Category Archives: World

politics news

Vatican Museums Reopen After 2-Month Lockdown

With COVID-19 restrictions easing as new infections decrease in Italy, the Vatican has reopened the majestic doors of its art-filled museums this week to the public. The relaxation of restrictions in place since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy last year has brought good news to the museums and to art lovers who are now able to return after a two-month lockdown.But the museums will not be seeing the crowds of the past for some time.For now, all access to the museums will strictly require booking a specific time slot.  Limited numbers will be allowed in for all time slots available and all those who enter the museums will have their temperature checked at the entrance. All staff working at the Vatican Museums have been vaccinated. A maximum number of 400 visitors will be allowed into the museums every 30 minutes so as to maintain social distancing. Masks are mandatory both inside and in the Vatican gardens.Barbara Jatta, Director of the Vatican Museums, is enthusiastic about the re-opening and eager to welcome visitors back to enjoy the masterpieces that have found a home here. She said that museums are a way to nourish people’s souls.She said this is the time to come to the Vatican Museums, because they are totally safe to visit and without that flow of people that existed in previous years.Gianni Crea, the museum “clavigero”, shows keys to the Vatican Museums following its reopening after weeks of closure, as COVID-19 restrictions ease, at the Vatican, May 3, 2021.With limited foreign travel still and few tourists in the Eternal City, it is mainly Italians at this time who are booking to visit.Antonio, a Rome resident, said he has been wanting to come for a long time and so immediately seized the opportunity. He added that he is delighted and looks forward to the visit.During the closures caused by the pandemic, the only way to see the works in the museums was through free virtual online tours on the museums’ website.  During the closure, staff used the opportunity to carry out maintenance work and improve both its digital services and security.As Italy this year marks 700 years of the death of its famous 14-th century poet, the museums are featuring a special exhibit on Dante Alighieri titled “Dante in the Vatican Museums.”Pre-pandemic, close to an estimated seven million visitors a year visit the Vatican Museums with their magnificent frescoed ceiling of “The Last Judgement” by Renaissance artist Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, its passageway and galleries and the Vatican Gardens. 

your ad here

Mexico City Metro Overpass Collapses onto Road; 20 Dead

An elevated section of the Mexico City metro collapsed and sent a subway car plunging toward a busy boulevard late Monday, killing at least 20 people and injuring about 70, city officials said. A crane was working to hold up one subway car left dangling on the collapsed section so that emergency workers could enter to check the car to see if anyone was still trapped. Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said 49 of the injured were hospitalized, and that seven were in serious condition and undergoing surgery. Sheinbaum said a motorist had been pulled alive from a car that was trapped on the roadway below. Dozens of rescuers continued searching through wreckage from the collapsed, preformed concrete structure. “There are unfortunately children among the dead,” Sheinbaum said, without specifying how many. , The overpass was about 5 meters (16 feet) above the road in the southside borough of Tlahuac, but the train ran above a concrete median strip, which apparently lessened the casualties among motorists on the roadway below. “A support beam gave way,” Sheinbaum said, adding that the beam collapsed just as the train passed over it. Rescue efforts were briefly interrupted at midnight because the partially dangling train was “very weak.” “We don’t know if they are alive,” Sheinbaum said of the people possibly trapped inside the subway car. Hundreds of police officers and firefighters cordoned off the scene as desperate friends and relatives of people believed to be on the trains gathered outside the security perimeter. Oscar López, 26, was searching for his friend, Adriana Salas, 26. Six months pregnant, she was riding the subway home from her work as a dentist when her phone stopped answering around the time the accident occurred. “We lost contact with her, at 10:50 p.m., there was literally no more contact,” López said. With little information and a still serious coronavirus situation in Mexico City, López said “they are not telling us anything, and people are just crowding together.” The collapse occurred on the newest of the Mexico City subway’s lines, Line 12, which stretches far into the city’s southside. Like many of the city’s dozen subway lines, it runs underground through more central areas of the city of 9 million, but then runs on elevated, pre-formed concrete structures on the city’s outskirts. The collapse could represent a major blow for Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, who was Mexico City’s mayor from 2006 to 2012, when Line 12 was built. Allegations about poor design and construction on the subway line emerged soon after Ebrard left office as mayor. The line had to be partly closed in 2013 so tracks could be repaired. Ebrard wrote on Twitter: “What happened today on the Metro is a terrible tragedy.” “Of course, the causes should be investigated and those responsible should be identified,” he wrote. “I repeat that I am entirely at the disposition of authorities to contribute in whatever way is necessary.” It was not clear whether a 7.1-magnitude earthquake in 2017 could have affected the subway line. The Mexico City Metro, one of the largest and busiest in the world, has had at least two serious accidents since its inauguration half a century ago. In March of last year, a collision between two trains at the Tacubaya station left one passenger dead and injured 41 people. In 2015, a train that did not stop on time crashed into another at the Oceania station, injuring 12 people. 

