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UN slams countries using ‘pandemic as an excuse to crush dissent’ | Instant News


The United Nations on Monday harshly criticized countries that used the pandemic to justify cracking down on dissent and suppressing criticism. Speaking at the opening of the UN Human Rights Council’s main annual session, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres alleged that the authorities in a number of countries used restrictions meant to stop the spread of Covid-19 to weaken their political opposition.

“Using the pandemic as an excuse, authorities in several countries have deployed security responses and emergency measures to crush dissent, criminalize basic freedoms, silence independent reporting and restrict the activities of non-governmental organizations,” he said, without naming countries.

Speaking in a pre-recorded video message to a virtual meeting of the Geneva-based body, the UN chief lamented that “pandemic-related restrictions were used to subvert the electoral process, weaken opposition voices and suppress criticism” in several countries.

At the same time, he said, “Human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, political activists and even medical professionals are detained, prosecuted and subjected to intimidation and surveillance for criticizing the government’s pandemic response – or lack thereof.”

‘Unauthorized restrictions’

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet also slammed countries using Covid-19 as an excuse to impose “unlawful restrictions on public freedoms … and the unnecessary or excessive use of force.” “I think we all realize that the use of force will not end this pandemic. Sending criticism to prison will not end this pandemic,” he said in a video message to the council.

Covid-19 has killed nearly 2.5 million people worldwide since the virus first emerged in China in late 2019, and Bachelet warned that “the medical impact of the pandemic is far from over.” “And the impact on the economy, freedom, society and people is just beginning,” he added.

Guterres also criticized how the pandemic has “deepened pre-existing divisions, vulnerability and inequality, and opened new gaps, including fault lines in human rights.” “This disease has taken a disproportionate number of victims to women, minorities, people with disabilities, the elderly, refugees, migrants and indigenous peoples.”

As a result, he warned, “progress on gender equality has set years back (and) extreme poverty has increased for the first time in decades.” In addition to inequalities within countries, the UN chief condemned inequality between countries when it comes to accessing the Covid-19 vaccine which is marketed as “moral outrage”.

As much as 75 percent of all vaccine doses have been given in just 10 countries, he pointed out, while more than 130 countries have not received a single dose. “Vaccine equity is ultimately about human rights,” he said. “Vaccine nationalism denies it.”

‘Deadly misinformation’

Guterres also voiced concern on Monday over misinformation widespread throughout the world about the coronavirus and pandemic. In a number of cases, Guterres said, “access to life-saving Covid-19 information has been withheld, while misinformation has been reinforced, including by those in power.” Beyond the pandemic, Guterres highlighted the need for more action globally against systemic racism and ideas of white supremacy.

“The decay of racism is eating away at institutions, social structures and everyday life, sometimes invisibly and quietly,” he said. He welcomed “a new revival in the global struggle for racial justice.” “We must also step up the fight against the revival of neo-Nazism, white supremacy, and racially and ethnically motivated terrorism,” said Guterres.

“The danger of these hate-driven movements is increasing day by day,” he said, warning that they were “more than just a domestic terror threat.” “They pose a transnational threat.”

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The United Nations is disappointed over the failure of Yemeni prisoner swap talks | Instant News


ISTANBUL

The United Nations expressed disappointment on Sunday at the lack of progress in the latest round of talks between the warring parties in Yemen on a prisoner swap.

“I am disappointed that this round of talks does not match what we saw in Switzerland last September, which resulted in the historic release of 1,056 prisoners,” said UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths in a statement.

During the final talks, the parties “discussed strategies and possibilities for fulfilling their commitments under the Stockholm Agreement. Even though the parties did not agree to release during this round of talks, they are committed to continuing to discuss the operating parameters of extended releases in the future, “said Griffiths.

The fifth meeting of the Oversight Committee on the Implementation of the Prisoner and Prisoner Exchange Agreement between the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels ended in Amman, Jordan.

The meeting was co-chaired by the Office of the Special Envoys for the Secretary-General of Yemen and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Yemeni government and Houthi rebels started a new chapter of UN-brokered negotiations for a prisoner swap on January 24 this year.

“I urge the parties to continue their discussions and consultations to conclude the implementation of what they agreed to and expand arrangements to release more prisoners immediately. I repeat my call for the unconditional release of all sick, wounded, elderly and detained children and civilians, including women and journalists, “Griffiths added.

The Office of the Special Envoy for Yemen affirms its commitment to support the parties’ efforts to implement the Prisoner and Prisoner Exchange Agreement. It also expressed its gratitude to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for hosting the round of talks.

In December 2018, government representatives and Houthi rebel leaders held UN-brokered talks in Stockholm, Sweden that resulted in a ceasefire and prisoner swap agreement in the coastal city of Al-Hudaydah.

