english news

Aung San Suu Kyi opens Facebook account


Myanmar’s de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has opened a Facebook account. In her first message posted on Wednesday, the leader said she had joined in order to “communicate faster and more efficiently” about the coronavirus pandemic. Facebook has admitted that its platform was used to incite deadly violence that killed thousands of Rohingya Muslims in 2017. Hundreds of thousands more were forced to flee into neighbouring Bangladesh.

Ms Suu Kyi noted in her message that she had previously been reluctant to join the social media site. Within hours the post had received around 310,000 likes. Her account has since gained more than 700,000 followers and been verified by Facebook. Ms Suu Kyi’s first post came as rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned that an estimated 350,000 people across Myanmar were “sitting in the path of a public health catastrophe” amid the coronavirus outbreak. Waves of communal violence in Myanmar have displaced tens of thousands of people, including many from the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority.

Once seen as a human rights icon, Ms Suu Kyi’s reputation has been damaged by her defence of the military over allegations of genocide against the Rohingya. In January, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered the country to take measures to prevent the genocide of Rohingya Muslims, although the verdict was rejected by Myanmar and cannot be enforced.(BBC)…[+]

Sajid Hussain: Fears for Pakistan journalist missing in Sweden


A Pakistani journalist who fled the country to escape death threats has gone missing in Sweden where he was granted political asylum. Sajid Hussain was last seen boarding a train in Stockholm on his way to Uppsala on 2 March, according to the group Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

The group said it was possible he had been abducted “at the behest of a Pakistani intelligence agency”. Hussain, 39, fled to Sweden in 2012 after writing about crime. Pakistan country profileWhy a media mogul was arrested in Pakistan. He had reported on forced disappearances and organised crime in Pakistan, relatives said.

Online newspaper the Balochistan Times, for which Hussain was chief editor, said it had reported his disappearance to Swedish police on 3 March. “As of today [28 March], there is no clue about his whereabouts and wellbeing,” it said in an editorial. “The police have not shared any progress in the investigations with his family and friends.”

Relatives told the Pakistani newspaper Dawn they had waited two weeks before expressing their fears in case he had gone into isolation because of the coronavirus outbreak. Hussain’s wife, Shehnaz, told Dawn that before going into self-imposed exile, her husband had sensed he was being followed. As well as writing about forced disappearances he had exposed a drug kingpin in Pakistan.(BBC)…[+]

Three out of four Americans under some form of lockdown


About three out of four Americans are now, or about to be, under some form of lockdown, as more states tighten measures to fight the coronavirus. Maryland, Virginia, Arizona and Tennessee became the latest states to order citizens to stay at home, meaning 32 of 50 states have taken such steps.

Meanwhile governors are quarrelling with President Donald Trump about the availability of testing kits. The US has more than 175,000 confirmed virus cases and over 3,400 deaths. The US now has more Covid-19 fatalities than China, where the illness was first reported.New York City is the worst-hit place in America, with 914 confirmed fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University.(BBC)…[+]

LA county gun shops to reopen as ‘essential’ business

la gun

Los Angeles County is reopening gun shops to the public after a federal memo listed them as “essential” businesses.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva closed shops last week, but reversed course on Monday, following the guidance. The LA county closures had prompted a lawsuit from gun rights groups. The change comes amid a national dispute over whether gun access is critical amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The federal guidance issued on 28 March classified munitions makers and sellers as “essential critical infrastructure workers”. Mr Villanueva said that though the memo was non-binding, it has national scope and he would therefore open shops closed last week.(BBC)…[+]

Trump says Harry and Meghan must pay for security


President Donald Trump says the US will not foot the bill for Prince Harry and Meghan’s security amid reports that the pair have moved to the US from Canada.  Mr Trump tweeted he was “a great friend and admirer of the Queen and the United Kingdom”, but added: “They must pay!”

The couple said they had no plans to ask for publicly funded security in the US. They have reportedly relocated to Meghan’s home state of California amid the intensifying coronavirus outbreak. They will formally step down as senior royals on 31 March and will no longer carry out duties on behalf of the Queen, but these arrangements will be reviewed after one year. In a statement released through a spokesperson on Sunday, the couple said: “The duke and duchess have no plans to ask the US government for security resources. Privately funded security arrangements have been made.”(BBC)…[+]

Hungary government gets sweeping powers


The Hungarian Parliament has voted by 137 to 53 to accept the government’s request for the power to rule by decree during the coronavirus emergency. The law contains no time limit. Prime Minister Viktor Orban promised to use the extraordinary powers he has been granted “proportionately and rationally”.

