Philippine boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao has launched his presidential bid with vows to tackle poverty and corruption as he seeks to win over voters with his rags-to-riches story. “The time is now — we are ready to rise to the challenge of leadership,” Pacquiao — currently a senator — said on Sunday, as he accepted the nomination of a rival faction in Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s ruling party. The eight-division world champion and national hero made the announcement weeks after losing what could be his last professional fight, against Cuban Yordenis Ugas in Las Vegas, Nevada. Pacquiao, who entered politics in 2010 as a congressman before being elected to the Philippine Senate, has long been expected to make a tilt for the country’s highest office. The 42-year-old is deeply admired by many in the nation for his generosity after hauling himself out of poverty to become one of the world’s greatest and wealthiest boxers. However, his support for Duterte’s deadly drug war, and previous comments describing gay couples as “worse than animals,” have earned the high-school dropout plenty of detractors. “For those asking what are my qualifications, have you ever experienced hunger?” Pacquiao asked the national assembly held by the anti-Duterte faction of PDP-Laban. “Have you ever experienced having nothing to eat, to borrow money from your neighbors or to wait for leftovers at a food stall? The Manny Pacquiao that is in front of you was molded by poverty,” he said. Pacquiao’s star power in a country famed for its celebrity-obsessed politics would put him in a strong position in the presidential race next year, but it would not guarantee victory. Reaction to his announcement has been mixed, with some questioning the boxer’s suitability for the presidency. “Seriously, Manny? You’re an inspiration in boxing but I can’t compromise to let you run my country,” one Twitter user wrote. A public
The North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday said a new US alliance in the Indo-Pacific and Washington’s recent submarine contract with Australia could trigger a “nuclear arms race” in the region. The US last week announced a new three-way security pact with Australia and the UK, as part of a strategic partnership under which US nuclear submarines would be supplied to Canberra. “These are extremely undesirable and dangerous acts which will upset the strategic balance in the Asia-Pacific region and trigger off a chain of nuclear arms race,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted a ministry official as saying. “This shows that the US is the chief culprit toppling the international nuclear non-proliferation system,” the official added. Nuclear-armed North Korea fired two missiles into the sea on Wednesday, with Seoul successfully test-firing a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) hours later, becoming only the seventh country in the world with the technology. South Korea’s test is a strategic advance for Seoul. It has been strengthening its military capabilities to counter the threat posed by the North, which is under international sanctions for its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. However, in a separate statement carried by the KCNA yesterday, the head of North Korea’s Academy of National Defense Science called Seoul’s newly developed SLBM a “clumsy piece of work” lacking key technology. “The homegrown SLBM unveiled by South Korea will not be able to serve as an effective means of attack at war,” he said. The spate of missile tests and bumper defense deals in the Pacific have highlighted a regional arms race that is intensifying as a China-US rivalry grows. “It is quite natural that neighboring countries, including China, condemned these actions as irresponsible ones of destroying the peace and stability of the region,” the North Korean foreign ministry official said. US President Joe Biden’s new Australia-US-UK defense
Choosing a full-fledged confrontation with the US due to the loss of a megacontract for submarines for Australia, France is making a risky bet and other nations are not rushing to its defense. After Australia renounced its deal for conventional submarines in favor of US nuclear-powered ones, France took the extraordinary step of pulling its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra for consultations. Bertrand Badie, an international relations professor at the Sciences Po institute in Paris, said France had put itself in a position where it can only appear to be backing down or losing face once its ambassador returns to the US, its historic ally. “When you get into a crisis like this, you better know where the exit is,” he said. Australia said it decided that nuclear submarines were a better choice to ensure its maritime edge as it announced a new three-way alliance with the US and the UK widely seen as aimed at China — whose rise has been the overriding priority of US President Joe Biden’s administration. French President Emmanuel Macron, who has stayed subdued publicly, is set to speak to Biden in the coming days. However, French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian has used language rarely used among friendly nations, alleging “lying” and “duplicity,” and saying France was “stabbed in the back” by Australia. He so far has no meeting scheduled on the sidelines of this week’s UN General Assembly in New York with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, himself a French speaker known for his love of Europe. With a contract worth A$50 billion (US$36.2 billion) on its signing in 2016, the French anger might show the country’s powerful defense industry that political leaders are pressing their case. However, the diplomatic impact is less certain, with France appearing isolated at the start of the General Assembly. Fellow EU power Germany, which
