Inflation hovers over shoppers heading into Black Friday

NEW YORK (AP) — Black Friday marks a return to familiar holiday shopping patterns, but inflation is weighing on consumers.

Elevated prices for food, rent, gasoline and other household costs have taken a toll on shoppers. As a result, many are reluctant to spend unless there is a big sale and are being more selective with what they will buy — in many cases, trading down to cheaper stuff and less expensive stores.

Shoppers are also dipping more into their savings, turning increasingly to “buy now, pay later” services like Afterpay that allow users to pay for items in installments, as well as running up their credit cards at a time when the Federal Reserve is hiking rates to cool the U.S. economy.

Such financial hardships could help drive shoppers to look for bargains.

Isela Dalencia, who was shopping for household essentials like detergent at a Walmart in Secaucus, New Jersey, earlier this week, said she’s delaying buying holiday gifts until Cyber Monday — the Monday after Thanksgiving — when online sales rev up. Then, she will wait again until the week before Christmas to get the best deals, unlike last year when she started buying before Black Friday.

“I am shopping less,” Dalencia said, noting she will spend about $700 for holiday gifts this year, one-third less than last year.

Katie Leach, a social worker in Manhattan, was also browsing the aisles at Walmart but said she will start holiday shopping during the first week of December as usual. This time, however, she’ll be relying more on bargains, her credit card and “buy now, pay later” services to get her through the shopping season because of surging prices on food and other household expenses.

“The money is not going as far as last year,” Leach said.

This year’s trends are a contrast from a year ago when consumers were buying early out of fear of not getting what they needed amid clogs in the supply network. Stores didn’t have to discount much because they were struggling to bring in items.

But some pandemic habits are sticking around. Many retailers that closed stores on Thanksgiving Day and instead pushed discounts on their websites to thin out crowds at stores are still holding onto those strategies, despite a return to normalcy.

Major retailers including Walmart and Target are again closing their stores on Thanksgiving. And many moved away from doorbusters, the deeply marked down items offered for a limited time that drew crowds. Instead, the discounted items are available throughout the month, on Black Friday or the holiday weekend.

Against today’s economic backdrop, the National Retail Federation — the largest retail trade group — expects holiday sales growth will slow to a range of 6% to 8%, from the blistering 13.5% growth of a year ago. However, these figures, which include online spending, aren’t adjusted for inflation so real spending could even be down from a year ago.

Adobe Analytics expects online sales to be up 2.5% from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, a slowdown from last year’s 8.6% pace when shoppers were uncertain about returning to physical stores.

Analysts consider the five-day Black Friday weekend, which includes Cyber Monday, a key barometer of shoppers’ willingness to spend, particularly this year. The two-month period between Thanksgiving and Christmas represents about 20% of the retail industry’s annual sales.

_____

AP Personal Finance Writer Cora Lewis contributed to this report.

____

Follow Anne D’Innocenzio: http://twitter.com/ADInnocenzio



#usnews

Ebola fears see Uganda close schools early for Christmas

A student taking notes in class, Kisoro, Uganda

It might seem like Christmas is coming early for students in Uganda as millions of them head home early for the school holidays on Friday. Yet the decision to close schools nationwide two weeks before the end of term has been taken to curb the spread of Ebola, as the country continues to battle one of its worst outbreaks.

It is also at odds with the government’s official stance that everything is under control.

In the past two months 55 people have died with the virus – and there were 22 probable Ebola deaths before the outbreak was officially declared on 20 September.

Some experts have expressed reservations about the school shutdowns, arguing that keeping pupils contained for another two weeks would be a better way to halt the spread of the deadly disease, given the incubation period can last from two days to three weeks.

Ebola is a viral infection that is spread through the bodily fluids of a patient.

Many of the children who attend boarding schools will be travelling long distances across the country.

“They are going to be packed in buses, minibuses and private cars providing maximum opportunity for people to mix in very close contact,” public health expert Dr Olive Kobusingye, a senior research fellow at Makerere University School and the University of South Africa, told the BBC.

“It’s the last thing Uganda needs now.”

But it is not a decision taken lightly – given that at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Uganda imposed the longest school closure globally, lasting 22 months.

Parents’ visits banned

Education Minister Janet Museveni, who is also the wife of Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, made the announcement earlier this month following 23 cases across five schools in Kampala – which led to the death of eight students.

The infections in the capital were linked to a man who had travelled to there from the western Mubende district, the epicentre of the outbreak.

Ebola prevention signage as seen in Mubende, Uganda - 14 October 2022

Nine districts, including the capital, have been affected by the outbreak

The fear is schools could now act as a reservoir – something authorities want to avoid in urban areas.

Schools had already put in place strict anti-Ebola measures – many already used for Covid – including temperature screening, regular handwashing and disinfecting surfaces.

Visits by parents and guardians were then banned as the last term of the year drew to a close and final-year students prepared for exams.

For Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng, organising the end-of-term travel for students to and from Mubende and Kassanda, another of the worst-affected districts, has been of paramount importance.

Both of these areas are still under lockdown, meaning residents cannot leave, and entry is restricted unless passing through on the main highway.

Children will be dropped off at designated points from where they will then board buses provided by the government and international organisations supporting the Ebola response.

These buses will take them to assigned stops in their home areas where parents can pick them up.

“This is to ensure the parents don’t go into the two districts and the learners coming out of boarding schools don’t go into communities” in the outbreak epicentre, Dr Aceng told the BBC.

Pupils returning to Mubende and Kassanda must first go to Kampala, where they will be put on buses and taken to a main meeting point within their home district.

They will be fully briefed beforehand on how to protect themselves.

Quarantine concerns

Uganda has dealt with multiple outbreaks of Ebola over the past 22 years, but the current one is by far the most widespread, having been reported in nine districts, mostly in the central regions.

Like four previous epidemics, this one is of the Sudan strain, for which there is no approved vaccine or treatment, unlike the more common Zaire strain responsible for the largest ever Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

"If we were hiding any data, the evidence would be out - we'd be seeing people dying en masse"", Source: Henry Bosa, Source description: Uganda's Ebola incident commander, Image: Henry Bosa

“If we were hiding any data, the evidence would be out – we’d be seeing people dying en masse””, Source: Henry Bosa, Source description: Uganda’s Ebola incident commander, Image: Henry Bosa

The government has said that trials for three vaccines will begin in the coming weeks, though details are scant about how and on whom they will be carried out.

There has been good news from Kagadi and Bunyangabu districts, where 42 days have passed without a new infection – double the incubation period.

Kyegegwa district has also gone for a couple of weeks without a new case, giving the response teams hope that the control measures are working.

But the challenge continues to be people who have been identified as contacts of confirmed cases who then travel without notifying health workers.

The outbreaks in Jinja and Masaka were triggered by two infected people who travelled separately out of Kampala.

Critics feel this is an indication that the health ministry does not have the capacity to deal with containment – and worry about the thoroughness of the contact tracing.

“I think the data that has been put out there is confirmed data, but I do not believe it’s exhaustive,” ActionAid’s Xavier Ejoyi told the BBC.

In response, the health minister acknowledged that she could not say their quarantine or identification of cases was “100% watertight”, but expressed confidence that surveillance teams could quickly identify any cases that had been missed.

Lt Col Dr Henry Bosa, the country’s Ebola incident commander agreed, telling the BBC: “If we were hiding any data, the evidence would be out – we’d be seeing people dying en masse.”

However, he conceded that listing contacts in urban settings was complex and speed was important.

Pupils are due to go back to class for the new school year in January.

The health ministry estimates that the outbreak could end in February or March – though Dr Aceng had a stark warning that this would only be the case if people obeyed prevention measures.

“The end of this epidemic much depends on the communities,” she said.

#usnews

Egypt announces freedom, mass pardon for 30 jailed activists

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt announced late Thursday the release of 30 political activists from jail, the latest in a series of mass releases from detention amid intensifying international scrutiny over the country’s human rights record.

There was no immediate word on the identities of the activists and it was not immediately possible to confirm how many of them have already been freed.

The announcement came from Tarik el-Awady, a member of Egypt’s presidential pardon committee. He said the 30 had been in pre-trial detention, facing charges related to their “opinions.”

El-Awady later posted photographs, describing them as showing several of the freed detainees hugging family members and friends.

Since 2013, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s government has cracked down on dissidents and critics, jailing thousands, virtually banning protests and monitoring social media. Human Rights Watch estimated in 2019 that as many as 60,000 political prisoners are incarcerated in Egyptian prisons, many without trial.

The issue came to focus during Egypt’s hosting of the two-week world climate summit earlier this month. The conference in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh was in part overshadowed by the hunger strike of imprisoned Egyptian political dissident, Alaa Abdel-Fattah.

As the summit known as COP27 opened, Abdel-Fattah intensified his monthslong, partial hunger strike to completely stop any calorie intake and also stopped drinking water in an effort to draw attention to his case and others like him.

Then, as concerns for his fate mounted, he ended his strike. He remains in prison.

In the months building up the summit, Egypt had sought to rectify its international image, pardoning dozens of prisoners and establishing a new “strategy” to upgrade human rights conditions.

Rights groups have remained skeptical about whether these moves will translate into any lasting change, with Amnesty International describing the strategy as a “shiny cover-up”’ used to broker favor with foreign governments and financial institutions.

#usnews

Musk says granting ‘amnesty’ to suspended Twitter accounts

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — New Twitter owner Elon Musk said Thursday that he is granting “amnesty” for suspended accounts, which online safety experts predict will spur a rise in harassment, hate speech and misinformation.

The billionaire’s announcement came after he asked in a poll posted to his timeline to vote on reinstatements for accounts that have not “broken the law or engaged in egregious spam.” The yes vote was 72%.

