News Domestic and International

Italy says it may transfer rescued migrants on Monday

Middle East Eye - Sat, 07/04/2020 - 22:20
Italy says it may transfer rescued migrants on Monday
Migrants have been on ship for more than a week, with fights and suicide attempts on board prompting charity to declare state of emergency
MEE and agencies Sat, 07/04/2020 - 23:20
People rescued at sea sit on deck of Ocean Viking, operated by French NGO SOS Mediterranee, in Mediterranean Sea on Saturday (AFP)

Italy is carrying out tests on 180 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean with a view to transferring them to a quarantine vessel in Sicily, an interior ministry source said on Saturday.

The migrants have been on the Ocean Viking ship operated by SOS Mediterranee for more than a week, with fights and suicide attempts on board prompting the charity to declare a state of emergency on Friday.

A medical team sent by authorities in Pozzallo, Sicily, "ascertained the absence of particular health problems and also reported that some tensions that had been registered on the ship are being overcome", the ministry source said.

The medical team is testing the migrants for the new coronavirus, after which they will be transferred to a quarantine ship currently in Porto Empedocle, also in Sicily.

Malta forced to allow detained migrants ashore after revolt
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"The situation is carefully monitored in view of the transhipment of migrants, scheduled for Monday 6 July, on the Moby Zaza ship," the source said.

MEE has reported that North Africa is one of the main global migratory routes. Both North and sub-Saharan Africans have used the coastline to attempt to reach Europe, often with devastating results. More than 18,000 people have drowned or disappeared in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to reach Europe since 2014, according to the UN’s International Organisation for Migration. 

The Ocean Viking, which has been in limbo in the Mediterranean south of Sicily, has been waiting for permission from Italy or Malta to offload the migrants at a safe port. 

Tensions have risen in the past week, as witnessed by an AFP reporter aboard the boat, as migrants have become increasingly desperate to reach land. Others have become distraught not being able to telephone their families to let them know they were safe.

SOS Mediteranee said in a statement on Saturday that "the only assistance proposed has been a visit by a medical doctor and a cultural mediator who spoke to the survivors but are not in a position to present a solution for their disembarkation".

The migrants, who include Pakistanis, North Africans, Eritreans, Nigerians and others, were picked up after fleeing Libya in four separate rescues by the Ocean Viking on 25 and 30 June. 

The migrants include 25 minors, most of whom are unaccompanied by adults, and two women, one of whom is pregnant. 

More than 100,000 migrants tried to cross the Mediterranean last year with more than 1,200 dying in the attempt, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

The arrival of summer and more favourable conditions at sea may lead to an increase of attempts to cross the Mediterranean with the hope of arriving in Europe.

Black Lives Matter Protesters Dance and Stand on US Flag in DC Plaza on July 4th Holiday

GatewayPundit - Sat, 07/04/2020 - 21:39

In case you were wondering if this is still about George Floyd.
It’s not.

Black Lives Matter activists danced and stood on the US flag in DC today on July 4th holiday.

They don’t want to fix America.
They want to destroy it.

#BLM protesters dance and step on American flag on Blacks Lives Matter Plaza in DC pic.twitter.com/zIwNrFSLoy

— Jorge Ventura Media (@VenturaReport) July 4, 2020

We’ve seen this before…

Palestinians stand on the US flag in protest.

The post Black Lives Matter Protesters Dance and Stand on US Flag in DC Plaza on July 4th Holiday appeared first on The Gateway Pundit.

‘Hate Speech’ – Student Ousted From Christian University For Criticizing Black Lives Matter in Tik Tok Videos

GatewayPundit - Sat, 07/04/2020 - 21:10


Image courtesy of Campus Reform

A female student was ousted from a Christian university in Texas for criticizing Black Lives Matter Marxists in a series of Tik Tok videos.

Ashleigh Brock is no longer enrolled at Hardin Simmons University in Abilene, Texas after the outrage mob demanded “serious consequences” in response to her Tik Tok videos wherein she simply stated that “all lives matter.”

The university immediately responded to the Twitter cancel mob by condemning the student, claiming what she shared on social media is “not reflective of the Christian values” of their institution.

“We are actively investigating and taking decisive action,” the university confirmed last week.

HSU became aware late this evening of a deeply disappointing and unacceptable social media post by one of our students. The message shared by this student is not reflective of the Christian values of our institution. We are actively investigating and taking decisive action.

