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French President Macron slapped during trip to south, two people arrested

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French President Emmanuel Macron was slapped in the face by a man on Tuesday during a visit to a small town in southeastern France, an incident that prompted a wide show of support for French politicians from all sides.

The French president was greeting the public waiting for him behind barriers in the town of Tain-l’Hermitage after he visited a high school that is training students to work in hotels and restaurants.

A video shows a man slapping Macron in the face and his bodyguards pushing the man away as the French leader is quickly rushed from the scene.

A bodyguard, who was standing right behind Macron, raised a hand in defence of the president, but was a fraction of a second too late to stop the slap. The bodyguard then put his arm around the president to protect him.

Macron just managed to turn his face away as the attacker’s right hand connected, making it seem that he struck more of a glancing blow than a direct slap.

French news broadcaster BFM TV said two people have been detained by police.

The man, who was wearing a mask, appears to have cried out “Montjoie! Saint Denis!”, a centuries-old royalist war cry, before finishing with “A bas la Macronie”, or “Down with Macron”.

In 2018, the royalist call was cried out by someone who threw a cream pie at far-left lawmaker Éric Coquerel. At the time, the extreme-right, monarchist group Action Française took responsibility for that action. Coquerel on Tuesday expressed his solidarity with Macron.

‘Isolated event’

In an interview with the Dauphiné Libéré newspaper later Tuesday, Macron played down the incident, which had made nationwide headlines, calling it an isolated incident perpetrated by an “ultra-violent” individual.

“I am doing fine. We must put this incident, which I think is an isolated event, into perspective,” he said, and added: “Let’s not let isolated events, ultra-violent individuals… take hold of the public debate: they do not merit it.”

Speaking at the National Assembly, Prime Minister Jean Castex was more forceful in his reaction. “Through the head of state, that’s democracy that has been targeted,” he said in comments that prompted loud applaud from lawmakers from all ranks, who stood up in a show of support.

“Democracy is about debate, dialogue, confrontation of ideas, expression of legitimate disagreements, of course, but in no case it can be violence, verbal assault and even less physical assault,” Castex said.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen firmly condemned on Twitter “the intolerable physical aggression targeting the president of the Republic”.

Visibly fuming, she said later that while Macron is her top political adversary, the assault was “deeply, deeply reprehensible”.

Former President François Hollande of the Socialist Party tweeted that the assault is a “unbearable and intolerable blow against our institutions … The entire nation must show solidarity with the head of state”.

Looming elections

Less than one year before France’s next presidential election and as the country is gradually reopening its pandemic-hit economy, Macron, a centrist, last week started a political “tour de France”, seeking to visit French regions in the coming months to “feel the pulse of the country”.

Macron has said in an interview he wanted to engage with people in a mass consultation with the French public aimed at “turning the page” of the pandemic – and preparing his possible campaign for a second term.

The attack follows mounting concerns in France about violence targeting elected officials, particularly after the often-violent Yellow Vest economic protest movement that repeatedly clashed with riot officers in 2019.

Village mayors and lawmakers have been among those targeted by physical assaults, death threats and harassment.

But France’s well-protected head of state has been spared until now, which compounded the shockwaves that rippled through French politics in the wake of the attack.

Macron, like his predecessors, enjoys spending time in meet-and-greets with members of the public. Called “crowd baths” in French, they have long been a staple of French politics and only very rarely produce shows of disrespect for the head of state.

A bystander yanked then-President Nicolas Sarkozy’s suit during a “crowd bath” in 2011 and his successor, Hollande, was showered with flour the next year, months before winning the presidential election.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

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Weapons: NATFORCE To Commence Nationwide Operations

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Director-General, National Taskforce (NATFORCE) Chief Osita Okereke has announced that the organization will embark on nationwide operations as part of its contribution in combating the rising wave of crime in the country, National Taskforce to Combat Illegal Importation of Small Arms, Ammunitions and Light Weapons.

Okereke who stated this in Abuja attributed the rise in crimes to sabotage of those opposing President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s anti-corruption efforts.

“All over the federation, the National Taskforce is set to commence its full operation. The insecurity in Nigeria must be fought and peace restored across the federation.

“Each local government will have at least 300 NATFORCE personnel trained and deployed to the localities to ensure that proliferation of small arms and illegal weapons were checked effectively to end frequent communal clashes and killings in parts of the country.

“We call on the Police, the DSS, the Customs and other security agencies to note that NATFORCE has not been disbanded. The issue was challenged in the court and a judgment was given since April 2013, which has not been appealed till date. Our men should not be harassed in the course of their legitimate duties,” he said.

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I got my first COVID shot in Nigeria, second in the UK – difference was infuriating

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  • In Nigeria, less than 3% of the population has gotten the Covid vaccine. In the UK, 68% of people are fully vaccinated.

  • Life is returning to normal in both places – but in Nigeria, most people must make do without the vaccine.

  • There’s a growing push to speed up vaccine access in poor countries.

