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Lebanon: Beirut Residents Demand Answers As Toll Rises

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Rescue operations are still ongoing in Beirut as members of the Lebanese Red Cross, army soldiers and volunteers continue to search for survivals the rubble left by the massive explosion in the city on Tuesday.

Authorities say official death toll now stands at one hundred thirty-seven.  Five thousand persons have been injured persons, and three hundred thousand persons rendered homeless.

Investigators in Lebanon probing the deadly blast say there is the possibility of negligence in the storage in a waterfront warehouse, tonnes of highly explosive ammonium nitrate sometimes used in making fertilizer or explosives.

The government has ordered house arrests of several port officials and handed control of security in the city to the military.

Lebanon’s leading Druze politician, Walid Jumblatt has called for an international investigation into the Beirut port explosion, saying he does not trust the government.

The ammonium nitrate has been in that port warehouse for six years after it was unloaded from a Russian ship impounded in 2013.

Heads of Beirut Port and the customs authority say they had written to the judiciary several times asking that the chemical be exported or sold to ensure port safety.

 

African News

Nine African Nations In Debt To UN Lose Voting Rights

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Nine African countries, who are owing membership dues to the United Nations, are about to lose their voting rights in the general assembly.  Niger, Central African Republic, Somalia, Comoros, Libya, the Congo, Zimbabwe, South Sudan and Sao Tome and Principe are reported to be indebted to the United Nations.

U.N. Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, says the African nations, and Iran, should lose their voting rights as required under the U.N. Charter after defaulting on payment of their dues to the united nations’ operating budget.

Guterres listed in a letter to the United Nations General Assembly president, Volkan Bozkir, on monday, the minimum each country must pay for their voting rights to be restored.

The U.N. Charter gives the 193-member general assembly the authority to decide “that the failure to pay is due to conditions beyond the control of the member,” and in that case a country can continue to vote. That has not been invoked in these cases.

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World News

America Prepares For Presidential Inauguration Amid Fears Of Insider Attacks

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The United States is preparing for an unprecedented presidential inauguration on Wednesday.  Prompted by the Capitol insurrection twelve days ago, more than twenty-five thousand national guards troops have been brought into Washington, DC to provide security for the event.

US defense officials have also expressed fear of an insider attack or other threats from security troops assigned to provide protection during the inauguration.

Small protests also took place at heavily fortified state houses around the country.  There were widespread fears of violence against state capitols across the country like the siege on the U.S. Capitol. There has been no report of violence.

Some have described the scenes of national guard troops taking over the streets around the US Capitol, as looking like the war zones of Afghanistan or the Middle East.

Amid this background, Joe Biden will deliver his inaugural address of national unity when he is sworn in on Wednesday.  He plans to immediately jump into action after swearing-in.  He plans immediate moves to combat the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than four hundred thousand American lives.  He also promised to issue many executive orders to undo some of Donald Trump’s most controversial policies.

He says his first order of business would be an executive order signing America back into the Paris Climate Accord.  He will also revoke Trump’s immigration ban on some majority-Muslim countries.

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Health News

23 Norwegians Dead After Taking COVID-19 Vaccine

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The New York Post has quoted Norwegian health officials as saying twenty-three persons have died within days of receiving the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.  Thirteen of the deaths are said to be related to side effects of the shots.  All thirteen were nursing home patients who were at least eighty years old.

The newspaper quoted the chief physician at the Norwegian medicines agency, Sigurd Hortemo, as saying in a statement on Friday, common reactions to the vaccine, including fever and nausea, may have contributed to a fatal outcome in some frail patients.

This has forced officials to adjust their guidance on who should receive the vaccine, but they are not expressing serious concern.

The country has inoculated more than thirty-thousand citizens with the first shot of the Pfizer or Moderna coronavirus vaccine since last month.

Norwegian medicines agency medical director, Steinar Madsen, says the agency is not alarmed. He says the vaccines have very little risk.

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