Pope Francis on Saturday made a call to the political leaders to make sure that Covid-19 vaccines are available to the poorest nations.
In many parts of the world, there is a “pharmacological marginalization” of those without access to health care, reports AP.
Francis met Saturday with members of an Italian aid group that collects donated medicines from pharmaceutical companies and distributes them to clinics and centers helping the neediest.
Francis says far too many people die in parts of the world for lack of drugs widely available elsewhere, and political leaders must take their plight into account.
“I repeat, it would be sad if in distributing the vaccine, priority was given to the wealthiest, or if a vaccine becomes the property of this or that nation and not for everyone,” the pope said.
Francis has previously called for universal access to the vaccine.
The chief of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard threatened Saturday to go after everyone who had a role in a top general’s January killing during a U.S. drone strike in Iraq.
The guard’s website quoted Gen. Hossein Salami as saying, “Mr. Trump! Our revenge for martyrdom of our great general is obvious, serious and real.”
U.S. President Donald Trump warned this week that Washington would harshly respond to any Iranian attempts to take revenge for the death of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, tweeting that “if they hit us in any way, any form, written instructions already done we’re going to hit them 1000 times harder.”
The president’s warning came in response to a report that Iran was plotting to assassinate the U.S. ambassador to South Africa in retaliation for Soleimani’s killing at Baghdad’s airport at the beginning of the year, reports AP.
“We took out the world’s number one terrorist and the mass murderer of American troops and many, many troops and many people all over the world,” Trump said. “Qasem Soleimani is dead. He’s dead. Bad guy. Bad guy. Very bad guy.”
Salami rejected the report of an Iranian plot to assassinate Ambassador Lana Marks, but made clear that Iran intends to avenge the general’s death.
“Do you think we hit a female ambassador in return to our martyred brother?’ the general said. “We will hit those who had direct and indirect roles. You should know that everybody who had role in the event will be hit, and this is a serious message. We do prove everything in practice.”
Also read: Iran unveils 2 new missiles
In January, Iran launched a ballistic missile attack targeting U.S. soldiers in Iraq in response to the fatal drone strike.
Trump has stepped up economic pressure on Iran with sanctions since he pulled the United States out of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018.
Tehran has continued to expand its stockpile of enriched uranium and pressured other nations to offset the harm of U.S. sanctions, while insisting it does not want to develop a nuclear weapon.
Protesters gathered Saturday in Bangkok for the most ambitious rally so far in a pro-democracy campaign that has shaken up the government and Thailand’s conservative establishment.
Organisers predicted that as many as 50,000 will march over two days in an area of the capital historically associated with political protests, after an estimated 10,000 people turned out for the last major rally on Aug. 16. But the early turnout was modest Saturday as a steady light rain fell.
Demonstrators wore face masks, but ignored a Thursday night plea from Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to cancel the event, which he said risked spreading the coronavirus and derailing recovery of Thailand’s battered economy, reports AP.
The core demands declared by the protesters in July were the dissolution of parliament with fresh elections, a new constitution and an end to intimidation of political activists.
They believe that Prayuth, who as then-army commander led a 2014 coup toppling an elected government, was returned to power unfairly in last year’s general election because the laws had been changed to favor a pro-military party. A constitution promulgated under military rule is likewise undemocratic, they charge.
The mostly student activists raised the stakes dramatically at an Aug. 10 rally by issuing a 10-point manifesto calling for reforming the monarchy. Their demands seek to limit the king’s powers, establish tighter controls on palace finances and allow open discussion of the monarchy.
Their boldness was virtually unprecedented, as the monarchy is considered sacrosanct in Thailand. A lese majeste law calls for a prison sentence of three to 15 years for anyone found guilty of defaming the royal institution.
The students are too young to have been caught up in the sometimes violent partisan political battles that roiled Thailand a decade ago, Kevin Hewison, a professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina and a veteran Thai studies scholar, said in an email interview.
“This is why they look and act differently and why they are so confounding for the regime,” Hewison said. “What the regime and its supporters see is relatively well-off kids turned against them and this confounds them.”
At least 8,000 police reportedly were deployed for the weekend protest, and prospects for confrontations appear high. Protest organizers have been said they will use Thammasat University and the adjacent field known as Sanam Luang as the rally venue, but had been denied permission to do so.
Undeterred, a small group pushed and argued Saturday at one of the university gates until it was opened, with no resistance from the authorities. Later, protesters began assembling a stage in Sanam Luang, despite police warnings that they were breaking the law.
“I cannot accept a system that is corrupt, but with the last few rallies there was no response from those who hold the power,” said one protester, Thanakorn Thatana. “The three core demands were ignored and even the most basic demand to stop harassing the people. The government didn’t listen to us, but instead there was an increase in harassment cases against even primary school kids.”
Arrests on charges including sedition for earlier actions have failed to faze the young activists.
Students launched the protest movement in February with rallies at universities around the country in reaction to a court ruling that dissolved the popular Future Forward Party and banned its leaders from political activity for 10 years.
The party won the third-highest number of seats in last year’s general election with an anti-establishment stance that attracted younger voters, and it is widely seen as being targeted for its popularity and for being critical of the government and the military.
But public protests were suspended in March when Thailand had its first major outbreak of the coronavirus and the government declared a state of emergency to cope with the crisis. The emergency decree is still in effect, and critics allege it is used to curb dissent.