CLOSING DOORS: The Taliban appeared to close the nation’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs, erecting a sign in its place for a minstry against vice from its previous rule
The Taliban’s effective ban on women working sank in yesterday, sparking rage over the dramatic loss of rights after millions of female teachers and girls were barred from secondary school education. After pledging a softer version of their brutal and repressive regime of the 1990s, the Islamic fundamentalists are tightening their control of women’s freedoms one month after seizing power. “I may as well be dead,” said one woman, who was sacked from her senior role at the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “I was in charge of a whole department and there were many women working with me ... now we have all lost our jobs,” she said, asking that she not be identified for fear of reprisals. The acting mayor of the capital, Kabul, has said that any municipal jobs currently held by women would be filled by men. That came after the Afghan Ministry of Education ordered male teachers and students back to secondary school at the weekend, but made no mention of the country’s millions of women educators and girl pupils. The Taliban on Friday also appeared to shut down the former government’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs and replaced it with one that earned notoriety during their first stint in power for enforcing religious doctrine. While the country’s new rulers have not issued a formal policy outright banning women from working, directives by individual officials have amounted to their exclusion from the workplace. Many Afghan women fear they would never find meaningful employment. A new Taliban government announced two weeks ago had no women members. Although still marginalized, Afghan women have fought for and gained basic rights in the past 20 years, becoming lawmakers, judges, pilots and police officers, although mostly limited to large cities. Hundreds of thousands have entered the workforce — a necessity in some cases as many women were widowed or support
SEARCHING FOR CLUES : A New York couple set out to explore the US west in July, but the boyfriend was alone when he drove their van to Florida on Sept. 1, police said
A body discovered in northern Wyoming is believed to be that of a 22-year-old woman who disappeared while on a cross-country trek with a boyfriend, who is now the subject of an intense search in a Florida nature preserve, authorities said on Sunday. The FBI said the body of Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito was found on Sunday by law enforcement agents who spent the weekend searching campsites on the eastern border of Grand Teton National Park. The cause of death has not yet been determined, FBI Supervisory Special Agent Charles Jones said. Specifics on where and how the body was found were not disclosed. “Full forensic identification has not been completed to confirm 100 percent that we found Gabby, but her family has been notified,” Jones said. “This is an incredibly difficult time for [Petito’s] family and friends.” Boyfiend Brian Laundrie, 23, has been identified as a person of interest in the case. He was last seen on Tuesday last week by family members in Florida. Petito’s father, Joseph, posted on social media an image of a broken heart above a picture of his daughter with a message that read: “she touched the world.” An undeveloped camping area on the east side of Grand Teton bordering national forest land would remain closed until further notice while the investigation continues, Jones said. Investigators were still seeking information from anyone who might have seen Petito or Laundrie around camping sites in the area of Spread Creek, where law enforcement search efforts focused over the weekend, Jones said. The pair left in July on a cross-country trek in a converted van to visit national parks in the US west. Laundrie was alone when he drove the van back to his parents’ home in North Port, Florida, on Sept. 1, police said. More than 50 law enforcement officers on Sunday started a second day of
Lava yesterday continued to flow slowly from a volcano that erupted in Spain’s Canary Islands off northwest Africa, but the head of the regional government said he expected no injuries to people in the area after about 5,000 were evacuated. Lava was flowing on the island of La Palma toward the sea, moving at 700 meters per hour, the Canary Islands Volcanology Institute said. The lava was moving in two streams through a mostly unpopulated area, Canary Islands President Angel Victor Torres told SER radio. About 20 isolated houses were destroyed, SER reported. “We’re not expecting any other eruption,” Torres said, adding that air traffic in the area was not affected. “There will be considerable material damage,” he said. “We hope there won’t be any personal injuries.” People on La Palma largely live from farming. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was due to visit the affected area yesterday after canceling his trip to New York to attend the UN General Assembly. The volcano erupted on Sunday after a week-long buildup of seismic activity that was closely monitored by authorities. The Canary Islands Volcanology Institute reported the initial eruption shortly after 3pm near the southern end of the island, which saw its last eruption in 1971. Huge red plumes topped with black-and-white smoke shot out along the Cumbre Vieja volcanic ridge, which scientists had been monitoring following the accumulation of molten lava below the surface and days of small earthquakes. Most of those evacuated found family or friends to take them in, while the rest were in shelters, officials said. La Palma, with a population of 85,000, is one of eight volcanic islands in Spain’s Canary Islands archipelago off Africa’s western coast. At their nearest point, the islands are 100km from Morocco.
