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Fidel Castro’s brother Raul, 89, relinquishes Cuban presidency to Miguel Diaz-Canel, 60

Fidel Castro’s brother Raul, 89, relinquishes Cuban presidency to Miguel Diaz-Canel, 60
Fidel Castro’s brother Raul, 89, relinquishes Cuban presidency to Miguel Diaz-Canel, 60


Cuba’s leadership is passing to a younger generation, with the final Castro leaving office and ending a 60-year family monopoly – but there is little other change as power remains firmly with the Communist Party.

At a four-day party congress starting on Friday, 89-year-old Raul Castro will relinquish the country’s most powerful position – that of party first secretary – to 60-year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel, Cuba’s president.

It officially ends six decades of the Castros dominating Cuban politics – first by Fidel, who ruled for nearly half a century from 1959 to 2006 and is widely revered as the country’s father and saviour, and subsequently his brother Raul.

However, some observers have already speculated that Raul is unlikely to completely relinquish his power and could continue to pull the strings from behind the scenes.

Raul Castro, 89, will relinquish power to the younger generation

Current President Miguel Diaz-Canel, 60, will take over leadership of the Communist Party of Cuba

 Cuba’s leadership is passing to a younger generation, 89-year-old Raul Castro will relinquish the country’s most powerful position – that of party first secretary – to 60-year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel, Cuba’s president

This officially ends six decades of dominion over Cuban politics by Castro and his brother Fidel (pictured), who ruled for nearly half a century from 1959 to 2006 and is widely revered as the country's father and saviour

This officially ends six decades of dominion over Cuban politics by Castro and his brother Fidel (pictured), who ruled for nearly half a century from 1959 to 2006 and is widely revered as the country’s father and saviour

Diaz-Canel will be only the third-ever first secretary of the all-powerful Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), while still retaining the presidency.

He also becomes Cuba’s first civilian leader since the Castro-led revolution of the 1950s deposed dictator Fulgencio Batista, which happened before he was even born.

But while the suit-and-tie wearing, tech-savvy Beatles fan may be more modern in some ways than his predecessors – both of whom were fond of donning military garb – he remains first and foremost a party disciple. 

‘He is part of the political struggle, the ideological struggle,’ said Carlos Alzugaray, a former Cuban diplomat.

‘The absence of a Castro at the helm doesn’t necessarily mean there’s going to be an abrupt change in the Communist party’s style,’ added Norman McKay, an analyst with The Economist Intelligence Unit.

Diaz-Canel will be only the third-ever first secretary of the all-powerful Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), while still retaining the presidency

Diaz-Canel will be only the third-ever first secretary of the all-powerful Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), while still retaining the presidency

Diaz-Canel will take over from Raul Castro who had ruled Cuba since taking over from his brother Fidel Castro in 2008

Diaz-Canel will take over from Raul Castro who had ruled Cuba since taking over from his brother Fidel Castro in 2008

A new constitution passed in May 2019 made it clear that the country’s commitment to socialism was ‘irrevocable.’

Yet many Cubans pay little heed to politics, preoccupied as they are by the worst economic crisis in 30 years, sky-high inflation, biting food shortages, snaking queues for basic necessities and limited freedoms.

‘I hope the congress will lead to an improvement because the prices are too high,’ said pensioner Maria Martinez, 68.

‘There is nothing to hope for,’ added Sergio, a 44-year-old cook who declined to give his full name in a country where speaking out against the government can land you in trouble.

‘Salaries are a problem, they are not enough. There are problems with food, the lines are long,’ he said.

Diaz-Canel also becomes Cuba's first civilian leader since the Castro-led revolution of the 1950s, which happened before he was even born

Diaz-Canel also becomes Cuba’s first civilian leader since the Castro-led revolution of the 1950s, which happened before he was even born

Miguel Diaz-Canel: ‘Ruthless’ leader who swore to defend Cuba’s socialist revolution 

Miguel Diaz-Canel, 60, is a Cuban politician who has served as the country’s president since October 2019. 

