Myanmar protest call for general strike draws junta threat

Agencies
February 22, 2021

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Yangon, Feb 22: A call for a Monday general strike by demonstrators in Myanmar protesting the military's seizure of power has been met by the ruling junta with a thinly veiled threat to use lethal force, raising the possibility of major clashes.

The call for a general strike was made Sunday by the Civil Disobedience Movement, a loosely organised group leading resistance to the army's February 1 takeover. It asked people to gather together for the Five Twos referring to the digits in Monday's date to make a Spring Revolution.

State television broadcaster MRTV late Sunday carried a public announcement from the junta, formally called the State Administration Council, warning against the general strike.

It is found that the protesters have raised their incitement towards riot and anarchy mob on the day of 22 February. Protesters are now inciting the people, especially emotional teenagers and youths, to a confrontation path where they will suffer the loss of life, it said in an English language text shown onscreen. The spoken announcement in Burmese said the same thing.

Another part of the statement blamed protesters whose numbers allegedly included criminal gangs for violence at demonstrations, with the result that the security force members had to fire back. Three protesters have been shot dead so far.

The protest movement has embraced nonviolence and only occasionally gotten into shoving matches with police and thrown bottles at them when provoked.

In Yangon, the country's biggest city, trucks cruised the streets Sunday night blaring announcements that people should not attend protests Monday and must honor a ban on gatherings of five or more people. The ban was issued shortly after the coup but not enforced in Yangon, which for the past two weeks has been the scene of large daily demonstrations.

Many social media postings ahead of the scheduled nightly 1 am cutoff of internet access service said security forces had set up roadblocks at strategic points in the city, including bridges and on streets leading to foreign embassies.

Information on Twitter accounts that have proven reliable in the past said internet blocking, usually lasting until 9 am, would be extended to noon in Yangon.

The ominous signs of potential conflict drew attention outside Myanmar, with the US reiterating that it stood with the people of Myanmar.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Twitter the US would take firm action "against those who perpetrate violence against the people of Burma as they demand the restoration of their democratically elected government.

We call on the military to stop violence, release all those unjustly detained, cease attacks on journalists and activists, and respect the will of the people, spokesman Ned Price said on Twitter.

Earlier Sunday, crowds in Myanmar's capital attended a funeral for the young woman who was the first person confirmed to have been killed in the protests, while demonstrators also mourned two other protesters who were shot dead on Saturday.

Mya Thwet Thwet Khine was shot in the head by police on February 9, two days before her 20th birthday, at a protest in Naypyitaw, and died Friday.

Mourners lined the entrance to a cemetery in the city as the hearse carrying her body arrived and was taken to a crematorium where more people had gathered. They silently raised their hands in three-fingered salutes a sign of defiance and resistance adopted from neighbouring Thailand as the black and gold vehicle rolled slowly past.

Inside the crematorium hall, the lid on Mya Thwet Thwet Khine's coffin was partially removed to allow a last glimpse of her head resting on a bed of red and white roses before she was cremated. Members of the crowd outside chanted Our uprising must succeed!

Protests against the coup and the ousting of the nation's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, occurred elsewhere around the country Sunday.

Demonstrators turned out in force in Mandalay, the country's second-biggest city, where security forces shot dead two people on Saturday near a dockyard where the authorities had been trying to force workers to load a boat. The workers, like railway workers and truckers and many civil servants, have joined the civil disobedience campaign against the junta.

The shooting broke out after neighbourhood residents rushed to the Yadanabon dock to try to assist the workers in their resistance. One of the victims, described as a teenage boy, was shot in the head and died immediately, while another was shot in the chest and died en route to a hospital.

The authorities have continued arrests that began on the day of the coup, when Suu Kyi and members of the government were detained. According to the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, 640 people have been arrested, charged or sentenced, with 593, including Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, still in detention.

The junta prevented Parliament from convening February 1, claiming the elections last November, won by Suu Kyi's party in a landslide, were tainted by fraud. The election commission that affirmed the victory has since been replaced by the junta, which says a new election will be held in a year's time.

The coup was a major setback to Myanmar's transition to democracy after 50 years of army rule that began with a 1962 coup. Suu Kyi came to power after her party won a 2015 election, but the generals retained substantial power under the constitution, which had been adopted under a military regime.

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Agencies
February 20,2021

Image result for Greta Thunberg bats for freedom of speech, tweets in support of Disha Ravi

Stockholm, Feb 20: Greta Thunberg on Friday tweeted her support for an Indian activist jailed over a guide for anti-government farmers protests, which the Swedish climate campaigner had earlier shared to social media.