Royalists have expressed shock at the students’ talk about the monarchy. Army commander Gen. Apirat Kongsompong indirectly but harshly criticized the protesters, declaring in a speech to military cadets that “COVID-19 can be cured ... but the disease that cannot be cured is the hatred of the nation.”
But actual blowback so far has been minor, with only half-hearted organizing efforts by mostly older royalists.
US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a towering women’s rights champion who became the court’s second female judge, died Friday at her home in Washington. She was 87, reports AP.
Ginsburg died of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer, the court said.
Her death just over six weeks before Election Day is likely to set off a heated battle over whether President Donald Trump should nominate, and the Republican-led Senate should confirm her replacement, or if the seat should remain vacant until the outcome of his race against Democrat Joe Biden is known.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said late Friday that the Senate will vote on Trump’s pick to replace Ginsburg, even though it’s an election year.
Trump called Ginsburg an “amazing woman” and did not mention filling her vacant Supreme Court seat when he spoke to reporters following a rally in Bemidji, Minnesota.
Biden said the winner of the November election should choose Ginsburg’s replacement.
“There is no doubt — let me be clear — that the voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider,” Biden told reporters after returning to his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, from campaign stops in Minnesota.
Chief Justice John Roberts mourned Ginsburg’s passing.
“Our Nation has lost a jurist of historic stature. We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn, but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her — a tireless and resolute champion of justice,” Roberts said in a statement.
Ginsburg announced in July that she was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for lesions on her liver, the latest of her several battles with cancer.
Ginsburg spent her final years on the bench as the unquestioned leader of the court’s liberal wing and became something of a rock star to her admirers. Young women especially seemed to embrace the court’s Jewish grandmother, affectionately calling her the Notorious RBG, for her defense of the rights of women and minorities, and the strength and resilience she displayed in the face of personal loss and health crises.
Those health issues included five bouts with cancer beginning in 1999, falls that resulted in broken ribs, insertion of a stent to clear a blocked artery and assorted other hospitalizations after she turned 75.
Ginsburg was a mother of two, an opera lover and an intellectual who watched arguments behind oversized glasses for many years, though she ditched them for more fashionable frames in her later years. At argument sessions in the ornate courtroom, she was known for digging deep into case records and for being a stickler for following the rules.
She argued six key cases before the court in the 1970s when she was an architect of the women’s rights movement. She won five.
In a rare admission of wrongdoing, the Indian military on Friday said its soldiers in Kashmir exceeded their legal powers in the killings of three local men it had described as Pakistani terrorists, reports AP.
Col Rajesh Kalia, an Indian army spokesman, said police are investigating whether the men were actually involved in militancy.
He said the victims have now been identified as residents of Rajouri district whose families had filed a complaint accusing soldiers of killing them in a staged gunbattle.
On July 18, the Indian army said its soldiers killed three “unidentified Pakistani terrorists” in the southern Shopian area.
About a month later, three Kashmiri families in Rajouri identified the victims as their missing relatives using photographs of the bodies that circulated on social media, and filed a complaint with police.
Police ordered an investigation, and the results have not yet been released.
“Their DNA report is awaited. Their involvement with terrorism or related activities is under investigation by the police,” Kalia said in a statement, without explaining how the military had identified the three men.
Kalia said an army investigation showed the soldiers had exceeded the powers granted to them under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
The act gives the Indian military in Kashmir sweeping powers to search, seize and even shoot suspects on sight without fear of prosecution. Under the act, local authorities need federal approval to prosecute erring army or paramilitary soldiers in civilian courts. The special powers were given to the military in 1990, a year after an armed rebellion erupted in Kashmir seeking the Himalayan region’s independence or merger with neighboring Pakistan, which also controls part of Kashmir.
“Consequently, the competent disciplinary authority has directed to initiate disciplinary proceedings under the Army Act against those found prima facie answerable,” Kalia said. “Indian Army is committed to ethical conduct of operations.”
Police, which usually participate in counterinsurgency operations, said the July 18 encounter was a solo operation by the army. The police later buried the bodies in a remote cemetery.
The families of the young men — cousins aged 18, 21 and 25 — said they went to Shopian to work as laborers and were last heard from on July 17.
India has long relied on military force to retain control over the portion of Kashmir it administers and has fought two wars over the territory with Pakistan, which also claims the mountain region as its own.
The rebel uprising against Indian control and subsequent Indian crackdown have killed tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces.
Hundreds of thousands of Indian troops are stationed in the region and maintain checkpoints throughout Indian-controlled territory.
The results of the police probe are likely to spark an outcry among Kashmiri activists who for years have accused Indian troops of abusing their powers and repeatedly targeting civilians.
In 2000, the Indian army killed five men it alleged were militants responsible for the massacre of 35 Sikhs in Kashmir. An investigation later found the five were local villagers killed in a faked firefight.
In 2010, a massive uprising erupted in Kashmir after a police investigation found Indian soldiers had killed three civilians in a staged gunbattle and then said the victims were militants in order to claim a reward for killing them. The army responded by suspending two officers.
India has rejected every request since 1989 to prosecute Indian soldiers in civilian courts in Kashmir for alleged rights abuses including murder and rape, according to official documents.