“The people have spoken. Amnesty begins next week. Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk tweeted using a Latin phrase meaning “the voice of the people, the voice of God.”

Musk used the same Latin phrase after posting a similar poll last last weekend before reinstating the account of former President Donald Trump, which Twitter had banned for encouraging the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection. Trump has said he won’t return to Twitter but has not deleted his account.

Such online polls are anything but scientific and can easily be influenced by bots.

In the month since Musk took over Twitter, groups that monitor the platform for racist, anti-Semitic and other toxic speech say it’s been on the rise on the world’s de facto public square. That has included a surge in racist abuse of World Cup soccer players that Twitter is allegedly failing to act on.

The uptick in harmful content is in large part due to the disorder following Musk’s decision to lay off half the company’s 7,500-person workforce, fire top executives, and then institute a series of ultimatums that prompted hundreds more to quit. Also let go were an untold number of contractors responsible for content moderation. Among those resigning over a lack of faith in Musk’s willingness to keep Twitter from devolving into a chaos of uncontrolled speech were Twitter’s head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth.

Major advertisers have also abandoned the platform.

On Oct. 28, the day after he took control, Musk tweeted that no suspended accounts would be reinstated until Twitter formed a “content moderation council” with diverse viewpoints that would consider the cases.

On Tuesday, he said he was reneging on that promise because he’d agreed to at the insistence of “a large coalition of political-social activists groups” who later ”broke the deal” by urging that advertisers at least temporarily stop giving Twitter their business.

A day earlier, Twitter reinstated the personal account of far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, which was banned in January for violating the platform’s COVID misinformation policies.

Musk, meanwhile, has been getting increasingly chummy on Twitter with right-wing figures. Before this month’s U.S. midterm elections he urged “independent-minded” people to vote Republican.

A report from the European Union published Thursday said Twitter took longer to review hateful content and removed less of it this year compared with 2021. The report was based on data collected over the spring — before Musk acquired Twitter — as part of an annual evaluation of online platforms’ compliance with the bloc’s code of conduct on disinformation. It found that Twitter assessed just over half of the notifications it received about illegal hate speech within 24 hours, down from 82% in 2021.



#usnews

Owner of gay club: Shooting comes amid a new ‘type of hate’

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The co-owner of the Colorado Springs gay nightclub where a shooter turned a drag queen’s birthday celebration into a massacre said he thinks the shooting that killed five people and injured 17 others is a reflection of anti-LGBTQ sentiment that has evolved from prejudice to incitement.

Nic Grzecka’s voice was tinged with exhaustion as he spoke with The Associated Press on Wednesday night in some of his first comments since Saturday night’s attack at Club Q, a venue Grzecka helped build into an enclave that sustained the LGBTQ community in conservative-leaning Colorado Springs.

Authorities haven’t said why the suspect opened fired at the club before being subdued into submission by patrons, but they are facing hate crime charges. The suspect, Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, has not entered a plea or spoken about the incident.

Grzecka said he believes the targeting of a drag queen event is connected to the art form being cast in a false light in recent months by right-wing activists and politicians who complain about the “sexualization” or “grooming” of children. Even though general acceptance of the LGBTQ community has grown, this new dynamic has fostered a dangerous climate.

“It’s different to walk down the street holding my boyfriend’s hand and getting spit at (as opposed to) a politician relating a drag queen to a groomer of their children,” Grzecka said. “I would rather be spit on in the street than the hate get as bad as where we are today.”

Earlier this year, Florida’s Republican-dominated legislature passed a bill barring teachers from discussing gender identity or sexual orientation with younger students. A month later, references to “pedophiles” and “grooming” in relation to LGBTQ people rose 400%, according to a report by the Human Rights Campaign.

“Lying about our community, and making them into something they are not, creates a different type of hate,” said Grzecka.

Grzecka, who started mopping floors and bartending at Club Q in 2003 a year after it opened, said he hopes to channel his grief and anger into figuring out how to rebuild the support system for Colorado Springs’ LGBTQ community that only Club Q had provided.

City and state officials have offered support and President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden reached out to Grzecka and co-owner Matthew Haynes on Thursday to offer condolences and reiterate their support for the community, as well as their commitment to fighting back against hate and gun violence.

Grzecka said Club Q opened after the only other gay bar in Colorado Springs at that time shuttered. He described that era as an evolution of gay bars. Decades ago, dingy, hole-in-the-wall gay venues were meant largely for finding a hookup or date, said Grzecka. But he said once the internet offered anonymous ways to find love online, the bars transitioned into well lit, clean non-smoking spaces to hang out with friends. Club Q was at the vanguard of that transition.

Once he became co-owner in 2014, Grzecka helped mold Club Q into not merely a nightlife venue but a community center — a platform to create a “chosen family” for LGBTQ people, especially for those estranged from their birth family. Drag queen bingo nights, friendsgiving and Christmas dinners, and birthday celebrations became staples of Club Q which was open 365 days a year.

