Female Kabul municipal workers told not to come back


Female municipal employees in Kabul have been ordered to stay at home. The interim mayor of the Afghan capital, told reporters on Sunday that only women “who could not be replaced by men’ would be allowed to stay in post.

The move came a day after girls were barred from entering secondary schools and the ministry for women’s affairs was renamed the Ministry for Vice and Virtue.

Namony told reporters that a ‘final decision’ about female employees in Kabul municipal departments had yet to be made. He added that they would draw their salaries in the meantime.

Before the Taliban overran Kabul last month, Namony added, just under one-third the city’s around 3,000 city employees were women.



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Indian Premier League 2021 | Struggling KKR look to script turnaround against RCB in second phase


RCB is third in the eight-team standings with 10 points, KKR are languishing at the seventh spot with 4 points.

Enduring a forgettable outing in the first half of this year’s IPL, two-time former champions Kolkata Knight Riders would look for reversal of fortunes when they resume their campaign against Royal Challengers Bangalore in the second phase of T20 league here on Monday.

While Virat Kohli’s RCB is third in the eight-team standings with 10 points from seven games, 2012 and 2014 champions KKR are languishing at the seventh spot with just two wins out of seven ties.

And Eoin Morgan-led KKR would be hoping to make a turnaround, just like 2014 edition when they won nine games in a row to claim the title.

KKR chief mentor David Hussey also exuded optimism about scripting a turnaround, despite a nightmarish first half.

“All we have to do is win this… We have done it before and so we can do it again… I feel we have the squad to do it also. You qualify for the finals and whole competition starts again,” the Australian said.

But it would be easier said than done for KKR as they face RCB, a formidable outfit, whose captain Kohli would be gunning for success with the bat after announcing his decision to quit as India’s T20 skipper following the T20 World Cup which will be held after the IPL in UAE.

Even though KKR leads in head-to-head record against RCB, winning 18 and losing 13 out of 28 fixtures played between the two sides, the 38-run defeat against Kohli’s team in the first half of the event in Chennai would be fresh on their players’ minds.

KKR’s two wins earlier this year came against two under-performing sides — Punjab Kings, who are placed just a rung above them, and bottom-placed Sunrisers Hyderabad.

KKR would be relying heavily on the pair of Subhman Gill and Nitin Rana to deliver the goods in their batting department, even though the duo did not have the best of outings in the first leg.

While Gill scored just 132 runs, Rana managed 201 runs in the first seven games for KKR in this year’s IPL, which was postponed in April following multiple COVID-19 cases inside the bio-bubble in India.

Besides, Morgan will need to let his bat do the talking and lead from the front.

Dinesh Karthik, Andre Russell, Rahul Tripathy and Shakib Al Hasan too need to come good for KKR if the team harbours any hopes of making it to the play-offs.

KKR’s bowling department will be on the shoulders of Kiwi Tim Southee, who came in as a replacement for Pat Cummins for the second half.

RCB, on the other hand, are currently placed in a comfortable position and would be hoping for Kohli to play freely and score big runs, especially after taking the big call of relinquishing T20 captaincy.

With Glenn Maxwell (223 runs from 7 games) and AB de Villiers (207 runs from 7) leading the run scorers chart till now for the team, RCB’s batting unit looks ominous.

Kohli (198), by his own standards, has been a little disappointing and Devdutt Padikkal (195) too would be looking for a consistent show.

On the bowling front, Mohammed Siraj and Kiwi Kyle Jamieson would lead the attack which also has Harshal Patel, Navdeep Saini and Yuzvendra Chahal, who would be desperate to answer the selectors after being ignored from India’s T20 World Cup squad.

The additions of Sri Lanka duo of Wanindu Hasaranga and Dushmantha Chameera, who replaced Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson, will also hold the team in good stead as they have a good understanding of the UAE conditions.

Teams (from):

Kolkata Knight Riders: Eoin Morgan (capt), Dinesh Karthik, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Karun Nair, Nitish Rana, Rahul Tripathy, Shubman Gill, Harbhajan Singh, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Kuldeep Yadav, Lockie Ferguson, Pawan Negi, M Prasidh Krishna, Sandeep Warrier, Shivam Dube, Tim Southee, Vaibhav Arora, Varun Chakravarthy, Andre Russel, Ben Cutting, Shakib Al Hasan, Sunil Narine, Venkatesh Iyer, Sheldon Jackson, Tim Seifert.