He will become the leader of the Communist Party of Cuba in April 2021, when Raul Castro steps down. 

Diaz-Canel has been rising through party ranks for more than 30 years and had a reputation as a meek, orderly man, until 2017 when footage ‘leaked’ of him launching a ruthless verbal assault on dissident Cubans and the US.  

He gained prominence in central Villa Clara province as the top Communist Party official, a post equivalent to governor.

People there describe him as a hard-working, modest-living technocrat dedicated to improving public services.

He became higher education minister in 2009 before moving to the vice presidency. 

He has been a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of Cuba since 2003.    

Cuba’s economic crisis is caused in part by its own management failures, worsened by US sanctions ramped up under Donald Trump and the coronavirus pandemic, which dried up tourists – a key income source for the island.

The economy plummeted by 11 per cent in 2020, the worst decline since 1993 in the country of 11.2 million.

Economic reforms to phase out the US dollar-pinned ‘convertible’ peso, leaving only the less valuable official peso in place, saw salaries increased by the state, but not enough to make up for the resulting price inflation.

Many stores now accept only US dollars and these are better stocked than others, but few people can afford to frequent them.

The PCC has said its congress would ‘review core issues of the political, economic and social life of the country.’ 

There are signs that Cuba’s leadership will have little choice but to increasingly balance the interests of the old guard with a clamour for more rights and better quality of life from younger generations.

In February, it opened the bulk of its government-monopolised economy to entrepreneurs in the private sector.

There have also been small nods to social liberalisation by Havana, under sanctions from the United States since 1962.

In recent months, the government held its first-ever talks – though short-lived – with pro-free speech protesters, after authorising Cuba’s first non-political demonstration, by animal rights activists, in 2019.

‘Raul Castro stepping down as head of the Communist Party in #Cuba isn’t real change,’ tweeted US senator Marco Rubio, who is of Cuban origin. ‘But real change is already underway nonetheless.’ 

The arrival of the internet on mobile phones at the end of 2018 has made for a paradigm shift in Cuba, with never-before-seen access to information and new forums for expression. 

Raul Castro will officially hand over the leadership of the Communist Party of Cuba to Miguel Diaz-Canel during the Congress

Raul Castro will officially hand over the leadership of the Communist Party of Cuba to Miguel Diaz-Canel during the Congress

Cuba in crisis? How the country is facing debilitating economic woes

Raul Castro’s decision to hand over leadership of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) comes as the country is facing a debilitating economic crisis, growing dissent, and struggling to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The country has been devastated by the loss of tourism, as the pandemic all but shut down global travel, causing the economy to shrink by 11 per cent in 2020.

Economic reforms to phase out the US dollar-pinned ‘convertible’ peso, leaving only the less valuable official peso in place, saw salaries increased by the state, but not enough to make up for the resulting price inflation.

Many stores now accept only US dollars and these are better stocked than others, but few people can afford to frequent them.

Cuba is currently holding its VIII Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba being held between April 16 and April 19

Cuba is currently holding its VIII Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba being held between April 16 and April 19

A liquidity crisis, exacerbated by a tightening of decades-old US sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic, has also created widespread shortages of basic goods, including food and medicine. 

The crisis has pushed the government to resume economic reforms, most notably a painful monetary overhaul, but the pace of change is extremely slow.  

Discontent over the island nation’s stagnant economy has been brewing for years, especially among younger Cubans, and the advent of mobile internet has made it increasingly easy for residents to organise protests.   

Cuba has also struggled with a surge in Covid-19 cases in early 2021, recording after managing to keep the virus at bay through 2020.  

Last year, the country was hailed for its high number doctors, dubbed the ‘white coat army’, who were sent out to assist domestic populations in more than 40 countries worldwide. 

However, the government failed to secure vaccine contracts in 2021 and is still conducting trials on five potential jabs developed domestically before an official roll out. 

People are even organising demonstrations in a country where protests are rare.

In response, the PCC has said its congress would be ‘confronting political and ideological subversion, which has made internet and social media its principal field of operations.’

