World News

- U.S. Mission to the UAE brings USA’s acclaimed integrated dance ensemble to Sharjah Performing Arts Academy (SPAA)

- U.S. dance company integrates outreach and dance education for disabled and non-disabled people of all ages

United Arab Emirates, Sharjah – 22, November 2021: AXIS Dance Company, one of the USA’s most acclaimed ensembles of disabled and non-disabled performers, took to the stage last night at Sharjah Performing Arts Academy (SPAA). Under the artistic direction of celebrated international choreographers and directors Marc Brew and Nadia Adame, AXIS mesmerised SPAA’s audience with its theatrical storytelling, grace and endurance.


Striking, beautiful and emotionally powerful, Brew’s passion for pushing the boundaries of dance was palpable throughout the performance. SPAA students had the opportunity to further engage with AXIS, as the company dancers hosted workshops and masterclasses following the performance. Expanding on earlier collaborations, SPAA partnered with the U.S. Mission to the UAE to host AXIS Dance Company on its journey to redefine dance and disability. Speaking about its collaboration with SPAA, U.S. Consul General Meghan Gregonis said: “The United States Mission to the UAE is proud to have partnered with Sharjah Performing Arts Academy to bring Axis Dance Company to Sharjah. Axis Dance Company, one of the most acclaimed ensembles of disabled and non-disabled performers in the United States, shows that dance and culture can be accessible to all. In addition to promoting cultural exchange, this program has a strong educational focus, as the artists will also conduct workshops with students, helping them to prepare for careers in the arts. We very much look forward to our continued collaboration with the Sharjah Performing Arts Academy.”
The Company’s integrated dance education and outreach programmes for people of all ages with and without disabilities, are underpinned by their three pillars of activity – artistry, advocacy, and engagement.

 


SPAA Programme Leader and Dance tutor Alex Jessop stated, “At SPAA we value diversity. We work to ensure every student feels safe and has a sense of belonging. The powerful artistry and storytelling of AXIS dispels the notion of can and cannot. The profound work of the dance company’s community engagement also teaches empowerment, acceptance, and tolerance.
Students learning, growing, and being challenged together, regardless of their background, ability, and difference, is the cornerstone of inclusive education and an inclusive community. Our SPAA community has become richer thanks to the incredible performance and workshops of the AXIS Dance Company.”
Founded in 1987, AXIS strives to remove barriers for people of determination and galvanise communities by showcasing the beauty of difference through the world of dance.
Learn more about AXIS Dance Company at: https://www.axisdance.org/ For more information about Sharjah Performing Arts Academy, visit: www.spaa.ae Learn more about the U.S. Mission to the UAE at: https://ae.usembassy.gov/

 

The United Nations on Monday pushed for urgent action to prop up Afghanistan's banks, warning that a spike in people unable to repay loans, lower deposits and a cash liquidity crunch could cause the financial system to collapse within months.

In a three-page report on Afghanistan's banking and financial system seen by Reuters, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) said the economic cost of a banking system collapse — and consequent negative social impact — “would be colossal.”

An abrupt withdrawal of most foreign development support after the Taliban seized power on Aug 15 from Afghanistan's Western-backed government has sent the economy into freefall, putting a severe strain on the banking system which set weekly withdrawal limits to stop a run on deposits.

“Afghanistan's financial and bank payment systems are in disarray. The bank-run problem must be resolved quickly to improve Afghanistan's limited production capacity and prevent the banking system from collapsing,” the UNDP report said.

Finding a way to avert a collapse is complicated by international and unilateral sanctions on Taliban leaders.

“We need to find a way to make sure that if we support the banking sector, we are not supporting Taliban,” Abdallah al Dardari, head of UNDP in Afghanistan, told Reuters.

“We are in such a dire situation that we need to think of all possible options and we have to think outside the box,” he said.

“What used to be three months ago unthinkable has to become thinkable now.”

Afghanistan's banking system was already vulnerable before the Taliban came to power. But since then development aid has dried up, billions of dollars in Afghan assets have been frozen abroad, and the United Nations and aid groups are now struggling to get enough cash into the country.

An American jury acquitted teenager Kyle Rittenhouse on Friday of murder in the fatal shooting of two men during racial justice protests in a decision that re-ignited fierce debate about gun rights and the boundaries of self-defence in the United States.

Jurors found Rittenhouse, 18, not guilty on all charges: two counts of homicide, one count of attempted homicide for wounding a third man, and two counts of recklessly endangering safety in protests marred by arson, rioting and looting on August 25, 2020, in Kenosha, Wisconsin..

Rittenhouse broke down sobbing after the verdict and collapsed to the floor before being helped back into his chair, his hands shaking. His mother also wept..