Royal Challengers Bangalore: Virat Kohli (capt), Navdeep Saini, Glenn Maxwell, Dan Christian, Rajat Patidar, Dushmantha Chameera, Pavan Deshpande, Mohammed Siraj, Harshal Patel, Mohammed Azharuddeen, Sachin Baby, Wanindu Hasaranga, George Garton, Yuzvendra Chahal, Shahbaz Ahmed, Devdutt Padikkal, Kyle Jamieson, Suyash Prabhudessai, KS Bharat, Tim David, Akash Deep, AB de Villiers.

Match starts at 7:30PM IST.



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6 million Canadians live with a disability. Advocates say federal parties need to listen to them | CBC Radio


Rabia Khedr wonders whether her younger brother Farrukh may still be alive today, if there were better supports available for patients with disabilities when he was admitted to hospital in October 2020.

“Our brother was 43 years old. He was non-verbal, [with] significant developmental disabilities,” Khedr told Dr. Brian Goldman, host of White Coat, Black Art and The Dose.

Because of restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Farrukh’s family members weren’t able to be there with him to better explain his needs to staff.

“He went into the hospital for a surgical procedure and because he did not have anybody there advocating for him, there are a lot of small mishaps that we believe ultimately deteriorated his health.”

Farruk was discharged from, and readmitted to, the hospital several times in the following month. He died on Nov. 27, 2020 after going into cardiac arrest.

LISTEN | Do you prefer to listen to this full story? Here’s a text-to-speech version:

White Coat Black Art7:39Disability advocates call on federal parties for better support: TTS

Rabia Khedr and her family have first-hand experience of the gaps in Canada’s health-care system when it comes to people with disabilities. Listen to a text-to-speech version of this full story. 7:39

Khedr, the national director of the advocacy group Disability Without Poverty, is calling for better supports for people with disabilities from the federal political parties during this election.

“We had some very significant promises made by the previous government, and we hope that whoever gets elected on Sept. 20 will commit to those promises and honour them,” she said.

Rabia’s sister, Uzma Khan, and son Zakariya Gilhooley, far left, are shown with Ruqaya Khedr, Rabia’s daughter, and Yusef Khedr, Rabia’s son. (Andrew Nguyen/CBC)

Khedr was born with an eye condition called leber congenital amaurosis. While she says she had “some functional vision” when she was young, it gradually deteriorated. Now, at 51, she “bluntly” describes herself as fully blind.

Her sister, Uzma Khan, is visually impaired, and their surviving brother, Shah, lives in a long-term care home with a severe intellectual disability.

The complex and sometimes contradictory ways that disabilities are defined in Canada’s health-care system means that Khedr was often unable to access government supports that she says would have helped her — and many others. 

“My vision loss will get categorized as a physical disability sometimes, when it’s convenient, and sometimes [as] sensory,” she said.

“I did not have adequate supports to reach my full potential, as far as I’m concerned.”

LISTEN | Dr. Brian Goldman speaks with Rabia Khedr and her family

White Coat Black Art26:28Rabia’s Family

In spite of the challenges, however, she managed to chart out a full life, with a job, partner and family. 

But Khedr says many people with disabilities are isolated, and most don’t have adequate employment, so they need a stronger support system.

Khan, who has two young children, including one just starting kindergarten, says a number of programs offer nurturing assistance workers to people with some forms of physical disabilities, but not loss of vision.

Rabia Khedr, who is visually impaired, talks about the challenges faced by people with disabilities during the pandemic. (CBC)

That support would “help [my son] read and write and colour, and all that type of work that involves a lot of visual activity that I might not be able to support him with,” she said.

Khedr says it’s been a boon that her family members live close by; her parents live two doors down from her home in Mississauga, Ont., and Khan is just a couple blocks away. But she notes that many people with disabilities don’t have the luxury of that kind of close-knit support system.

Complex web of policy

Governments often run into trouble crafting disability policies because disabilities manifest in “massively heterogeneous ways,” according to Mary Ann McColl, a professor at Queen’s University and academic lead for the Canadian Disability Policy Alliance.