Control over information has always been a key tool of PCC rule. 

Castro has said he plans to read and take care of his grandchildren after retiring. But there are those who think he may hover in the background.

‘Raul will be there,’ said former diplomat Alzugaray, in a system that may resemble ‘the one in China when Deng Xiaoping had no position but… everything had to be discussed with him. He had the last word.’

The reign of the Castros: How brothers Fidel and Raul led a revolution and controlled Cuba for decades

As Raul Castro passes the leadership of the PCC on to President Miguel Diaz-Canel, it marks the end of the reign of Castros at the helm of politics in Cuba.

Raul became the first secretary in 1965, when his older brother, Fidel Castro, founded the party.  

The brothers overcame imprisonment at the hands of dictator Fulgencio Batista, were exiled in Mexico and survived a disastrous start to their rebellion before triumphantly riding into Havana on January 1959.

The brothers overcame imprisonment at the hands of dictator Fulgencio Batista, were exiled in Mexico and survived a disastrous start to their rebellion before triumphantly riding into Havana on January 1959

The brothers overcame imprisonment at the hands of dictator Fulgencio Batista, were exiled in Mexico and survived a disastrous start to their rebellion before triumphantly riding into Havana on January 1959

At age 32, Fidel became the youngest leader in Latin America and put his younger brother Raul in charge of the armed forces

At age 32, Fidel became the youngest leader in Latin America and put his younger brother Raul in charge of the armed forces

At age 32, Fidel became the youngest leader in Latin America and put his younger brother Raul in charge of the armed forces.

Despite initial setbacks, the bearded guerrillas, operating in the eastern mountains, steadily gained support across the country.

On January 1, 1959, Batista fled and Fidel became the unquestioned leader of Cuba, with his younger brother put in charge of the armed forces.

Fidel’s government initially executed or imprisoned many foes, and veered to Soviet-backed socialism in the early 1960s.

Cuba backed revolutions across Latin America, and while most of those failed, the Castros’ resistance to U.S. domination inspired millions across the continent and beyond.

Cuba backed revolutions across Latin America, and while most of those failed, the Castros' resistance to U.S. domination inspired millions across the continent and beyond (pictured, Castro with Commanders Antonio Nunez Jimenez, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, Juan Almeida and Ramiro Valdes in Havana)

Cuba backed revolutions across Latin America, and while most of those failed, the Castros’ resistance to U.S. domination inspired millions across the continent and beyond (pictured, Castro with Commanders Antonio Nunez Jimenez, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, Juan Almeida and Ramiro Valdes in Havana)

Fidel’s control survived repeated U.S. plots to overthrow or kill him, and even the hardships that followed the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, which had kept the island’s economy afloat.

But illness finally forced Fidel to turn over power in 2006 to Raul, who formally became president two years later.

Raul announced that he will step aside as president in April – though he plans to remain in what is probably a more important position: head of Cuba’s lone permitted party, the Communist Party.



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BBC Journalist Martin Bashir Steps Down As Report On Princess Diana Interview Looms

BBC Journalist Martin Bashir Steps Down As Report On Princess Diana Interview Looms
BBC Journalist Martin Bashir Steps Down As Report On Princess Diana Interview Looms


Martin Bashir has left the BBC as the broadcaster prepares to release a report on how the journalist secured a bombshell 1995 television interview with Princess Diana.

He had been on sick leave for several months.

Bashir is accused of tricking the royal into speaking with him on “Panorama,” a British news program, by forging documents in order to manipulate her. During the interview, Diana revealed unhappy details of her marriage to Prince Charles, which had by then broken down past the point of repair but was still a year away from a formal end. She publicly affirmed that Charles had an intimate relationship with his longtime friend Camilla Parker-Bowles ― causing a crisis at the palace. 

“There were three of us in this marriage,” Diana said, “so it was a bit crowded.”