In the aftermath of the shooting, with the community center that was Club Q torn away, Grzecka and other community leaders said they are channeling grief and anger into reconstituting the support structure that only that venue had offered.

“When that system goes away, you realize how much more the bar was really providing,” said Justin Burn, an organizer with Pikes Peak Pride. “Those that may or may not have been a part of the Club Q family, where do they go?”

Burn said the shooting pulled back a curtain on a broader lack of resources for LGBTQ adults in Colorado Springs. Burn, Grzecka and others are working with national organizations to do an assessment of the community’s needs as they develop a blueprint to offer a robust support network.

Grzecka is looking to rebuild the “loving culture” and necessary support to “make sure that this tragedy is turned into the best thing it can be for the city.”

That started on Thursday night, when Club Q’s 10th anniversary friendsgiving was held at the non-denominational Pikes Peak Metropolitan Community Church. Survivors, community members, friends and family shared donated Thanksgiving meals under strung lights and near rainbow balloon towers.

Organized by the LGBTQ group United Court of Pikes Peak Empire, the dinner’s bright atmosphere felt resilient. People smiled, squeezed each other in hugs, and told stories from the podium about those who lost their lives.

“Everybody needs community,” said Grzecka.

Earlier that day at the memorial, a trickle of people walked slowly along the wall of flowers and vigil candles that had burnt out. Five white crosses were fixed with wooden hearts inscribed with the names of those who had died and notes scribbled by mourners. “I hope you dance,” someone wrote on victim Ashley Paugh’s wooden heart.

On a concrete barrier a message was scrawled, “Please hear our calls. Protect us, our home.”

___

Jesse Bedayn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

#usnews

Hunt Contests Watchdog’s Forecast of 4% Brexit Hit to UK Economy

(Bloomberg) — Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt contested the UK fiscal watchdog’s projection that Brexit will reduce the size of the economy, saying the split from the European Union could actually make Britain richer.

Most Read from Bloomberg

“What I don’t accept is that the long-term impact of that decision will be to make us poorer,” Hunt said in an interview with Sky News on Thursday, when asked about the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecast of a 4% Brexit hit relative to staying in the EU. “I don’t accept the 4%.”

Hunt said the projection doesn’t account for the potential benefits of regulatory reforms that the British government plans to deliver, citing areas such as new medicines and artificial intelligence. His comments come at a time of growing evidence of the economic damage from Brexit — through higher trade barriers with the UK’s largest trading partner — and as Britons show signs of regret.

Read More: UK Searches for Brexit Benefits as Promised ‘Freedoms’ Fall Away

“There are big opportunities for us to become much more wealthy than we would otherwise have been,” HUnt said, adding his aim is to make Britain the next Silicon Valley. “Being able to set your own regulations means that you can do some of those things in a way that wouldn’t have been possible.”

Since the Brexit vote in 2016, the UK government is yet to deliver major legislative change with significant benefits for businesses. Instead, companies have had to grapple with higher paperwork costs on trade, a tighter labor market spurred by a reduction in EU migration and a weaker pound increasing import costs. Brexit has also had a political cost of aggravating tensions in Northern Ireland and hurting diplomatic relations with the EU.

This week, Hunt said he wants to stick with the zero-tariff, zero-quota trade agreement with the EU signed by Boris Johnson, and rejected reports that the UK is considering a closer, Swiss-style relationship with the bloc.

“This is not the right deal for the UK,” Hunt told Sky when asked about the EU’s relationship with Switzerland, which receives greater market access in exchange for payments to the EU budget and other concessions. “We are going to pursue different regulations as an independent, sovereign country.”

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

#usnews

EU Council chief Michel to travel to China for talks Dec. 1

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union Council president Charles Michel will travel to China next week for talks with President Xi Jinping to address the economic imbalance between the two trading giants and the Asian nation’s relations with Russia and neigboring Taiwan.

The one-day visit on Dec. 1 will seek to find a balance between the EU’s wish for more exports to China and the need to be firm with Beijing in the defense of democracy and fundamental freedoms, officials said Thursday. Over the past years as China increased its global clout, the EU has increasingly come to see the nation as a strategic rival.

It will also be an opportunity to show a united face of the 27-nation bloc, after German Chancellor OIaf Scholz made a solo visit to China early this month.

During that visit, Scholz urged China to exert its influence on Russia and raised human rights concerns. Michel will try to build on that trip as the EU seeks to stand its ground against an increasingly assertive and authoritarian China.

The visit is also occurring amid high tensions over Taiwan and follows a U.N. report that said China’s human rights violations against Uyghurs and other ethnic groups in its Xinjiang region may amount to crimes against humanity.

On the other hand, Michel will seek to improve the EU’s economic standing in the economic juggernaut.

Currently, the EU has an annual trade deficit in goods and services amounting to about 230 billion euros.

The EU specifically seeks to reduce its dependence on China for tech equipment and the raw minerals used to make items such as microchips, batteries and solar panels.

