Myanmar forces disperse rallies with 3 reported dead in anti-coup crackdown

Agencies
February 28, 2021

Myanmar forces disperse rallies with 3 reported dead in anti-coup crackdown

Yangon, Feb 28: Myanmar security forces violently dispersed anti-coup rallies around the country on Sunday, with reports of at least three protesters killed in the crackdown.

The junta has ratcheted up its use of force over the weekend against the massive street movement demanding it yield power and release ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Police and soldiers had already fired rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon on demonstrations in recent weeks in an effort to bring the civil disobedience campaign to heel, with live rounds used in some isolated cases.

Large numbers were again mobilised on Sunday morning to scatter building crowds in several parts of the country that had gathered in response to online calls for protesters to once again flood the streets.

Three men were killed and at least 20 others injured when security forces moved on a rally in the southern coastal hub of Dawei, according to a volunteer medic and local media reports.

Pyae Zaw Hein, a rescue worker, told AFP the trio had been "shot dead with live rounds", while the injured had been hit by rubber bullets.

"There could be many more casualties as well because more wounded people keep coming in," he added.

Local media outlet Dawei Watch confirmed that three had died in the incident.

Officers in the commercial hub Yangon began dispersing one crowd in the downtown area minutes before the slated beginning of the day's protest, but it was unclear whether they used live rounds.

"Police started shooting just as we arrived," said Amy Kyaw, a 29-year-old primary school teacher in a downtown Yangon neighbourhood.

"They didn't say a word of warning. Some got injured and some teachers are still hiding in neighbours' houses."

Live broadcasts on social media showed security forces using tear gas to clear some crowds in Yangon as well as water cannon further north in Mandalay, the country's cultural capital.

Since the military takeover on February 1, Myanmar has been roiled by giant demonstrations and a civil disobedience campaign encouraging civil servants to walk off the job.

Sunday's crackdown followed a similar wave of violent action against angry but largely peaceful anti-coup rallies around the country a day earlier.

Several journalists documenting Saturday's assaults by security forces were detained, including a photographer from the Associated Press in Yangon.

Near the city's main university, police fired several stun grenades to clear a crowd at a protest hotspot.

More than 850 people have been arrested, charged or sentenced since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group.

But the weekend crackdown was expected to raise that number dramatically, with state newspapers reporting 479 arrests on Saturday alone.

International condemnation of the coup has been fierce, with the United States, the European Union and other major powers denouncing violence against protesters and demanding the junta relinquish power.

Suu Kyi has not been seen in public since she was taken into custody during pre-dawn raids in the capital Naypyidaw as the coup was launched.

She is due to face court there on Monday under obscure charges for possession of unregistered walkie-talkies and violating coronavirus restrictions on public gatherings.

But her lawyer Khin Maung Zaw told AFP he had still been unable to meet with the Nobel laureate ahead of the hearing.

"As a lawyer, I put my trust in the court and... a fair trial," he said. "But in this period of time anything can happen."

State media announced late on Saturday that authorities had terminated the posting of the country's United Nations envoy, who gave an impassioned plea for help on behalf of Myanmar's ousted civilian government.

"We need... the strongest possible action from the international community to immediately end the military," Kyaw Moe Tun had told the General Assembly in New York.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the body had not been told of the diplomat's firing and that Kyaw Moe Tun remained Myanmar's representative for the time being.

At least five people have been killed since the coup -- four of them from injuries sustained at anti-coup demonstrations.

The military has said one police officer has died while attempting to quell a protest.

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Agencies
March 31,2021

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Washington, Mar 31: US President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced his intent to nominate Indian-American Rupa Ranga Puttagunta as a federal judge, among 10 other diverse picks for top judicial positions which include African-American and Muslim American candidates.

Among the presidential nominations, 10 are for Federal Circuit and District Court judge posts, and one is for Superior Court Judge for the District of Columbia.

These highly-qualified candidates reflect the president's deeply-held conviction that the federal bench should reflect the full diversity of the American people - both in background and in professional experience, the White House said.

If confirmed by the US Senate, Judge Puttagunta would be the first Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) woman to serve on the US District Court for the District of DC, the White House said.

Judge Puttagunta currently serves as an Administrative Judge for the D.C. Rental Housing Commission. Prior to joining the Commission in 2019, Judge Puttagunta was a solo practitioner from 2013 to 2019, representing indigent criminal defendants in trial and on appeal.

Before opening her own practice, Judge Puttagunta practised family and appellate law at Delaney McKinney, LLP from 2012 to 2013.

While working on domestic relations matters in private practice, Judge Puttagunta also provided hundreds of hours of pro bono legal services by volunteering at D.C. Superior Court''s Family Court Self-Help Center and Attorney Negotiator Program and representing victims of domestic violence in D.C. Superior Court.

Judge Puttagunta began her legal career as a law clerk for Judge William M. Jackson of the D.C. Superior Court from 2008 to 2010, as well as the Senior Judges of the D.C. Court of Appeals from 2010 to 2011.

Judge Puttagunta received her Juris Doctor degree from Ohio State Moritz College of Law in 2007.

The nominations announced on Tuesday also include three African American women and a Muslim American.

If confirmed by the Senate, Judge Zahid N Quraishi would be the first Muslim American federal judge in US history.

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News Network
March 31,2021

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BioNTech-Pfizer said Wednesday their vaccine showed 100 per cent efficacy against the coronavirus in 12 to 15-year-olds, as they eye approval for adolescents to get the jabs before the next school year.

