Biden to name Big Tech critic as top antitrust cop

Wednesday 28th July 2021 06:25 EDT

The Biden administration has said that it would nominate Jonathan Kanter to be the top antitrust official at the justice department, a move that would add another longtime critic of Big Tech and corporate concentration to a powerful regulatory position. Kanter is an antitrust lawyer who has made a career out of representing smaller rivals of US tech giants like Google and Facebook. Kanter, 47, is the founder of Kanter Law Group, which bills itself online as an “antitrust advocacy boutique.” If he is confirmed by the Senate, Kanter will lead a division of the justice department that last year filed a lawsuit arguing Google had illegally protected a monopoly over online search services. The antitrust division of the agency has also been asking questions about Apple’s business practices.

Girl dies of plague in Colorado

People in Colorado were urged to remain cautious after a 10-year-old girl died of plague in La Plata, the first death from the disease in six years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, plague is a disease caused by the bacterium, Yersinia pestis, which can infect humans and other mammals through flea bites. Animals such as prairie dogs, squirrels, chipmunks and other rodents often carry the disease. The authorities said that the disease is very rare and asked public to seek medical care if they have symptoms. The CDC reports that the disease, known for killing millions in Europe in the middle ages, can be treated today with antibiotics. Cases are often seen in rural areas in the western United States.

Myanmar junta replaces envoy to Britain

Myanmar has appointed a new temporary head of its embassy in London, Britain’s foreign ministry said, replacing the previous ambassador who was ousted after breaking ranks with the military government over its February 1 coup. The selection of the new “charge d’affaires ad interim” did not require the consent of the British government, a foreign ministry spokesperson said, which first reported the move. Over 900 people opposing the junta have been killed by security forces since the coup, drawing international condemnation and sanctions including from Britain. “The consent of the receiving State is not required,” the spokesperson said in a statement, citing the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The statement did not name the new appointee. A spokesperson for the military-controlled government did not respond to calls seeking comment.

Fake vaccine given to 800 in Uganda

When Uganda is battling surge in Covid cases from the fourth wave, unauthorised people have vaccinated 800 citizens in the country. The counterfeit jabs were administered over May and June when new infections soared to record highs of about 1,700 cases per day in the country. The fraudsters targeted people looking to pay for immunisation at a time when vaccines were in short supply, said Dr Warren Naamara, the director of a health services monitoring unit under the presidency. "Some unscrupulous individuals with intentions of making money, duped members of the public into a fake Covid-19 vaccine exercise," Dr Naamara said. "We have arrested two medical workers in the scam, and one medical doctor is on the run." He said those conned into getting a fake vaccine should not be alarmed as tests indicated the vials contained nothing dangerous. "Some had water in them," he added.

Bid to kill Madagascar president foiled

Madagascar said it had foiled an attempt to assassinate President Andry Rajoelina and various other Malagasy figures. According to Minister of Public Security Rodellys Randrianarison among the arrested were two French nationals. The journalists who were reporting corona cases and the burgeoning famine in the south of the country were earlier threatened. It's the second time in a short period that an assassination attempt on a high profile official has been thwarted by authorities. On Madagascar's Independence Day celebrations on June 26, the gendarmerie announced they had foiled an assassination murder on their boss, General Richard Ravalomanana, who is also Rajoelina's right-hand man. President Rajoelina, first seized power in March 2009 from Marc Ravalomanana with the backing of the military.

10 Nigerians jailed for ship hijacking

Ten Nigerian pirates were jailed for 12 years each for for hijacking the Chinese merchant ship FV Hailufeng II in the Gulf of Guinea in 2020. Hijacking of ships for ransom have become common in the Gulf of Guinea, which runs from Senegal to Angola, taking in the southwest coast of Nigeria. The perpetrators are usually Nigerian pirates. Judge Ayokunle Faji of the Federal High Court in Lagos said the sentences were intended as a deterrent to others. They were also fined 250,000 naira ($610) each. The ruling was "a major victory for Nigeria’s new anti-piracy law," said Suleman Dahun, a spokesman for the Nigerian navy which was acting as prosecutor. The navy rescued 18 crew members on board the Chinese vessel from pirates on May 15, 2020, also arresting their 10 captors. Last year, Nigeria carried out its first ever trial under a new piracy law adopted in 2019, under which pirates are dubbed economic saboteurs working against the country.

Woman to head South Sudan parliament

Jemma Nunu Kumba, the incumbent secretary-general of the ruling party, will become the first woman to preside over the parliament of South Sudan, the world's youngest country, which gained its independence 10 years ago. She will be responsible for the implementation of the peace agreement. President Salva Kiir, who is also chairman of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), announced that Kumba had been appointed to head a newly "reconstituted" parliament. "Jemma (Nunu Kumba) will be the next Speaker of Parliament," he said at a general assembly of the party in the capital Juba. The announcement drew applause and cheers from the audience. After independence in 2011, Kumba held several official positions, including the governor of the southwestern state of Western Equatoria.