your ad here

G-7 Foreign Ministers Discussing China, Russia, Myanmar and Syria

Foreign ministers representing the Group of 7 industrialized nations have a busy day of meetings Tuesday in London discussing a range of world issues, including relations with China and Russia, the coup in Myanmar, the Syrian conflict, and the situation in Afghanistan. Britain’s foreign office said in Tuesday’s sessions Foreign Secretary Dominic Rabb “will lead discussions on pressing geopolitical issues that threaten to undermine democracy, freedoms and human rights.” Raab said the talks are “an opportunity to bring together open, democratic societies and demonstrate unity at a time when it is much needed to tackle shared challenges and rising threats.” He is expected to urge G-7 members to sanction individuals and entities connected to Myanmar’s military junta, to support arms embargoes and to boost humanitarian aid to the people of Myanmar. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Raab on Monday and said regarding China the goal is not to “try to contain China or to hold China down.” “What we are trying to do is to uphold the international rules-based order that our countries have invested so much in over so many decades to the benefit, I would argue not just of our own citizens, but of people around the world including, by the way, China,” Blinken told reporters.US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, walks with Dominic Raab, Britain’s Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs into Downing Street ahead of a press conference at No 9 Downing Street in London, May 3, 2021.Raab said the United States and Britain are also looking for constructive ways to work with China “in a sensible and positive manner” on issues including climate change when possible.   U.S. President Joe Biden has identified competition with China as his administration’s greatest foreign policy challenge. In his first speech to Congress last week, he pledged to maintain a strong U.S. military presence in the Indo-Pacific and boost U.S. technological development.     Last month, Blinken said the United States was concerned about China’s aggressive actions against Taiwan and warned it would be a “serious mistake” for anyone to try to change the status quo in the western Pacific by force.   Elsewhere in the region, the United States said it is ready to engage diplomatically with North Korea to achieve the ultimate goal of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, following the completion of a months-long U.S. policy review on North Korea.  “What we have now is a policy that calls for a calibrated practical approach that is open to and will explore diplomacy with North Korea, to try to make practical progress that increases the security of the United States, our allies and our deployed forces,” Blinken said Monday.     Raab said Britain and the United States “share the strategic paradigm,” and both countries will support each other’s efforts.  On Friday, the Biden administration announced it completed the review of North Korean policy, expressing openness to talks with the reclusive communist nation. Biden is also expected to appoint a special envoy for North Korean human rights issues.  North Korea lashed out at the United States and its allies on Sunday in a series of statements, saying recent comments from Washington are proof of a hostile policy.    A statement by Kwon Jong Gun, head of the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s North America Department, warns that Pyongyang would seek “corresponding measures” and that if Washington tries to approach relations with Pyongyang through “outdated and old-school policies” from the perspective of the Cold War, it will face an increasingly unaffordable crisis in the near future.    “I hope that North Korea will take the opportunity to engage diplomatically and to see if there are ways to move forward toward the objective of complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. And so, we will look to see not only what North Korea says but what it actually does in the coming days and months,” the top U.S. diplomat added.  Blinken’s remarks followed his separate meetings with Japanese Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu and South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong, where the foreign ministers pledged U.S.-Japan-ROK trilateral cooperation toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.  The G-7 ministerial talks are laying the foundation for a summit of leaders from those countries in June, also in Britain.    In addition to Britain and the United States, the G-7 includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. Australia, India, South Africa, South Korea and Brunei are also taking part in this week’s talks.       After the G-7 meetings, Blinken is scheduled to travel to Ukraine to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and other senior government officials.    State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement that Blinken will “reaffirm unwavering U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression.” 

