today in history

1274: The Second Council of Lyons opens in France to regulate the election of the pope.


international news

international

4 Minneapolis cops fired after video shows one kneeling on neck of black man who later died


Four Minneapolis police officers have been fired for their involvement in the death of a black man who was held down with a knee as he protested that he couldn't breathe, officials said Tuesday.The FBI is investigating the incident, which drew widespread condemnation of the officers after a video showing part of the encounter circulated on social media.The death of George Floyd, 46, drew hundreds of people to the streets of Minneapolis on Tuesday.Protesters -- many wearing face masks -- held "I can't breathe" signs and chanted together near the site of Monday's incident. Some motorists honked in support.Later in the evening, police attempted to disperse the crowds outside the Minneapolis Police 3rd Precinct after a front glass window was smashed, John Elder, director of the office of public information for the police department, told CNN.The four officers were "separated from employment," Officer Garrett Parten, a police spokesman, said Tuesday."I support your decisions, one hundred percent," said Mayor Jacob Frey, in a statement about police Chief Medaria Arradondo's firing of the officers. "It is the right decision for our city. The right decision for our community, it is the right decision for the Minneapolis Police Department."Officers responding to an alleged forgery in progress Monday evening were initially told that a person later described as the suspect was sitting on a car and appeared to be under the influence, police said.A pair of officers located the man, who was at that point inside the car and who police said "physically resisted" the officers when ordered to get out. Officers handcuffed the man, who "appeared to be suffering medical distress," according to police. He died at a hospital a short time later, police said.Mayor Jacob Frey has said the technique used to pin George Floyd's head to the ground was against department regulations.After several minutes of pleading with an officer pressing a knee to the back of his neck, the man appeared motionless, his eyes shut, his head against the pavement.Frey, speaking during a town hall streamed on Facebook, said the officer had no reason to employ the hold on the man's neck."The technique that was used is not permitted; is not a technique that our officers get trained in on," he said. "And our chief has been very clear on that piece. There is no reason to apply that kind of pressure with a knee to someone's neck."The video shows two officers by the man on the ground -- one of them with his knee over the back of the man's neck. The video did not capture what led up to the arrest or what police described as the man resisting arrest."Please, I can't breathe," the man said, screaming for several minutes before he became silent. Bystanders urged the officer to release the man from his hold.Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, in a statement, identified the man as Floyd and said he was representing his family. The mayor also identified him on Twitter."We all watched the horrific death of George Floyd on video as witnesses begged the police officer to take him into the police car and get off his neck," Crump said. "This abusive, excessive and inhumane use of force cost the life of a man who was being detained by the police for questioning about a non-violent charge."Floyd's cause and manner of death remains pending and is being investigated by local, state and federal law enforcement, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office said in a statement.Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar via Twitter called the incident "yet another horrifying and gutwrenching instance of an African American man dying."Frey on Tuesday offered his condolences to the man's family, adding that "what we saw was horrible, completely and utterly messed up.""For five minutes, we watched as a white officer pressed his knee to the neck of a black man," Frey told reporters."When you hear someone calling for help, you are supposed to help. This officer failed in the most basic human sense. What happened on Chicago and 38th this last night is simply awful. It was traumatic and it serves as a clear reminder of just how far we have to go.""Being black in America," Frey said, should not be "a death sentence."The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis said in a statement the officers were cooperating in the investigation."Now is not the time rush to (judgment) and immediately condemn our officers," the statement said. "Officers' actions and training protocol will be carefully examined after the officers have provided their statements."In a Facebook video posted Monday, bystanders urged the officer to get off the man. Two officers handled the man on the ground while another stood nearby with his eyes on the bystanders as traffic passed in the background."My stomach hurts," the man told the officer. "My neck hurts. Everything hurts."At one point the man said, "Give me some water or something. Please. Please.""His nose is bleeding," a woman said of the man."He's not even resisting arrest," one man said. "He's not responding right now, bro."Frey said he understood the anger in the community but reminded potential protesters that "there is another danger out there right now which is Covid-19.""We need to make sure that everyone that is protesting and that is voicing their opinion stays safe and their families are protected as well," he said. "So please, practice safe distancing, please use a mask."Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz tweeted Tuesday, "The lack of humanity in this disturbing video is sickening. We will get answers and seek justice."St. Paul, Minnesota, Mayor Melvin Carter called the video of the incident "one of the most vile and heartbreaking images I've ever seen.""The officer who stood guard is just as responsible as his partner; both must be held fully accountable," Carter tweeted. "This must stop now."Paige Fernandez, policing policy adviser for the ACLU, said the incident recalled the 2014 New York death of Eric Garner, who repeated "I can't breathe" several times after a police officer held him in a chokehold. Garner died during the arrest, the incident also caught on video."Even in places like Minneapolis, where chokeholds are technically banned, Black people are targeted by the police for low-level offenses and are subjected to unreasonable, unnecessary violence," Fernandez said in a statement. "Make no mistake: George Floyd should be alive today. The officers responsible must be held accountable."Body worn cameras were activated during the incident, police said.Source: CNNLEAGUE OF JUSTICE ONLINE