“In the federal government alone, there are seven different definitions of disability that we’ve been able to find,” she explained, including sensory disabilities, physical disabilities and others. Which category someone’s disability falls under will determine which types of supports you do — or do not — qualify for.

“One of the things that so often happens with disability policy is that something that benefits one group of disabled people may in fact disadvantage — or at least not benefit — another group of disabled people,” said McColl.

Mary Ann McColl is the academic lead for the Canadian Disability Policy Alliance, a Queen’s University professor and assistant editor of the Canadian Journal of Disability Studies. (Submitted by Mary Ann McColl)

McColl said there has been some momentum in political action for people with disabilities, but there’s still more to do.

She pointed to a number of recent initiatives, including the Accessible Canada Act, which came into effect in 2019; and the Disability Inclusion Action Plan, though it was shelved thanks to the election call.

The Disability Inclusion Action Plan includes a proposed national disability benefit, which would establish a monthly payment to people whose disabilities have prevented them from working and earning income to their fullest potential.

The Liberal party says it will reintroduce the bill if re-elected into government. The Conservatives say they will double the disability supplement, which exists as part of the Canada Workers Benefit, from $713 to $1,500.

The NDP’s platform says it will “immediately” work to implement a new national disability benefit, while criticizing the previous Liberal government for not doing so sooner.

The Greens have proposed creating a new Canada Disabilities Act that it says would eliminate “the current confusion resulting from the multiplicity of acts, standards, policies and programs that prevail.”

Khan is also visually impaired and says the federal government should provide better supports for young parents with disabilities. (Andrew Nguyen/CBC)

According to the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability, more than six million Canadians over the age of 15 identify as having a disability. But in an Angus Reid poll conducted in August, two-thirds of Canadians with a disability feel the question of how to best support them isn’t getting enough attention during the federal election campaign.

In that same survey, a third of the respondents with or without a disability said they didn’t know which party’s policies would best help people with disabilities.

The online survey included a sample of 2,085 Canadian adult members of the Angus Reid Forum, and was conducted in partnership with the Rick Hansen Foundation.

CBC cannot accurately calculate a margin of error for methodologies with online surveys. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of +/-2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Pandemic made barriers worse

As the COVID-19 pandemic has put incredible pressures on the health-care system, marginalized communities, such as people with disabilities, often feel squeezed out even more.

Khedr felt this as much as anyone, with the loss of her brother last November.

“We were wronged in this pandemic. We were forgotten in this pandemic,” she said.

As personal care workers were forced to reduce the number of homes they could enter to help stop the spread of COVID-19, that usually meant they left people with disabilities behind in favour of clients who could pay higher rates, said Khedr.

Yusef Khedr, Rabia’s son, says he’s keenly aware that as his parents and grandparents get older, they will increasingly rely on him for either physical or financial support. (Andrew Nguyen/CBC)

People with disabilities and their families can face even greater barriers to care if they come from a marginalized community — whether that pertains to race, gender or other facets of one’s identity.

“If you’re a woman from a racialized community with a disability, you’re looking at triple layers of barriers to employment, health care, education, etc.,” said Khan.

Khedr says “individualized funding” is the best solution to help people with disabilities and their own families and support circles, who know what they need, rather than a labyrinthine system that cannot adequately serve different people’s complex and unique situations.

“When you put the power in the hands of people to purchase their own services, you give them the money they need to buy services. That’s the most effective way to best meet people’s unique needs,” she said.

Khedr and her husband talk to White Coat, Black Art about the gaps in the health-care system when it comes to people with disabilities. (Andrew Nguyen/CBC)

Her group, Disability Without Poverty, aims to bring together disability advocates across the country to build a unified voice so those in power can hear them. And to the Khedr family, there’s no more critical time for that voice to be heard than during an election.

They are in favour of the next government implementing a national disability benefit — regardless of which party holds the reins.

“We’re ready to do the work that’s needed to bring about the change that all people with disabilities in this country need — and we need government to work with us,” said Khedr.


Written by Jonathan Ore. Produced by Colleen Ross.



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Whiskey Market Soars As Wealthy Asians Take To The Bottle


As the world was kept at home last year, alcohol markets did furiously well. But now that lockdown measures are mostly over normality should prevail, shouldn’t it? Not, it seems, for the rich.