your ad here

Colombian Finance Minister Resigns Amid Deadly Protests

Colombia’s finance minister resigned on Monday following five days of protests over a tax reform proposal that left at least 17 dead.Alberto Carrasquilla’s resignation comes a day after President Ivan Duque withdrew the tax plan from congress in response to the protests, which have included riots and violent clashes with police.According to Colombia’s human rights ombudsman, 16 protesters have been killed since Wednesday as well as a policeman who was stabbed to death.Carrasquilla had designed the tax reform, which was aimed at raising $6.7 billion for Colombia’s government as it struggles to pay debts while attempting to provide poor families with subsidies to mitigate the pandemic’s impact.The finance minister’s plan included a 19% sales tax on gasoline as well as an effort to expand the country’s tax base by charging income taxes to people making $700 a month or more.Carrasquilla had also proposed a 19% sales tax on utilities in middle-class neighborhoods, and a wealth tax for individuals with a net worth of $1.3 million or more.The government said it needs the money to pay for health care improvements and to continue implementing a basic income scheme that started during the pandemic.But the tax plan was rejected by most political parties, which are currently preparing for elections in 2021, and had also angered unions, student groups and small-business leaders whose incomes have been affected by the pandemic. Protesters asked the government to raise corporate taxes and decrease military spending instead of taxing the middle class.Sergio Guzmán, a political analyst in Bogota, said Carrasquilla’s resignation could “embolden” protesters to stay in the streets until the government meets other demands such as reforming the police or stopping plans to fumigate illegal coca crops with a chemical that could cause cancer. He pointed out that Colombia’s president now has few options but to start negotiations over taxes with different political and social groups.”The problem is that Duque has little credibility now,” Guzmán said.Colombia’s president on Sunday encouraged politicians to come together and design another tax plan.”Withdrawing this tax reform or not is not what should be debated,” Duque said in a nationally televised speech. “The real debate is how to guarantee the continuation of social programs.” 

your ad here

With Proper Care, Maradona Could be Alive, Medical Report Says

A medical report on the death of Diego Maradona given to prosecutors Monday said the Argentine soccer legend agonized for more than 12 hours, did not receive adequate treatment and could still be alive if he had been properly hospitalized.The medical panel worked for two months on the report, which was written by more than 20 doctors. Maradona, who led Argentina to a 1986 World Cup, is considered one of the greatest soccer players ever.The document further complicates the defense of seven people under investigation in the case, including brain surgeon Leopoldo Luque and psychiatrist Agustina Cosachov, both of whom worked for Maradona.The 60-year-old Maradona died of a heart attack at a rented residence outside Buenos Aires following a November 3 brain operation.The medical report said, “the patient’s signs of risk of life were ignored,” adding that Maradona “showed unequivocal signs of a prolonged agony period” of at least 12 hours.The document also said the attention Maradona was getting at the rented house “did not fulfill the minimum requirements” for a patient with his medical history. It said the Argentine star would not have died with “adequate hospitalization.”Maradona had suffered a series of medical problems, some the result of excesses of drugs and alcohol. He was reportedly near death in 2000 and 2004.Julio Rivas, a lawyer for Luque, said he will try to annul the medical forensics of the report.”They have made a biased report, a bad one, with no scientific foundation,” he said.

your ad here

French Lawmakers to Vote on Controversial Climate Bill

France’s centrist government has released a video ahead of Wednesday’s vote on the so-called Climate and Resilience bill, with Ecological Transition Minister Barbara Pompili explaining how it will lead to cleaner air, more insulated buildings and a greener France overall.Polls find many French citizens support the spirit of the massive legislation, which aims to meet the country’s goal of cutting greenhouse gases by 40% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. A recent report by the EU’s climate service found 2020 was Europe’s hottest year on record, and the region was warming faster than the rest of the world.The French bill’s dozens of measures include limiting the most polluting vehicles in urban areas, slapping ecotaxes on truck transport, banning heated restaurant terraces and capping rent on insulated housing.The National Assembly is expected to pass the legislation before it heads to the Senate.But the bill is deeply controversial, with industry saying it’s too constraining, and green groups saying it doesn’t go far enough.Graffiti near the Place de la Bastille in Paris calling for climate action. (Lisa Bryant/VOA)Chloe Gerbier, legal officer for environmental NGO Notre Affaire a Tous (Our Shared Responsibility), said the legislation in no way meets the urgency of the climate crisis. She and others said it drastically waters down proposals made by a citizens’ climate convention set up by President Emmanuel Macron.Earlier wording in the bill, for example, that made serious environmental abuses a crime now tags them as lesser misdemeanors. Green groups also want a bigger category of short-haul domestic flights banned in favor of train transport.France’s airline industry, hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, doesn’t want any flight bans. Nicolas Paulissen, managing director of the Union of French Airports, says it doesn’t make sense to penalize French airlines, when much of the industry’s growth is happening in Africa and Asia.Paris climate protesters before France’s rolling coronavirus lockdowns. (Lisa Bryant/VOA)“We do rather believe in the greening of aviation through technological innovation, for instance, and that’s why we encourage the French government to finance the research for new technologies allowing the aviation to be greener than in the future,” Paulissen said.Pompili acknowledges a slew of criticism, but says the legislation is balancing sharply opposing interests to bring everyone on board.Earlier this year, a Paris court convicted the French state of failing to address the climate crisis and for not keeping its promises to tackle greenhouses emissions. The government is appealing the ruling. 