May 27, 2020, 6:52 pm
international

Lessons from the 1918-1919 Spanish Flu Pandemic in Africa


The 1918 “Spanish flu” pandemic brought death and disruption across the globe, infecting an estimated 500 million people (about a third of the world’s population) and killing 20-50 million. The severity of the pandemic’s toll was particularly acute in Africa, much of which was under colonial administration. Nearly 2 percent of Africa’s population is estimated to have died within 6 months—2.5 million out of an estimated 130 million. The Spanish flu tore through communities, in some cases infecting up to 90 percent of the population and generating mortality rates of 15 percent.The pandemic’s impact on South Africa is particularly notable, as it was one of the five worst-hit parts of the world. Roughly 5 percent of South Africa’s population perished. When the Spanish flu emerged in West Africa, the speed at which the virus ravaged Freetown, Sierra Leone, was staggering. Four percent of Freetown’s population died in just 3 weeks. In East Africa, the pandemic killed 4-6 percent of Kenya’s population over 9 months. In many parts of the continent, medical facilities were overwhelmed.While both the pandemic of 1918 and COVID-19 are respiratory diseases largely spread through the air by coughing or sneezing, the two pandemics are different in important ways. The H1N1 influenza strain of 1918 had a very short incubation period—just 1 to 2 days—whereas the coronavirus incubation can stretch up to 2 weeks and its spread is facilitated by asymptomatic carriers. Moreover, the flu pandemic of a century ago would penetrate deep into a victim’s lungs straightaway, and its virulence could trigger an overreaction by the immune system, filling the lungs with antibodies that caused acute respiratory distress. As a result, victims were overwhelmingly the young and healthy. This is the inverse of COVID-19’s age profile, which targets those with weakened immune systems. Despite these differences, lessons from the deadly pandemic of 1918 bear heeding today.Three Waves of Varying IntensityThe pandemic of 1918 had three distinct but iterative waves. From March through July 1918, the relatively mild first wave swept through most regions of the world, spread initially by troop movements during World War I. Beginning in May 1918, colonial reports document the spread of the disease in North Africa starting from the Mediterranean coastal cities. Only North Africa, Abyssinia (Ethiopia), South Africa, and Portuguese East Africa reported infections during this phase. Sub-Saharan Africa was largely spared.The virus is believed to have then mutated into a significantly more infectious and lethal strain, resulting in a second wave that began in August 1918. This deadly second wave arrived in sub-Saharan Africa via the seaports of West Africa and spread like wildfire through Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, The Gambia, and Cameroon. Ships carrying infected persons reached Southern Africa by late September-October 1918. The ports of Mombasa and Djibouti were simultaneously the points of exposure for East Africa.Countries that were exposed to the mild first wave seemed to experience a reduced impact during the second wave, even though the two strains were markedly different. Having largely escaped the mild first wave, accordingly, Africa was particularly vulnerable to the virulent second wave.As the second wave wound down in December 1918, a third wave began the following month, compounding the devastation.Factors That Facilitated the TransmissionWorld War I played a significant role in transmitting the virus rapidly and globally. Ships transporting some of the 150,000 African troops and 1.4 million laborers providing logistics support to the war in Europe brought the Spanish flu to the seaports of Freetown, Cape Town, and Mombasa.Urban centers on the coast—areas with well-developed transportation networks largely created to facilitate mineral extraction—transmitted the 1918-1919 flu inland along rivers, roads, and railway systems. The railway lines in particular served as an accelerant, spreading the disease more than 100 kilometers a day.Panicked responses to the sickness and death that engulfed population centers on the coast led to an exodus of newly demobilized soldiers, families, and migrant workers to rural areas. Within 3 months, the influenza virus had reached deep into central Africa.Similar effects are reported from Abyssinia, one of the few independent African states at the time, where the Spanish flu is remembered as Hedar Basita (disease of the Ethiopian month of Hedar, October/November). The disease moved rapidly from the coast to Addis Ababa and beyond, claiming lives from all social classes, including priests and national leaders. The effects were compounded by the heavy toll the pandemic took on the country’s few doctors. This contributed to a general sense of disorder and disruption with many people, including government leaders, fleeing the towns.According to South African historian Howard Phillips, the African countries hardest hit by the disease—South Africa, Kenya, Cameroon, Gold Coast (Ghana), The Gambia, Tanganyika (Tanzania), and Nyasaland (Malawi)—shared three characteristics: “first exposure to the pandemic only in its most virulent, second-wave form; being part of an extensive transport network by sea or by land; [and] being regularly traversed by large numbers of people on the move, such as soldiers, sailors, and migrant workers.