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Hardline Iran and aggressive nationalism

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Iran’s parliamentary polls are likely to elect a hardline Parliament when the country goes to the polls to choose a new Majlis on February 21. With an economy battered by renewed American sanctions and US President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy, Iran will turn more conservative after the new Parliament is elected.

The Guardian Council, appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, rejected more than half the candidates, leaving an electoral arena dominated by hardliners. The large scale disqualification of reformist candidates has led to public disinterest in the polls and demands from dissident groups to boycott the elections.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has appealed to the people to cast their ballot in the February 21 election, but there is growing concern in Tehran that polling levels may drop sharply due to the voters ire at the high level of disqualifications. The present Majlis has about 100 reformists in the 290-member house, while the rest comprise hardline conservatives as well as a sizeable number of independents.

The Guardian Council has vetted the candidates in all parliamentary elections, and has usually rejected from 15 per cent to 40 per cent of the candidates in any election. But this time the rejection rate is much higher than before, leading to general disenchantment with the forthcoming elections. More than half the candidates for the parliamentary elections have not been approved and the rejections include many members of the existing Parliament.

The Majlis enacts legislation, approves the budget and ratifies international agreements. The election of a conservative legislature would affect the functioning of the government led by President Rouhani. The election result would also act as an indicator for the next presidential elections that are due in just over a year in mid-2021.

Iran has suffered under the additional sanctions imposed by the US after Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear agreement in 2018. The additional sanctions severely impacted Iran’s economy, which has led to increasing unrest among the people. Public anger erupted in November last year when thousands of Iranians staged street protests in different parts of the country over hikes in fuel prices. The protests were put down through harsh action by the security forces. Tensions with the US escalated after Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani was killed in a targeted US air strike in January. Soleimani, a leader and General was deeply admired in Iran and the region, and his assassination had shocked most Iranians. But in the confrontation with the US, Iranian forces shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet plane killing all 176 passengers near Teheran. There was outrage in Iran and angry protests as officials first sought to deny and cover-up the incident before admitting that the passenger aircraft had been shot down by mistake.

Iran has gone through economic and political crisis; the reformists have been under pressure ever since the US quit the nuclear agreement. Though there was widespread support for the nuclear agreement in Iran, many hardliners had opposed the agreement. Trump’s rejection of the agreement seemed to validate the objections of the hardliners. Rouhani’s government has been criticised by the reformists for failing to fulfil election promises of providing greater freedoms and easing social restrictions, while the hardliners have attacked him for negotiating with western powers on the nuclear agreement which collapsed after Trump targeted Iran and reimposed sanctions.

The current Parliament was elected in 2016 when the moderates gained ground after a spell of conservative rule under President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. In 2016, a combination of reformists, centrists and moderate conservatives had won about 41 per cent of the seats, while the hardliners won 29 per cent and 28 per cent went to independent candidates. In 2004, large-scale disqualification of candidates before the polls had marginalised the reformist sections for several years and created the conditions for the election of hardliner, Ahmedinejad.

The 2016 elections brought back the reformists and moderates to power. The 2016 election was seen as Iran moving towards a more open society with greater social freedoms. A conservative or hardline Parliament will set the path to a more aggressively nationalist policy towards the US, and make it increasingly difficult for any government to make any moves towards engaging with the US.

(Shubha Singh is a foreign policy and strategic affairs commentator. The views expressed are personal. She can be reached at [email protected])

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Faculty of Johns Hopkins University authored COVID-19 report on India

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Coronavirus outbreak

New Delhi, March 29 : A story by IANS on the impact of coronavirus in India earlier this week was based on a study done by a faculty of Johns Hopkins University, the institution has said in a tweet.

There were some reports about Johns Hopkins disassociating itself from CDDEP’s Covid-19 study.

Johns Hopkins University tweeted on Saturday late night clarifying that the study was done by a faculty of JHU and states that the use of strong scientific modeling based on available data and clear assumptions to help inform the COVID-19 response in India.

“New report co-authored by faculty w/ appointments at @JohnsHopkinsSPH uses strong scientific modelling based on available data & clear assumptions to help inform the #Covid19 response in India. Note: Its findings do not reflect the views of @JohnsHopkins,” said the tweet by The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Department of International Health- focusing on global health research, education, policy and practice.