— Hardin-Simmons University (@HSUTX) June 24, 2020

According to Campus Reform, Ashleigh Brock is no longer enrolled in the university.

Campus Reform reported:

A Christian university has confirmed that a student is no longer enrolled after a “disciplinary process” resulting from social media posts critical of the Black Lives Matter movement. Now, former Hardin Simmons University student Ashleigh Brock regularly posts political videos on TikTok. Her videos about the Black Lives Matter movement sparked outrage on Twitter.

In one of Brock’s TikTok posts, she pointed out what she characterized as a hypocritical societal reaction between a black person killing a white person, a black person killing another black person, and a white person killing a black person. The video drew harsh criticism after a Twitter account called #blacklivesmatter posted it to Twitter calling for HSU to impose “serious consequences.”

In another TikTok post, while wearing an HSU t-shirt, Brock said that “all lives matter” and asked why people “freak out when a white person kills a black person,” but do not elicit the same reaction when a “black person kills a white person.”

“Do black lives matter? Yes, of course. Do white lives matter? Yes, of course. But I’m not gonna sit here and put each one in a group saying this race matters,” Brock said in the video.

It gets worse.

HSU president Eric Bruntmyer condemned Ashleigh Brock’s actions in a video address and said the university’s goal is to “prioritize anti-racism education.”

“As citizens, we have certain rights of freedom of speech in public forums, like many of the social media platforms. However, within the HSU community, that right is always linked with a responsibility as Christians, as well as an inherent responsibility in the consequences of our words and our actions,” Bruntmyer said referring to Brock’s social media posts.

“As Christians, we are called to love one another as Christ first loved us. We must hold one another accountable to this standard. Hate speech or racist comments are completely unacceptable. We do not want to condone behavior that questions people’s worth, their value, their dignity, or their equality,” Bruntmyer said.

WATCH:

The post ‘Hate Speech’ – Student Ousted From Christian University For Criticizing Black Lives Matter in Tik Tok Videos appeared first on The Gateway Pundit.

Shooting in Alabama mall kills 8-year-old boy, wounds 3 others

UPI - Sat, 07/04/2020 - 20:58
A shootout inside an Alabama mall killed an 8-year-old boy and injured three others Friday night.

Syria war: Dozens killed as Islamic State group clashes with government forces

Middle East Eye - Sat, 07/04/2020 - 20:53
Syria war: Dozens killed as Islamic State group clashes with government forces
Fighting and Russian air strikes in central desert province of Homs since late Thursday have claimed lives of 20 pro-government and 31 IS fighters
MEE and agencies Sat, 07/04/2020 - 21:53
Syrian soldier stands guard on main road in central Homs province after it was taken back from Islamic State group in 2018 (AFP/file photo)

Clashes between the Islamic State (IS) group and Russia-backed Syrian government forces and have killed more than 50 fighters on both sides in two days, a Britain-based war monitor said on Saturday.

Fighting and Russian air strikes in the central desert province of Homs since late Thursday have claimed the lives of 20 pro-government and 31 IS fighters, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Islamic State's 'Battle of Ramadan' rocks Iraq and stokes fears of resurgence
Read More »

"The fighting started in the night of Thursday to Friday with a jihadist assault on regime positions" near the town of al-Sukhna, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said, as cited by AFP.

IS fighters have retained a roving presence in Syria's vast Badia desert despite losing their last shred of territory last year. They regularly carry out attacks there as well as in neighbouring Iraq.

On 2 May, attacks by IS on stations of Iraq's Hashed al-Shaabi forces north of Baghdad killed 10 militia members, security forces said, in the deadliest operation by the group's sleeper cells in months.

Saturday’s death toll is expected to rise because of the serious injuries of some casualties.

IS declared a cross-border "caliphate" in large parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq in 2014, but several military campaigns against it chipped away at that proto-state and eventually led to its territorial demise.

Syria's war has killed more than 380,000 people since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests, before evolving into a complex conflict involving world powers and various groups of combatants.

U.S. Sees Coronavirus Cases Surge As Holiday Begins

Newsy - Sat, 07/04/2020 - 20:15

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The U.S. reported a third straight day of more than 50,000 new coronavirus cases Friday, ahead of one of the busiest travel weekends of the year.