More than 300 Haitians were on Sunday returned home after the US ejected them from Texas, leaving many of the would-be migrants demoralized and angry that their search for a better life far away from their impoverished country was over. US border agents began removing groups of mostly Haitian migrants over the weekend from a large makeshift camp they had set up after wading across the Rio Grande separating Mexico and the US state of Texas. The sprawling camp under the international bridge attracted more than 12,000 migrants at one point, dotted with tents and tarps strung up on reeds, as many Haitians who had trekked from as far away as Brazil sought to petition US authorities for entry and to escape rampant poverty and gang violence afflicting the Caribbean nation. At the Haitian capital’s airport, three flights with 327 returned Haitians landed on Sunday from Texas, a US official with knowledge of the matter said. Several Haitians said they were never told where they were being taken. “I left Haiti to go find a better future,” said Stephanie, who declined to provide her surname. She said she was taken from under the bridge by US agents to a detention facility before being loaded onto the flight. She dismissed Haiti’s economy as unable to provide opportunities for scores of youth like her. “If jobs could be created, we would never have exposed ourselves to this misery in other countries,” she said. In a video message released on Sunday evening, Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry pledged to assist the expelled Haitians and bemoaned the “disturbing” images from the camp. “It’s with great sorrow that we watch on social media, through television and listen on the radio to the tribulations of our brothers and sisters at the border of Mexico and the United States,” he said. He implored Haitians to build a future
A student yesterday opened fire on a university campus in central Russia, killing six people, investigators said, in the second mass shooting at an education facility this year. The Russian Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, said that 28 people were also injured in the attack at Perm State University and that the suspect had been wounded while being detained. Investigators previously said that at least eight people were killed and six wounded. Russia has relatively few school shootings due to normally tight security in education facilities and because of difficulties in buying firearms legally, although it is possible to register hunting rifles. Videos circulating on social media showed students throwing belongings from buildings on campus before jumping to flee the shooter. State media played amateur footage reportedly taken during the attack showing an individual dressed in black tactical clothing, including a helmet, carrying a weapon and walking through the campus. WORRYING TREND The last such deadly attack was in May, when a 19-year-old gunman opened fire in his old school in the central Russian city of Kazan, killing nine people. Investigators said that the man suffered from a brain disorder, but he was deemed fit to receive a license for the semi-automatic shotgun he used in the attack. On the day of that attack — one of the worst in recent Russian history — Russian President Vladimir Putin called for a review of gun control laws.
Researchers are collecting samples from bats in northern Cambodia in a bid to understand the COVID-19 pandemic, returning to a region where a similar virus was found in the animals a decade earlier. Two samples from horseshoe bats were collected in 2010 in Stung Treng province near Laos and kept in freezers at the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge (IPC) in Phnom Penh. Tests performed last year revealed a close relative to the coronavirus that has killed more than 4.6 million people worldwide. An eight-member IPC research team has been collecting samples from bats and logging their species, sex, age and other details for a week. Similar research is going on in the Philippines. “We hope that the result from this study can help the world to have a better understanding about COVID-19,” field coordinator Thavry Hoem said, as she held a net to catch bats. Host species such as bats typically display no symptoms of pathogens, but these can be devastating if transmitted to humans or other animals. Veasna Duong, head of virology at the IPC, said that his institute had made four such trips in the past two years, hoping for clues about the origin and evolution of the bat-borne virus. “We want to find out whether the virus is still there and ... to know how the virus has evolved,” he said. Deadly viruses originating from bats include Ebola and other coronaviruses such as SARS and Middle East respiratory syndrome. Veasna Duong said that humans were responsible for the devastation caused by COVID-19, due to interference and destruction of natural habitats. “If we try to be near wildlife, the chances of getting the virus carried by wildlife are more than normal. The chances of the virus transforming to infect humans are also more,” he said. The French-funded project also aims to look at how the wildlife trade could be