“Effective ResponsesWithout a vaccine or cure, much of the response focused on mitigating the spread through social distancing and quarantines. Schools, churches, markets, and roads were ordered to be closed, and bans on large public gatherings were implemented. In some instances, empty schools and churches were used as makeshift hospitals. In coastal towns, officials monitored the points of entry, inspected ships for cases of infections, and imposed quarantines. Places such as Zanzibar and Nyasaland enacted strict quarantine measures and contact tracing practices to slow the spread. The efforts of these two governments were heralded as some of the most comprehensive on the continent.Early communication and information sharing, furthermore, were vital to response efforts. The radio and telegraph were used as early-warning communication tools to alert medical authorities of incoming ships known to be carrying the Spanish flu. In Swaziland, village chiefs informed locals of the impending arrival of the virus and made announcements that medicine would be available at certain health centers.In Lagos, health authorities resorted to issuing “government medical passes” in order to monitor and trace infected individuals. But as the number of cases increased and the system became too hard to manage, a mass exodus began. The colonial government then appealed to the local chiefs and used The Nigerian Pioneer newspaper to urgently request that people cooperate with the health officers. Similarly, in Lagos, the most successful efforts occurred when British doctors called a meeting to listen to the suggestions of African medical practitioners (who were otherwise excluded from colonial service on the basis of race). Among other measures, this led to printing and circulating preventative guidance in both Yoruba and English.Public health workers and volunteers focused their efforts on opening temporary emergency hospitals, soup kitchens, and relief depots that provided food and medicine. Volunteers cleaned areas where outbreaks had occurred. People across the class and racial divides responded to this call. In some areas of South Africa where public health facilities were overwhelmed, towns were divided into districts with one doctor assigned per district, irrespective of who their regular doctor was.By contrast, one response proved particularly unhelpful: house-to-house searches. The Health Ordinance of 1917 in Lagos gave British medical authorities legal mandate to enter private homes in search of those infected. The intrusions were unprecedented and created a sense of panic and fear. People began to run away, further spreading the influenza and thereby making efforts to trace those infected an impossibility. For those who chose to stay and not run, many who were sick tried to hide their illness for fear of being sent away to hospitals for treatment, where they would be isolated from their family. Others feared their property would be taken by the colonial authorities if they had to be sent away to the hospital. Yet others feared the medicine was poison. In Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), running away and hiding became a common reaction by locals upon hearing someone was coming to provide medicine.In short, because of the lack of trust and misunderstanding, the house-to-house visits were both ineffective and counter-productive. This was compounded by the lack of clear communication about the initiative, which allowed suspicion and mistrust to flourish, despite medical officers’ attempts to offer some relief and slow the spread.Impacts on AfricaOf the consequences caused by the pandemic, the sharp drop in food production in 1919 was among the most significant. Many regions across Africa experienced famine or near-famine conditions due to the disruptions to food production in 1918. It subsequently gave rise to adaptations in agricultural methods and social preferences. In Nigeria, there was a switch to cassava instead of yams, given that the former could be grown year-round and was also less labor-intensive. In other parts of Africa, new varieties