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Obama slams Trump-era, warns of ‘strongman politics’

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Barrack Obama

Johannesburg (South Africa), July 18: Barack Obama has used his first high-profile speech since stepping down as US president to take swipes at “strongman politics” and politicians’ disregard for facts.

Obama on Tuesday here mounted a passionate defence of democracy and warned against the politics of the day as his successor, Donald Trump, was heavily criticised for a humiliating news conference on Monday with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, the BBC reported.

In his address in honour of the late Nelson Mandela ahead of the 100th anniversary of his birth, Obama slammed populist movements toward authoritarianism around the world and ridiculed the “utter loss of shame among political leaders” who lie.

Obama, who has made an art of criticising Trump’s values without explicitly naming him, peppered his speech on Tuesday with warnings against some of his successor’s key policies, including protectionism, climate change denial and closed borders.

“The politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment is on the move at a pace that would have seemed unimaginable just a few years ago,” he told the crowd of around 15,000 people in Johannesburg.

“I am not being alarmist, I’m simply stating the facts. Strongman politics are ascendant, suddenly, whereby elections and some pretence of democracy are maintained,… those in powers seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning.”

His remarks followed Trump’s news conference in Helsinki, Finland, in which the US leader sided with Putin over his own country’s intelligence agencies on whether Russia interfered in the 2016 US election, the CNN reported.

Dashing expectations of him confronting Putin over the issue after the US indicted 12 Russians, accused of hacking the Democrat’s emails and computer networks to target Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, Trump sort of toed the Russian line.

“You have to believe in facts. Without facts there’s no basis for cooperation. If I say this is a podium and you say this is an elephant, it’s going to be hard for us to cooperate,” he said.

“I can’t find common ground if somebody says that climate change just isn’t happening, when almost all the world’s scientists tell us it is. I don’t know where to start talking to you about this. If you say it’s an elaborate hoax, where do we start?”

He said politics today often reject the concept of objective truth. “People just make stuff up. We see it in the growth of state sponsored propaganda, internet fabrications, the blurring of lines between news and entertainment, the utter loss of shame among political leaders…,” he said, to laughter in the crowd.

Obama had opened his speech reflecting on the recent chaos of the world that gave him the opportunity to seek perspective.

“But in the strange and uncertain times that we are in — with each day’s news cycles bringing more head-spinning and disturbing headlines — I thought maybe it would be useful to step back for a moment and try to get some perspective,” Obama added.

He warned that the press was under attack, that censorship and state control of media is on the rise and that social media was being used to promote hate, propaganda and conspiracy theories.

“So, on Madiba’s 100 birthday, we now stand at a crossroads,” he said, using a clan name of affection for Mandela.

He said that there was a choice between two visions of humanity’s future that the world must choose between.

“Let me tell you what I believe. I believe in Nelson Mandela’s vision, I believe in a vision shared by (Mahatma) Gandhi and (Martin Luther) King (Jr), and Abraham Lincoln,” he said.

He talked about equality and justice and freedom and multi-racial democracy built on the premise that all people were created equal and were endowed with certain inalienable rights.

Obama’s speech at the 16th annual Nelson Mandela Lecture, is one of his highest-profile appearances and his first return to Africa since he left office in 2017.

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China warned against ”clear, serious” violation of treaty with UK

The Foreign Office said: “There are 349,881 holders of BN(O) passports and the government estimates there are around 2.9m BN(O)s currently in Hong Kong. The scheme is for eligible BN(O) status holders and their immediate family dependants.”

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Boris Johnson

London, July 2 : UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said China’s imposition of a new security law in Hong Kong constituted a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed in 1984 and aimed at smoothing the transition when the territory was handed back to Beijing in 1997.

The UK believes that Beijing’s move violates HongKong’s autonomy, threatens the freedoms and rights protected by the joint declaration, and is in direct conflict with the territory”s Basic Law, its mini-constitution.

Addressing the media on Wednesday, Johnson said: “We have made clear that if China continued down this path, we would introduce a new route to those with British National (Overseas) status to enter the UK granting them limited leave to remain with the ability to live and work in the UK and thereafter to apply for citizenship, and that is precisely what we will do now.”

Describing the Chinese move as “a grave and deeply disturbing step”, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab promised that UK would honour its commitment to the people of Hong Kong.

“We will grant BN(O)s five years” limited leave to remain, with the right to work or study. After these five years, they will be able to apply for settled status.

“After further 12 months with settled status, they will be able to apply for citizenship. This is a special, bespoke, set of arrangements developed for the unique circumstances we face,” Raab told MPs.

Raab did not set out any plan to sanction China or individual Chinese officials through new legislation due to be introduced by the Foreign Office this month.

He also said he was hopeful that other countries in south-east Asia would also offer asylum to Hong Kong citizens wanting to leave.

“China has broken its promise to the people of Hong Kong under its own laws. China has breached its international obligations to the UK under the joint declaration.”

Hong Kong’s autonomy, which now faces threat from Beijing’s imposition of a new security laws, was guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” agreement of the 1984 joint declaration signed by the then Chinese premier, Zhao Ziyang, and British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

The Foreign Office said: “There are 349,881 holders of BN(O) passports and the government estimates there are around 2.9m BN(O)s currently in Hong Kong. The scheme is for eligible BN(O) status holders and their immediate family dependants.”

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96 killed in Myanmar jade mine landslide

Deadly landslides are frequent in Kachin state, known as land of jade, especially in Hpakant mining region.

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Myanmar jade mine landslide

Yangon, July 2 : At least 96 people were killed and many others were reported missing on Thursday after a jade mine collapsed due to a landslide in Myanmar’s Kachin state, authorities said.

Caused by the monsoon rains, the landslide occurred at the jade mining site in Sate Mu village tract of Hpakant township at 8a.m., Xinhua news agency quoted a statement from the Fire Services Department as saying.

Hundreds of miners were feared buried as the landslide took place during their work hours, but the exact number of casualties are yet to be known and rescue works are being carried out, a township police official told Xinhua.

Deadly landslides are frequent in Kachin state, known as land of jade, especially in Hpakant mining region.

A major landslide occurred in the region in November 2015, leaving at least 116 people dead.

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Global COVID-19 cases top 10.6mn: Johns Hopkins University

The US accounted for the world”s highest number of infections and fatalities with 2,685,806 and 128,061, respectively, according to the CSSE.

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RUSSIA CORONAVIRUS

Washington, July 2 : The overall number of global COVID-19 cases has increased to over 10.6 million, while the deaths have soared to more than 515,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

As of Thursday morning, the total number of cases increased to 10,667,217, while the fatalities stood at to 515,542, the University”s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed in its latest update.

The US accounted for the world”s highest number of infections and fatalities with 2,685,806 and 128,061, respectively, according to the CSSE.

Brazil came in the second place with 1,448,753 infections and 60,632 deaths.

In terms of cases, Russia ranks third (653,479), and is followed by India (585,493), the UK (314,992), Peru (288,477), Chile (282,043), Spain (249,659), Italy (240,760), Mexico (231,770), Iran (230,211), Pakistan (213,470), France (202,981), Turkey (201,098), Germany (195,893), Saudi Arabia (194,225), South Africa (159,333), Bangladesh (149,258) and Canada (106,288), the CSSE figures showed.

The other countries with over 10,000 deaths are the UK (43,991), Italy (34,788), France (29,864), Mexico (28,510), Spain (28,364), India (17,400) and Iran (10,958).

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