UNITED STATES Military jet crashes in Texas A military training jet on Sunday crashed in a neighborhood near Fort Worth, Texas, injuring the two pilots and damaging three homes, but not seriously hurting anyone on the ground, authorities said. The pilots managed to eject from the T-45C Goshawk before it crashed shortly before 11am in Lake Worth, just west of Fort Worth, authorities said at a news conference. “This incident could have been much worse knowing that this plane went down in a residential area,” Lake Worth Fire Chief Ryan Arthur said. One of the pilots was injured after being caught in power lines, police said in a statement, adding that “although badly burnt, the pilot was conscious, alert and breathing.” The second pilot was found in a wooded area a short distance away, they added. NIGERIA Shooters kill police inspector Shooters on Sunday killed a police inspector in southeast Nigeria, police said yesterday, the latest attack in the restive region where dozens of officers have died this year. The shooters ambushed a police patrol in the commercial town of Onitsha in Anambra state and opened fire, state police spokesman Ikenga Tochukwu said in a statement. “The attackers drove in a Sienna vehicle ... and started shooting at the patrol vehicle along Ukegbu junction,” he said. “Unfortunately, during the exchange of gunfire, one police inspector paid the supreme price.” Other officers were wounded in the attack, he said. No group has claimed responsibility for recent attacks. SOUTH AFRICA Bees kill African penguins A swarm of bees has killed 63 endangered African penguins on a beach outside Cape Town, the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds said on Sunday. “After tests, we found bee stings around the penguins’ eyes,” said David Roberts, a clinical veterinarian with the foundation. “This is a very rare occurrence.
DEFENSE SHIFT: The finance minister said that France was given advance notice that their submarine deal was being scrapped in favor of leasing vessels from the US or UK
As the government of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is considering leasing nuclear-powered submarines from the UK or the US, a senior minister sought to reassue the public that nuclear weapons would not be based in Australia under the AUKUS defense alliance. Australian Minister of Finance Simon Birmingham and Minister of Defence Peter Dutton confirmed in separate interviews yesterday that leasing submarines from the AUKUS allies could be a stop-gap solution until Australia takes delivery of its own — potentially in the 2040s. “The short answer is yes,” Dutton said when asked about leasing vessels. Birmingham said that leasing arrangements would not necessarily “increase the number of submarines and the capability across all of the partner nations,” but would help with training and information sharing. “Doing so may provide opportunities for us to train our sailors, provide the skills and knowledge in terms of how we operate,” he said. “[It would help] provide the platforms for us to upgrade the infrastructure in Perth that will be necessary for the operation of these submarines. I expect we will see … lease arrangements or greater joint operations between our navies in the future that sees our sailors working more closely and indeed, potentially on UK and US vessels, to get that skills and training and knowledge.” Birmingham said there was no “quid pro quo” in Australia agreeing to step up its strategic relationship with the UK and the US. He insisted that nuclear weapons would not be based within Australia’s jurisdiction. “We’ve been clear, Australia’s position in relation to nuclear weapons does not change, will not change,” he said yesterday. “We will meet all of our non-proliferation treaty arrangements and obligations and not be changing any of our policies in relation to the nuclear weapons technology.” Birmingham did not rule out an increase in the number of UK and US military
Recent satellite images show North Korea is expanding a uranium enrichment plant at its main Yongbyon nuclear complex, a sign that it is intent on boosting the production of bomb materials, experts say. The assessment comes after North Korea last week raised tensions with its first missile tests in six months amid long-dormant nuclear disarmament negotiations with the US. “The expansion of the enrichment plant probably indicates that North Korea plans to increase its production of weapons-grade uranium at the Yongbyon site by as much as 25 percent,” Jeffrey Lewis and two other experts at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey said in a report. The report said the photos taken by satellite imagery company Maxar showed construction in an area adjoining the uranium enrichment plant at Yongbyon. It said a satellite image taken on Sept. 1 showed that North Korea had cleared trees and prepared the ground for construction, and that an excavator was also visible. The report said a second image taken on Tuesday showed a wall erected to enclose the area, work on a foundation and panels removed from the side of the enrichment building to provide access to the newly enclosed area. The new area is approximately 1,000m2, enough space to house 1,000 additional centrifuges, which would increase the plant’s capacity to produce highly enriched uranium by 25 percent, the report said. Nuclear weapons can be built using either highly enriched uranium or plutonium, and North Korea has facilities to produce both at Yongbyon. Last month, earlier satellite photos of the area showed signs that North Korea was resuming the operation of other facilities to produce weapons-grade plutonium. North Korea calls the Yongbyon complex “the heart” of its nuclear program. During a summit with then-US president Donald Trump in early 2019, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un offered to dismantle the