Martin Bashir interviewed Princess Diana in Kensington Palace for the television program "Panorama" in 1995. (Photo by ©



Martin Bashir interviewed Princess Diana in Kensington Palace for the television program “Panorama” in 1995. (Photo by © Pool Photograph/Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

The BBC’s deputy director of news, Jonathan Munro, said Friday in a memo to staff that Bashir “let us know of his decision last month, just before being readmitted to hospital for another surgical procedure on his heart,” according to The New York Times, which obtained a copy.

Munro went on to say that Bashir had “major surgery” in late 2020 and was still “facing some ongoing issues,” prompting his decision “to focus on his health.”

The BBC announced in November that it was launching an investigation into how Bashir secured the interview after Charles Spencer, Diana’s brother, alleged the journalist had used deceptive tactics. Tim Davie, the BBC’s director general, said at the time that the broadcaster was taking the accusations “very seriously.”

Prince William, Diana’s son, welcomed the investigation and said it “should help establish the truth.”

A 1996 probe into how Bashir convinced Diana to sit down with him supposedly cleared the journalist.

However, Spencer maintains that Bashir made a series of bogus claims that led him to introduce the journalist to his sister. According to Spencer, Bashir said Diana was being bugged by security services and that two senior aides were being paid to provide information about her ― even producing bank statements as purported evidence. Matt Weissler, a graphic designer, came forward last year to say he had mocked up the documents on Bashir’s request, believing they would be used as film props. 

Lord John Dyson, a retired British judge, was appointed to conduct the new probe. A spokesman for the BBC told HuffPost it “will be published soon.” 

The BBC apologized for the falsified bank statements last fall, but said it had reason to believe the documents had no impact on Diana’s decision to sit down for the interview because she had not seen them herself.

Bashir joined the BBC in 1987, and eventually made the jump to U.S. media. He was forced to resign from his post as an anchor for MSNBC after calling Sarah Palin a “world-class idiot” in 2013. In 2016, he became the BBC’s religion editor. Bashir contracted COVID-19 last year and became “seriously unwell” with complications of the virus.  



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Black bear released into the wild after recovering from Colorado wildfire injuries

Black bear released into the wild after recovering from Colorado wildfire injuries
Black bear released into the wild after recovering from Colorado wildfire injuries


An orphaned black bear which was injured during a Colorado wildfire has been released back into the wild after officials worked for five months to nurse the animal back to health.

The young bear was injured during the 2020 Cameron Peak Fire, which became the largest recorded wildfire in Colorado’s history after 62 days of burning.

Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) officials worked to treat and rehabilitate the animal for several months after the cub was found.

The bear was released back into the wild on 5 May in the mountains of Larimer County, outside of Fort Collins, CPW said in a press release.

“This bear’s drive to survive did most of the work and we just gave it a little boost,” said Kristin Cannon, Deputy Regional Manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Northeast region.

“This bear went through an awful lot in its first year of life, let’s hope humans can now help keep it wild by not rewarding it with our food sources and lowering its chances of survival.”

Video footage showed the bear running off into the trees after it was released. A wildlife official banged on the metal container the bear was transported in to encourage the animal to take off.

The male cub came into the CPW’s custody after ranch owners reported the animal sleeping on their porch on 7 December, five days after firefighters finally 100 per cent contained the wildfire.

However when wildlife officials arrived, the cub was gone. They finally captured the animal on 11 December after the ranch owners reported the cub again sleeping on their porch.

The cub’s injuries included burns on its paws, sustained during the Cameron Peak Fire. His ears were also infected with frostbite, he was covered in cockleburs and severely dehydrated.

It was not clear how long the cub had been orphaned but his paw injuries appeared around a month old when he was discovered.

“This is an incredibly fortunate bear,” said CPW Area Wildlife Manager Jason Duetsch. “Most wild animals don’t survive the myriad of injuries they are exposed to, let alone be found, captured and treated successfully. He definitely would not have made it through much longer. It is the smallest bear cub I have ever seen at that time of the year, which helped us make the decision to try rehabilitation.”

Veterinarians were able to treat the young cub, who is now one, and nourish him back to health.