The visit was limited to just one day because of the stringent COVID-19 restrictions still in place in China.

#usnews

UN rights council votes to investigate Iran’s brutal response to protests

The United Nations’s Human Rights Council on Thursday voted to create a new fact-finding mission to investigate alleged human rights violations in Iran amid weeks of protests and Tehran’s brutal crackdown on the unrest.

The U.N. council had called a special session to discuss the “deteriorating human rights situation” in Iran, where citizens have been waging widespread protests against the government since 22-year-old Masha Amini was allegedly beaten to death by Iran’s “morality police” after being detained for violating Iran’s strict dress code.

Twenty-five countries voted to create the new mission, and 16 abstained. Just six countries voted against the move: China, Cuba, Pakistan, Venezuela, Armenia and Eritrea.

The new U.N. mission will probe alleged human rights violations in Iran surrounding the Iranian government’s harsh response to the protests, which started back in September.

U.S. Ambassador to the Human Rights Council Michele Taylor flouted U.N. rules to show photos of dead Iranian protesters during her speech at the special session, calling for investigation into the deaths.

“The names on display next to me and the photos behind me represent just a few of the lives — lives full of potential — that were taken simply for standing up for basic human rights. They are the reason we are here today,” Taylor said.

A man seated next to Taylor held up a black sign with white type displaying the names of the protesters, while two people behind the ambassador held up printed collages of the protesters’ photos.

“This historic movement was sparked by the inexcusable, unjustifiable death in custody of Mahsa Amini and has been met with brutal killings by security forces of hundreds of Iranians. Countless others have been subjected to sexual violence,” Taylor said.

“The people of Iran are demanding something so simple, something that most of us here take for granted: the opportunity to speak and to be heard,” the ambassador added.

Taylor also criticized Iran for detaining two reporters who she said were “integral” to breaking the news of Amini’s death.

“It is unconscionable that those women now face charges that carry the death penalty in Iran simply for exercising their freedom of expression,” the ambassador said.

The Human Rights Council’s president, Federico Villegas of Argentina, reiterated the rules about photo display before passing the mic on at the Geneva session.

“Let me remind the rules of this council to avoid presenting images, or any other manifestation, while we speak. Thank you,” Villegas said.

The Biden administration has responded to the repression in Iran with sanctions and condemnation against those responsible.

“The Iranian government needs to end its systemic persecution of women and allow peaceful protest. The United States will continue to voice our support for human rights in Iran and hold those who violate them to account,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement shortly after Amini’s death.

President Biden said last month that Iran’s government “has denied fundamental freedoms to its people and suppressed the aspirations of successive generations through intimidation, coercion, and violence.”

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.



#usnews

Algeria fires: Dozens sentenced to death for lynching

Djamel Ben Ismail had gone to help put out the forest fires when he was falsely accused of arson and attacked by a mob

An Algerian court has sentenced 49 people to death after they were found guilty of lynching a man wrongly suspected of starting devastating forest fires last year.

The sentences are likely to be reduced to life in prison as there is a moratorium on executions.

In 2021, Algeria experienced the worst fires in the country’s history, with multiple blazes killing 90 people.

The lynching victim, Djamel Ben Ismail, had gone to help fight the fires.

After the fires broke out in August last year, the 38-year-old tweeted saying he would travel over 320km (200 miles) from his home to “give a hand to our friends” fighting the blazes in the Kabylie region, east of the capital Algiers, which was the worst-hit area.

Soon after he arrived, locals falsely accused him of starting fires himself.

On 11 August, graphic footage began circulating purportedly showing Ben Ismail being attacked. People tortured and burned him before taking his body to the village square.

The videos caused national outrage.

The fires took place amid dry conditions and very high temperatures, but authorities also blamed “criminals” for the blazes.

The court sentenced 28 others to between two and 10 years for other offences related to the lynching, the AFP quotes the state news agency as reporting.

#usnews

How Iran’s Security Forces Use Ambulances to Suppress Protests

In early October, about a month into Iran’s anti-government protests, a Tehran resident reported seeing at least three protesters being shoved into an ambulance during a student-led demonstration. But the resident said the protesters did not appear to be injured.

Around the same time, Niki, a university student in Tehran, said she saw security forces using ambulances to detain protesters at an intersection.

“They grabbed people,” she said. “They put them in the ambulance, turned off the lights. There were lots of people in the back.” The ambulance then drove down the street, she said. “I didn’t see where they dropped off the people, but I saw that there were normal people inside, like young girls.”

Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times

Protests calling for widespread social and political change that erupted in September have led to a brutal crackdown by Iran’s security forces, with more than 14,000 people arrested, according to the United Nations. At least 326 people have been killed, according to Iran Human Rights, a Norway-based NGO. The demonstrations began following the death of Mahsa Amini, known by her first Kurdish surname Jina, in the custody of Iran’s morality police and have been primarily led by women.