of quick-growing maize and beans were introduced to avoid future famines.Labor shortages were also a significant repercussion of the pandemic. All sectors of the economy were impacted, leading to paralysis and acute disruption of all routine activities. Businesses struggled to stay afloat with minimal staff, public services such as transportation, mail delivery, policing, and schooling were halted or severely disrupted.The pandemic also had a devastating effect on family structures as young and healthy adults died in extraordinary numbers, leaving ten to twelve million orphans across the continent.Takeaways from Africa’s Experience with the Pandemic of 1918-1919Africa is a key focal point of global health security. Africa has long been central to global shipping routes and, therefore, a central battleground for pandemics. Indeed, ports were a key means of transmission for the Spanish flu in Africa a century ago. And, today, global ties for commercial, travel, and security interests have elevated Africa’s exposure to COVID-19. The experiences from these pandemics reinforce the reality that all countries are part of a connected global community and must collectively face such transnational threats.Social distancing and behavior change have an impact. The experience of the pandemic of 1918-1919 showed that societies that were able to implement guidelines regarding social distancing, limiting mobility, and personal hygiene were better able to mitigate community transmission of the virus. In an attempt to check the spread of the Spanish flu, schools, churches, mosques, cinemas, and markets were closed down or, where suitable, used as hospitals. Large public meetings were prohibited. While these measures were not cures, they were useful for slowing transmissions and limiting the impacts of the disease.Communication matters more than ever in times of crisis. Jurisdictions that communicated regularly and honestly with their public raised awareness, enabled public health preparations, and reduced the spread of rumors. This concerted effort to share information educated populations on public health efforts undertaken and solicited greater cooperation, while reducing panic. The use of newspapers and telegraph, for example, alerted communities up-country that the virus was on the way and what to expect. Coordination with traditional leaders, meanwhile, was vital for communicating with many local communities.Trust is indispensable. The degree to which local communities trusted authorities was directly linked to their willingness to cooperate with public health efforts. In some jurisdictions, residents feared colonial authorities would seize a household’s property, assets, or land if they acknowledged they were sick or went to the hospital. This greatly constrained the reporting and tracing of the pandemic.Protect public health professionals. As today, the response to the pandemic of 1918-1919 was marked by heroic efforts by health professionals to serve the public in the face of the crisis by treating those who were sick, organizing a coordinated response, and reporting on the outcomes of their efforts so as to accelerate learning among the broader health community. These efforts point to the importance of providing protections for health professionals who are the frontline of defense against the pandemic. If they are immobilized, the broader society is at greater risk. During the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, it is estimated that 8 percent of Liberia’s health personnel perished.Action must be taken to ensure food security. A vital takeaway from the Spanish flu experience in Africa is that the pandemic decimated the food supply not only during its spread, but also over the subsequent 2 years by disrupting production, transportation, and markets. This represents a serious compounding risk that may threaten millions. National leaders will need to assess how food supply chains will be affected over the coming year to ensure farmers have incentives to produce and that transportation, storage, and processing facilities are operational. Vulnerable households will also need to have sufficient income so that they can access essential food products in local markets.Responding to a pandemic is a marathon that will take unexpected turns. The experience of a century ago underscores that pandemics can endure for an extended timeframe—in that case over a 2-year period. This was marked by three different waves, a mutation of the virus, and differing transmission trajectories for each wave. National leaders and public health officials, therefore, need to be prepared for a long challenge and develop a strategy for a protracted response that will likely need to be adapted over time.Source: Africa Center for Strategic StudiesLEAGUE OF JUSTICE ONLINE