“Since the foot injuries on this cub appeared to be healing well, and his other wounds were very treatable, we felt that with supportive care and nourishment his prognosis for recovery was very good,” veterinarian Dr Pauline Nol said.

At the time of capture, the bear weighed just 16.3lbs but has since bulked up to 93lbs by the time he was released.



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‘I lost my entire family, in an instant’: Miracle baby is sole survivor of Israeli airstrike that kills 10

‘I lost my entire family, in an instant’: Miracle baby is sole survivor of Israeli airstrike that kills 10
‘I lost my entire family, in an instant’: Miracle baby is sole survivor of Israeli airstrike that kills 10


T

he baby was found clutching his dead mother’s chest when the first responders in Gaza dug him out from underneath the rubble of a three-storey building.

In a split second 11 members of the Palestinian family, who had gathered for Eid, were buried by the giant claw of an Israeli airstrike.

The remains of the building in Gaza’s Shati refugee camp were strewn with children’s toys, a Monopoly board game and plates of uneaten food from the holiday gathering.

In total 10 were dead: eight children and their two mothers, who were sisters-in-law.

But by some miracle there was a cry: five-month-old Omar, the youngest, was alive.

“What had they done to the Israelis to be targeted while wearing their special Eid clothes as they sat in their uncle’s house?” the distraught father Mohamed al-Hadidi, asked The Independent, from Shifa hospital where his son was being treated.

“They are only children, they haven’t fired rockets, ” he added, breaking down.

“Except Omar, I lost my entire family, in an instant.”

Palestinians take part in the funeral of the al-Hadidi family

(AFP via Getty Images)

At least 139 Palestinians – including 39 children and 22 women – have been killed, mostly by Israeli airstrikes, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

In Israel, medics have reported 10 dead, including two children, and said six people were in a critical condition from Gaza’s volleys of rockets. The latest victim was a 50-year-old Israeli who was killed by rocket fire on Saturday afternoon in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv.

For five nights across the blockaded strip families have cowered under what Israeli air force officials have told The Independent is one of the most “intense barrages of airstrikes” they have ever unleashed on the territory. It is in response to an almost unprecedented level of rocket fire from militants in Gaza.

The army has repeatedly said it does everything in its power to avoid civilian casualties, including deploying early warning systems for major targets like multi-storey buildings.

But Mr Hadidi, who had not been with his wife and children,  said his family knew nothing of the air raid which blew up their lives.

Under heavy bombardment, his wife Maha, 36, had taken her four children to her brother’s home to celebrate the  Muslim holiday which marks the end of Ramadan.

After dinner with her sister-in-law, Yasmine Hassan, she decided to sleep there overnight,  a decision that would ultimately prove fatal.

Omar Al-Hadidi lies on a hospital bed

(REUTERS)

“The Israelis didn’t give any warning, they didn’t call them. They didn’t even fire drone [knock on the roof] rockets so they knew to escape,” the father said.

“My house is just 400m away, I was running in the street shouting, the building was totally destroyed.”

The latest cycle of cross-border fire erupted on Monday when Hamas, which runs Gaza, fired a volley of rockets at Jerusalem for the first time in seven years.

The militant group said it was in response to weeks of violence in the flashpoint city of Jerusalem that saw Israeli forces repeatedly storming the al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, with stun grenades and teargas.

Israeli police defended the inflammatory action saying Palestinian rioters on the al-Aqsa compound were throwing stones, bottles and fireworks.

Since then, the Israeli military says Hamas and other militants in Gaza have fired over 2,300 rockets at Israel, in what a senior Israeli air force general told The Independent has been among the most “intense” barrages of all conflicts with Gaza.

Israeli warplanes have struck more than 650 targets, in an equally strong campaign.

Overnight on Friday Israel unleashed a 40-minute ferocious ground and air bombardment on Gaza, which the army said was targeting an underground network of attack tunnels they call the “metro”.

Military officials said that night they dropped 500 tonnes of munitions on the strip, which is home to nearly 2 million people.