The leader of the opposition Jobbik party, Peter Jakab, said that the law placed the whole of Hungarian democracy in quarantine. Monday’s vote was controversial – more than 100,000 people had signed a petition against the move.

But Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s conservative Fidesz party has a strong majority. The special powers have no time limit and critics say independent journalists could face jail. According to a survey by the pro-government polling agency Nezopont, 90% of the public want the current emergency measures extended and 72% agree that the criminal code should be strengthened.(BBC)…[+]

US senator probed for alleged insider trading – reports


The US justice department is investigating alleged insider trading by lawmakers who sold stocks just before the coronavirus pandemic sparked a major market downturn, according to US media. Republican Senator Richard Burr is said to be among those to have been contacted by the FBI.

Mr Burr, 64, has denied wrongdoing. It is illegal for Congress members to trade based on non-public information gathered during their official duties. He has said he relied solely on publicly available news reports. Earlier this month various senators came under fire over alleged “insider trading”. Mr Burr, of North Carolina, reportedly dumped up to $1.7m (£1.45m) of stocks last month, which has led to calls for his resignation. Trump extends US virus guidelines to end of AprilWhat this crisis reveals about US – and its president. His lawyer, Alice Fisher, said the senator welcomed the investigation, saying it will “establish that his actions were appropriate”.(BBC)…[+]

Tesla donates hundreds of ventilators to New York


Elon Musk has promised to provide New York with hundreds of ventilators to help meet demand from the growing coronavirus outbreak. The Tesla chief executive said the first batch of donated machines would be delivered later on Friday.

The ventilators were purchased from US government-approved manufacturers in China. The mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio thanked Mr Musk on Twitter writing “We’re deeply grateful.” “We need every ventilator we can get our hands on these next few weeks to save lives,” he tweeted.

The ventilators will be donated to hospitals in New York City and across New York state. New York has the highest number of cases of Covid-19 in the US. As of Friday the governor said 519 people in the state had died from the disease. On Thursday, the US officially became the country with the most confirmed cases of Covid-19 globally.(BBC)…[+]

Madonna pays tribute to co-star after coronavirus death


Madonna has paid tribute to Mark Blum, a co-star in the 1985 film Desperately Seeking Susan, after his death from coronavirus complications. The US singer and actress remembered Blum, who played Gary Glass and died this week at the age of 69, as “funny, warm, loving and professional”. “My heart goes out to him, his family and his loved ones,” she wrote.

Blum also appeared in the 1986 film Crocodile Dundee, playing Paul Hogan’s love rival Richard. His other credits included the 2003 film Shattered Glass and a role in The Good Wife that he reprised in its spin-off The Good Fight.

In recent years he had a recurring role in the Netflix series You. Blum’s death was announced by Rebecca Damon, executive vice-president of the actors’ union Sag-Aftra. She remembered him as “a gifted actor, a master teacher, a loyal friend and a beautiful human”. The Playwright Horizons theatre group also paid tribute, calling Blum “a dear longtime friend and a consummate artist“.(BBC)…[+]

Dua Lipa: Critics rate Future Nostalgia as the best album of 2020 so far

album of the year

The future starts now for self-isolating Dua Lipa fans, after the star put out her new album a week early. Future Nostalgia, which features writing contributions from Tove Lo and Madonna’s producer Stuart Price, was brought forward after it leaked online. Early reviews have been glowing, with critics calling the record “viscerally brilliant” and “pop perfection”. It is now the top-rated album of 2020 on review aggregation site Metacritic, with an average score of 92.

With perhaps the best review headline of the year, The Independent called Future Nostalgia, “pure sonic spandex”.

“Dua Lipa delivers hard truths to a soundtrack that’s ridiculously leotard and leg warmers – and there isn’t a duff track on the whole record,” wrote Helen Brown, awarding five stars. The NME gave the same top score, calling the album “powerful pop perfection from a star unafraid to speak her mind”. “The artist’s stunning second record tackles sex, inequality and empowerment. And all with a little disco shimmy,” reported Rhian Daly.(BBC)…[+]