Covid-19 infections in Tokyo hit 6-month high as post-Olympics surge feared - The Daily Guardian
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Covid-19 infections in Tokyo hit 6-month high as post-Olympics surge feared

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The Tokyo metropolitan government reported 1,308 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the most since Jan. 21, as health experts warned infections could surge to 2,000 a day shortly after the Olympics end in early August.

The figure topped 1,000 for the second day in a row as the capital prepares to host the games in just over a week while under a fourth COVID-19 state of emergency.

New cases in Tokyo topped the week-earlier figure for the 26th straight day, bringing its seven-day moving average of infections to 882.1 per day, up 32.9 percent from the previous week.

The moving average could jump to 2,406 by Aug. 11 if the coronavirus continues to spread at the current pace, health experts advising the metropolitan government said, eclipsing the third wave that swept across Tokyo in the winter.

The metropolitan government confirmed four deaths Thursday.

The Olympics opening ceremony is set to take place at the National Stadium on July 23 amid concerns that the games, coupled with the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus, could become a superspreader event.

Organizers have promised adequate steps to ensure the tens of thousands of athletes, staff and members of the media arriving in Japan will not spread COVID-19, including preventing them from coming into contact with the public.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Thursday visited Narita airport near Tokyo and was briefed on the measures, telling reporters, “It is the responsibility of the government, which is tasked with protecting the lives of the Japanese people, to ensure proper border controls are in place.”

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BILL AND MELINDA GATES ARE OFFICIALLY DIVORCED

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WASHINGTON: The divorce between Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates has been finalised. As per CNN report, filing with the King County Superior Court in Washington made the move official. Melinda French Gates filed the petition for divorce in King County, Washington.

Bill and Melinda announced in May that they would be ending their marriage after 27 years, saying, “we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.”

However, the duo said they will continue to work together at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Meanwhile, the foundation said last month that the organisation was planning a two-year trial period to see if the pair could continue working together effectively.

“If after two years either decide they cannot continue to work together as co-chairs, French Gates will resign her position as co-chair and trustee,” CEO Mark Suzman said. In the weeks following the initial announcement of the divorce, Bill faced allegations of questionable workplace conduct in the early years at Microsoft.

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BLINKEN ANNOUNCES US REFUGEE ADMISSIONS PROGRAMME FOR AFGHAN NATIONALS

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a US refugee admissions programme Priority 2 designation for Afghan nationals on Monday. The US is weeks away from completing military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Blinken, during a press briefing, said, “The State Department is announcing a new resettlement program for Afghans who assisted the United States, but who do not qualify for special immigrant visas. We’ve created a Priority-2 or P-2 designation, granting access to the US refugee admissions program for many of these Afghans and their family members.”

He said that even as the US forces withdraw from Afghanistan, the US will remain deeply engaged with the country.

“We’ll continue to work toward an Afghanistan, where all Afghans can live in safety and security, and we will continue our support for Afghan institutions, and for the gains that the Afghan people have made over the past 20 years,” said Blinken.

“We will keep engaging intensely in diplomacy to advance negotiations between the Afghan government, the Taliban, with the goal of a political solution, which we believe is the only path to lasting peace. And we’ll keep working closely with countries in the region, which all have a stake in a stable, peaceful, democratic Afghanistan,” he stated.

Blinken said that Afghans who work with the United States or the International Security Assistance Force at some point since 2001 are facing acute fears of persecution or retribution that will likely grow as coalition forces leave the country.

He further added that “We have a special report the responsibility to these individuals. They stood with us. We will stand with them. Over the past 13 years, the State Department has issued more than 73,000 Special Immigrant Visas to eligible Afghans who have helped the United States, and also to their families. We’ll continue to welcome Afghan immigrants and refugees as our neighbours in gratitude for helping us, despite the danger. We won’t forget it.”

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AFGHAN PRESIDENT GHANI’S TIME HAS RUN OUT: TALIBAN

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KABUL: Taliban said that Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani’s “time has run out” on Monday. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, while reacting to Ghani’s remark that the ongoing war is an external intrigue imposed on the people of Afghanistan, accused the President of lying and spreading false information.