“I have never seen anything like this in my life. It was worse than the 2014 war,”  said, Hassan Mohammed Attar, 50,  whose daughter, son-in-law, grandchildren and half a dozen neighbours were wiped out during that night’s bombardment along the northern border area.

“Everything has been destroyed, I have never seen such fire before spread through the houses. We were all suffocating,  vomiting, I don’t know what that was,” he added.

The air raids were so intense on Friday and Saturday that thousands of Palestinians living near the border with Israel packed up their belongings and fled south, fearing a protected war and possible ground invasion.

A plume of heavy black smoke rises above buildings in Gaza City from a fire caused by Israeli air strikes

(AFP via Getty Images)

“The air raids have been unimaginable, Friday was a night of fear, terror and destruction,” said Fareed Abu Haloup, 62, who spoke to The Independent as he was fleeing Beit Lahia in the north to the centre.

“We only just made it out of our house alive.  Even the ambulances can’t get to us. We can’t wait to see our children die in front of our eyes. “

Back at Shifa hospital, in Gaza City, Mr Hadidi sat playing with Omar, the only remaining member of his direct family.

“We ask where is the international law? Where is the international community to step in and stop this?” he asked.

“Where are our rights? We ask you to show the world what happened to us.”



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Donald Trump ‘will hold first rallies this summer’ – six months after DC event which sparked Capitol riots

Donald Trump ‘will hold first rallies this summer’ – six months after DC event which sparked Capitol riots
Donald Trump ‘will hold first rallies this summer’ – six months after DC event which sparked Capitol riots


Donald Trump is reportedly planning to hold his first political rallies since the event for supporters in Washington DC on 6 January which sparked the Capitol riots.

The former president is expected to appear at two events in June, and a third in July, although exact locations and dates are not yet known, insiders told The New York Post

The New York Post reported that “the president’s team is in the process of selecting venues for a pair of events in June. A third rally is expected to take place around the July 4 holiday”.

The Independent has sought comment from Trump representatives.

The news has increased speculation as to whether the 74-year-old Republican, who was impeached twice but ultimately acquitted, is gearing up for a 2024 presidential run. Mr Trump has not confirmed he will run again but has hinted at the possibility.

He recently moved his political headquarters to his New Jersey golf club from Mar-a-Lago, which closes during the summer due to Florida’s high temperatures.

The announcement of potential rallies comes after Republicans voted you oust Representative Liz Cheney from her role as chair of the party’s House Conference for publicly stating her belief that Mr Trump lost the election.

Since leaving office Mr Trump, who was banned from Facebook and Twitter, has repeatedly lied that the election was “stolen” from him in interviews and on his new blog.

Mr Trump’s theatrical rallies became a mainstay of his political campaigns and presidency, drawing thousands of fervent supporters.

He has not held one since January 6, 2021 when he spoke at the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington DC. Following that rally hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol building in a violent attack which left five people dead including one Capitol police officer.

So far, more than 470 people have been charged with crimes including enterting a restricted building, disorderly conduct and assaulting law personnel.

The outgoing president subsequently faced an impeachment trial for the second time during his four years in the White House. He was impeached by the House of Representatives but acquitted in the Senate.

On 4 May, Mr Trump toldThe Daily Wire: “I look forward to doing an announcement at the right time. As you know, it’s very early. But I think people are going to be very, very happy when I make a certain announcement. You know, for campaign finance reasons, you really can’t do it too early because it becomes a whole different thing.”

He added: “Otherwise, I’d give you an answer that I think you’d be very happy with. So, we are looking at that very, very seriously, and all I’d say is stay tuned.”



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Japan Expands COVID-19 Emergency Just 2 Months Before Tokyo Olympics

Japan Expands COVID-19 Emergency Just 2 Months Before Tokyo Olympics
Japan Expands COVID-19 Emergency Just 2 Months Before Tokyo Olympics



TOKYO (AP) — Japan on Friday further expanded a coronavirus state of emergency from six areas, including Tokyo, to nine, as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga repeated his determination to hold the Olympics in just over two months.

