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Lent: Cleric calls for sober reflection in forthcoming elections



Lent: Cleric calls for sober reflection in forthcoming elections


Rev. Fr. Michael Okonkwo of St Paul’s Catholic Church, Ebute-Metta, has called on Nigerians to have  sober reflections before casting their votes in the forthcoming gubernatorial and state assembly  elections.

Okonkwo made the call on Wednesday, in a separate interview with the News Agency of Nigeria after Ash Wednesday mass  at his parish.

He said that it was a good coincidence that the gubernatorial elections would hold on the first Saturday after Ash Wednesday in the period of Lent.

“It should be for us, a period of sober reflection.

“We need to reflect on all that had happened in the past and go out to vote for our preferred candidates.

“This is very important, especially, for us as Christians.

“Those who share our values should be voted into power because governance is all about bringing out good values,” he said.

He added that Nigerians should go out and vote so that they could begin to hold their  leaders accountable.

“It is only when we vote appropriately that we can reap the dividends of democracy,” Okonkwo said.

He further said that Lent was a 40-day period of penance and drawing closer to God while praying for people around us.

“Most importantly, we are encouraged to pray and fast more in this period because it has a way of lifting our spirits.

“I always call it a grace period because it is during this time that we receive a lot of grace from God.

“It is a special period where we emphasize seeking and focusing more on spiritual things,” he said.


Greater Seoul under threat of further spread, high alert over ‘silent’ virus spreaders



New virus cases in greater Seoul continued to rise on Thursday amid a steady increase in cases linked to religious gatherings, putting health authorities on high alert over further spread in the densely populated metropolitan area amid concerns over asymptomatic “silent” virus spreaders.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said that the country added 39 more cases of the new coronavirus, including 33 local infections, raising the total caseload to 11,629.

All of the newly identified domestic transmissions were reported in Seoul and adjacent areas.

A day earlier, the country reported 49 COVID-19 cases, snapping four consecutive days of fewer than 40 new infections.

Church-linked transmissions in Seoul and surrounding areas have been a new source of concern for health authorities, along with cases from clubgoers in the nightlife district of Itaewon and an e-commerce giant’s warehouse.

As of Thursday, the number of cases tied to 30 small churches in Incheon, west of Seoul, and Gyeonggi Province that surrounds the capital city reached 66, up 11 from a day earlier, according to the KCDC.

Of the cases reported from the churches, more than half were secondary transmissions.

The number of infections from clubgoers in Itaewon reached 272, and 120 cases were linked to the distribution center run by Coupang, according to the KCDC.

Over the past two weeks, cluster infections have accounted for nearly 72 per cent of newly added cases, while some 9 per cent remains unclear over their infection routes.

A whopping 96 per cent of the cases over the period came from greater Seoul.

“If the situation in greater Seoul shows no signs of an improvement, we would need to take tougher actions,” KCDC Director Jeong Eun-kyeong said at a daily briefing.

“Before there’s a vaccine, the country will go through strict or relaxed social distancing schemes depending on the development of the pandemic.

The so-called reproduction rate of COVID-19, a gauge that reflects the average of number of people getting infected by a patient, currently stands at around 1.2, according to the KCDC.

The figure had stood around 0.5 before the outbreak in Itaewon.

“Any reading above 1 indicates that a patient is transferring the virus to at least one person.

“In order to put the pandemic under control, we are currently making efforts to lower the figure to around 0.5,” Jeong said.

A spate of cluster infections has forced health authorities to enhance quarantine measures in the metropolitan area, home to half of the country’s 50 million population, which will be in place until June 14.

South Korea may consider going back to strict social distancing if the country’s virus curve does not sharply flatten by the deadline.

Health authorities are particularly concerned about a steady rise in “hidden, silent” virus spreaders in the metropolitan area, as those who come into contact with such people are at risk of contracting COVID-19 unwittingly from asymptomatic virus carriers.