I got my first COVID-19 vaccine shot in Nigeria in September.

I arrived at the health center at 5 in the morning and waited in line for hours. When it was finally my turn, the center was so packed with people that I had to stand up while getting my shot. Still, I considered myself lucky, since the day’s supply often runs out.

A couple of weeks later, I was in the UK.

On Oct. 1, I strolled into an empty walk-in vaccination site and got my second dose. There was no registration system to navigate, no wait, and no risk that the center would run out of vaccine shots.

The two experiences were totally different and offered a stark illustration of how uneven the path out of this now two-year-long epidemic has been for those in Western countries versus places like West Africa.

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The author, Paul Adepoju (left), got his first Covid vaccine shot in Nigeria. The center was so crowded that there was no room to sit down. 

A hand holds up a vaccination card with empty chairs in the background. The author got his second shot at Turreff Hall, a UK vaccination site in the town of Donnington. Paul Adepoju

In Nigeria, a country of 200 million people, just over 7 million vaccine doses have been administered, according to the World Health Organization. The most progress has been made in Lagos, a city that’s home to over 21 million people, where nearly 474,000 residents have been fully vaccinated.

In the UK, around three quarters of the population has received at least one vaccine dose, and 68% are fully vaccinated. A booster shot is already available to those who qualify.

Thanks to the large number of fully vaccinated individuals across America, the UK, and other countries that have more than enough doses to vaccinate all their residents, stadiums, nightclubs, schools, comedy clubs, churches and others are returning to normal. Even as mask and vaccine mandates are still polarizing, the vaccine is available at supermarkets and health centers to whoever wants it.

The picture is very different in Nigeria, where vaccine doses have been trickling in from the COVAX vaccine-sharing facility. Things are largely back to normal – mostly because people don’t have much of a choice. In January, the World Bank predicted that the pandemic will contribute to 10.9 million more Nigerians entering poverty in the next year.

Nigeria has said that a vaccination will soon be mandatory for civil servants. Schools have resumed full in-person classes. Tightly packed churches are also holding multiple services weekly and wedding parties are fully back at venues nationwide without vaccine requirements.

Meanwhile, people are still dying of COVID in Nigeria. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there have been 207,979 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 2,756 deaths. (That’s also the case in the UK, where officials just announced 45,066 new COVID cases and 157 additional deaths.)

But due to inadequate, and the high cost, of testing, Nigeria’s numbers likely mask the true scale of the pandemic.

On October 14, the WHO announced that six in seven COVID-19 infections go undetected in Africa.

“With limited testing, we’re still flying blind in far too many communities in Africa,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, said in a statement. “Most tests are carried out on people with symptoms, but much of the transmission is driven by asymptomatic people, so what we see could just be the tip of the iceberg.”

A long, stressful wait

In Ibadan, Nigeria’s third-largest city, the Alegongo Primary Healthcare Center opens at 9am. People begin lining up at around 5 in the morning, hopeful that they will get a COVID vaccine. The whole process might take five hours.

Until early September, the center said they could only administer 50 shots a day, and only to people over the age of 18. On most days, if you arrived after 6:30 in the morning, you would be out of luck and would have to try again another day. Now, the center has about 100 doses per day to give out.

A row of people, some masked and some not, sit on a bench as others stand nearby.

The Alegongo Primary Healthcare Center in In Ibadan, Nigeria, where the author got his first vaccine shot. Paul Adepoju

Taiwo Ilori, a middle-aged businessman who I met on line, said it had taken him three tries to get his elderly parents vaccinated, and only then did he try himself.

It’s not enough to simply show up. If you want a vaccine, you must first sign up on the vaccination registration portal. There’s no choice as to which vaccine you will get.

Health workers on night shifts at the center are often saddled with the task of arranging people on the queue and trying to enforce social distancing. Meanwhile, the facility also provides emergency services, routine care for illnesses like malaria and typhoid, care of pregnant women, and immunization shots.

In my case, and from what I’ve heard from others, there was no information given about possible side effects, how the vaccine works, or post-vaccine shot monitoring.

“It is very calm here”

Turreff Hall in Donnington, a UK city 120 miles northwest of London, has been serving as a COVID-19 vaccination center for the area. Here, over 70% of people aged 12 and over have been fully vaccinated. In some age groups, more than 97% have been fully vaccinated.

It has been very easy to get vaccinated at the historic hall, which was built during the Second World War by the American army. You can show up anytime between 9am and 4pm.

A protest against Covid-19 vaccine patents on October 12, 2021 in London. Rob Pinney/Getty Images

When I visited at around 12:40pm on Oct. 1 – it happened to be Nigeria’s Independence Day – I found an open space with empty chairs that were spaced a socially-distanced length apart.

The employees running the site told me that since most everyone in the area had been vaccinated, only a few people, especially visitors and foreigners, now visit for the shots. When locals show up, it’s mostly those that qualify for booster doses.