PLANNING TO REOPEN: Amid 1,607 new COVID-19 cases, the country is making a shift away from lockdowns, acknowledging that outbreaks will happen
Australia reported 1,607 new coronavirus cases yesterday as states and territories gradually shift from trying to eliminate outbreaks to living with the virus. Victoria, home to about a quarter of Australia’s 25 million people, recorded 507 cases as Premier Daniel Andrews said a weeks-long lockdown will end once 70 percent of those 16 and older are fully vaccinated, whether or not there are new cases. Andrews said the state might reach that vaccination threshold around Oct. 26. About 43 percent of Victorians have been fully vaccinated, 46 percent nationwide. “We will do so cautiously, but make no mistake, we are opening this place up. There is no alternative,” Andrews said. The state “cannot perennially or permanently suppress this virus. Lockdowns have been about buying time to get to 70 percent and 80 percent vaccination.” Many social distancing restrictions are to remain, while retail and hospitality venues will be limited. However, people will be free to leave their houses without a reason. Andrews said that the authorities aim to have 80 percent of the state’s eligible population fully vaccinated in time for the Nov. 2 Melbourne Cup, leaving the door open for crowds on track at one of the world’s most famous horse races. The COVID-19 plan follows a federal scheme that is to end lockdowns at a 70 percent vaccination rate and gradually reopen international borders at 80 percent. New South Wales has adopted a similar plan. Australia’s most populous state reported 1,083 cases yesterday as it uses lockdowns and vaccination blitzes to fight an outbreak of the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 that began in mid-June. The state, home to Sydney, eased some restrictions on gathering yesterday. About 52 percent of people have been vaccinated in New South Wales. After eliminating outbreaks last year through lockdowns, border closures and strict public health measures, Australia has acknowledged in recent months
Could delivering COVID-19 immunity directly to the nose — the area of the body via which it is mostly transmitted — help conquer the pandemic? The WHO says clinical trials are under way to evaluate eight nasal spray vaccines that target COVID-19. The most advanced effort so far by China’s Xiamen University, the University of Hong Kong and Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy has completed phase 2 trials. “When the virus infects someone, it usually gets in through the nose,” said researcher Nathalie Mielcarek, who is working with the Lille Pasteur Institute to develop a nasal spray vaccine against whooping cough. “The idea is to shut the door.” An article published in Scientific American in March urged developing nasal spray vaccines because they have an immediate effect on the virus in an infected person’s mucus. There they trigger production of an antibody known as immunoglobulin A, which can block infection. “This overwhelming response, called sterilizing immunity, reduces the chance that people will pass on the virus,” the article said. The vaccines currently available offer strong protection against severe forms of COVID-19, but are less reliable at preventing the spread of the virus. Stimulating immunity directly in the nose “lowers the risk of infecting other people,” Mielcarek said. “From there you have less of the virus infecting the lungs, and so fewer severe cases since the viral load is lower,” she added. An article published in March by Gavi: The Vaccine Alliance noted other advantages, including that the sprays do not require refrigeration and do not need to be administered by health professionals. “People would be able to self-administer them at home,” the article says, adding: “They are likely to be more popular for the millions of people who don’t like needles.” In a French study on mice presented last week, 100 percent of the subjects vaccinated with
At least three people were killed and more than 18 injured in three explosions in Jalalabad, in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar Province. It was reported that the intended target might have been a passing convoy of the Taliban in the provincial capital. It was the first attack in the province since the Taliban came to power last month. A Taliban official told reporters that the group is still investigating the nature of the attack. “It is too early to say how they carried out the attack,” he said. “We can’t say for sure who might be behind the blasts.” A health official in the city, speaking anonymously, said: “We have received 20 injured. Two of them died soon after being shifted to the hospital. We have children and women injured as well.” No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but local Islamic State affiliate ISIS-K is suspected to be based in the mountainous region of the province along the country’s eastern frontier with Pakistan. Another bomb reportedly