War in Yemen: 70 more killed as battle for Marib rages on

Fierce fighting for Yemen’s strategic Marib city has killed 70 pro-government and Huthi rebel fighters over the past 24 hours, with battles raging on three fronts, loyalist military officials said yesterday. 

The Huthis have been trying to seize Marib, the capital of an oil-rich region and the government’s last significant pocket of territory in the north, since February.

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Two officials from pro-government forces told AFP that the rebels were mounting a concerted push that had left 26 loyalist soldiers dead as well as 44 from Huthi ranks. The rebels rarely disclose their losses.

The new toll adds to 53 killed on both sides in the previous 24 hours, according to loyalist military officials.

The other official said that warplanes from the Saudi-led military coalition, which entered the Yemen conflict to support the government in 2015, launched airstrikes that “destroyed 12 Huthi military vehicles, including four tanks and a cannon.”

However, the Saudi firepower does not seem to have halted the rebel offensive.

The Iran-backed Huthis in late 2014 overran the capital Sanaa, 120 kilometres to the west of Marib, along with much of northern Yemen. The loss of Marib would be a heavy blow for the Yemeni government, currently based in the southern city of Aden, and for its Saudi backers.

It could also lead to humanitarian disaster, as vast numbers of civilians displaced from fighting elsewhere have sought refuge in Marib. 


Trump tells Republican donors he’ll help win Congress in 2022

Former President Donald Trump vowed to help Republicans win seats in Congress in 2022 elections but lashed out at two top party figures, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and former Vice President Mike Pence, at a donor retreat on Saturday.  McConnell drew Trump’s ire in the aftermath of the election for stating the obvious – that Biden had won the presidency – and the two remain at odds. Parting from the prepared text of his speech, Trump called the senator a “son of a b****,” an attendee told Reuters. Pence didn’t halt certification of the vote tally as Trump suggested. He has said any talk of his own plans – the Constitution gives him the right to seek another four-year term – should wait until after the November 2022 elections.  

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Construction Of Mega Dam In Tibet: China’s plans stoke fears in India

China is planning a mega dam in Tibet able to produce triple the electricity generated by the Three Gorges — the world’s largest power station — stoking fears among environmentalists and in neighbouring India. 

The structure will span the Brahmaputra River before the waterway leaves the Himalayas and flows into India, straddling the world’s longest and deepest canyon at an altitude of more than 1,500 metres.

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The project in Tibet’s Medog County is expected to dwarf the record-breaking Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River in central China, and is billed as able to produce 300 billion kilowatts of electricity each year.

It is mentioned in China’s strategic 14th Five-Year Plan, unveiled in March at an annual congress of the country’s top lawmakers.  But the plan was short on details, a timeframe or budget.

Beijing may justify the massive project as an environmentally-friendly alternative to fossil fuels, but it risks provoking strong opposition from environmentalists

Environmentalists say the area also contains a unique biodiversity. The dam would block the migration of fish as well as sediment flow that enriches the soil during seasonal floods downstream.

New Delhi is also worried by the project. The Chinese Communist Party is effectively in a position to control the origins of much of South Asia’s water supply, analysts say.

“Water wars are a key component of such warfare because they allow China to leverage its upstream Tibet-centred power over the most essential natural resource,” wrote political scientist Brahma Chellaney last month in the Times of India.

The risks of seismic activity would also make it a “ticking water bomb” for residents downstream, he warned.

In reaction to the dam idea, the Indian government has floated the prospect of building another dam on the Brahmaputra to shore up its own water reserves. 


Iran reports electrical incident at Natanz nuke site

A problem with the electrical distribution grid of Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility caused an incident at the site yesterday, Iranian Press TV reported, a day after Tehran launched new advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges at the site. The Natanz facility, which is located in the desert in the central province of Isfahan, is the centrepiece of Iran’s uranium enrichment programme. “The incident caused no casualties or contamination,” Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said, adding that “electricity was affected at the Natanz facility”. The cause was being investigated, Kamalvandi told Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency. In July last year, a fire broke out at the Natanz facility, which the government said was an attempt to sabotage Iran’s nuclear programme.

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Egypt jails man for 8 years in #MeToo case

An Egyptian court Sunday sentenced a man to eight years in prison for sexually harassing three minors and drug possession, in a case that sparked outrage on social media. Ahmed Bassam Zaki, a former student of some of Egypt’s most elite schools and the American University in Cairo, was sentenced to seven years in jail for sexually harassing three underage girls and one year for drug possession, a judicial source said. He can appeal the verdict, the source added. Zaki, who is in his 20s, had already been sentenced in December to three years in prison for sexually harassing two young women by Egypt’s economic court, which tries cyber crimes. The court found he had sent sexual photos to one of the women and repeatedly contacted the other without her consent.