Part of that crackdown, according to witnesses and dozens of videos and images reviewed by The New York Times, has involved the use of ambulances by the security forces to infiltrate protests and detain protesters. Nearly all of the witnesses interviewed by the Times spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from the government.

Such use of ambulances, which experts say violates international norms of medical impartiality, shows the lengths to which the government has gone to try to quell the nationwide demonstrations.

“People are going to be afraid to seek health care, meaning more people will die,” said Rohini Haar, an assistant adjunct professor at the School of Public Health at University of California, Berkeley. “Health care has credibility because of the idea of impartiality. It’s the basic idea of ‘do no harm,’ and misusing ambulances clearly violates that.”

Security Forces Using Ambulances

In an interview over an encrypted messaging app, a 37-year-old restaurant worker described seeing ambulances entering university campuses during protests almost every day, and uniformed security forces emerging from them. He works near three major universities in Tehran where he sees daily protests. He also attended other protests and said he saw security forces using ambulances there, too.

Witnesses who attended protests in Tehran spoke about seeing plainclothes police officers, known as Basij, forcing students into the back of an ambulance at a demonstration at Sharif University on Oct. 2.

One of the witnesses, in an interview over an encrypted messaging app, reported seeing Basij beating one of the students, who was on the ground and covered in bruises, with a baton before shoving him into an ambulance along with another protester and driving away.

In the early days of the protests, demonstrators were on the streets in Rasht, the capital city of Gilan province in northern Iran.

One video, whose location was mentioned by a Twitter user and independently verified by the Times, which seems to have been filmed from inside a car, shows an ambulance on fire, apparently after being targeted by protesters. Someone in the car shouts, “They’re rescuing the girls! Come out!” as the car nears the ambulance.

The video shows a man wearing what resembles the uniform of Iran’s national police force leaving the ambulance and running away from the vehicle. He is briefly chased by a group of people before escaping.

The Times showed the video to Afshon Ostovar, an associate professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, who focuses on Iranian national security.

“That definitely looks like a NAJA officer,” Ostovar said in an interview, using the acronym for Iran’s national police force. “He’s not a paramedic. The uniform and firearm are dead giveaways.” The firearm that Ostovar refers to could be in the holster clipped to the man’s back as he runs away from the ambulance in the video.

Although the video doesn’t show who torched the ambulance, another video from a different angle shows the same ambulance being shoved and jostled by a crowd of people.

Ambulances at Police Stations

The Times analyzed and geolocated videos and photos showing ambulances entering or exiting police stations, or positioned just outside them, in at least six locations across the country (in one case the location was first mentioned by a Twitter user).

In two of the locations there are hospitals nearby, according to Google Maps, but the video from one of these locations shows the ambulance clearly going into the police station.

Although the videos and photos don’t show who is being transported, a former emergency room physician said there’s no legitimate medical reason for ambulances to be at police stations.

“I can say with nearly 100% accuracy that this never happens,” said Dr. Amir Alishahi Tabriz, who previously worked in the Loghman-e Hakim and Torfeh hospitals in Tehran in 2013. Now based in the United States, he works with doctors in Iran to help their patients get care after being injured in protests.

“People don’t feel safe to go to urgent care or hospitals. They know that forces are waiting for them to capture them,” he said. “When patients need help, we send them to health centers in the middle of the night.”

Outrage Among Iran’s Medical Workers

The use of ambulances to detain people has outraged Iran’s medical community. A video posted on Twitter on Oct. 4 and verified by the Times shows medical workers demonstrating outside Razi University Hospital in Rasht, holding signs that read, “Basij are not students,” and “Ambulances should be used for transporting patients.”

Another video posted on Twitter on Oct. 21, deliberately blurred to protect the identity of the subjects, shows a demonstration that appears to be at the Mashhad Medical Society building. At the demonstration, a speaker reads from a statement condemning the use of ambulances and medical symbols by security forces: “We would like it to stop in order to gain social trust.”

The Times verified that the room seen in the blurry footage matches archival footage from the Mashhad Medical Society building’s amphitheater.

Haar, with UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, said that work of the medical community during protests and civil disturbances is protected under international human rights law.

“The principles of impartiality and independence, of caring for the wounded and not misusing the medical emblem for political gain, are universally accepted foundations on which the entire medical system relies,” she said. “Medical workers have the obligation to treat the wounded and sick. And the government has the obligation to help us do that.”

Aside from protests in Rasht and Mashhad, other members of the medical community have voiced their concerns about the misuse of ambulances. On Oct. 22, the Medical Council of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the licensing and regulatory body for health care professionals, raised concerns about the use of ambulances for nonmedical transport.

For many in Iran, the use of ambulances to suppress protests adds to their distrust in the country’s medical system. There have been several reports about Iranians who have been injured at protests being detained after receiving medical care in hospitals.

In an interview, one Tehran protester said that many people tend to their injuries at home instead of going to the hospital due to a climate of fear.