A tweet by Mujahid said that his (Ghani’s) time is over and the announcement of warfare will not survive him. “Speech by @ashrafghani is nonsense, an attempt to control his fears & dire situation. Nation has decided to pursue & bring national traitors to justice. Declarations of war, accusations & lies cannot prolong Ghani’s life, his time has run out, God willing,” said Mujahid. 

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INDIA WANTS PEACEFUL RELATIONS, ONUS IS ON PAKISTAN: TIRUMURTI

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WASHINGTON: India’s Permanent Representative to United Nations, T.S. Tirumurti said that India desires to have peaceful and normal relations with Pakistan but in an atmosphere free from terror.

The Indian Ambassador to the UN informed that issues between the two countries should be resolved in an atmosphere free from terror, hostility, and violence and the onus is on Pakistan to create such an environment. “Pakistan should take credible and verifiable action not to allow any territory under their control to be used for cross border terrorism against India,” said Tirumurti. He also informed that India wants to keep a spotlight on counter-terrorism.

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US-China seek alignment of Afghan interests: Ned Price

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price has said that China’s interest in Afghanistan could be ‘an alignment of interest’ when it comes to what the US and China seek in Afghanistan.

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The People’s Republic of China (PRC) interest in Afghanistan could be “an alignment of interest” when it comes to what the US and China seek in Afghanistan, said US State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Monday. “There’s an alignment of interest in at least some areas when it comes to what we seek, what China seeks and what the broader international community seeks in Afghanistan,” Price told ANI on being asked what is US’ assessment of meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Taliban delegation led by its Chief Negotiator Abdul Ghani Baradar.

Experts say thay although the US might once have fiercely resisted Chinese attempts to increase their influence inside Afghanistan, now Washington’s priority appears to keep away a civil war. Spokesperson Price also affirmed that is in no one’s interest to see Afghanistan descend into an all-out civil war. “It is in everyone’s interest to see a solution to the conflict that is just as durable as Afghan-led, and Afghan Owned,” he concluded.

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AFTER PEGASUS SNOOPING REVELATIONS, ISRAEL INSPECTS NSO GROUP OFFICES

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Israeli authorities have inspected the offices of NSO Group, a surveillance outfit, in response to the Pegasus project investigation into abuses of the company’s spyware by several government clients, as per The Guardian report.

Officials from the Defence Ministry visited the company’s offices near Tel Aviv on Wednesday, at the same time when Defence Minister Benny Gantz arrived in Paris for a pre-arranged visit. Gantz discussed the Pegasus revelations with his French counterpart.

French President Emmanuel Macron is one of the high-profile figures whose phone numbers appeared on a leaked database of 50,000 numbers that are believed to have been selected as candidates for possible surveillance by the clients of NSO, as per the report. Macron spoke to Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett last week to stress the importance of “properly investigating” the project’s findings.

According to early media reports, the moves on NSO’s offices were described as a raid but the company stated that the authorities had only “visited” and not “raided” its premises.

The NSO clarified that it had been informed in advance that Defence Ministry officials, responsible for overseeing commercial exports of sensitive cyber-exports, would be doing an inspection. “The company is working in full transparency with the Israeli authorities,” the report added.

The Defence Ministry tweeted that the visit conducted by several state bodies was related to disclosures stemming from the Pegasus project — a consortium of 17 media outlets, including The Guardian, which revealed last week that government clients around the world have used the hacking software sold by NSO to target human rights activists, journalists, and lawyers.

As the scale of the disclosures has become clearer, diplomatic pressure has mounted on Israel to explain the nature of the relationship between NSO and the state under the tenure of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the report stated.

The wider Pegasus project investigation found that the Israeli government gave the NSO explicit permission in 2017 to try to sell the hacking tools to Saudi Arabia in a deal reportedly worth at least $55 million, the report added.

Gantz told French Defence Minister Florence Parly, on Wednesday, that Israel is investigating the matter “with the utmost seriousness”, as per a statement from the Israeli Defence Ministry.

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