The KCDC estimates around 25-35 percent of patients here tested positive for the coronavirus despite showing no related symptoms.

A large number of the patients linked to church gatherings have shown mild or no symptoms.

Some 70 per cent of the patients reported from one of the churches in Incheon showed no signs of the virus as well, according to the KCDC.

“It is possible that South Korea may continue to experience the sporadic spread of the virus through such silent virus spreaders until an effective vaccine becomes available,” Yoon Tae-ho, a senior health official, said in a daily briefing.

Yoon stressed that residents of the metropolitan area should refrain from having gatherings at least until the weekend.

In sync with eased social distancing that began in early May, South Korea rolled out the third phase of its plan to reopen schools, with first-year high school students, second-year middle school students and other selected elementary school students returning to their classrooms.

Schools will continue taking precautionary measures, including staggered lunches, adjusting student attendance, reduced class time, and a mix of online and offline classes.

But some schools, most of them located in the metropolitan area, were forced to delay their reopening as concerns linger.

On Thursday, 511 kindergartens, elementary, middle and high schools, or 2.4 per cent of the country’s 20,900 schools, remained shut down.

Nearly all but three were based in Seoul and its surrounding areas.

Health authorities are also working to secure remdesivir, which was recently approved as a treatment drug for the new coronavirus.

South Korea has yet to complete its clinical tests on the new drug by United States pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences Inc., but local drug safety watchdog earlier said the drug has been proven in many other countries to help reduce the time needed to cure coronavirus patients.

The country reported no new deaths, keeping the death toll at 273.

The fatality rate stood at 2.35 percent, though the figure hovered at more than  26 per cent for patients aged 80 years  and above.

The accumulated number of imported cases reached 1,275, up six from a day earlier.

The total number of people released from quarantine after full recoveries stood at 10,499, moving up 32 from the previous day.

According to the KCDC,  around 90 per cent of local COVID-19 patients have been cured.

Since Jan. 3, South Korea has carried out 973,858 COVID-19 tests, including 17,006 a day earlier.

The country reported its first case, involving a Chinese person, on Jan. 20.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)


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Dozens arrested in France as protests over death of black Frenchman turn violent




French riot police arrested 18 people who turned violent during an unauthorized demonstration overnight over the death of a black Frenchman in a 2016 police custody, local media reported on Wednesday.

Some 20,000 people demonstrated in front of the Paris Court near the ring road in the north of the capital on Tuesday evening, calling for justice for Adama Traore, who died in police custody in 2016 after he was arrested for a dispute over an identity check.

Violence erupted when some demonstrators hurled projectiles, set on fire rubbish bins and vandalized properties while police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Of those detained on charges of damaging public and private properties and carrying prohibited weapons, 17 remained in police custody, Le Figaro newspaper reported.

Rallies against police violence were also staged in other French cities, where 7 others were arrested and 10 policemen were slightly injured, the report added.

On Tuesday morning, Paris police announced that the demonstration was not authorized, as public gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited due to the coronavirus epidemic.

The protest came after a new probe, commissioned by Adama Traore‘s family, said the young man died of asphyxiation due to the arrest technique police officers had used during the operation.

State investigators had dismissed the charge of police brutality in the arrest of Traore, saying that the man died of heart failure due to pre-existing medical conditions.


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Trudeau silent for 20 seconds after being asked about Trump



Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday hesitated for 20 seconds before answering a question about President Donald Trump’s handling of protests gripping the United States.

Trudeau’s long silence came when a reporter asked him to comment on Trump’s threat to use the armed forces to quell violence.

When he eventually spoke, the Canadian leader avoided directly referring to Trump’s response to the protests or even naming him.

“We all watch in horror and consternation what’s going on in the United States,” Trudeau told the news conference.

“It is a time to pull people together, but it is a time to listen, it is a time to learn what injustices continue despite progress over years and decades,” he added, saying that his country must also address discrimination.

Canadian cities including Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal have seen protests in solidarity with the demonstrations against police brutality in the United States, CTV News reported.