As millions of Americans celebrate the Fourth of July, some health officials worry the public won't follow recommendations to limit gatherings and practice social distancing.

With more and more states reporting record increases in new cases, many celebrations and fireworks shows across the U.S. have been scaled back or canceled entirely. 

While the number of infections is dropping in certain areas, many southern states stretching from Florida to California have seen spikes.

On Saturday, Florida reported yet another record increase with more than 11,000 new cases. That marked the second time in three days the state had an increase of more than 10,000.

Many beaches in Southern California, Florida and other states that would typically welcome thousands of people to celebrate the holiday have been closed to reduce the spread of the virus.

That doesn't mean you can't celebrate the holiday with friends and family. But if you plan to do so, experts suggest keeping the party outside. 

U.S. Aircraft Carriers Conduct Drills In South China Sea

Newsy - Sat, 07/04/2020 - 20:12

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The U.S. Navy says two U.S. aircraft carriers conducted exercises in the South China Sea on Saturday. The training comes as China is also holding naval drills. Both countries have accused the other of heightening tensions.

In a news release, the Navy described the drills as an Independence Day celebration. One sailer said "nothing celebrates freedom like launching fighter jets from the middle of the ocean at night.” The drills are the largest the U.S. has conducted in recent years.

China and several other Asian nations all claim parts of the sea as their own. On Thursday, the Pentagon said China's recent exercises in the area are the latest in a history of actions to "assert unlawful maritime claims and disadvantage its Southeast Asian neighbors in the South China Sea."

A spokesperson for the Seventh Fleet said the exercises aren't in response to any "political or world events." But a strike group commander involved in the operation told The Wall Street Journal that “the purpose is to show an unambiguous signal to our partners and allies that we are committed to regional security and stability.”

Last year, U.S. leadership warned China that the U.S. won't ignore actions that threaten the sovereignty of other nations.

Contains footage from CNN.

PBS Reporter Yamiche Alcindor Trashes America over President Trump’s Mount Rushmore Fourth of July Celebration

GatewayPundit - Sat, 07/04/2020 - 20:04

Appearing on MSNBC Friday night, PBS NewsHour White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor trashed America in comments about President Trump’s appearance at Mount Rushmore last night for a Fourth of July celebration. Alcindor was so wound up spewing her contempt for America, Trump and his supporters that she frequently stumbled over her words trying get it all out in minute long stream of consciousness rants.

Yamiche Alcindor: “I think what we’re seeing is a president who’s determined to fly in the face of uh, the experts and his own health officials, environmental experts, as well as people who are saying that, that there’s really this myth of America, that this idea that America treated people well, that they treated men and women equally, that, that we founded this country just by our own wits. That that is actually a lie and that in fact what we are seeing is a, uh, celebration of America’s independence on land that was stolen from Native Americans and it’s overloo…, and it’s being seen and overlooked by two presidents, um, their figures, rather, that owned slaves and a third president, Roosevelt, who, who talked about ‘going westward’ and who oversaw the desecration of native land.”

“So what you see is President Trump really saying, ‘You know what, I know all of you think that we’re in the middle of a pandemic and that I shouldn’t be doing this but I’m gonna show you.’ And this is a big political risk on his part because we are of course in the middle of a pandemic. We’re hitting record highs everyday. And the President, according to reporters who are there, he, the event that he’s, that he’s at, um, people are sitting shoulder to shoulder there’s no attempt of social distancing and the vast majority of people sitting there right now are not wearing masks.”

“…I mean that’s why you saw so many people in this country, especially people of color, look really, really disturbed when the President, and then-candidate Trump, started saying ‘Make America great again’. Because, uh, of course the quick question was, ‘Well what part of America and what period are you talking about? Is it when African-Americans were enslaved? Is it when women couldn’t vote? Is it when Native American people were, were literally run off their lands?’

“Um, the, the people that I talk to, voters and experts, they all believe that President Trump is doing exactly what (apologies, could not get names right) say he that he’s doing: Which is that he’s sitting somewhere in history between George Wallace and Ronald Reagan, and the, the, he’s really fitting in this, this history that is in some ways a Republican history about the idea that they’re re, really looking at white resentment and giving people who are worried about the future of America but who are also angry at the idea of America browning and giving them a place to say, ‘You know what, you are the victim, this country owes you more’, instead of looking toward the future and saying actually, ‘Let’s have an America where we’re not believing in this myth. Let’s have an America where people do understand the history of America.’

