Thursday, 5 August 2021: International donor conference for Lebanon, Germany to provide more funding for antisemitism research, Site of ancient Olympic Games threatened as Greece battles wildfire

⊂ EUROPE ⊃

International donor conference for Lebanon: An international donor conference collected 370 million dollars (312 million euros) in urgent aid for Lebanon on Wednesday, exceeding an initial target, co-hosts France said. But as world leaders dug into their pockets to help, they also said that Lebanon’s leaders needed to do better in dealing with the fallout from last year’s massive blast that claimed hundreds of lives in Beirut. French President Emmanuel Macron had stern words for Lebanon’s leaders, accusing them of „deliberately letting things fester“ and putting their individual, partisan interests above the interests of the Lebanese people. Macron’s financial pledge of close to 100 million euros (118 million dollars) was matched by US President Joe Biden, who announced nearly 100 million dollars in new humanitarian assistance for Lebanon. Announcing 40 million euros in aid from his country, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said: „Let me be frank: This crisis is mostly manmade. Lebanese political actors have not lived up to their responsibilities and to the legitimate expectations of the Lebanese people.“ In Beirut, thousands of Lebanese mourners and protesters took to the streets demanding justice and regime change. Security forces fired volleys of tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets at crowds that had marched on parliament. Meanwhile, two rockets launched from Lebanon on Wednesday struck Israel, which responded with artillery fire amid heightened regional tensions over an alleged Iranian attack on an oil tanker in the Gulf last week.
france24.com (Donor conference), independent.co.uk (Protest), reuters.com (Rockets)

Kolesnikova goes on trial, Timanovskaya arrives in Poland: In Belarus, the trial of two leading Belarusian opposition figures has begun. Maria Kolesnikova, one of the leaders of mass protests against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko last year, and opposition lawyer Maxim Znak have been charged with incitement to undermine national security. If found guilty they could each face up to 12 years in prison. Belarusian Olympic sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya, who refused to fly home fearing she would be arrested, has arrived in Poland, where she has been granted a visa on humanitarian grounds. Timanovskaya was set to compete in the women’s 200 metres at the Tokyo Olympics on Monday, but instead said team officials tried to forcibly send her back to Belarus against her wishes after she criticised sporting authorities. Ukrainian security services were ordered to protect Belarus dissidents after Belarusian activist Vitaly Shishov was found dead in a Kyiv park on Monday. With Lukashenko cracking down on free speech, authorities fear that the aid worker could have been killed. Lithuania has ordered its border guards to turn away migrants attempting to enter the country, as a surge of migrants coming in from neighbouring Belarus has emerged as a major foreign policy issue.
bbc.com, reuters.com (Kolesnikova); cnn.com (Timanovskaya); dw.com (Shishov); apnews.com (Lithuania)

Suspected ship hijacking ends in Gulf of Oman: The hijackers who captured a vessel off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in the Gulf of Oman departed the targeted ship on Wednesday, the British navy reported. The circumstances surrounding Tuesday’s seizure of the tanker called Asphalt Princess are murky. The United Kingdom’s Royal Navy described the incident as a „potential hijacking.“ In the maritime radio recording, obtained by commodities pricing firm Argus Media and shared with The Associated Press, a crew member can be heard telling the Emirati coast guard that five or six armed Iranians had boarded the tanker. Iran has denied any role in the incident. In the meantime, a German-Iranian woman was sentenced to prison on Wednesday, charged with participating in „the management of an illegal group and propaganda activities against the regime,“ according to media reports. Nahid Taghavi was known to be an advocate for human rights in Iran, in particular for women’s rights and freedom of expression, according to the human rights group IGFM. Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz on Wednesday said Iran is ten weeks way from acquiring weapons-grade materials necessary for a nuclear weapon.
dw.com, apnews.com (Ship hijacking); dw.com (Taghavi); thehill.com (Gantz)

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EU seals deal with Novavax for Covid vaccines: The EU Commission has approved a supply contract with US firm Novavax for the purchase of up to 200 million COVID-19 vaccines. Under the contract, EU states will be able to purchase up to 100 million doses of the Novavax vaccine, with an option for 100 million additional doses until 2023, once the shot has been approved by the EU drugs regulator, the Commission said. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is conducting a rolling review of the vaccine, and the company still has to submit a formal marketing application for EU approval.
euractiv.com, politico.eu

Italy presses EU nations to open ports to rescued migrants: Italy stepped up pressure Wednesday on fellow EU nations to open their ports to migrants rescued by humanitarian ships as political tension simmers in the Italian government’s coalition over a sharply rising number of arrivals this summer on the country’s southern shores. The office of Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese said she had a long telephone conversation with the EU’s internal affairs commissioner, Ylva Johansson. Political and economic crises in Tunisia are feeding steadily increasing streams of migrants determined to reach Europe, many of whom set out in smugglers’ boats from Libyan shores.
apnews.com

Afghanistan: Taliban claim attack targeting defence minister dw.com
Climate: EU Commission President von der Leyen hopes for US movement on climate protection nau.ch
Eurozone: Retail sales recovery continued in June marketwatch.com
OSCE: Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will not send observers to Russian election reuters.com
Cuba: Government asks for humanitarian aid dw.com

⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃

We need to solve the problem as soon as possible and are in contact with our American friends. This must not drag on for weeks.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has called for the United States to lift its travel ban for EU citizens.
politico.eu

⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃

Unjabbed Germans face restrictions: Germany’s health minister is planning to introduce sweeping measures next month that could considerably restrict the lives of people who do not get a coronavirus vaccine, according to widespread reports. The proposed rules would allow only those who had been vaccinated, tested or had recovered from an infection access to many facilities. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet with the state premiers on 10 August to discuss how to proceed in the pandemic. The latest REACT-1 study findings from Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI show COVID-19 infection rates are three times lower for double vaccinated people. The UK government will offer all 16- and 17-year-olds their first dose of Pfizer Covid vaccine, its vaccine advisers said on Wednesday. The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday called on wealthy nations to stop the distribution of Covid booster shots, citing vaccine inequity around the world. The German government said it will donate all future orders of the AstraZeneca vaccine to the United Nations-backed COVAX initiative.
theguardian.com, sueddeutsche.de (Germany); gov.uk (Study); reuters.com (UK); cnbc.com (WHO); apnews.com (COVAX)

Train crash in Czech Republic leaves 3 dead, dozens injured: Two trains collided near the Czech town of Pilsen on Wednesday, leaving three people dead and 31 injured. A further six people were critically injured. Authorities said victims include the drivers of both engines and a female passenger. Local emergency services said four helicopters helped transport victims to hospital. While police have launched a criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the crash, initial findings indicate the high-speed train failed to observe a stop signal. Czech Transport Minister Karel Havlicek blamed human error for the incident.
dw.com

Germany to provide more funding for antisemitism research: The German government said Wednesday it will strengthen its battle against the quickly growing antisemitism in the country by investing 35 million euros into research and educational projects focused on understanding its causes and effectively fighting hatred of Jews. German Education and Research Minister Anja Karliczek said millions would be given to universities to examine the different facets of hatred against Jews and to develop strategies on what to best do against it. Various projects will focus on antisemitism in schools, in the German justice system or on the internet and social media. Funds will also be given to hire junior scholars focusing on the topic and to support projects trying to educate the non-Jewish majority in the country about Jewish life, customs and religious rituals. In a second step, scientists will be tasked to develop practical guidelines based on their findings to help teachers and others tackle the growing hatred.
apnews.com

Site of ancient Olympic Games threatened as Greece battles wildfire: Greek authorities ordered villages near the site of the ancient Olympic Games in the western Peloponnese to be evacuated on Wednesday as wildfires raged across the country, destroying swathes of forest and buildings, and sending hundreds fleeing. At least 150 houses were destroyed by a violent blaze that surrounded a monastery and a dozen villages on the Greek island of Evia on Wednesday, just one of some 40 fires raging in the heatwave-hit country. In Turkey, a thermal power plant on the Aegean coast was evacuated Wednesday as it was overtaken by wildfires. As forest fires continue affecting various regions in the Mediterranean and the Western Balkans, the EU Commission is swiftly mobilising support to assist countries in limiting the spread of the fires and protect lives and livelihoods. Two Canadair firefighting airplanes from France were sent to affected areas in Italy to start firefighting operations. Two firefighting planes from Cyprus are supporting Greece, on top of a firefighting team to support operations on the ground. Two helicopters to support operations in Albania will be equally dispatched from Czechia and the Netherlands. In addition, Slovenia is sending a team of 45 firefighters to North Macedonia. These deployments come in addition to EU-coordinated firefighting operations that are currently ongoing in Turkey.
reuters.com, france24.com, dw.com, ec.europa.eu

Italy’s 5Stars complete shift to traditional party: Once proudly anti-establishment, Italy’s 5Star Movement completed its transformation into a conventional political party after members approved a revamp pushed by former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Conte won overwhelming support for his plan to remodel the 5Stars, with a top-down power structure and formal headquarters. Conte, who has no official party affiliation but led two coalition governments including the 5Stars, had been asked by the founder, comedian Beppe Grillo, to “refound” the movement after being ousted as prime minister in January in favour of Mario Draghi. Grillo initially rejected Conte’s plans but the two reached an agreement in July.
politico.eu

Ukrainian police detain man who threatened to detonate grenade in government building: Kyiv police detained a man who forced his way into Ukraine’s main government building on Wednesday morning and threatened to detonate a grenade, head of the National Police Ihor Klymenko said. The man is a former Ukrainian army veteran who had fought in eastern Ukraine against pro-Russian separatists, according to media reports. He had entered the building early on Wednesday, a few hours before a ministerial meeting. The grenade he was brandishing was real, Klymenko said, adding the veteran faces up to 15 years in prison.
euronews.com, reuters.com

Germany 1: SPD bets big on Scholz in election campaign politico.eu
Germany 2: Alleged Syrian war criminal arrested dw.com
Hungary allows mass events on national holiday orf.at
Spain: Controversial Barcelona airport expansion plan agreed theguardian.com
Sweden: At least three hospitalised after suspected attempted murders in Kristianstad independent.co.uk

⊂ POLITJOBS ⊃

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⊂ LAST BUT NOT LEAST ⊃

Sniffer dog can detect Covid: Pokaa, a two-year-old golden retriever, is helping the fight against COVID-19 in a care home for the elderly in the north-eastern French region of Alsace. With a remarkable success rate, Pokaa is 48 hours quicker than a PCR laboratory test, and does not need to stick anything up your nose. Working since last week at the Roselière care home in Kunheim, near the town of Colmar, Pokaa is the first French sniffer dog to be used in the fight against the coronavirus.
rfi.fr

 

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