“Spirits are on fire right now. They’re really growing at the premium through to the prestige end of the sector,” says Gerry Tosh, Rare Whisky director at The Dalmore distillery in Scotland.

The premium market starts at $100 a bottle and prestige $1,000, which gives you a rough idea of the people buying spirits right now. But many of today’s buyers go even further.

In June, for example, Sotheby’s sold 24 bottles of China’s popular Kweichow Moutai liquor for $1.4 million, smashing previous records for the spirit. This “totally and utterly shifted the market,” says Tosh.

Records are being set across the board, but mostly in Asia. China is a rapidly growing market for all spirits, but Scotch whiskey is chief among them. France and Taiwan are the biggest markets for Scotch, “but China and America are just behind them,” says Tosh. And it is the Chinese that whiskey distillers are watching closely.

“There’s a generational shift. The younger generation are starting to learn about whiskey,” says Thorsten Hartmann, director of IWSR, which tracks the global drinks industry. “These are emerging consumers who are starting to fall in love with whiskey. They might not have been exposed in the past but they’re definitely exposed now.”

At a recent Sotheby’s auction of whiskey and rare spirits, 80% of buyers were Asian and 60% were under the age of 40.

“There are guys in Asia who have really raised the bar when it comes to whiskey tasting and tickets for these tastings are sometimes tens of thousands of dollars and they’re opening all sorts of bottles,” says Jonny Fowle, senior spirits specialist at Sotheby’s. “It’s pretty regular that in people’s homes they’re opening bottles up to and exceeding $50,000 per bottle.”

Like wine tasting parties before them, expensive whiskey is being sought both to drink and show off. “There is definitely an element to conspicuous consumption, showing off your wealth,” says Hartmann.

It is the very opposite to what has taken place in western markets during the past year. Lockdown sent the whiskey market wild in the U.K. and U.S. as wealthy connoisseurs, either consoling themselves or just bored at home, started drinking their rare whiskey collections like never before. Of course, they then had to replenish them.

While that abrupt consumption might have slowed, the market has not. Investors realize that if more rich young Asians discover a love for whiskey the market is only going to grow further.

“We’re still in the early days of the single malt renaissance,” says Tosh, referring to the market for single origin rather than blended whiskeys. Whether or not this is your tipple of choice the market is open to outside investors as well.

For around £3,000 ($4,122) you can buy a cask (barrel) of Scotch whiskey as an investment. “Given the current growth rates you should be able to make profits straight away,” says Jonathan Hook, founder of MacInnes Whisky, a whiskey investment company. “But after you pass the 15 year mark the gains go up quite a bit.”

The idea behind buying a cask as opposed to a bottle is becoming increasingly common. “If you bottle a wine it appreciates. With whiskey, once you move it out of a cask and into a bottle, on the whole, the flavor doesn’t improve,” says Hook.

But when the time is right for bottling you can either sell the cask as a whole or have it bottled and sell those instead.

That is not to say bottles do not increase in price as well. Whiskey houses have recently commissioned artists and architects to decorate limited edition bottles.

Architect Sir David Adjaye designed a decanter and case for the oldest single malt Scotch whiskey ever to be bottled, an 80-year-old Glenlivet. These bottles are due to be auctioned at Sotheby’s in London next month.

But the single biggest reason behind the increase in the whiskey market is that people keep drinking it. As long as this continues, says Hartmann, there will be a growing market: “Consumption is a very important element of whiskey collecting that we have to propagate in order to be able to develop the market.”



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Live: The Brownlow medal count is underway — who will get to take home Charlie?


What promises to be one of the tightest Brownlow medal counts in many years is underway in Perth.

Who will get the medal? Could it be Melbourne’s Clayton Oliver or Christian Petracca, Port Adelaide’s Oliie Wines, Western Bulldogs’ Marcus Bontempelli or St Kilda’s Jack Steele?

Follow all the action from the official count at Perth Stadium in our live blog.

Live updates

By Dean Bilton

Quickly on to round five

Oscar Allen (!) has joined the pack at six votes.

But Bont has made a move! Three for him, he goes to eight votes and leads. For now…

He’s joined by Ollie Wines thanks to another three-voter.

Two votes for Oliver moves him to eight also, and three for Maxy Gawn swings him to seven!

By Dean Bilton

Round four

Gil’s upping the pace now. I hate it when he does that.