exploded in the country’s capital, Kabul, injuring two people. It is not clear who was the target of the attack, but locals say that the magnetic bomb had targeted a vehicle. In August, ISIS-K claimed responsibility for the Kabul attack in which two suicide bombers detonated themselves at Hamid Karzai International Airport. At least 95 Afghans and 13 US service members were killed, and more than 100 injured in the blasts. In 2018, ISIS-K ranked as the world’s fourth-deadliest terror group, claiming more than 1,000 lives, mostly in Afghanistan, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace, which monitors global terrorism. The Jalalabad attack is the first deadly blast since the US completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan. After taking power, the Taliban had promised to restore peace and stability in the region, and not to shelter any militant organizations. Earlier this year,
ORBAN BLAMED: Voting was suspended after two hours, because of a system crash that organizers suspected was a cyberattack and was linked to Chinese IP addresses
Hungary’s first-ever primary elections to find a candidate to challenge right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban got off to a rocky start on Saturday, with voting suspended due to what organizers said was a suspected cyberattack. After years of bickering and a string of landslide losses, the once-factious opposition has come together with one common goal — to push the long-serving leader from power in elections next year. However, voting was suspended just two hours after it started — with “masses of voters” already casting ballots — after a system crash which organizers suspected was a cyberattack. One of the organizers, Gyorgy Magyar, told Hungarian television channel ATV that they would need 36 hours to investigate the matter. Opposition leaders blamed Orban and the government for an attack, while Budapest Mayor Gergely Karacsony — himself looking to be the one chosen to take on Orban — also pointed to Internet protocol (IP) addresses of Chinese origin that were identified. “No matter what attack comes or where it comes from, there is no force capable of stopping this historical process,” the six-party opposition alliance said in a statement. “The circles in power got scared that masses of people wanted to express their opinion in the primary, and wanted to express their desire for change,” they added. Voting is expected to be able to resume today. The alliance, set up last year, is made up of a diverse cast of political parties: leftist, liberal and formerly far-right. They accuse 58-year-old Orban — who came to power in 2010 and regularly clashes with Brussels over migration and rule-of-law issues — of endemic corruption and creeping authoritarianism. Now they hope the new primary system will be their path to defeating his Fidesz party, Hungary’s largest. “The opposition can only compete with Fidesz if they are in a single bloc too; we’ve learned
TAMPERING? The Golos election-monitoring movement said it had received reports of vote-buying and envelopes containing ballot tallies seeming to have been resealed
The head of Russia’s second-largest political party is alleging widespread breaches in the election for a new national parliament, in which his party is expected to gain seats. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said on Saturday — the second of three days of voting in the election — that police and the Russian Central Election Commission must respond to reports of “a number of absolutely egregious facts,” including ballot-stuffing in several regions. The Golos election-monitoring movement and independent media also reported contraventions, including vote-buying and lax measures for guarding ballots at polling stations. The United Russia party, which is diligently loyal to Russian President Vladimir Putin appears certain to retain dominance in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, but some projections suggest it could lose its two-thirds majority, which is enough to change the constitution. The Communist Party is expected to pick up the biggest share of any seats lost by United Russia. Although the Communist Party generally supports Kremlin initiatives in the parliament, it gaining seats would be a loss of face for United Russia. The Communist Party is seen as potentially benefiting from the “Smart Voting” program promoted by the team of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, which aims to undermine United Russia by advising voters on which candidates are in the strongest position to defeat the dominant party’s candidates. However, it is unclear how effective the program will be after Apple and Google removed Smart Voting apps from their stores under Kremlin pressure. Authorities previously blocked access to its Web site. Navalny’s organizations have been declared extremist, blocking anyone associated with them from running for office, thereby eliminating most significant opposition from the election. Zyuganov said the party has tallied at least 44 incidents of voting contraventions and has applied for permits to hold protests during the week after