Phase 3 trials carried out on 2,260 adolescents in the United States "demonstrated 100 per cent efficacy and robust antibody responses", the companies said in a statement.

"We plan to submit these data to (US regulator) FDA as a proposed amendment to our Emergency Use Authorisation in the coming weeks and to other regulators around the world, with the hope of starting to vaccinate this age group before the start of the next school year," said Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla.

Chief executive of German company BioNTech said the results showing high protection for teens were "very encouraging given the trends we have seen in recent weeks regarding the spread of the B.1.1.7 UK variant".

The BioNTech/Pfizer shot is based on novel mRNA technology and was the first Covid-19 vaccine to be approved in the West late last year.

Both the United States and the European Union have approved its use for people aged 16 and above.

Since then, it has been used in millions of adults in more than 65 countries.

A real world study involving 1.2 million people in Israel found it to be 94 per cent effective.

With the world scrambling to inoculate, BioNTech said Tuesday it was on track to manufacture 2.5 billion doses of its vaccine this year.

The higher output was driven by the recent launch of a new production site in the German city of Marburg, which is now one of the world's largest mRNA vaccine manufacturing plants, it said.

The vaccine is also being produced at a Pfizer plant in Belgium and at three sites in the United States.

BioNTech said improved efficiency and new cooperation agreements with outside partners had also helped lift its vaccine target, as had the regulatory nod allowing vaccinators to extract six instead of just five doses from a single BioNTech/Pfizer vial.

BioNTech and Pfizer last week began studies of the jab on children, with the first group of 5 to 11-year-olds getting the vaccine.

A younger cohort of 2 to 5-year-olds are expected to get their first dose next week in the study which will also cover children as young as six months old.

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News Network
April 3,2021

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Cairo, Apr 3: The mummified remains of 22 Egyptian pharaohs, including the most powerful ancient queen, are to be paraded through the streets of Cairo Saturday, in a procession to a new resting place.

Under the watchful eyes of security forces, the mummies will be moved seven kilometres (four miles) across the capital from the iconic Egyptian Museum, where most have resided undisturbed for over a century, to the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation.

Dubbed the Pharaohs' Golden Parade, the 18 kings and four queens will travel in order, oldest first, each aboard a separate float decorated in ancient Egyptian style.

The interior ministry said both pedestrians and vehicles would be barred from Tahrir Square, site of the current museum, and other sections of the parade route, ahead of the 6:00 pm (1600 GMT) start.

"The whole world will be watching," said Egyptian archaeologist and former antiquities minister Zahi Hawass, who will commentate as the event unfolds live on state television.

"This is an important 40 minutes in the life of the city of Cairo."

Seqenenre Tao II, "the Brave", who reigned over southern Egypt some 1,600 years before Christ, will be on the first chariot, while Ramses IX, who reigned in the 12th century BC, will be at the rear.

Ramses II and Queen Hatshepsut, the most powerful female pharaoh, will also make the journey.

Emblazoned with the name of their allotted sovereign, the gold-coloured carriages will be fitted with shock absorbers for the trip, to ensure none of the precious cargos are accidentally disturbed.

Discovered near Luxor from 1881 onwards, most of the mummies have lain in the Egyptian Museum since the early 1900s.

Fascinating new details of the pharaohs' lives are still emerging.

A recent high-tech study of Seqenenre Tao II, involving CT scans and 3D images of his hands and long-studied skull fractures, indicated that he was likely killed in a post-battle execution ceremony.

For their procession through Cairo's streets, the mummies will be in special containers filled with nitrogen, under conditions similar to their regular display cases.

The mummies will be showcased individually at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation, in an environment redolent of underground tombs.

They will be signposted by a brief biography and, in some cases, copies of CT scans.

Upon arrival, they will occupy "slightly upgraded cases," said Salima Ikram, professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo.

"The temperature and humidity control will be even better than it was in the old museum," added Ikram, a mummification specialist.

The mummies' re-housing "marks the end of much work to improve their conservation and exhibition," said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay.

"This raises emotions that go much further than the mere relocation of a collection -- we will see the history of Egyptian civilisation unfold before our eyes," she added.

The National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation was completed in 2010, and Hawass said he had planned to open it in 2012. But the process was delayed by the Arab Spring revolution of 2011 and subsequent turmoil.

The new museum opened its doors to limited exhibits from 2017 and will open fully on Sunday, before the mummies go on display to the general public from April 18.

In the coming months, the country is due to inaugurate another new showcase, the Grand Egyptian Museum, near the Giza pyramids.

It too will house pharaonic collections, including the celebrated treasure of Tutankhamun.

Discovered in 1922, the tomb of the young ruler, who took the throne briefly in the 14th century BC, contained treasures including gold and ivory.

A so-called "curse of the pharaoh" emerged in the wake of Tutankhamun's unearthing in 1922-23.

A key funder of the dig, Lord Carnarvon, died of blood poisoning months after the tomb was opened, while an early visitor likewise died abruptly in 1923.

With the planned parade coming only days after several disasters struck Egypt, some have inevitably speculated on social media about a new curse provoked by the latest move.

Recent days have seen a deadly rail collision and a building collapse in Cairo, while global headlines were dominated by the struggle to refloat the giant container ship MV Ever Given which blocked the Suez Canal for almost a week.

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