“It is very calm here these days even though we have sufficient vaccine doses,” one of the officials said.

Right away, I was given my vaccination shot and told about possible side-effects. Afterwards, I was told to wait for 15 minutes in one of the chairs in case I experienced any post-vaccination complications.

I got the Pfizer vaccine, although the Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines were also available at different sites nearby.

‘Ignoring a whole continent’

From early September, when universities prepared to begin their fall semester, there’s been a surge in Nigerian students travelling to the UK, as well as confusion around the vaccination rules.

Since February, anyone arriving from Nigeria and other African countries – even if they were fully vaccinated – was required to show a negative COVID test before boarding a UK-bound airplane, and then isolate for 10 days upon arrival and submit to another two COVID tests.

This week the UK government announced that fully-vaccinated travelers from Nigeria would no longer be required to self-isolate or take multiple COVID tests.

Two men walk past a billboard that says "No Card / No Entry"

Pedestrians walk past a billboard in Benin City in southern Nigeria on Sept. 16, 2021. Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP via Getty Images

The UK estimates that around 190,000 people born in Nigeria live in the UK, including around 10,000 university students.

“I was fully vaccinated before I came to the UK but it was very embarrassing to find out that the vaccination I received meant nothing to officials here,” a Nigerian student in Birmingham, who asked not to be referred to by name, told me. During her quarantine, she said, she received a check-in visit from the UK’s National Health Service. “At some point they indirectly threatened me when they said a Nigerian woman and her two kids were deported because they were not at home when the officials visited their address.”

At the recently held General Assembly of the United Nations, several African leaders urged countries like the UK to urgently stop vaccine hoarding and share with African countries.

Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo noted that around 900 million people in Africa need to be vaccinated in order to get to a level of vaccine coverage that the UK and other Western countries have attained.

This week, the head of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told CNN that Western countries should delay administering booster shots until people around the world have access to the vaccine.

“To start boosters is really the worst we can do as a global community,” he said. “It is unjust and also unfair because we will not stop the pandemic by ignoring a whole continent, and the continent that doesn’t have any manufacturing capacity of other means.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

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Haitian prime minister forced to flee official ceremony after armed gangs appear

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The deteriorating security situation in Haiti was starkly underlined on Sunday when the country’s prime minister and his security detail were forced to flee an official commemoration in the capital by heavily armed gang members who then paraded in the delegation’s place.

A day after a dozen US missionaries and their children were kidnapped in a brazen attack to the east of the capital Port-au-Prince, video circulating on social media and reports in the Haitian media showed the country’s most notorious crime boss, Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, officiating at the ceremony to commemorate the assassination of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, one of Haiti’s revolutionary founding fathers.

The annual ceremony in the Pont Rouge area of Port-au-Prince marks where Dessalines was assassinated in 1806 after defeating a Napoleonic army and abolishing slavery in the new Black republic.

On Sunday, the prime minister, Ariel Henry, and his security detail reportedly tried to reach Pont Rouge to lay a floral wreath but were driven back by armed gang members firing their weapons.

Video from the event showed several official SUVs apparently leaving Pont Rouge amid the crackle of gunfire as other figures fled the scene on foot.

Later pictures showed Cherizier, a former policeman and notorious head of the G9 and Family gang alliance, dressed in a white suit and shirt with a wing collar – the dress code for officials on national holidays – with his armed followers making the floral offering.

Among Cherizier’s armed supporters were a number wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the face of the late Haitian president Jovenel Moïse, who was assassinated earlier this year, and the slogan “Justice for Jovenel”.

While Pont Rouge has in recent years been a gang stronghold and no-go area, the demonstration on Sunday – the 215th anniversary of Dessalines’ death – was seen as a provocation and a show of strength barely 24 hours after the high-profile kidnapping of the US missionaries in a bus en route to the airport.

Cherizier, who has been accused of providing gang muscle for the late Haitian president who was shot down in his home by a hit squad which included Colombian mercenaries, has been under US Treasury sanctions over his alleged involvement in the 2018 La Saline massacre while he was still a serving police officer, along with two of Moïse’s officials.

According to the US Treasury website: “Throughout 2018 and 2019, Cherizier led armed groups in coordinated, brutal attacks in Port-au-Prince neighbourhoods.

“Most recently, in May 2020, Cherizier led armed gangs in a five-day attack in multiple Port-au-Prince neighbourhoods in which civilians were killed and houses were set on fire.”

The latest gang-related incident in the increasingly turbulent Caribbean state occurred as police continued to search for the 17 western hostages who are being held by another gang, the 400 Mawozo, which operates to the east of Port-au-Prince.

Haiti’s gangs, which have become increasingly powerful and aggressive amid mounting social and political unrest, have long been associated with political parties and leaders for whom they provide deadly muscle.

Cherizier, in particular, has been associated with the Parti Haitien Tet Kale of Moise and has been seen by some observers as manouevring into the vacuum left by Moïse’s high-profile murder.

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