Amid a heavy law enforcement presence, several dozen protesters lined the steps outside the courthouse after the verdict was read, some carrying placards in support of Rittenhouse and others expressing disappointment. By early evening, the crowd had thinned to a handful of people and there was no sign of disturbances in the city..

"We are all so very happy that Kyle can live his life as a free and innocent man, but in this whole situation there are no winners, there are two people who lost their lives and that's not lost on us at all," David Hancock, a spokesperson for the Rittenhouse family, told Reuters..

Rittenhouse shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and fired a bullet that tore a chunk off the arm of Gaige Grosskreutz, 28. Rittenhouse claimed self-defence..

US President Joe Biden, who during last year's election campaign tweeted a video that appeared to link Rittenhouse to white supremacists, said on Friday he supported the jury's decision and urged Americans to react with calm..

"While the verdict in Kenosha will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included, we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken," Biden said..

Elsewhere reactions showed the country's deep partisan divisions. The verdict was greeted with outrage by many on the political left and celebrated by gun-rights supporters..

"It is unconscionable our justice system would allow an armed vigilante ... to go free," the Congressional Black Caucus said in a statement..

The thorny issue of race also hung over the case, although Rittenhouse and the men he shot were all white. Some Black activists said on Friday the US police and courts would have treated the teenager more harshly if he had been Black..

But conservatives saw the verdict as a validation of the US Constitution's Second Amendment, which grants Americans the right to bear arms..

US congressman Madison Cawthorn, a Republican representative from North Carolina, said on Instagram: "Kyle Rittenhouse is not guilty my friends. You have a right to defend yourselves. Be armed, be dangerous and be moral.".

In reaching its verdict after more than three days of deliberations, the jury contended with duelling narratives from the defence and prosecution that offered vastly different portrayals of the teenager's actions on the night of the shootings..

The defence argued that Rittenhouse had been repeatedly attacked and had shot the men in fear for his life. They said he was a civic-minded teen who carried a medical kit in addition to his gun and was in Kenosha to protect private property after several nights of unrest in the city south of Milwaukee..

The violence followed the police shooting of a Black man named Jacob Blake, who was left paralysed from the waist down..

The prosecution portrayed Rittenhouse as a reckless vigilante who provoked the violent encounters and showed no remorse for the men he shot with his AR-15-style rifle..

Wisconsin criminal defence lawyer Daniel Adams, who closely followed the trial, called the verdict “very dramatic but not entirely surprising”..

Most lawyers "who looked at the evidence had a feeling the state would not be able to clear the threshold of disproving self-defence beyond a reasonable doubt”, he said..

Live-streamed and dissected by cable TV pundits daily, the trial unfolded during a time of social and political polarisation in the United States. Gun rights are cherished by many Americans and are enshrined in the US Constitution even as the nation experiences a high rate of gun violence and the easy availability of firearms..

Rittenhouse, who testified that he had no choice but to open fire to protect himself, is viewed as heroic by some pro-gun conservatives who consider the shootings justified. Many on the left view Rittenhouse as a vigilante and an embodiment of out-of-control American gun culture..

Protests against racism and police brutality turned violent in many US cities after the police killing of Black man George Floyd in Minneapolis three months before the Kenosha shootings..

The Rittenhouse verdict ended the highest-profile US civilian self-defence case since a man named George Zimmerman was acquitted in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teenager, in Florida in 2013..

With so much of that night in Kenosha caught on cellphone and surveillance video, few basic facts were in dispute. The trial instead focused on whether Rittenhouse acted reasonably to prevent "imminent death or great bodily harm", the requirement for using deadly force under Wisconsin law..

The prosecution, led by Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger, sought to paint Rittenhouse as the aggressor and repeatedly stressed that he was the only one to kill anyone that night..

Rittenhouse's gun was loaded with 30 rounds of full metal jacket bullets, which are designed to penetrate their target. The jury saw a series of graphic videos, including the moments after Rittenhouse fired four rounds into Rosenbaum, who lay motionless, bleeding and groaning. Another video showed Grosskreutz screaming, with blood gushing from his arm..

Rittenhouse testified in his own defence last Wednesday in the trial's most dramatic moment — a risky decision by his lawyers given his youth and the prospect of tough prosecution cross-examination. Rittenhouse broke down sobbing at one point and emphasised that he acted out of fear for his life..

"I did what I had to do to stop the person who was attacking me," he said..

His defence counsel, Mark Richards, said Rittenhouse has difficulty sleeping at night and was being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder. He said the defence team decided to have him testify after they tested two versions of their case before mock juries, one with him testifying and one without..

"It was substantially better when we put him on," Richards told reporters after the verdict. "In Wisconsin, if you don't put a client on the stand, you're going to lose. Period.".