There have been seven days of unrest in dozens of United States, following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minneapolis police custody.

Trump on Monday threatened to deploy the military if governors fail to quickly quell the violence and “dominate” the protests.

He also had federal forces use tear gas on hundreds of protesters outside the White House so that he could walk across a park for a photo op.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Four St. Louis police officers hit by gunfire in violent protests — police




Four police officers were hit by gunfire in St. Louis, Missouri state late Monday during violent protests over the death of George Floyd, the city’s police department said Tuesday.

“We have had 4 officers struck by gunfire tonight. All have been transported to an area hospital. All are conscious and breathing. Their injuries are believed to be non-life threatening,” the St. Louis Police said on Twitter. “Officers are still taking gunfire downtown & we will share more info as it available.”

The riots in downtown St. Louis began Monday evening and turned into violent clashes between protesters and the police, the St. Louis-based Fox 2 News broadcaster reported, adding that the shooting occurred near the Metropolitan Police Department headquarters.

Floyd, aged 46, died on May 25 after a white police officer held him down with a knee on his neck for at least eight minutes, though he repeatedly pleaded, “I can’t breathe,” and “please, I can’t breathe.”

Demonstrations and riots have spread to cities across the United States after a video recording the moment went viral on social media, sparking a national outcry for justice.


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Curfew ordered in NYC to curb violent protests




New York City will be under a curfew on Monday night to curb violent protests following the death of black man George Floyd, according to a joint statement by Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday.

The curfew will run from 11 p.m. Monday (0300 GMT on Tuesday) to 5 a.m. Tuesday (0900 GMT), according to the statement.

“While we encourage people to protest peacefully and make their voices heard, the safety of the general public is paramount and cannot be compromised,” said the governor in the statement.

Cuomo and de Blasio also announced that the New York City Police Department (NYPD) will double its police presence in all five boroughs to help prevent violence and property damage during demonstrations.

They also urged protesters to cover their faces as the city remains the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I support and protect peaceful protest in this city. The demonstrations we’ve seen have been generally peaceful. We can’t let violence undermine the message of this moment,” said de Blasio in the statement.

Some 40 cities across the United States have imposed curfews to curb acts of violence in extensive demonstrations against police brutality and racism.

Earlier on Monday, de Blasio said at his daily briefing that he is planning to talk with other officials on a potential curfew in the nation’s largest city.

Over the past four days, some 1,000 protesters were arrested in New York City for looting, attacking police or vandalism, among other acts.

More than 40 police officers have been injured since Thursday, none with serious injuries, according to NYPD officials.

Meanwhile, the NYPD is also under criticism due to some seemingly excessive moves in several encounters with the protesters, such as accelerating their cars while being surrounded by crowds of people.

The mayor said in the statement that he had talked to NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea about the incidents in recent days “where officers didn’t uphold the values of this city or the NYPD,” adding that the commissioner would elaborate on how officers will be held accountable later.


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Urgent: Curfew ordered in NYC to curb violent protests




New York City will be under a curfew on Monday night to curb violent protests following George Floyd’s death, according to a joint statement by Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday.

The curfew will run from 11 p.m. (0300 GMT on Tuesday) to 5 a.m. Tuesday (0900 GMT), according to the statement.


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New York City mayor considers potential curfew to curb violent protests




New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was planning to discuss with other officials about a potential curfew on Monday, after several nights of chaos emerged in protests over the death of Minnesota black man George Floyd.

Some 40 cities across the United States have imposed curfews to curb acts of violence in extensive demonstrations against police brutality and racism, which usually erupted at night.

The mayor said he would talk with New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Commissioner of New York Police Department (NYPD) Dermot Shea on whether to follow suit. “We have to look at it as an option,” he said.

Sunday’s protests in New York started peacefully in the afternoon but tensions escalated in the evening, the same as the previous two nights.

“When it got dark, it got ugly, and it got ugly quick,” Shea told NBC’s Today Show on Monday.