your ad here

Reporter’s Notebook: The Ups, But Mostly Downs of Traveling From West Virginia to Rome During COVID

“All changed, changed utterly,” Ireland’s WB Yeats once lamented in a poem. Being caught between the past and something as yet undefined being born is indeed discomfiting. Everything is familiar yet different. Yeats came to mind during my two-day journey this month back to my European home from the United States.I am not sure I want to repeat the experience.The halcyon pre-COVID days of international travel are over — at least for the time being, and maybe for longer than we are willing to accept.“I call it COVID-crazy,” a JetBlue pilot lamented the night before I flew out from New York’s JFK airport. He agreed with President Joe Biden’s recent remark that the U.S. is on the move again — but he had a different perspective on it.Many shops at New York’s JFK airport remain shuttered but some outlets are trying to drum up business. (Jamie Dettmer/VOA)“There are a lot of people traveling who don’t normally travel and don’t now how to behave. There were fisticuffs at my gate today,” he added. Apparently passengers were over-keen to board first so they could grab seats near the front, presumably so they could be among the first to disembark at the destination.Airport hotels have seen a surge in bookings the past month. The Hilton hotel at JFK is running at around 50 percent occupancy during the week and is fully booked at weekends. “People just want to travel,” a receptionist told me.But while domestic U.S. travel may be picking up now that isn’t the case yet with international travel. The EU still has a ban in place for leisure travel form the U.S., although several south European countries are planning re-opening for vaccinated American tourists.America is on the move — domestic travel is picking up at New York’s JFK airport. (Jamie Dettmer/VOA)The upside to my journey from the wilds of West Virginia to Rome was in fact the scarcity of other passengers. The Airbus was empty. The downside was virtually everything else, including the form-filling and database registrations to enter New York, the European Union and Italy.I had opted for a so-called COVID-safety flight to Rome with Delta Air Lines from New York, which meant I wouldn’t have to endure a period of quarantine on arrival. But that entailed having three COVID tests: a PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before departure at a cost of $220, a rapid antigen test taken no more than 4.5 hours before boarding, and then another antigen test on arrival at Rome’s  airport.With complicated pandemic restrictions international flights remain empty. (Jamie Dettmer/VOA)The journey also involved carrying more paperwork than I recall having to have in past times when entering the document-obsessed Soviet Union or any of its equally guarded communist satellites in Central Europe. At JFK airport we all struggled — passengers and staff included — with the forms and database requirements.The EU’s passenger locator form, which had to be completed online, challenged everyone’s efforts to tell the truth. The database gleefully rejected passport numbers and the details of residency cards and driving licenses. Phone numbers and addresses were also blocked routinely for being erroneous. Head-scratching Italians and non-Italians, baffled residents and non-residents alike, were all stumped by a computer that just wanted to say, “no.”Rome’s airport remains deserted and silent. (Jamie Dettmer/VOA)In the end as the line of desperate passengers became ever more agitated we struck on the idea that we needed to be economical with the truth and offer anything we could come up with to coax affirmative reactions. The struggle with the malfunctioning database doesn’t augur well for when (and if) the EU’s fractious member states strike an agreement on digital vaccine passports, something that has so far eluded them.Everyone had their own story to tell about why they were traveling — from work demands to celebrating a landmark birthday of an elderly relative who they hadn’t seen for more than a year. Retirees who had bought houses just before the pandemic had lost patience with a long delay to their carefully planned post-work lives.Others had more immediately gloomy reasons for the trip. “I am trying to get to Sardinia to see my 89-year-old mom before she dies from COVID,” confided Carmella, a dark-haired Italian woman. She only just made the flight having to secure a hurried PCR test and a rapid antigen test at the same time at the gate.With few arriving passengers at Rome’s airport, taxi and limousine drivers are disconsolate. (Jamie Dettmer/VOA)On arrival Rome’s normally crowded airport was eerily deserted and silent. The process for our rapid antigen tests took about an hour — and there was yet another encounter with a database, this time a trouble-free one run by the regional Lazio health authority. In the immigration hall, bored officials almost competed for the few passengers to process. Outside in the bright sunshine we were heavily outnumbered by taxi drivers anxiously touting for a fare.Not the end yetItalians — especially those in the hospitality and tourism sectors — are desperate for foreign travel to start up again. But while the average number of cases and deaths reported each day has fallen the last few weeks, with infections 35% of the peak reported in November, the country is still struggling to finish with a devastating third wave of infections.A view of the Alitalia check-in counter at Fiumicino International Airport as talks between Italy and the European Commission over the revamp of Alitalia are due to enter a key phase, in Rome, Italy, April 15, 2021.Italian authorities reported 144 coronavirus-related deaths Sunday with a daily tally of new infections of 9,148. That is down from the day before when more than 12,000 new cases were reported. Hardly surprisingly authorities are highly cautious. Italy has registered 121,177 deaths linked to COVID-19 since the pandemic’s outbreak last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the seventh highest in the world.The coalition government led by Mario Draghi has begun relaxing some of its pandemic restrictions after a stringent lockdown over Easter, but not for well regions. The rate of infections still remains stubbornly high in the south of the country and six regions, including Calabria and Puglia, remain under lockdowns, being deemed red zones.And despite protests and lobbying by cash-strapped tourism-related businesses, the government has so far refused to relax strict rules on international travel and other trips deemed non-essential.A near empty bar is seen in Capri, a southern Italian island that relies heavily on foreign tourism, despite the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions in much of the country, April 27, 2021.An ordinance last month extended quarantine requirements for travelers arriving from other EU countries and tightened the rules on people arriving from the pandemic-hit Indian sub-continent.Government ministers say they hope to allow tourism to resume by early next month, but they stress it will all depend on the progress of the vaccination campaign, which as in the rest of the EU has been sluggish.The risks of international travel remain clear. While all the passengers from my U.S. flight proved negative on arrival, that wasn’t the case last week with two flights from India. On Wednesday, 23 passengers on a flight from New Delhi tested positive on arrival and on Thursday 30 passengers and two crew members tested positive from an Air India flight from Amritsar.Italy has now tightened restrictions on all travel from India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Under the new rules, only Italian citizens who live permanently in Italy are allowed to enter from any of the three countries. Previously foreign nationals resident in Italy had also been allowed to return.And anyone allowed to enter from those three countries must now spend ten days in a so-called “COVID hotel” where they are monitored by local health authorities. 