“We felt most insecure when we saw police. But we have a new level of fear unlocked. Now we feel the worst pains when we see ambulances,” said one Tehran protester. “And every time we’re stuck in traffic, now the dilemma is, what if there’s a real patient in there? Or what if they’re going to kill us?”

© 2022 The New York Times Company

#usnews

38 things Donald Trump has said about Russia

Donald Trump. Illustrated | Getty Images

Here are 38 things Donald Trump has said about President Biden:

On the Russo-Ukrainian War

  1. “We have to be very smart and very nimble. We have to know what to say, what to do. And we are saying exactly the wrong thing. We’ll end up in a World War III.” [Oct. 9, 2022]

  2. “They actually taunted him, if you really look at it, our country and our so-called leadership taunted Putin. I would listen, I would say, you know, they’re almost forcing him to go [into Ukraine] with what they’re saying. The rhetoric was so dumb.” [Oct. 9, 2022]

  3. “With potentially hundreds of thousands of people dying, we must demand the immediate negotiation of the peaceful end to the war in Ukraine, or we will end up in World War III, and there will be nothing left of our planet all because stupid people didn’t have a clue.” [Oct. 8, 2022]

  4. “It doesn’t make sense that Russia and Ukraine aren’t sitting down and working out some kind of an agreement. If they don’t do it soon, there will be nothing left but death, destruction, and carnage.” [Apr. 8, 2022]

  5. “And now add to that what’s going on in Ukraine. That’s a genocide.” [Apr. 13, 2022]

  6. “Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, Joe Biden totally failed to deter Russia’s disgraceful invasion of Ukraine. All of those people are dead. Putin’s heinous attack on a proud and sovereign nation shocks the conscience of every person of goodwill.” [Mar. 28, 2022]

  7. “You say, what’s the purpose of this? They had a country. You could see it was a country where there was a lot of love, and we’re doing it because, you know, somebody wants to make his country larger, or he wants to put it back the way it was when actually it didn’t work very well.” [Mar. 15, 2022]

  8. “I went in yesterday, and there was a television screen, and I said, ‘This is genius.’ Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine — of Ukraine — Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful. I said, ‘How smart is that?’ And he’s going to go in and be a peacekeeper.” [Feb. 24, 2022]

On Russian President Vladamir Putin

  1. “…As Putin now is not exactly a fan of our country, let him explain … Why did the mayor of Moscow’s wife give the Bidens, both of them, $3.5 million dollars? I would think Putin would know the answer to that. I think he should release it.” [Mar. 29, 2022]

  2. “This doesn’t seem to be the same Putin that I was dealing with. But I will tell you, he wouldn’t have changed if I were dealing with him, he wouldn’t have changed.” [Mar. 11, 2022]

  3. “I knew Putin very well. I got along with him great. He liked me. I liked him. I mean, you know, he’s a tough cookie, got a lot of the great charm and a lot of pride. But the way he — and he loves his country, you know? He loves his country.” [Feb. 22, 2022]

  4. “I knew that he always wanted Ukraine. I used to talk to him about it. I said, ‘You can’t do it. You’re not going to do it.’ But I could see that he wanted it. I used to ask him. We used to talk about it at length,” [Feb. 22, 2022]

  5. “I got along great with President Putin. I liked him, he liked me. That’s a good thing, not a bad thing.” [Apr. 19, 2021]

  6. “Some people HATE the fact that I got along well with President Putin of Russia. They would rather go to war than see this. It’s called Trump Derangement Syndrome!” [Jul. 18, 2018]

  7. “I called President Putin of Russia to congratulate him on his election victory (in past, Obama called him also). The Fake News Media is crazed because they wanted me to excoriate him. They are wrong! Getting along with Russia (and others) is a good thing, not a bad thing.” [Mar. 21, 2018]

  8. “The new joke in town is that Russia leaked the disastrous DNC e-mails, which should never have been written (stupid), because Putin likes me.” [Jul. 25, 2016]

  9. “Putin has shown the world what happens when America has weak leaders. Peace Through Strength!” [Apr. 28, 2014]

  10. “America is at a great disadvantage. Putin is ex-KGB, Obama is a community organizer. Unfair.” [Apr.17, 2014]

  11. “I believe Putin will continue to rebuild the Russian Empire. He has zero respect for Obama or the U.S.!” [Mar. 21, 2014]

  12. “While Putin is scheming and beaming on how to take over the World, President Obama is watching March Madness (basketball)!” [Mar. 20, 2014]

  13. ​​”Putin’s letter is a masterpiece for Russia and a disaster for the U.S. He is lecturing to our President.” [Sep.12, 2013]

  14. “Putin says Russia can’t allow a weakening of its nuclear deterrent — U.S. wants to reduce — are we crazy?” [Jun. 21, 2013]

On Russia interfering with U.S. elections.