Two votes for Macrae and nothing for Bontempelli over in Dog land.

Jack Steele is off the mark! He has his first three, welcome aboard Jack.

Three more for Sam Walsh, who is lurking with intent.

Oooh, Christian Petracca! Three votes against Geelong and he’s the joint early leader. He’s tied with Tex Walker, with Martin, Oliver, Walsh and Mills among the pack just one vote behind.

It’s tight early, you love to see it.

By Dean Bilton

We’re back, round three

Good lord, 10 goals to Josh Bruce against North, that’s right. The Roos really did come quite a long way since that one. Speaking of Zac Bailey, he was back at it again at the death against the Pies.

Nothing for Bontempelli this week. Darcy Parish gets his first three votes of the year.

One vote for Sam Walsh, two for Petracca and three for Maxy Gawn. Donuts for Oliver.

Some of the early risers are Taylor Walker (our current leader), Calum Mills and Dustin Martin.

By Dean Bilton

What’s in that mug, Jack?

By Dean Bilton

Round two

Everyone’s just feeling their way into things here. I also forgot Brisbane lost their first two games of the season (the second the Zac Bailey one against Geelong).

Anyway, votes.

Ollie Wines picks up three. He’s started well.

But not as well as Clayton Oliver! Back to back three-voters from Clarry. Petracca on the board too.

And there’s the Bont with three against West Coast. The big guns are here to play already.

I’m not going to bother whether a leaderboard just yet because it’s all a bit flexible, but that’ll be coming soon.

By Dean Bilton

Let’s do it! It’s round one

God, those games seem like about six years ago.

Sam Walsh has two out to door, as does Marcus Bontempelli.

Three for Clayton Oliver in round one, perfect start for the Demon.

Two for Wines and three for Boak from Port’s season opener. Nothing for Jack Steele.

By Dean Bilton

Gillon McLachlan is speaking now

The big boss has the floor.

Twelve months ago, I said our event would look a little different and at that time I would never have imagined we’d be, once again, spread around the country.

This season, new challenges presented themselves and we have come a long way to reach this point. 198 home and away matches, completed. All while navigating through lockdowns, border closures, week by week fixtures, planes being turned around, and now a Grand Final being played in the city of Perth.

And, despite all its twists and turns, it has been one of the most remarkable and rewarding seasons of all time. And for the player, or maybe even players that are recognised tonight as the fairest and best in the competition for the season, the 2021 Brownlow Medal will be one of the all-time great individuals achievements.

By Dean Bilton

It’s nearly time…

We’ve got some sweet ACDC covers getting blasted at the minute, which must means that a) we’re in Perth and b) it’s nearly time to count some votes.

It feels like a changing of the guard tonight, as the draft classes of 2013-2016ish take centre stage in the race for the medal.

By Dean Bilton

Bont sighting confirmed

Any sightings of Bont yet?

-Locked down in the west

Butter wouldn’t melt. 

Getty Images

By Dean Bilton

One to put the scares up the Dogs fans…

Getty Images

Clayton Oliver lurking around the feet of Max Gawn yet again. These two have got some freaky telepathic stuff going on right now, and are clearly inseperable.

By Dean Bilton

Sam Collins has stolen Nat Fyfe’s cane

Getty Images

The trend started by Fyfe during his run to the 2015 Brownlow has been picked up by Gold Coast’s Sam Collins. His partner Georgia Mitchell really is just rubbing it in by showing off her fully functional leg while Sam knocks about in a moon boot.

By Dean Bilton

Has the winner arrived?

Ollie Wines is in the house.

By Dean Bilton

Some love for Clarry

I think Oliver will win a very deserved Brownlow followed by a win for the Dees from a cats supporter

-Wayne

Yep, I’m not sure anyone would begrudge Clayton Oliver a Brownlow should he end up on top tonight.

as someone who has never watched an AFL match I reckon some random out of nowhere person should win tonight

-not an AFL fan

And as someone who watches too many AFL matches, I echo this thought.

Let’s go with… Jarryd Lyons. Well done, Jarryd.

By Dean Bilton

Ben Cousins is at the Brownlow

It’s a complicated one, this. But without getting to deep into everything, and all the many feelings I have about Cuz in 2021, it’s good to see him looking so healthy. Let’s hope he really is in a better spot now.