Over the past four days, some 1,000 protesters were arrested in the nation’s largest city due to various acts, including attempting to take over roads or highways, looting, setting fire on police vehicles, and attacking police, vandalism, among others, law enforcement officials said.

Meanwhile, over 40 police officers have been injured since Thursday, none with serious injuries.

Three people have been federally charged with using and attempting to use “Molotov Cocktails” to damage and destroy NYPD vehicles early Saturday morning in Brooklyn, according to a statement of the United States Department of Justice on Sunday.

The mayor on Monday reiterated his stance on violent and destructive behavior in protests, saying they will not be tolerated and the city will “address that very aggressively.”

He also confirmed that his 25-year-old daughter was arrested in a protest Saturday night in Manhattan.

Local newspaper New York Post said on Sunday that Chiara de Blasio refused to leave a street when police asked her to do so. She was given a court summons and then released.

“She was abundantly clear she was peacefully protesting, not doing anything that would provoke a negative response,” said the mayor of his daughter at his daily briefing.

The NYPD is also under criticism due to some seemingly excessive moves toward protesters. On Saturday, two police vehicles, which were surrounded by dozens of protesters, accelerated in an attempt to get out of the crowds, knocking several people down on the ground.

Commissioner Shea said on Monday that the department is investigating officers’ behavior in six incidents during the clashes between protesters and police.


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U.S. Texas governor declares state of disaster following violent protests




U.S. Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Sunday declared state of disaster following violent protests in cities throughout the state over the death of George Floyd.

The move allows Abbott to designate federal law enforcement officers to respond to the ongoing threats, according to a statement released by the governor’s office.

In a separate release on Sunday, Abbott said he has ordered thousands more troopers to these cities and more than 1,000 National Guard soldiers to assist the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and local law enforcement in their efforts.

Texans First Amendment rights are absolute and will always be protected,” said Governor Abbott. “But violence, vandalism, and looting will not be tolerated in this state and those found in violation of the law will be arrested and prosecuted.”

Meanwhile, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has also deployed tactical teams to assist state and local law enforcement.

During the weekend, protest and violence throughout Texas continued as hundreds of protestors were arrested in the past two days.

In Dallas, Police Chief Renee Hall on Sunday instituted curfew from 7 p.m. Sunday night till 6 a.m. for the next several days in response to the weekend violent protest.

In the state capital of Austin, protesters gathered in downtown area Sunday afternoon. According to local media, protesters marched toward the state Capitol and Austin City Hall, chanting, “No justice, no peace.”

Demonstrations and riots have spread to cities across the United States after a video went viral of African American George Floyd being kneeled on by a white police officer before he died in the mid-western U.S. state of Minnesota on Monday.


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L.A. declares state of emergency as protests over killing of George Floyd turn violent




California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the United States with over 10 million inhabitants, after protests over the killing of George Floyd turned violent on Saturday.

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd tragically died in Minneapolis, Minnesota, shortly following his arrest in which an officer of the Minneapolis Police Department kneeled on his neck to detain him during the arrest, and then did not respond to Mr. Floyd‘s requests for help when he stated that he could not breathe,” said a statement released by the governor’s office on Saturday night.

Floyd’s death has triggered “civil unrest” within the city and county of Los Angeles, whose threat local authorities are “inadequate to address,” it said.

According to the statement, Newsom also authorized assistance after a request from the city and county of Los Angeles, and will deploy members of the National Guard to assist Los Angeles and neighboring communities in containing the unrest.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced earlier that a curfew will be in effect in the city beginning from 8:00 p.m. Saturday to 5:30 a.m. Sunday local time.

The protests against police brutality in the city went into the fourth straight day on Saturday. Thousands of protesters took to the streets of the Fairfax District and downtown Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon to express their anger over the killing of the unarmed Minnesota black man by police.

Over 530 people were arrested Friday night and early Saturday after the protests turned violent in downtown Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.


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