Rittenhouse testified that he shot Huber after he had struck him with a skateboard and pulled on his weapon. He said he fired on Grosskreutz after the man pointed the pistol he was carrying at him — an assertion Grosskreutz acknowledged under questioning from the defence. Rittenhouse testified that he shot Rosenbaum after the man chased him and grabbed his gun..

Huber's parents, Karen Bloom and John Huber, said in a statement they were "heartbroken" by the verdict..

"It sends the unacceptable message that armed civilians can show up in any town, incite violence, and then use the danger they have created to justify shooting people in the street."

President Joe Biden has reassumed authority after briefly transferring power to Vice President Kamala Harris while under anaesthesia for a routine medical procedure, the White House said on Friday.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki tweeted that Biden had spoken with Harris and his chief of staff at about 11:35am (1635 GMT) and “at that time resumed his duties”.

Biden “was in good spirits” and remained at the presidential facility at Walter Reed hospital to complete “the rest of his routine physical”, Psaki tweeted.

Biden, the oldest person to hold the presidency in US history, went to the Walter Reed Medical Centre just outside of Washington early Friday on the eve of his 79th birthday.

The White House earlier described the appointment as Biden's “routine annual physical”. It was his first since taking office in January.

It said Biden would be anaesthetised during a colonoscopy examination, and as in past practice, the vice-president would assume power, which includes control over the US armed forces and the nuclear weapons arsenal.

“President Biden will transfer power to the vice-president for the brief period of time when he is under anaesthesia. The vice president will work from her office in the West Wing during this time,” Psaki said.

Harris, 57, is the first woman to hold the vice presidency and made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic Party nomination in 2020, before being picked as Biden's running mate.

Psaki noted that a similar temporary transfer of power, “following the process set out in the Constitution”, had been carried out when president George W. Bush underwent the same procedure in 2002 and 2007.

Psaki said that a written “summary” of the findings from the president's exam would be released “later this afternoon”.

Any details on Biden's health are sure to be closely watched, given speculation on whether he will stand by his stated intention to seek a second term in 2024. Biden pledged before his election a year ago to be “totally transparent” with voters about all aspects of his health.

In a letter released by his election campaign in December 2019, Biden's physician had described him as “a healthy, vigorous, 77-year-old male, who is fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency”.

Biden does not smoke or drink, and prior to his election worked out at least five days per week, according to the letter.

He was vaccinated early on against Covid-19, and received a booster shot in September.

The health check comes at a crucial moment in his presidency, with the House of Representatives adopting Biden's huge “Build Back Better” social spending agenda.

Earlier this week, Biden signed into law another package to fund the biggest national infrastructure revamp in more than half a century.

The twin victories come after weeks of falling approval ratings for Biden and setbacks for his Democratic party ahead of next year's midterm elections when the Republicans are widely predicted to take control of at least the lower house of Congress.

After returning from hospital, Biden was due to participate in the annual tradition of issuing a presidential “pardon” to a turkey, with the bird being spared from next week's Thanksgiving meals. He was then due to fly to his family home in Delaware for the weekend.

Members of Afghanistan’s women’s youth development soccer team arrived in Britain early Thursday after being flown from Pakistan with the help of a New York rabbi, a UK soccer club and Kim Kardashian West.

A plane chartered by the reality star and carrying more than 30 teenage players and their families, about 130 people in all, landed at Stansted Airport near London. The Afghans will spend 10 days in coronavirus quarantine before starting new lives in Britain.

English Premier League club Leeds United has offered to support the players.

Britain and other countries evacuated thousands of Afghans in a rushed airlift as Kabul fell to the Taliban in August. Many more people have since left overland for neighbouring countries in hopes of traveling on to the West.

Women playing sports was seen as a political act of defiance against the Taliban, and hundreds of female athletes have left Afghanistan since the group returned to power.

Khalida Popal, a former captain of Afghanistan’s national women’s team who has spearheaded evacuation efforts for female athletes, said she felt “so happy and so relieved” that the girls and women were out of danger.

Australia evacuated the members of Afghanistan’s national women’s soccer team, and the youth girls’ team was resettled in Portugal.

Members of the development team, many of whom come from poor families in the country’s provinces, managed to reach Pakistan and eventually to secure UK visas. But they were left in limbo for weeks with no flight out of the country as the time limit on their Pakistani visas ticked down.

The team got help from the Tzedek Association, a nonprofit US group that previously helped the last known member of Kabul’s Jewish community leave Afghanistan.

The group’s founder, Rabbi Moshe Margaretten, has worked with reality TV star Kardashian West on criminal justice reform in the US. He reached out to her to help pay for a chartered plane to the UK.