  1. “I’m very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election. Based on the fact that no President has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don’t want Trump!” [Jul. 24, 2018]

  2. “I have felt very strongly that while Russia’s actions had no impact at all on the outcome of the election, let me be totally clear in saying … that I accept our American intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place.” [Jul. 17, 2018]

  3. “I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.” [Jul. 16, 2018]

  4. “My people came to me, [Director of National Intelligence] Dan Coats came to me, some others, they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this, I don’t see any reason why it would be.” [Jul. 16, 2018]

  5. “In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t.’ The sentence should have been: ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia. Sort of a double negative.” [Jul. 17, 2018]

  6. “Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President. The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!” [Feb. 16, 2018]

  7. “I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election. He vehemently denied it. I’ve already given my opinion.” [Jul. 9, 2017]

  8. “The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer-funded charade end?” [May 8, 2017]

  9. “By the way, if Russia was working so hard on the 2016 Election, it all took place during the Obama Admin. Why didn’t they stop them?”  [Jun. 22, 2017]

  10. “Russia talk is FAKE NEWS put out by the Dems and played up by the media in order to mask the big election defeat and the illegal leaks!” [Feb. 26, 2017]

On whether he was a Russian agent

  1. “I never worked for Russia … Not only did I never work for Russia, I think it’s a disgrace that you even ask that question because it’s a whole big fat hoax. It’s just a hoax.” [Jan.14, 2019]

On U.S.-Russia relations

  1. Trump jokingly told RNC donors that the U.S. should put the Chinese flag on F-22 jets and “bomb the s–t out of Russia.” [Mar. 5, 2022]

  2. “I have been FAR tougher on Russia than Obama, Bush or Clinton. Maybe tougher than any other President. At the same time, as I have often said, getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. I fully expect that someday we will have good relations with Russia again!” [Jan. 12, 2019]

  3. “Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War. There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?” [Apr.11, 2018]

  4. “When will all the haters and fools out there realize that having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing? There always playing politics – bad for our country. I want to solve North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, terrorism, and Russia can greatly help!” [Nov.11, 2017]

  5. “I am not angry at Russia (or China) because their leaders are far smarter than ours. We need real leadership, and fast, before it is too late” [Sep. 6, 2013]

You may also like

Researchers suggest Bruce Lee died from drinking too much water

Ronaldo immediately leaving Manchester United following scathing interview

9 brutally funny cartoons about Trump’s midterms disaster



#usnews

Ukraine works to restore power after devastating strikes

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — About 70% of the Ukrainian capital was left without power on Thursday morning after Moscow unleashed yet another devastating missile barrage on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, Kyiv’s mayor said.

A punishing barrage of Russian strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure on Wednesday caused power outages across large parts of the country, piling more damage onto Ukraine’s already battered power network and adding to the misery for civilians as winter begins. The strikes also caused power outages in neighboring Moldova.

Russia has been launching devastating strikes on Ukraine’s power infrastructure as its forces have suffered battlefield setbacks in the fullscale war that it launched Feb. 24, exactly nine months ago Thursday.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said in a Telegram statement that “power engineers are doing their best to get (electricity) back as soon as possible” and added that the water supply has been restored in about half of Kyiv on the left bank of the Dnieper River.

Ukraine’s General Staff reported on Thursday morning that Russian forces fired 67 cruise missiles and 10 drones during Wednesday’s “massive attack on residential buildings and energy infrastructure” in Kyiv and several other regions in Ukraine.

An effort to restore power, heating and water supplies disrupted by the Wednesday attacks was underway elsewhere in Ukraine as well.

Governor of the Poltava region Dmytro Lunin said “an optimistic scenario” suggested that electricity will come back to residents of his central Ukrainian region on Thursday.

“In the next few hours, we will start supplying energy to critical infrastructure, and then to the majority of household consumers,” Lunin said on Telegram, noting that power has already been restored for 15,500 people and 1,500 legal entities in the region.

Lunin added that water supplies resumed in several parts of the city of Poltava, and four boiler stations have started to heat regional hospitals.

The Kirovohrad and the Vinnytsia regions on Thursday morning were reconnected to the power grid, adding to more than a dozen other regions that were reconnected on Wednesday night, according to Deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office Kyrylo Tymoshenko.

In the southeastern Dnipropetrovsk region, power has been restored for up to 50% of consumers, Gov. Valentyn Reznichenko said, but noted that “the situation with energy is complicated.”

Amid Russia’s continued attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, the Ukrainian authorities started opening what they call “points of invincibility” — heated and powered spaces where people could go for hot meals, electricity to recharge their devices and to connect to the internet.

Deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office Kyrylo Tymoshenko said on Thursday morning that a total of 3,720 such spaces have been opened across the country.

According to the website of the project, various venues have been transformed into “points of invincibility,” including government buildings, schools and kindergartens and emergency services offices.

___

Follow AP coverage of the war in Ukraine at: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

#usnews

Global Social Gathering We would like to show you notifications for the latest news and updates.
Dismiss
Allow Notifications