Thursday, 19 August 2021: EU calls for suspension of deportations to Afghanistan, Belarus regime cracks down on news agency and hacker group, US officials in Berlin report potential ‘Havana Syndrome’ cases

⊂ EUROPE ⊃

EU calls for suspension of deportations to Afghanistan: US President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday discussed the evacuation of foreigners and Afghan allies underway at the Kabul airport, the White House said. In a phone call, the two leaders also talked about the need to coordinate humanitarian aid for vulnerable Afghans. The phone call came after a plane sent to Kabul by the Netherlands and other northern European countries was forced to take off without any passengers on Tuesday night amid chaotic scenes at the airport. The US forces who control the airport prevented Afghans from passing through the gates, Dutch Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag said. More than 200 people from Afghanistan have arrived in Germany so far. But in Kabul, more people are hoping to leave. State interior ministers have urged the federal government to initiate a new federal programme for the admission of Afghan refugees in Germany. EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson has warned that Afghanistan is not a safe place to deport migrants to, but also said the EU should try to assist displaced people inside the conflict-ravaged country or elsewhere in the region rather than wait until they arrive on Europe’s doorstep. The UK has said it will settle 20,000 Afghan refugees over the next few years, while Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said on Wednesday that the aim must be to keep the bulk of people in the region. Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia have said they will provide temporary shelter for Afghans bound for the US.
france24.com, politico.eu, dw.com, apnews.com, bbc.com, politico.eu

German evacuation aircraft defective: Following a chaotic start, Germany’s evacuation mission in Afghanistan has picked up speed. A400M military aircraft are shuttling between Kabul and the Uzbek capital Tashkent, flying a total of more than 673 people to Germany by Wednesday evening. The defence ministry tweeted Wednesday evening that an A400M military aircraft was defective in Tashkent. It said a replacement aircraft had landed in Kabul and another A400M with spare parts had arrived on the ground. The ministry said the defect of the aircraft would not affect the evacuation. At the same time, the German cabinet approved the mandate to carry out an evacuation operation in Afghanistan. Parliament is expected to vote on the mandate proposal next week. As part of the mandate, 600 soldiers would be deployed by the end of September at the latest.
handelsblatt.com, tagesspiegel.de, tagesschau.de

Afghanistan’s exiled president emerges in the UAE: Afghanistan’s former president Ashraf Ghani is in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), its foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday. News of his whereabouts comes days after he fled Kabul as the Taliban closed in on the city. In a Facebook video message shared on Wednesday, Ghani said claims he took a large amount of money with him when he fled Kabul were completely baseless and lies. Ghani reiterated that he left the country to avoid bloodshed. The EU has suspended development funding to Afghanistan, but EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell stressed that the funds being suspended were different from humanitarian aid, which the EU intends to keep providing. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is already seeking talks with the Taliban, assuring them that he has „no problems with their religious viewpoints.“ A senior Taliban leader has said that the role of women in Afghanistan, including their right to work and education and how they should dress, would ultimately be decided by a council of Islamic scholars. In an early sign of protest to the Taliban’s rule, dozens gathered in the eastern city of Jalalabad and a nearby market town to raise the tricolor national flag, a day before Afghanistan’s Independence Day.
cnn.com, news.sky.com, cnbc.com, rnd.de, reuters.com, apnews.com

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Belarus regime cracks down on news agency and hacker group: Belarus has carried out fresh raids against the private news agency BelaPAN and several of its employees. The searches were carried out as part of an investigation into „organising acts that violated public order“, according to the Belarusian Association of Journalists. The association said it had been unable to contact editor Irina Levshyna. Later, the state investigative committee said in a statement that Levshyna and two other BelaPAN workers had been detained. Meanwhile, a court classified a Belarusian hacker group that claims to have obtained data from the interior ministry as extremist. The hacker group is accused of discrediting representatives of government agencies. Poland has deployed hundreds of troops along its border with Belarus to stop the arrival of migrants seeking to enter the country.
euronews.com, reuters.com, nau.ch, euronews.com

Solar power supply: EU solar power generation hits record high euractiv.com
Trade policy must be sustainable or lose public support, says EU Parliament’s trade chief euractiv.com
Myanmar: Over 1,000 killed since military took over, rights group says nbcnews.com
Haiti: Death toll from earthquake rises by 500 to 1,941 npr.org

⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃

I believe that the European Commission could be tasked with an equal redistribution among all European countries.
The European Commission should take charge of equally relocating Afghan refugees across the EU following the Taliban takeover of their country, European Parliament President David Sassoli said Wednesday.
politico.eu

⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃

US officials in Berlin report potential ‘Havana Syndrome’ cases: At least two US officials stationed in Germany sought medical treatment after developing symptoms of the mysterious health complaint known as Havana Syndrome, according to US diplomats. The symptoms, which included nausea, severe headaches, ear pain, fatigue, insomnia and sluggishness, began to emerge in recent months and some victims were left unable to work. Havana Syndrome, named after the Cuban capital where it was first documented in 2016, is still not completely understood, but some scientists believe it could be the result of microwave pulse weapons — a so-called “directed-energy attack” — by a foreign actor. Germany’s Der Spiegel and investigative journalism website Bellingcat reported Wednesday that Russian government agencies have been working through a secret programme on a method of remotely emitting dangerous waves via a target’s cell phone. “There is no evidence about what happened to us, but it is striking that some of us had worked on Russia-related issues,” said a worker, who declined to be named.
wsj.com, politico.eu

Maltese businessman could face life in prison for journalist’s murder: Prominent Maltese businessman Yorgen Fenech will stand trial charged with the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia after he was indicted Wednesday. Malta’s chief prosecutor said on Wednesday that the state would seek a life sentence against Fenech for his alleged part in the 2017 murder. Fenech is charged with complicity to murder and criminal association. At the time of her assassination, highly-regarded investigative journalist Caruana Galizia was hunting for evidence of corruption in a controversial power station bid in Malta. Fenech headed a consortium looking to build the power station. In December 2017, three men were arrested and charged with placing a bomb in the journalist’s car. In February this year, Vincent Muscat — who is not related to the former prime minister — became the first person to be convicted of the killing. He was sentenced to 15 years in jail. Two brothers also accused of involvement in the murder, George and Alfred Degiorgio, have requested presidential pardons.
politico.eu, dw.com

Two people found dead in French wildfire: Two people have died during France’s biggest wildfire of the summer, local authorities have confirmed as the blaze continued to rage in the countryside behind Saint-Tropez. Twenty-nine people have been injured, including five firefighters, the local prefecture said, with most suffering smoke inhalation. A person has also died in the southern Italian region of Calabria, presumably in connection with the forest fires. According to the Ansa news agency, investigators are still examining the circumstances of the death. In Greece, the flames are approaching the village of Vilia. A spokesman for the authorities complained that there are no roads near Vilia that firefighting vehicles can use to reach the fires on the high mountains. Therefore, the fires spread again during the night, when firefighting aircraft stop flying.
theguardian.com, spiegel.de

Booster shot in Belgium, fourth wave in Switzerland: Belgium will give third shots to people with a reduced immunity against the coronavirus, the government announced. The decision will allow between 300,000 and 400,000 people to get a third shot of an mRNA vaccine, either BioNTech/Pfizer or Moderna, this fall. United States health officials and medical experts announced in a joint statement on Wednesday that booster doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be offered this fall. In Switzerland, Covid is on the rise again, with the threat of a fourth wave. New cases have rebounded to over 3,000 a day, hospitalisations are up, and the vaccination campaign is flagging.
politico.eu, cnn.com, swissinfo.ch

Luxembourg emerges as Europe’s sanctions leader on data breaches euractiv.com
Sweden: Mountain shrinks by two metres in a year as glacier melts theguardian.com
Spain prosecutors launch inquiry into mystery fish deaths theguardian.com
Denmark now has two little mermaids. The famous one is suing nytimes.com

⊂ POLITJOBS ⊃

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⊂ LAST BUT NOT LEAST ⊃

Extraordinary tomb discovery provides first evidence of Greek culture at Pompeii: Italy’s archeological park of Pompeii has offered up another remarkable discovery, this time in the form of an ancient tomb with mummified human remains. The funerary inscription on a marble slab is particularly noteworthy as it includes the first proof of Greek culture in the ancient city, confirming hypotheses about the dynamic multicultural climate in Pompeii. Researchers have identified the tomb as the burial place of Marcus Venerius Secundio, a public slave and custodian of the Temple of Venus.
forbes.com

 

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