In a post on Twitter, Thunberg wrote "freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest and assembly are non-negotiable human rights."

Freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest and assembly are non-negotiable human rights. These must be a fundamental part of any democracy. #StandWithDishaRavi https://t.co/fhM4Cf1jf1

— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) February 19, 2021

"These must be a fundamental part of any democracy. #StandWithDishaRavi," the 18-year-old activist tweeted, referring to Indian climate campaigner Disha Ravi.

Ravi, 22, was arrested on Saturday. Police alleged she helped edit a so-called toolkit, which offers basic advice including joining on-the-ground protests and showing support on social media.

"The main aim of the toolkit was to create misinformation and disaffection against the lawfully enacted government", Delhi Police's Joint Commissioner of Police for Cyber Crime, Prem Nath, told reporters on Monday.

Officers decided to investigate the toolkit after Thunberg linked to it in a tweet in early February showing support for farmers protesting against new agriculture laws deregulating the sector.

Delhi Police added Monday they had also issued arrest warrants for two others for allegedly working with Ravi to draft the online document.

Ravi's arrest has been criticised by opposition politicians and activists within India, with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal -- whose Common Man Party supports the demonstrations -- calling it "an unprecedented attack on Democracy."

Farmers have been camping on the outskirts of the capital since late November, and calling for the repeal of new agriculture laws, in one of the biggest challenges to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government since it came to power in 2014.

Modi has said the changes are necessary to modernise India's agriculture sector, but protesters fear they would be placed at the mercy of big corporations.

The tussle between the government and the farmers took an international turn in early February when Rihanna and Thunberg tweeted about the rallies to their millions of social media followers.

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Agencies
February 23,2021

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Washington, Feb 23: In a significant defeat for former President Donald Trump, the US Supreme Court has declined to step in to halt the turnover of his tax records to a New York state prosecutor.

The court's action on Monday is the apparent culmination of a lengthy legal battle that had already reached the high court once before.

Trump's tax records are not supposed to become public as part of prosecutors' criminal investigation, but the high court's action is a blow to Trump because he has long fought on so many fronts to keep his tax records shielded from view. The ongoing investigation that the records are part of could also become an issue for Trump in his life after the presidency.

In a statement, the Trump blasted prosecutors and said the Supreme Court never should have let this fishing expedition' happen, but they did. The Republican claimed the investigation is politically motivated by Democrats in a totally Democrat location, New York City and State. And he said he would fight on and that We will win!

The Supreme Court waited months to act in the case. The last of the written briefs in the case was filed on October 19. But a court that includes three Trump appointees waited through the election, Trump's challenge to his defeat and a month after Trump left office before issuing its order.

The court offered no explanation for the delay, and the legal issue before the justices did not involve whether Trump was due any special deference because he was president.

The court's order is a win for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr, who has been seeking Trump's tax records since 2019 as part of an investigation.

Vance, a Democrat, had subpoenaed the records from the Mazars accounting firm that has long done work for Trump and his businesses. Mazars has said it would comply with the subpoena, but Trump sued to block the records' release.

Vance's office had said it would be free to enforce the subpoena and obtain the records in the event the Supreme Court declined to step in and halt the records' turnover, but it was unclear when that might happen. In a three-word statement on Monday, Vance said only: The work continues.

The court's action on Monday wasn't the only defeat for Trump, the court also declined to get involved in a handful of cases related to the 2020 election.

The records Vance has been after are more than eight years of Trump's personal and corporate tax records. Vance has disclosed little about what prompted him to seek them. In one court filing last year, however, prosecutors said they were justified in demanding the records because of public reports of possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organisation.

Part of the probe involves payments to two women porn actress Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal to keep them quiet during the 2016 presidential campaign about alleged extramarital affairs with Trump. Trump has denied the affairs.

In July, the justices in a 7-2 ruling rejected Trump's argument that the president is immune from investigation while he holds office or that a prosecutor must show a greater need than normal to obtain the tax records.

Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, whom Trump nominated to the high court, joined that decision. It was issued before Trump's third nominee, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, replaced the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the court.

As part of its July decision, the high court returned the Vance case and a similar case involving records sought by Congress to lower courts. And the court prevented the records from being turned over while the cases proceeded.

Since the high court's ruling, in the Vance case, Trump's attorneys made additional arguments that his tax records should not be turned over, but they lost again in federal court in New York and on appeal. It was those rulings that Trump had sought to put on hold.

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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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