China unveils world’s fastest maglev train

China unveiled a maglev train capable of a top speed of 600 kmph per hour, state media said. The maximum speed would make the train, developed by China and manufactured in the coastal city of Qingdao, the fastest ground vehicle globally. The train can travel with two to 10 carriages, each holding more than 100 passengers, according to Ding Sansan, chief engineer of the project. Using electro-magnetic force, the maglev train “levitates” above the track with no contact between body and rail. China has been using the technology for almost two decades on a very limited scale. Shanghai has a short maglev line running from one of its airports to town. While there are no inter-city or inter-province maglev lines yet in China that could make good use of the higher speeds, some cities including Shanghai and Chengdu have started to conduct research.

25 killed in China floods, military deployed

At least 25 people were killed, including 12 who were trapped in a flooded subway in Zhengzhou, the capital of central China’s Henan province, following rare torrential rains in recent history in the region. Photographs and videos posted on social media showed commuters trapped in chest-deep floodwaters on a train on a subway line in Zhengzhou city with a population of around 12 million. More than 500 people were evacuated from the subway system; in all about 200,000 people had to be relocated in the city because of the rainfall. The highest-level emergency alert notice has been issued across the province. President Xi Jinping instructed authorities to deploy the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to rescue those stuck in inundated subways, hotels and public places. The PLA has deployed 3,000 personnel to help local authorities in flood control and evacuation. There were fears over the collapse of a dam posing further flood risk to the provincial capital of Zhengzhou, located on the banks of the Yellow river.

Brazilians seek their Prez’s impeachment

Protesters took to the streets in several Brazilian cities to demand the impeachment of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, whose popularity has fallen in recent weeks amid corruption scandals against the backdrop of the pandemic. News broke that Brazil’s defense ministry told congressional leadership that next year’s elections would not take place without amending the country’s electronic voting system to include a paper trail of each vote. Bolsonaro has suggested several times without evidence that the current system is prone to fraud, allegations that Brazil’s government has denied. Bolsonaro is facing reelection next year, in a race in which he is likely to face his political nemesis, former leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Polls currently show Bolsonaro losing against Lula.

Inmates take guards hostage, demand pizza

Two Swedish prison guards were held hostage for nine hours by two inmates demanding pizza as ransom, and were released when the food was delivered, a jail spokeswoman said. The inmates, both doing time for murder - made two demands - a helicopter to escape and 20 pizzas for the other inmates. “Yes, the pizzas were delivered,” the spokeswoman said. But the inmates were back behind bars.

France adopts new laws to combat extremism

French lawmakers have adopted two bills which the government says will strengthen its ability to fight terrorism and Islamist extremism following a series of attacks that have hardened feelings of insecurity before next year’s presidential election. Critics say the bills curtail civil liberties and extend police powers to a worrying degree. One of the laws gives security services more tools to keep track of suspected terrorists and surveil them online. The other law aims to combat extremist ideas at every level of French society. Among a range of steps, it toughens conditions for home schooling, tightens rules for associations seeking state subsidies and gives the authorities new powers to close places of worship seen as condoning hateful or violent ideas. Both measures had been pushed by President Emmanuel Macron and his government as necessary responses to a threat posed by extremism against France’s ideals.

Man with Covid disguises as wife to board plane

An Indonesian man with the coronavirus boarded a domestic flight disguised as his wife, wearing a niqab covering his face and carrying fake IDs and a negative PCR test result. But the cover didn’t last long. Police say a flight attendant aboard a Citilink plane traveling from Jakarta to Ternate on Sunday noticed the man change the clothes in the lavatory. Police arrested him and took him for a Covid test, which came back positive. The man is currently isolating at home. A police probe will continue.

US life expectancy dropped due to Covid

Life expectancy in the US fell by a year and a half in 2020 to 77.3 years, the lowest level since 2003, primarily due to the deaths caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the US CDC said. It is the steepest one-year decline since World War Two, when life expectancy fell 2.9 years between 1942 and 1943, and is six months shorter than its February 2021 estimate, it said. “Life expectancy has been increasing gradually every year for the past several decades,” Elizabeth Arias, a CDC researcher said. The decline between 2019 and 2020 was so large that it took US us back to the levels they were in 2003. Deaths from Covid-19 contributed to nearly three-fourths, or 74%, of the decline and drug overdoses were also a major contributor, the CDC said. The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) last week released interim data showing that US drug overdose deaths rose nearly 30% in 2020.

Covid cases surge 80% in LA County

Los Angeles County, the most populous in the US, reported 2,767 new Covid-19 cases, an alarming 80 per cent increase over the last week amid the Delta variant surge. It was the highest daily number for Los Angeles since mid-February, and an over 20-fold increase from a month ago, when the county had reported only 124 new cases. The county has so far identified 1,276,137 confirmed cases, with 24,607 deaths. The county’s daily average case rate, with a seven-day lag, is now 12.9 cases per 100,000 people, an increase from last week’s rate of 7.1 cases per 100,000, said the Department of Public Health. Its test positivity rate is 5.2 per cent, up from 1.2 per cent on July 15, when physical distancing restrictions and capacity limits were lifted across all sectors.

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