your ad here

G-7 Foreign Ministers Meet in Person to Discuss Pandemic, Russia, China

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in London for talks with his counterparts from G-7 nations, with the coronavirus pandemic, Russia and China among likely agenda items during three days of formal meetings and side discussions. Iran and North Korea, two nations whose nuclear programs have been the focus of negotiations in recent years, are set to be discussed at a working welcome dinner Monday night. South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong said Monday he was “grateful to have this opportunity to have in-depth discussions with the U.S. after the conclusion of your policy review towards North Korea,” as he met with Blinken. On Friday, the Biden administration announced a strategy toward North Korea that expresses openness to talks with the reclusive communist nation.US readout of meeting between Yael Lempert, Charge d’Affaires of the US embassy, left, and John Holloway, UK representative from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office greet US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, in northeast of London on May 2, 2021.Britain’s Foreign Office said Raab and Blinken would be consulting on Afghanistan, Iran, China and trade in their meeting. The G-7 ministerial talks are laying the foundation for a summit of leaders from those countries in June, also in Britain. The U.S. State Department said this week’s meetings would be a chance to discuss “advancing economic growth, human rights, food security, gender equality, and women’s and girls’ empowerment.” In addition to Britain and the United States, the G-7 includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. Australia, India, South Africa, South Korea and Brunei are also taking part in this week’s talks. After the G-7 meetings, Blinken is due to travel to Ukraine to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other senior government officials.  State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement that Blinken will “reaffirm unwavering U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression.” 

your ad here

Germany Shuts Down International Child Pornography Site

Germany has shut down “one of the biggest darknet child pornography platforms in the world” and arrested four of its members, authorities said on Monday.
 
In a series of raids in mid-April, German police arrested three men between the ages of 40 and 64 while and another suspect was detained in Paraguay on the request of German authorities, Frankfurt prosecutors said in a joint statement with the Federal Criminal Police Office.
 
The website, known as “Boystown,” world’s largest for child pornography with more than 400,000 users, had existed since at least mid-2019. It was “set up for the worldwide exchange of child pornography, in particular images of the abuse of boys,” the statement said.
 
The darknet forum allowed users to communicate with others and share graphic image and video content which included “serious sexual abuse of toddlers.”
 
A German police task force, in coordination with Europol and supported by law enforcement authorities from the United States, Canada, Australia, Netherlands and Sweden, had investigated the “Boystown” platform, its administrators and users for months.

your ad here