The research was done by faculty of Johns Hopkins University, it clarified, although the study does not reflect the views of the University.

The study titled Covid 19 for India updates was authored by Eili Klein, Assistant Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Gary Lin, Post Doctoral Fellow of the same department, Ramanan Laxminarayan, CDDEP, Senior Associate, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Senior Research Scholar, Princeton University and authors from CDDEP.

Following an earlier clarification from JHU, TV channel group, NDTV deleted the IANS report. Similarly, Alt News had also pointed out this clarification.

Furthermore, Laxminarayan has written an op-ed piece for the New York Times on what India should do during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Senior research scholar at @PrincetonPEI Ramanan Laxminarayan writes an op-ed for @nytimes about what India should do to fight #COVID19,” said a tweet from Princeton University on Saturday.

To put the facts straight, aside from some standards on studies not representing the views of an institution, the IANS report was based on a credible report in the public domain which had faculty from Johns Hopkins University, the pre-eminent research institution as authors and one author who is associated both with Johns Hopkins and Princeton, another premier institution.

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Analysis

Covid-19 world toll crosses 30,000, cases over 640,000

The COVID-19 is affecting 132 countries and territories around the world.

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Patients infected with the novel coronavirus

New Delhi, March 29 : The number of coronavirus cases across the world rose to 640,589 as on Saturday evening, with the US leading with 115,547 cases, while the global death toll rose to 30,249 according to data from the Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.

Italy, with 10,023 fatalities, comprised over one third of the death toll, and was followed by Spain with 5,812 and China’s Hubei with 3,177. Iran with 2,517 deaths, and France with 2,314 were joined in the four-figure category by the UK, where the toll is now 1,019.

As regards the total number of cases, the US was followed by Italy (92,472), China (81,999), Spain (72,248), Germany (56,202), Iran (35,408), France (33,450) and the UK (17,301).

Meanwhile, a total of 137,283 people have recovered from the infection with the bulk — 62,098 — of them from China’s Hubei, the site of the disease outbreak, followed by 12,384 in Italy, 12,285 in Spain, 11,679 in Iran, and 6,658 in Germany.

The death toll had crossed 25,000 on Friday night, with the total number of cases around the world then were 553,244, with the US leading the tally at 86,012, followed by China at 81,897 and Italy at 80,859.

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Indians with OCD should avoid watching news around COVID-19

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OCD and Coronavirus COVID 19

New Delhi, March 27 : At a time when over 1.3 billion Indians have been asked to stay indoors, people who are claustrophobic or suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) are finding it difficult to obey the ‘Lakshmana Rekha Prime Minister Narendra Modi has drawn in from of all homes.

According to health experts, such people should first unplug themselves from the news around new coronavirus (COVID-19) and divert their minds towards constructive thoughts and engage in indoor games.

“People with OCD and those who are claustrophobic need to try and avoid reading or seeing too much negative news. Instead, they can opt for completing the work pending for some time which is a constructive channelization of the energy,” said Dr Sameer Malhotra, Director, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket.

“If under treatment, do not stop the medications at this juncture, and if the symptoms are significant, psychiatric intervention may also be required,” Malhotra told IANS.

Indians are currently living with 21-day nationwide lockdown, which started from Tuesday midnight.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), OCD is the sixth most disabling psychiatric disorder in the world.

Dr Samir Parikh, Psychiatrist and the Director of the Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare said that in the face of a pandemic, if you have claustrophobia, OCD or any other form of phobia or anxiety, it is important to ensure that you continue to follow your treatment regimen.

“Stay connected to your doctors, take your medications regularly and also ensure that you continue to take regular therapy sessions through teleconsultations,’ Parikh emphasized.

Family too would play a very pertinent role in providing support and being understanding of the challenge being face by the individual.

“Concurrently, it is important to ensure that one engages in maintaining a work-life balance, take care of certain lifestyle-related elements such as the sleep-wake cycle and also engage in activities of interest during this period,” Parikh noted.

Malhotra said that it is time to rationalize negative thoughts into positive and meaningful thoughts.

“Discuss general topics, try and engage in healthy conversations at home. It is also the best time to bond with family members,” he added.

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