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Gang ransacks Hong Kong newspaper critical of China

A Hong Kong newspaper that is critical of Beijing said yesterday its printing presses were ransacked by a gang of men wielding sledgehammers. The assault on the Epoch Times was captured on CCTV and comes as China overseas a sweeping crackdown against critics in Hong Kong following huge and often violent democracy protests in 2019. Footage released by the paper showed four masked men storming into the printing plant in the early hours of yesterday morning and smashing up equipment. They are seen throwing concrete rubble into machinery as a terrified female staff member looked on, and in an accompanying report the Epoch Times said the gang threatened those inside with violence

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Suu Kyi faces new criminal charge

Myanmar’s ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was hit with a fresh criminal charge yesterday, as the junta’s tough crackdown on dissent rolls on.

The 75-year-old Nobel laureate has not been seen in public since being detained in the early hours of February 1 as the military deposed her government and seized power.

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The generals have used increasingly brutal methods to try to quell a growing protest movement against their rule, while Suu Kyi faces a raft of criminal charges that could see her barred for life from office.

“Amay Suu has been charged again under section 25 of the natural disaster management law,” lawyer Min Min Soe told AFP after a court hearing in the capital Naypyidaw, where Suu Kyi appeared by videolink.

“She has been charged in six cases altogether — five charges in Naypyidaw and one in Yangon.”

The most serious charge Suu Kyi faces falls under Myanmar’s official secrets laws.

Min Min Soe said Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest in Naypyidaw, appeared in good health but it is not clear if she has any idea of the turmoil that has unfolded in Myanmar over the past two months.

Near-daily protests seeking her release and the restoration of democracy have been met with rubber bullets, live rounds and even grenades by the security forces.

More than 700 civilians have been killed in the space of just 70 days since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group, which says more than 3,000 have been arrested.

In Tamu, near Myanmar’s border with India, a six-year-old girl was shot dead while walking to the shop to buy snacks yesterday morning, a local in the city told AFP.


Austrian files climate lawsuit against government

An Austrian multiple sclerosis sufferer has sued his government in the European rights court for failing to protect the climate, saying global warming has worsened his condition, an activist group said yesterday. The man, whose name was only given as Mex M., suffers from a temperature-dependent form of multiple sclerosis, said the Austrian branch of the Fridays For Future movement initiated by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. “From 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit) I sit in a wheelchair. That means: I’m already affected by the climate crisis and in the future even more so,” the 40-year-old energy consultant said. “A success would enable me to demand effective climate measures and to claim this in court.” The suit was filed at the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Friday. “The climate law is weak and does not give you the opportunity to do anything against it,” his lawyer Michaela Kroemer told AFP.

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Mamata ‘clean bowled’: Modi

Mamata Banerjee has been “clean bowled” and her entire team has been asked to leave the field, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared yesterday.

“…if you want to unload your anger, I am here. Abuse me all you want. But don’t insult Bengal’s dignity and tradition. Bengal won’t tolerate your arrogance, tolabaaz (extortion), cut money syndicate because people want  ‘Asol Poribartan (real change)’ now,” Modi said, campaigning in Bardhaman for the Bengal election that is half-way through.

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This was the first of packed rallies the PM addressed in Bengal yesterday amid rocketing Covid cases across the country, especially in states where elections are being held. People in masks as well as without them were seen at various public meetings.

PM Modi used the Trinamool’s “Ma, Mati Manush (Mother, motherland, people)” slogan to attack the party, saying: “Tormenting ‘Ma’, looting ‘Mati’ and bloodshed of ‘Manush’ is the reality.”

Making cricket references, Modi remarked that the people of Bengal had hit so many boundaries in the first four rounds of voting that the BJP had “already completed its century”.

“The people of Bengal hit so many fours and sixes that BJP has already completed a century (of seats) in the first 4 phases of assembly polls. They have wiped out the Trinamool in half the match,” he said.


EMA issues post-jab alert for medics

The safety committee of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has asked those receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine (called Covishield in India) and medical professionals to look out for cases of unusual blood clots with low platelets, a rare adverse event with the vaccine.

It warned that though the chances of occurrence were very low, people ought to be aware of the symptoms so that they could seek prompt medical treatment to help recovery and avoid complications.

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The EMA has categorised thrombocytopenia (drop in platelet level) alone as “common”, which means the occurrence could be from one in 100 persons to lesser than one in 10 and the occurrence of thrombocytopenia in combination with thrombosis (clotting) as “very rare”, which means it may affect less than one in 10,000 vaccinated persons.