Japan has been struggling to slow infections ahead of the games. The three additions are Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, where the Olympic marathon will be held, and Hiroshima and Okayama in western Japan.

Despite the worsening infections, Suga stressed his commitment to holding the games safely and securely while protecting Japanese by strictly controlling the movements of foreign participants, including possibly expelling journalists covering the event if they defy regulations.

“I understand there are various difficulties, but the priority is to stop the further spread of infections and protect the people’s lives and health,” Suga said.

The three additional areas will join Tokyo, Osaka and four other prefectures already under the emergency coronavirus restrictions through May 31, Suga announced at a government taskforce meeting Friday. Bars, karaoke parlors and most entertainment facilities are required to close. Business owners who comply will be compensated; those who don’t could face fines.

“Infections are escalating extremely rapidly in populated areas,” Suga said. “As new variants continue to spread, we judged that now is a very important time to stop the further spread of infections.”

It was the second expansion of the emergency in just one week. Suga declared a state of emergency — Japan’s third — in four prefectures including Tokyo and Osaka starting April 25, then expanded it to six prefectures last Friday. Despite the emergency measures, infections are continuing to spread in wider areas of Japan instead of slowing.

In the worst-hit Osaka area, hospitals are overflowing with COVID-19 patients. Many are waiting at home or at hotels with oxygen, and more than a dozen have died without being able to get a hospital room. Coronavirus treatment in Japan is largely limited to public or university hospitals, where treatment of non-COVID-19 patients has been largely curtailed.

Dr. Shigeru Omi, who heads a government panel of experts, urged organizers to carefully study how much additional burden Olympic participants will place on already-strained medical systems.

Suga said he will decide on a possible further extension of the emergency by evaluating the virus situation at the end of May.

His government is under heavy pressure from the public, increasingly frustrated by a slow vaccine rollout and repeated emergency declarations. Many now oppose hosting the July 23-Aug. 8 Olympics, and people appear to be less cooperative with non-compulsory stay-at-home and social-distancing requests.

Less than 2% of the public has been fully vaccinated in Japan, one of the world’s least inoculated.

The expansion of the state of emergency is a major shift from the government’s initial plan that relied on less stringent measures.

The addition of Hiroshima to the areas covered by the emergency measures comes just days after Japanese organizers announced that a visit next week by International Olympic Committee Chairman Thomas Bach to mark the Hiroshima leg of the torch relay has been canceled.

Earlier Friday, organizers of a petition demanding the cancellation of the Olympics submitted more than 350,000 signatures to Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike that were collected since early May. The petition says money spent on the games would be better used on people in financial need because of the pandemic.

On Thursday, Japan reported 6,800 new coronavirus cases, increasing its total to 665,547 with 11,255 deaths.

A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus



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Netanyahu says airstrike on Gaza tower did not hit ‘uninvolved’ people as Biden calls Israel and Abbas

Netanyahu says airstrike on Gaza tower did not hit ‘uninvolved’ people as Biden calls Israel and Abbas
Netanyahu says airstrike on Gaza tower did not hit ‘uninvolved’ people as Biden calls Israel and Abbas


Benjamin Netanyahu told President Joe Biden that “the uninvolved were evacuated” from a Gaza tower housing media outlets before Israel’s devastating and widely-condemned airstrike on Saturday.

The Israeli prime minister said his military “is doing everything to avoid harming” people not involved in its fighting with Hamas and other groups in Gaza.

Biden also called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for the first time since he entered the White House Oval Office in January.

The conversation came amid heavy fighting between Israel and Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip.

A US envoy arrived in the region on Friday seeking calm.

Biden told Abbas the United States opposes the eviction of Palestinians from East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah, the summary said, a case that helped ignite tension in the holy city and spark fighting between Israel and Gaza militants.

The US does not engage with Hamas, which has conrolled Gaza since 2007, but it does talk to Abbas whose Palestinian Authority has limited-self rule in the occupied West Bank.



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