“President Trump is saying, ‘I want to be on the side of the myth of America. I also want to be on the side of the myth of the fact that the pandemic is over’, when we know for a fact that both of those things just simply are not true.”

Transcript by TGP.

Video clips posted to Twitter by Newsbusters’ Chuck Houck sof Alcindor speaking on the Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell guest host Ari Melber:

Proof Yamiche hates America -> At 10:27 on MSNBC, she mocked America as a "myth" that "treated people well," spewed venom at the Founders by dismissing the country having been "founded on its own wits," & ruled that praising the POTUS's at #MtRushmore was a "political risk" pic.twitter.com/idZ9czM17S

— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) July 4, 2020

More Yamiche expressing disgust and hatred for America and her history, from the Founders to now as having never been great.

And yet, she's paid by we the taxpayers to hate this country. pic.twitter.com/xWJ9B1cAgZ

— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) July 4, 2020

Thursday night on PBS, Alcindor played a clip of fellow MSNBC contributor Eddie Glaude who smeared Republicans as racists while comparing President Trump to former President Reagan and former Alabama Governor Wallace, but failed to note that the notorious segregationist Wallace was a Democrat.

Excerpt via Newsbusters:

YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Glaude says the bigger picture is that Trump is using race to stoke fear like many Republican leaders before him.

EDDIE GLAUDE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think the idea of appealing to white resentment and white fears, drawing on a particular understanding of America as fundamentally white, that that language has been a part of Republican strategy since I remember remembering, right? It’s been a part of my political reality ever since I became aware of American politics. So he sits somewhere on the spectrum between Ronald Reagan and George Wallace.

The post PBS Reporter Yamiche Alcindor Trashes America over President Trump’s Mount Rushmore Fourth of July Celebration appeared first on The Gateway Pundit.

Trump Campaign Official Kimberly Guilfoyle Tests Positive For COVID-19

Newsy - Sat, 07/04/2020 - 20:04

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Kimberly Guilfoyle — a Trump campaign official and Donald Trump Jr.'s girlfriend — has tested positive for coronavirus.

An official for the Trump campaign said Guilfoyle "was immediately isolated to limit any exposure" and is "doing well." She will be tested a second time to confirm the diagnosis.

The campaign official said Trump Jr. tested negative, but said he was canceling his appearances and isolating as a precaution.

The test — first reported by The New York Times — reportedly occurred before Guilfoyle was slated to attend the president's event at Mount Rushmore Friday in South Dakota.

While she hasn't been around President Trump, she attended his Tulsa rally and has been interacting with supporters in Arizona, Montana and South Dakota.

Local Texas leaders encourage sheltering in place as COVID-19 cases spike

UPI - Sat, 07/04/2020 - 19:09
The leaders of two Texas counties where coronavirus cases have overwhelmed hospitals have encouraged residents to shelter in place to avoid further strain on healthcare resources.

Joey Chestnut, Miki Sudo win Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest

UPI - Sat, 07/04/2020 - 18:24
Joey Chestnut and Miki Sudo won the Fourth of July Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest on Saturday, held this year without a crowd.

Coronavirus: Jordan slaps wristbands on arrivals to monitor pandemic quarantine

Middle East Eye - Sat, 07/04/2020 - 18:16
Coronavirus: Jordan slaps wristbands on arrivals to monitor pandemic quarantine
Use of electronic bracelets for those self-isolating at home instituted to ensure quarantine rules are respected
MEE and agencies Sat, 07/04/2020 - 19:16
Jordanian man wearing gloves uses cell phone to read Koran inside Mohammad al-Tilawy Mosque in capital Amman recently (AFP)

Jordan began putting electronic bracelets on travellers who have recently arrived in the kingdom to ensure that they observe home-quarantine against the spread of coronavirus, an official said on Saturday.

People arriving in Jordan must isolate for 14 days at hotels designated by the authorities on the shores of the Dead Sea, west of the capital Amman.

Jordan to continue nightly curfew despite 'containing' coronavirus outbreak
Read More »

After that period, they must self-isolate for an additional 14 days at home, according to Nizar Obeidat, spokesman for Jordan's virus task force, who was cited by AFP.

He told state-run Al-Mamlaka television that "the use of the electronic bracelet began on Saturday for those self-isolating at home" in order to ensure quarantine rules are respected.