An agreement was reached in Switzerland in September last year, and hundreds of fighters from both sides returned home the following month in the biggest handover since the start of the war.

Yemen has been wracked by violence and chaos since 2014, when the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including the capital Sana’a.


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Bank of Queensland Australia increased with the purchase of ME Bank for $ 1.1 billion | Instant News


(Reuters) – Bank of Queensland Ltd will buy ME Bank, a digital lender owned by 26 industrial pension funds, for A $ 1.33 billion ($ 1.05 billion), the couple said on Monday, as tier lenders second moved away from the leadership of Australia’s “Big Four” Bank.

The deal will double the size of the regional bank’s Brisbane-based retail branch, take deposits to more than A $ 56 billion, and increase the division’s contribution to revenue to more than 50% from 36%, said the BoQ.

Even with the deal, the BoQ will still lag far behind the Big Four banks, which control about three-quarters of the lending market and have weathered the pandemic better than some other international banks.

The smallest of the four, the Australian and New Zealand Banking Group, has deposits of more than A $ 320 billion according to December data from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA).

ME Bank chairman James Evans said the deal “represents a permanent change for the better in the Australian banking landscape.”

ME Bank pension fund backers, including the country’s biggest Australian Super, are backing the deal, he said.

The BoQ will fund the deal through an A $ 1.35 billion equity increase at A $ 7.35 per share.

“This is a defining acquisition in our ongoing BoQ transformation,” Chief Executive George Frazis said in a statement.

BoQ’s digital capabilities also benefit as large banks increase their digital presence or partner with fintech companies.

ME Bank, founded in 1994, posted a principal profit of A $ 123.9 million in fiscal 2020 with book loans of A $ 25.5 billion and deposits of approximately A $ 17.2 billion at the end of June.

In the attached trade update, the BoQ said it expects half-year cash profit growth from 8% to 10%, while loan delays have decreased.

($ 1 = 1.2702 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; Edited by Peter Cooney and Richard Pullin

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Bank of Queensland Australia increased with the purchase of ME Bank for $ 1.1 billion | Instant News


(Reuters) – Bank of Queensland Ltd will buy ME Bank, a digital lender owned by 26 industrial pension funds, for A $ 1.33 billion ($ 1.05 billion), the couple said on Monday, as tier lenders second moved away from the leadership of Australia’s “Big Four” Bank.

The deal will double the size of the regional bank’s Brisbane-based retail branch, take deposits to more than A $ 56 billion, and increase the division’s contribution to revenue to more than 50% from 36%, said the BoQ.

Even with the deal, the BoQ will still lag far behind the Big Four banks, which control about three-quarters of the lending market and have weathered the pandemic better than some other international banks.

The smallest of the four, the Australian and New Zealand Banking Group, has deposits of more than A $ 320 billion according to December data from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA).

ME Bank chairman James Evans said the deal “represents a permanent change for the better in the Australian banking landscape.”

ME Bank pension fund backers, including the country’s biggest Australian Super, are backing the deal, he said.

The BoQ will fund the deal through an A $ 1.35 billion equity increase at A $ 7.35 per share.

“This is a defining acquisition in our ongoing BoQ transformation,” Chief Executive George Frazis said in a statement.

BoQ’s digital capabilities also benefit as large banks increase their digital presence or partner with fintech companies.

ME Bank, founded in 1994, posted a principal profit of A $ 123.9 million in fiscal 2020 with book loans of A $ 25.5 billion and deposits of approximately A $ 17.2 billion at the end of June.

In the attached trade update, the BoQ said it expects half-year cash profit growth from 8% to 10%, while loan delays have decreased.

($ 1 = 1.2702 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; Edited by Peter Cooney and Richard Pullin

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Brazilian retailer B2W and study Lojas Americanas combined operations | Instant News


RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Brazilian retailer Lojas Americanas SA and B2W e-commerce firm Cia Digital SA are considering merging their operations, the companies said in separate securities filings on Friday.

Lojas Americanas already controls B2W with a 62.5% stake, but has a smaller market cap, 41.6 billion reais at Friday’s market close, while B2W closes at 46.6 billion reais ($ 8.66 billion).

The two companies have for months announced steps to create so-called omnichannel experiences, which allow customers to take advantage of the B2W e-commerce platform and Lojas Americanas’ physical presence simultaneously.

Together, the companies have 1,700 physical stores in 750 cities in Brazil, as well as an online marketplace with more than 87,000 vendors. The companies say that a combined operation can create a strong advertising operation.

A committee will be appointed to study the specifics of the combination and give options to the boards of the two companies, the filing said.

The company did not say when the study would be completed.

($ 1 = 5.38 reais)

Reporting by Gram Slattery in Rio de Janeiro and Aluísio Alves in Sao Paulo; Edited by Chris Reese and Cynthia Osterman

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