Welcome to Monday, where Iran's new leader has tough words for Joe Biden, Olympics athletes will get a live audience after all and Russia is developing a chewing gum form of its Sputnik vaccine. Italian news magazine Internazionale also reports on the harrowing living conditions for migrants in the country's pre-deportation facilities.
• Iran's new hardliner president says he won't negotiate with Biden: In his first comments since being elected Saturday as Iran's new president, conservative former judiciary head Ebrahim Raisi said today he is not willing to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden nor negotiate over Iran's nuclear program.
• Ethiopian elections go ahead despite international concern: Amid ethnic conflict and famine in its Tigray region, Ethiopia will still hold elections today for its next Prime Minister. Current Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, slated to remain in power, has assured that the election will be democratic even as international observers voice concern about its legitimacy, noting that constituencies in conflict zones will have their votes delayed due to security concerns.
• Swedish Prime Minister ousted: Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven lost a vote of no-confidence this morning triggered by nationalist party, the Sweden Democrats. The Prime Minister now has one week to decide whether to resign or to call a snap election.
• Japan to allow domestic spectators at Olympics: Athletes will be able to benefit from a live audience, despite previous recommendations that holding the event without fans would help diminish the spread of COVID-19. Up to 10,000 viewers, or 50% capacity of most stadiums, will be allowed per venue.
• After missing for months, Dubai Princess appears in photo: Images of Sheikha Latifa appearing alive and presumably on holiday in Spain were posted to Instagram, Reuters reports. Latifa, the focus of concern for rights organizations, had been assumed to be detained against her will after attempting to escape the country in 2018. A video in February was released of the princess pleading for help.
• Apple Daily may shut down in days: The Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily, may soon be shut down after seeing its office raided and assets frozen, and its founder Jimmy Lai arrested. The newspaper's Board will decide Friday whether to continue operations.
• Russia hopes to develop COVID vaccine in chewing gum form: The Russian military is currently working to be able to administer "Sputnik V" as chewable tablets and pastilles, in addition to its current usage as an intravenous injection.
Brazil is "between sadness and hope," reports daily O Dia as the country has surpassed 500,000 coronavirus deaths, the second highest in the world behind the United States. An NGO placed roses on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro to pay tribute to the victims
Invisible horrors of Italy's migrant detention centers
A young detainee's suicide is drawing attention to the otherwise invisible plight of people locked up in decrepit, pre-deportation facilities known as CPRs, reports Annalisa Camilli in Italian news magazine Internazionale.
Accused of stealing a smartphone, Moussa Balde was savagely beaten in Ventimiglia, near the French border, by three Italians with plastic pipes and bars. But after just a brief hospital visit, the 23-year-old man from Guinea was transferred to what is known in Italy as a CPR, a detention center for people awaiting deportation. Two days later he died by suicide. Balde's death is the sixth in a CPR since 2019, and it is raising serious questions about conditions in the facilities, especially given the circumstances that led up to his detention.
His suicide is only the flashpoint of the faults of a prison system that has had severe structural problems since its creation in 1998. Between June 2019 and December 2020, five other migrants died while in administrative detention in Italian CPRs. Serious shortcomings have been found in the centers: The privacy of migrants is not respected, the bathrooms lack doors, police officers attend medical examinations, health facilities are out of order or in unacceptable conditions, the heating does not work, the migrants' phones are seized on their arrival...
The pandemic has made conditions of the centers even worse, in part because repatriation flights have been suspended, making detention even more pointless for those held in the centers. "Last May, to protect the health of migrants and local communities, the UN asked the international community to suspend forced deportations," reads an investigation into CPRs run by the Italian website Frontierenews. "But Italy continued to lock foreign citizens in prison-like structures designed to detain and deport irregular migrants."
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France recorded an all-time low turnout yesterday, with the rate of abstentionnisme estimated between 66% and 68% for the first round of regional elections. The parties of both French President Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen, whom many have been predicting will face off in next year's presidential election, both suffered significant losses.
Moscow mayor to service sector employees: get vaccine or lose your job
In an unprecedented push to make vaccines obligatory, Moscow's mayor has told employees in the city that they will lose their jobs if they don't get vaccinated, Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad reports Monday in the latest move to try to curb the COVID-19 crisis spreading in the Russian capital.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin had already ordered employers of service sectors such as transportation, healthcare, education and hospitality to be sure that at least 60% of their workers were vaccinated by next month. But what was at first presented as a suggestion by employers is now to be made a requirement: those who refuse can be put on indefinite suspension with their salary withheld, while employers face a hefty fine.
This vaccination requirement is the latest, and most extreme, in a series of harsh measurements taken by the Mayor. For months, Russian politicians have rejected the idea of compulsory vaccination, with President Vladimir Putin calling it "impractical and impossible," as reported by The Moscow Times.
But in his statement, Sobyanin said he was left with no other options as Moscow's cases are rapidly increasing. According to Euronews, the Russian capital reached a new daily record of 9,120 infections on Saturday, a threefold increase compared to two weeks ago.
Although Russia was among the first countries to introduce a COVID-19 vaccine, the national vaccination rate at 12% is much lower than elsewhere. Sputnik V was registered in August 2020 and approved for distribution in Russia soon after.
Although initially met with criticism at home and abroad, the vaccine has been distributed in 59 countries as of April 2021. But Russians still harbor a great distrust of Sputnik V because the government has reportedly been downgrading the COVID figures, leaving many to believe that the virus is not such a bad thing.
In an attempt to change Muscovites' minds, writing on his Russian-language personal blog, Sobyanin referred to unvaccinated people entering public spaces as "complicit" in keeping the pandemic ongoing.
Since April 1, India's surge in COVID-19 deaths has left 3,621 children orphaned, without either parent, while 26,176 other young people have lost one parent.
"A regime of brutal hangmen must never be allowed to have weapons of mass destruction.
— Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned the world should "wake up" following the election of conservative Ebrahim Raisi as Iran's new president and renewed Israel's opposition to negotiations of a new nuclear deal with Iran.