Jordan imposed tough measures, including curfews and the deployment of drones, to curb the spread of Covid-19, before easing policies in early June.

The kingdom has so far registered 1,147 coronavirus infections, with only 10 deaths.

Still, health authorities have been reporting new cases recently among Jordanians and foreigners entering the country.

They have also maintained measures including social distancing and the compulsory use of face masks in most public places, with those breaking the rules fined.

Refugees suffering

Meanwhile, the United Nations recently warned that refugees living in Jordan are suffering from extreme poverty, particularly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, London-based newspaper al-Arabi al-Jadeed reported.

"Coronavirus has affected our lives as well as the lives of refugees and Jordanians. It will have a long-term impact for several months," said Dominic Barch, UNHCR representative in Jordan.

In a statement issued by the UN refugee agency's local office, Barch said 79 percent of refugees in the kingdom were already living below the poverty line before the coronavirus outbreak.

According to recent surveys conducted in the country, this number has increased during the last few months, Barch said. Only 35 percent of refugees in Jordan will return to their jobs after the country opens up all sectors, he added. 

Bach called upon international and national actors to come together to help their plight.

There are about 747,000 registered refugees from 52 nationalities in Jordan.

Jordan slaps wristbands on arrivals to monitor pandemic quarantine

TDS: CNN calls Mount Rushmore a ‘monument of two slaveowners’ after extolling its ‘majesty’ with Obama 2016 and Communist Bernie Sanders

Geller Report - Sat, 07/04/2020 - 17:00

Bernie Sanders at Mount Rushmore on the campaign trail: “The is our country at its very best.

They loved Obama at Mount Rushmore.

Once again, CNN is a trash network. They are virulently anti-American! Shame on you, Jeff Zucker! Enemy of the people!

CNN, hate speechhttps://t.co/oU4Uqqxaam

— Mark R. Levin (@marklevinshow) July 4, 2020

You have to be fricken kidding me!!! https://t.co/CELyifNvu0

— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) July 4, 2020

CNN slights Mount Rushmore as ‘monument of two slaveowners’ after extolling its ‘majesty’ in 2016

By Fox News, July 4, 2020

A CNN reporter on Friday described Mount Rushmore “a monument of two slaveowners” situated on stolen land ahead of President Trump‘s visit to the national monument.

Grabien founder and editor Tom Elliot tweeted a clip of the report by correspondent Leyla Santiago in which she discussed Trump’s planned remarks.

“President Trump will be at Mount Rushmore, where he’ll be standing in front of a monument of two slave owners and on land wrestled away from Native Americans,” she said. “I’m told that, uh, he’ll be focusing on the effort to ‘tear down our country’s history.'”

CNN: "President Trump will be at Mount Rushmore, where he’ll be standing in front of a monument of two slave owners and on land wrestled away from Native Americans.” pic.twitter.com/UYjzEiUkU9

— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) July 3, 2020

In 2016, however, a CNN reporter described Mount Rushmore as a “monument to four great American presidents” while narrating a story about a visit to the monument by then-presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.,

“This is our country at it’s very best,” Sanders said at the time. “What an incredible achievement.”

The unidentified reporter’s voice can be heard talking about the “majesty of the moment.”

Pursuant to the new moral stricture promulgated this week by the NYT & CNN — that Mount Rushmore is a shameful monument to racism and white supremacy — both CNN and Bernie Sanders ought to repent for this praise they jointly heaped on it in 2016:pic.twitter.com/0MRNO2PJ2j

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) July 4, 2020

“Just the accomplishment and the beauty, it really does make one very proud to be an American,” Sanders added.

The 2016 clip was tweeted out Friday by The Intercept journalist Glenn Greenwald.

Depictions of four American presidents — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln — are carved into the side of the mountain in the Black Hills. Washington and Jefferson owned slaves during their lifetime.

Fox News reached out to CNN about the discrepancy but did not receive a reply to the

WATCH: Joe Biden Calls Himself ‘Joe Biden’s Husband’

Geller Report - Sat, 07/04/2020 - 17:00

“Dementia Joe” Biden strikes again. The Left will commit voter fraud to get this man elected. The corrupt MSM continue to ignore Joe Biden’s cognitive decline. It’s a disgrace.

WATCH: Does Joe Biden Call Himself ‘Joe Biden’s Husband’?