The quartet of newly minted citizen astronauts comprising the Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX) Inspiration4 mission safely splashed down in the Atlantic off Florida’s coast on Saturday, completing a three-day flight of the first all-civilian crew ever sent into Earth orbit. The successful launch and return of the mission marked another milestone in the fledgling industry of commercial astro-tourism, 60 years after the dawn of human spaceflight. “Welcome to the second space age,” Todd “Leif” Ericson, mission director for the Inspiration4 venture, told reporters on a conference call after the crew returned. SpaceX, the private rocketry company founded by Elon Musk, supplied the spacecraft, launched it, controlled its flight and handled the splashdown recovery operation. The three-day mission ended as the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, dubbed Resilience, parachuted into calm seas at about 11pm GMT, shortly before sunset, following an automated re-entry descent, as shown during a live SpaceX Web cast on its YouTube channel. Within an hour, the four smiling crew members were seen emerging one by one from the capsule’s side hatch, after the vehicle, visibly scorched on its exterior, was hoisted from the ocean to the deck of a SpaceX recovery vessel. Each of the four stood on the deck for a few moments in front of the capsule to wave and give the thumbs-up before being escorted to a medical station on board for checkups at sea. Afterward they were flown by helicopter back to Cape Canaveral for reunions with loved ones. The return from orbit followed a plunge through Earth’s atmosphere generating frictional heat that sent temperatures surrounding the outside of the capsule soaring to 1,900°C. The astronauts’ flight suits, fitted to special ventilation systems, were designed to keep them cool if the cabin heated up. Applause was heard from the SpaceX flight control center in suburban Los Angeles as the first parachutes
US authorities on Friday moved about 2,000 people to other immigration processing stations from a Texas border town that has been overwhelmed by an influx of Haitian and other migrants, the US Department of Homeland Security said on Saturday. Such transfers would continue “in order to ensure that irregular migrants are swiftly taken into custody, processed and removed from the United States consistent with our laws and policy,” the department said in a statement. While some migrants seeking jobs and safety have been making their way to the US for weeks or months, it is only in the past few days that the number converging on Del Rio, Texas, has drawn widespread attention, posing a humanitarian and political challenge for US President Joe Biden’s administration. The department said that in response to the migrants sheltering in increasingly poor conditions under the Del Rio International Bridge that connects the Texas city with Ciudad Acuna in Mexico, it was accelerating flights to Haiti and other destinations within the next 72 hours. It added that it was working with nations where the migrants began their journeys — for many of the Haitians, countries such as Brazil and Chile — to accept returned migrants. Officials on both sides of the border said most of the migrants were Haitians. Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry expressed solidarity with the mass of migrants at the border in a series of posts on social media late on Saturday, saying “arrangements have already been made” to warmly receive those who return to the Caribbean nation. “I share their suffering and say to them welcome home,” he wrote. Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano said in a video on Saturday night that there were just more than 14,000 migrants under the bridge.
A few hundred protesters turned up in Washington on Saturday to rally in support of the rioters who ransacked the US Capitol on Jan. 6, but they were outnumbered by a robust security presence and journalists. Police who were caught on the back foot by the deadly riot on Capitol Hill in support of former US president Donald Trump took no chances this time: They used a security fence around the Capitol complex, police in riot gear and rows of armored trucks to keep the peace. Organizers of the “Justice for J6” rally — who said they wanted to draw attention to those held over the riot who did not commit violent offenses — had received a permit for 700 people to gather near the Capitol’s reflecting pool, but far fewer showed up. Chants of “Let them go” rose from the demonstrators as speakers took to the podium to decry what they called US President Joe Biden’s administration detention of “political prisoners.” “Their rights are being violated,” said David Thacker, a 63-year-old attendee from Virginia. “Their crimes do not justify the way they are being treated.” Members of the US Congress were not in the building as the rally unfolded under the watchful eye of police in riot gear with shields, with many lawmakers still on summer recess and not back in Washington until next week. Look Ahead America, which organized the event and is planning similar rallies across the country in the coming weeks, had appealed for attendees to show respect to law enforcement officers and refrain from bringing Trump banners. However, some carried signs that read “Free Biden’s political prisoners” or “Justice for Ashli Babbitt,” a woman who was fatally shot by police on Jan. 6 as she tried to breach the US House of Representatives. US Capitol Police said 400 to 450 people were