result for WHO open to all hypotheses on coronavirus origins: Tedros

Geneva, Feb 13: The World Health Organization's (WHO) team probing coronavirus origins, which is on a visit to China's Wuhan, the first Covid-19 hotspot, will publish a preliminary report next week, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Friday.

The WHO chief said the Wuhan visit has been an important scientific exercise, adding that they are open to all hypotheses and require further analysis and studies.

Addressing a press briefing, Tedros told reporters, "Some questions have been raised as to whether some hypotheses have been discarded. Having spoken with some members of the team, I wish to confirm that all hypotheses remain open and require further analysis and studies."

"This has been a very important scientific exercise in very difficult circumstances. The expert team is working on a summary report which we hope will be published next week, and the full final report will be published in the coming weeks," he added.

Moreover, the WHO chief stated the expert team would not find all the answers, but the mission achieved a better understanding of the early days of the pandemic.

"We have also said that this mission would not find all the answers, but it has added important information that takes us closer to understanding the origins of the virus. The mission achieved a better understanding of the early days of the pandemic and identified areas for further analysis and research," he said.

Following a 12-day visit to China to probe the origins of COVID-19 in Wuhan, a WHO team, earlier this week, dismissed the theory of a 'lab leak' of the virus.

According to Washington Post, Peter Ben Embarek, the Danish WHO food safety expert leading the international team, had said his group will not recommend further investigation into the theory that the virus accidentally leaked from labs conducting coronavirus research.

Meanwhile, the US has expressed a desire to scrutinize data used by the WHO team, which concluded that the virus causing COVID-19 did not originate in a laboratory in Wuhan.

According to Johns Hopkins University, 108,172,346 COVID-19 cases have been recorded globally and 2,382,336 deaths. The United States continues to the worst affected country by the pandemic with over 27,489,619 cases.

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February 23,2021

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San Francisco, Feb 23: Boeing has recommended that airlines ground all 777s with the type of engine that blew apart after takeoff from Denver this past weekend, and most carriers that fly those planes said they would temporarily pull them from service.

The US Federal Aviation Administration ordered United Airlines to step up inspections of the aircraft after one of its flights made an emergency landing at Denver International Airport on Saturday as pieces of the engine's casing rained on suburban neighbourhoods.

None of the 231 passengers or 10 crew were hurt, and the flight landed safely, authorities said.

United is among the carriers that has grounded the planes.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson identified the focus on the stepped-up inspections as hollow fan blades unique to the Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engine model and used solely on Boeing 777s.

Dickson's statement said the conclusion was based on an initial review of safety data and would likely mean grounding some planes.

Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said during a virtual news conference Monday night that a fractured fan blade found in the engine had visible signs of damage consistent with metal fatigue.

The broken blade hit and fractured the blade next to it as the engine broke apart, according to a preliminary investigation.

Sumwalt said the blade that fractured first was being flown on a private jet to Pratt & Whitney's headquarters Monday night to be examined under the supervision of NTSB investigators.

Our mission is to understand not only what happened, but why it happened, so that we can keep it from happening again, he said.

Boeing said there were 69 777s with the Pratt & Whitney 4000-112 engines in service and another 59 in storage and affirmed they should be grounded until the FAA sets up an inspection regime.

United had 24 of the planes in service; it is the only US airline with the engine in its fleet, according to the FAA.

Two Japanese airlines have another 32. Japan ordered the planes out of service, according to the financial newspaper Nikkei, while noting that an engine in the same family had trouble in December.

In South Korea, Asiana Airlines grounded nine, seven of which were in service, and Korean Air said it grounded 16 aircraft, six of which are in service.

We are working with these regulators as they take actions while these planes are on the ground and further inspections are conducted by Pratt & Whitney," Boeing said in a statement, referring to American and Japanese regulators.

The engine maker said it was sending a team to work with investigators.

The emergency landing this past weekend is the latest trouble for Boeing, which saw its 737 Max planes grounded for more than a year after two deadly crashes in 2019 and is suffering amid the huge reduction in air travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Max planes began returning to the skies late last year a huge boost for the aircraft maker, which lost billions during the grounding because it has been unable to deliver new planes to customers.

Video posted on Twitter from Saturday's emergency showed the engine fully engulfed in flames as the plane flew.

Freeze frames from different video taken by a passenger sitting slightly in front of the engine and also posted on Twitter appeared to show a broken fan blade in the engine.

Passengers, who were headed to Honolulu, said they feared the plane would crash after an explosion and flash of light, while people on the ground saw huge chunks of the aircraft pour down, just missing one home and crushing a truck. The explosion, visible from the ground, left a trail of black smoke in the sky.

United says it will work closely with the FAA and the NTSB to determine any additional steps that are needed to ensure these aircraft meet our rigorous safety standards and can return to service.

The NTSB said the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder were transported to its lab in Washington so the data can be analyzed. NTSB investigations can take up to a year or longer, although in major cases the agency generally releases some investigative material midway through the process.

Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism said an engine in the PW4000 family suffered trouble on a Japan Airlines 777 flying to Tokyo from Naha on December 4.

The airline has said the plane had engine trouble after takeoff and returned to Naha. An inspection showed damage to the engine case and missing fan blades, according to the airline. Stricter inspections were ordered in response.

Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways will stop operating a combined 32 planes with that engine, Nikkei reported.

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