By Heavy.com, July 3, 2020

In a message on PBS News Hour on July 3, Joe Biden sounds like he introduced himself as “Joe Biden’s husband.” But some are debating it and saying that he said “I’m Jill Biden’s husband.” Biden often jokingly refers to himself as “Jill Biden’s husband.” Read on to see the video below of that moment and then watch the full video that led up to that moment to decide for yourself what he said. After you watch the videos, let us know in the poll at the end of this article what you think he said. 

After the National Education Association (NEA) introduced Biden on PBS News Hour, he jokingly sounded like he said: “As Lily already indicated, I’m Joe Biden’s husband, Joe Biden.”

Some say that because he has a bit of a stutter, it’s possible he was saying “Jill Biden,” since the name sounds so similar to Joe.

Awkward! Joe Biden: "Good afternoon, everyone. As Lilly already indicated, I’m Joe Biden’s husband, Joe Biden.” pic.twitter.com/dxdrB2K59C

— TV News HQ (@TVNewsHQ) July 3, 2020

But others say it definitely sounds like he says, “I’m Joe Biden’s husband, Joe Biden.”

“I’m Joe Biden’s husband. Joe Biden.” – Joe Biden. pic.twitter.com/xERj1cIIId

— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) July 3, 2020

Biden was introduced by the NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia, who spent some time talking about his wife, Jill Biden, before he began speaking. Garcia talked about how Jill Biden is an NEA member, which wasn’t why they were speaking to him, but it didn’t hurt. She said that because Jill Biden is a college professor, Joe Biden “knows us.”

It would be natural, after that introduction, for Biden to jokingly refer to himself as Jill Biden’s husband. In fact, Biden is known for often doing just that. In April 2019, The Hill reported that he introduced himself as “Jill Biden’s husband” when he first kicked off his campaign. Here’s that moment for comparison:

First COVID Drug Trials To Be Released In Two Weeks, WHO Director Says

Newsy - Sat, 07/04/2020 - 16:55

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The World Health Organization's director general says the first results from potential COVID-19 drug trials should be available soon.

In a news briefing Friday, Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the organization expects "interim results within the next two weeks.”

The director general added that "nearly 5,500 patients from 39 countries" were included in the trials. 

The United Nations organization is testing a number of drugs including remdesivir, which health officials have called has a "hopeful" drug for treating the virus. 

They were also testing the drug touted by President Donald Trump, hydroxychloroquine. However, active testing has been paused as concerns emerged over the drug's effectiveness and potential harms for people suffering from COVID-19. 

The WHO also tested a pair of HIV drugs, both solo and with another medication, as other potential remedies for the virus. 

Paycheck Protection Program Lending Extended Into August

Newsy - Sat, 07/04/2020 - 16:43

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President Donald Trump signed legislation Saturday to extend lending under the Paycheck Protection Program that seeks to benefit small businesses during the pandemic. He also approved a measure that separates limits for PPP commitments from other Small Business Administration Programs.

The extension measure had bipartisan, unanimous support in both the Senate and the House. It was passed less than a day after the program's lending window ended. Businesses can now take out new loans through August 8.

But some lawmakers were frustrated during negotiations because the Treasury and SBA missed a self-imposed deadline to give data on the program to House committees. Congressional aides told The Washington Post they don't expect data to be released before Monday.

The PPP program was created in March as a major component of the CARES Act. It has already distributed over $520 billion to small businesses across the country. The average loan size was about $107,000, and there's about $150 billion in approved funding left.

Contains footage from CNN.

President Donald Trump signs bill extending deadline for small business relief loans under PPP

UPI - Sat, 07/04/2020 - 16:12
President Donald Trump signed a law Saturday extending the deadline for small business loans under the Paycheck Protection Program.

Russian Orthodox Church says 'unacceptable' to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque

Middle East Eye - Sat, 07/04/2020 - 15:31
Russian Orthodox Church says 'unacceptable' to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque
Church calls on Ankara 'to respect the feelings of believers' ahead of court ruling on status of building
MEE and agencies Sat, 07/04/2020 - 16:31
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Converting Istanbul's Hagia Sophia from a museum back to a mosque would be "unacceptable", a senior official in the Russian Orthodox Church said on Saturday.