“Maybe an hour later, after the Zoom call, I got a text message that Kim wants to fund the entire flight,” Margaretten said.

Kardashian West’s spokeswoman confirmed that the star and her brand SKIMs had chartered the flight.

VIENNA: The UN nuclear watchdog on Wednesday reported that Iran has again boosted its stock of highly enriched uranium, just days before talks are set to resume seeking to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

In a report, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) estimated Iran’s stockpile of highly enriched uranium at 2,489.7 kilograms — many times in excess of the limit laid down in the 2015 agreement..

The total amount now includes 113.8 kg enriched to 20 percent, up from 84.3 kg in September, and 17.7 kg enriched up to 60 percent, up from 10 kg, the report said..

The document will be discussed during the IAEA’s Board of Governors, scheduled for next week with diplomats preparing to restart talks in Vienna on November 29 over reviving the moribund 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers..

The remaining parties to the deal — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — will join the talks while the United States will participate indirectly..

Iran’s acting head of mission to UN agencies in Vienna, Mohammad Reza Ghaebi, said the new report “shows that the IAEA has continued its verification and surveillance activities regarding Tehran’s engagements.” Quoted by Iranian media, he said that talks were ongoing to “solve some issues between the two parties” and called on IAEA member states to refrain from “making hasty or politically motivated comments”..

A spokesman for Iran’s atomic agency told Fars news agency on Wednesday that IAEA chief Rafael Grossi would arrive in Tehran on Monday..

Grossi will meet Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and Iranian Atomic Energy Organization chief Mohammad Eslami on Tuesday, the spokesman added..

On November 12, Grossi described as “astonishing” his lack of contact with the new Iranian government of President Ebrahim Raisi..

He said he had hoped to meet Iranian officials ahead of the next meeting of the IAEA’s Board of Governors, scheduled for next week..

During Grossi’s last visit to Tehran in September, he clinched a deal on access to monitoring equipment at Iran’s nuclear facilities..

But days later, the IAEA complained that it was prevented from “indispensable” access to a unit at the TESA complex in the city of Karaj, near Tehran, in violation of the September deal..

Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA rejected the charge, however, tweeting that “equipment related to this complex are not included for servicing”, referring to IAEA work on its monitoring equipment..

The IAEA on Wednesday also “categorically” denied its cameras had played a part in an unclaimed June attack on the TESA complex..

Tehran — which has blamed its arch-enemy Israel — told the agency it was investigating the possibility, the IAEA said in its report..

The agreement that Grossi reached in September was an extension of a deal struck in February after Iran limited some of the IAEA’s activities in the country..

Wednesday’s report warned, however, that the repeated prolongation of the agreement was “becoming a significant challenge to the Agency’s ability to restore... continuity of knowledge” about Iran’s nuclear activities. It warned that establishing clarity on activities in Karaj “has been widely recognised as essential in relation to a return to the JCPOA”, referring to the 2015 nuclear deal.


Pfizer Inc said on Tuesday it is seeking US authorisation of its experimental antiviral Covid-19 pill that cut the chance of hospitalisation or death for adults at risk of severe disease by 89 per cent in a clinical trial.


Pfizer said it completed submission of its application for emergency use authorisation (EUA) of the drug, Paxlovid, with the US Food and Drug Administration, including data from the drugmaker's clinical trial.


The oral drug could be a promising new weapon in the fight against the pandemic, as it can be taken as an early at-home treatment to help prevent Covid-19 hospitalisations and deaths. It could also become a important tool in countries and areas with limited access to vaccines or low vaccination rates.
It is not immediately clear when US regulators will rule on Pfizer's application. Merck & Co and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, which are developing a competing pill, molnupiravir, completed their EUA submission on Oct 11.


A panel of outside advisers to the FDA will meet to consider that application on Nov 30. It is expected to be available this year.
“We are moving as quickly as possible in our effort to get this potential treatment into the hands of patients, and we look forward to working with the US FDA on its review of our application, along with other regulatory agencies around the world,” Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla said in a news release.


A Pfizer spokesperson said that the data the company is submitting came from testing the medicine on unvaccinated, high-risk participants.
The FDA will make the final decision on who the drug will be indicated for and how it can be used.


The New York-based drugmaker said it has begun the process of seeking authorisation of the treatment in several countries including the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea, and plans further international submissions.


Pfizer has said it expects to manufacture 180,000 treatment courses by the end of next month and at least 50 million courses by the end of 2022.
The company earlier on Tuesday said it will allow generic manufacturers to supply its Covid-19 pill to 95 low- and middle-income countries through a licencing agreement with international public health group Medicines Patent Pool (MPP).

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