May 14, 2020, 10:19 pm

african news

africa

Burundi election commission says Ndayishimiye new president


Burundi's election commission declared the governing party's candidate, Evariste Ndayishimiye, the winner of the country's presidential election amid accusations of rigging by the leading opposition challenger.Ndayishimiye, a retired army general, won 68.72 percent of the votes in last week's ballot, while Agathon Rwasa, the main opposition leader, received 24.19 percent, the commission said on Monday. There was a turnout of 88 percent.Since Ndayishimiye received more than 50 percent of the vote, he avoided a runoff.Ndayishimiye was picked by the governing CNDD-FDD party to succeed outgoing President Pierre Nkurunziza, whose controversial decision to seek a third term in the last election in 2015 sparked mass unrest, violence and an opposition boycott.Therence Manirambona, spokesman for the opposition National Freedom Council (CNL) said the party boycotted the announcement of results as it could not "back this farce", repeating allegations of "massive fraud" during Wednesday's election and the counting process."We have all the evidence and the real figures of these elections. We will seek justice," Manirambona toldthe German news agency dpa.Before the officials results came in, Rwasa had already alleged foul play, saying early numbers showing his CNL party heading for a bruising defeat were a "fantasy".With 87.7 percent of registered voters turning out to cast their ballots in last week's elections, commission chairman Pierre Claver Kazihise described the turnout as "massive" and said the polling, which also included the election of members of parliament and local officials, was peaceful.First democratic transfer in 58 yearsThe May 20 vote, which was contested by seven presidential hopefuls, is meant to usher in the first democratic transfer of power in 58 years of independence.There were few international election monitors on Wednesday after the government said they would have to spend 14 days in quarantine to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.Rwasa already hinted he would not take to the streets in protest and would appeal to the Constitutional Court, though he considers the process imperfect. The final election results will be declared by the Constitutional Court on June 4.Ndayishimiye is expected to be sworn in for a seven-year term in late August, when Nkurunziza's term ends. It is unclear whether Ndayishimiye would be able to rule free from interference by Nkurunziza, who in February was elevated by Parliament to the rank of "supreme guide for patriotism" and will remain chairman of the party's highly influential council of elders.Burundi has been increasingly isolated since the 2015 election, when eruptions of violence left at least 1,200 dead and saw 400,000 flee the country.Persisting turmoil has led foreign donors to cut ties, further scuttling the economy of Burundi, one of the poorest country's in the world.Meanwhile, accusations of major human rights violations have escalated. Between January and March, Ligue Iteka, an exiled Burundian rights group, documented 67 killings, including 14 extrajudicial executions, and six disappearances.There was no comment from the government, which has previously denied accusations of rights violations.Source: AljazeeraPhoto: AFPLeague of Justice Online

May 27, 2020, 12:58 am
africa

More Than 200 Killed in South Sudan Inter-Communal Violence


JUBA , SOUTH SUDAN - More than 200 people were killed and at least 300 others wounded in inter-communal clashes last weekend in South Sudan’s Jonglei state, according to local leaders. Local officials say armed youth suspected of being from the Greater Pibor Administrative Area carried out attacks in four villages on Saturday and Sunday. Young men reported to be wearing military uniforms raided several villages and burned two Uror County villages - Pieri and Pamai - to the ground, according to Pal Mai, former deputy secretary general of the now defunct Bieh state.“In these two locations, the Murle armed youth pillaged and burned villages in Uror, but the attackers were repulsed with serious loss inflicted on them in both locations,” Mai told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus.Mai said he traveled to Pieri from Uror town shortly after the attack occurred and saw the bodies.He called it one of deadliest attacks in recent years.“It was a surprise attack, but prior to the launch of the attack in the two locations we received information that Murle youth were mobilized in large numbers and moved out from their area before the actual attacks took place, so we were very aware,” Mai told VOA.Kor Biel Rom, chairperson of the Uror Youth Association, said he took part in the fighting but only to defend his community against the attackers.“We ran to defend our people. We fought for three hours and then they defeated us. Next we repulsed them back. I took arms to defend the people because they came in two ways. Some of them went to the side of Uror, they attacked the area of Pamai, Panyok, and Oluwek [where] they killed people and took cattle,” Rom told South Sudan in Focus.Rom said he helped collect the bodies. He said the death toll may reach 300.Mai believes the motive of the attacks was to raid cattle and abduct women and children.Several attempts to contact Peter Lebelek, the former secretary general of the defunct Boma state, and John Kaka, former information minister of Boma state were unsuccessful, due to the poor phone network in the area.South Sudan’s political boundaries changed recently when President Salva Kiir abandoned a redrawn map with 32 states and agreed to go back to the country’s original 10 states.Ajak Ligo, coordinator for the Greater Pibor Administrative Area in Juba, said on Monday he had not received any details of what occurred in Pibor because the area has been cut off from communication but indicated he heard about the attacks.“If the rumors happened as a truth, that the youth of Murle have gone to attack the Lou Nuer area, my message to them, both sides, the fighting cannot help each other,” Ligo told South Sudan in Focus.Ligo called on leaders of both communities to convene a meeting to talk about what happened and discuss what can be done to avoid future revenge attacks in the area.

May 21, 2020, 12:08 am