The intervention from the world's largest Orthodox community comes just days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Turkey to keep the building as a museum.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has proposed restoring the mosque status of the Unesco World Heritage Site, a 6th century building at the heart of both the Christian Byzantine and Muslim Ottoman empires, and now one of Turkey's most visited monuments.

US top diplomat Pompeo urges Turkey not to convert Hagia Sophia into mosque
Read More »

"We can't go back to the Middle Ages now," Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate's department for external church relations, said on state television, Russia's Interfax news agency reported.

"We live in a multi-polar world, we live in a multi-confessional world and we need to respect the feelings of believers."

Hilarion said the Russian Orthodox Church did not understand the motive for Hagia Sophia's conversion and that it believed domestic politics was behind the move.

"We believe that in the current conditions this act is an unacceptable violation of religious freedom," he was quoted as saying.

Court ruling

A Turkish court earlier this week heard a case aimed at converting the building back into a mosque and will announce its verdict later this month.

The court case, brought by an NGO for preserving historic monuments, disputes the legality of a decision in 1934, in the early days of the modern secular Turkish state under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, to convert Hagia Sophia - known in Turkish as Ayasofya - from a mosque into a museum.

Erdogan has in the past rejected calls to convert the museum into a mosque, but since 2016 he has endorsed symbolic steps to reintroduce Islamic practices into the building.

In 2016, the government allowed the recitation of the Islamic call to prayer inside the building and later assigned an imam to a small chamber where people have been allowed to pray since 1991.

'We live in a multi-polar world, we live in a multi-confessional world and we need to respect the feelings of believers'

- Russian Orthodox Church

The Greek government has also urged Turkey to keep the building as a museum.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Pompeo, said: "We urge the government of Turkey to continue to maintain the Hagia Sophia as a museum as an exemplar of its commitment to respect the faith traditions and diverse history that contributed to the Republic of Turkey and to ensure it remains accessible to all.”

Erdogan has described foreign criticism over the proposal as an attack on Turkey's sovereignty.

But the move has been criticised by other religious and political leaders.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual head of some 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide and who is based in Istanbul, said converting it into a mosque would disappoint Christians and would "fracture" relations between east and west.

Watch live: Washington, D.C. celebrates Fourth of July with fireworks

UPI - Sat, 07/04/2020 - 15:30
While Fourth of July celebrations will be less traditional this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the nation's capital still plans to conduct its annual fireworks display Saturday.

Coronavirus: Egypt sets date for senate elections in August despite virus fears

Middle East Eye - Sat, 07/04/2020 - 15:12
Coronavirus: Egypt sets date for senate elections in August despite virus fears
Amendments made to the country's constitution last year provided for the creation of a Council of Senators
MEE and agencies Sat, 07/04/2020 - 16:12
The senate chamber will serve as a 300-seat advisory body (AFP)

Egypt will hold inaugural elections for a new second parliamentary chamber on 11-12 August, election commissioner Lasheen Ibrahim said on Saturday, despite fears that voting could inflame the coronavirus pandemic.

Amendments made to Egypt's constitution last year, which were approved by a referendum, provided for the creation of a Council of Senators.

The senate chamber will serve as a 300-seat advisory body, of which 100 members will be elected through a closed-list system and another 100 will be elected as individuals. 

Egypt passes electoral changes that will bolster Sisi's influence in parliament
Read More »

The remaining 100 seats will be appointed by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

"Holding elections during the [coronavirus] pandemic that has swept the world necessitates that we take several precautionary measures to protect ourselves and society," Ibrahim said during a televised press conference.

He said all polling stations would observe health guidelines, with all voters and polling staff required to wear masks, and social distancing measures would be enforced.

Egypt reported 1,485 new cases of Covid-19 on Friday, bringing the total number of infections to 72,711, including 3,201 deaths.

The poll results will be announced on 19 August in the official state gazette, Ibrahim said.

Perpetual state of emergency

The constitutional amendments made last year allowed Sisi to stay in office till 2030, expanded his power over the judiciary and bolstered the military's role.

Supporters said Sisi had stabilised Egypt and needed more time to complete economic reforms. Critics feared a further narrowing of the space for dissent and opposition after a wide-ranging crackdown.

Egypt has been under a perpetual state of emergency for almost four decades, with a brief interval in 2012.

Sisi extended the state of emergency on 28 April for another three months, marking the 12th time it has been renewed since April 2017.

Egypt sets date for senate elections in August despite coronavirus fears

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