By Dean Bilton

Can you predict the Brownlow winner without knowing anything about footy?

Tonight we are going to find out!

ABC Sport’s David Mark has linked up with Quang Nguyen, a 22-year-old student originally from Vietnam and now studying at Loyola University in Chicago, to put the theory to the test.

Nguyen has zero knowledge of Australian rules football, the Brownlow Medal or anything to do with tonight at all really. BUT he knows data, and he knows how to apply it to ANY sporting context.

This is seriously really interesting, so do yourself a favour and check it out.

(And if you think I’m going to spoil it and tell you who Quang’s final tip is, you are sorely mistaken.)

By Dean Bilton

The Son of a Cat

Check out wee man Arthur Stewart! Totally stealing the show from his dad, Tom.

By Dean Bilton

The Sons of the West

They’ve got bigger fish to fry this week, but the Bulldogs boys are all together (in a separate area completely to the Melbourne players, for obvious reasons).

By Dean Bilton

Couple of tips from you at home

It should be a fascinating night which i will be watching from Cairns.
I have no particular favourite but have a small interest on Jack Steele.

-tony walsh

I want Clayton Oliver to win and not just because he is a wonderful athlete. Mainly because I have barracked for Melbourne since 1956 and deserve great joy.

-Hels

You’re damn right you do, Hels.

As a random aside, I have NO IDEA how Bulldogs and Demons fans will be coping with a two-week build up to a grand final. Whenever my team has made a GF in a regular season, I’ve basically been sick to my stomach for the entirety of the week. I can’t even imagine how one would cope with two whole weeks of that torture.

By Dean Bilton

We’ve got some arrivals in Perth

There’s an actual red carpet under there! It’s just like the before times.

Stephen Coniglio and Rebecca Lauren are on deck…

ABC News: Rhiannon Shine

As are Luke and Dani Shuey.

Getty Images

FWIW, Coniglio tipped the Bont for the medal tonight.

By Dean Bilton

A sneak peak into the Perth Stadium ballroom

Getty Images

Looking shmick.

Posted , updated 



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Nuclear subs and a diplomatic blowup: The US-France clash, explained


France recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia on Friday in protest of Australia’s decision to cancel a major defense deal in favor of a new one with the US and Britain.

The dramatic move caps a week of indignation for France, which described the new US-UK-Australia deal as “a stab in the back” on Thursday, and represents a major diplomatic break between longtime allies.

It’s also the first time that France has recalled its ambassador to the US, according to Bloomberg News, and it comes after French officials canceled a Washington, DC, gala scheduled for Friday.

The new US-UK-Australia deal, which was announced on Wednesday by the leaders of the three countries, lays the groundwork for Australia to acquire at least eight nuclear submarines with support from the US and the UK. According to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, it also marks the “first major initiative” of a tripartite new security agreement between the countries under the acronym AUKUS (pronounced AWK-us, according to the AP).

“This initiative is about making sure that each of us has a modern capability — the most modern capabilities we need — to maneuver and defend against rapidly evolving threats,” President Joe Biden said in Wednesday’s joint announcement with Morrison and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The AUKUS submarine deal replaces a previous agreement between France and Australia for France to deliver 12 non-nuclear submarines.

In a Friday statement announcing France’s decision to recall its ambassadors, French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that the move “is justified by the exceptional gravity of the announcements made on 15 September by Australia and the United States.”

In public remarks this week, French officials, including Le Drian, have not held back their shock at Australia’s decision to turn to the US and the UK. “We had established a trusting relationship with Australia, and this trust was betrayed,” Le Drian said on Thursday, according to Politico.

French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly reserved particular disdain for the US, saying France is “clear-eyed as to how the United States treats its allies,” according to Deutsche Welle.

Despite the UK’s smaller role in the negotiations — currently, the US shares its submarine technology with the UK alone, necessitating Britain’s cooperation in the pact — Le Drian had harsh words for the Johnson government, too, saying it is “in a logic of permanent opportunism.”

Nuclear submarines make geopolitical sense for Australia

French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to withdraw his country’s ambassadors to the US and Australia in response to the pact marks a surprising breakdown in France’s historically close relationship with the US — but Australia’s decision to look to the US for its submarine fleet is less surprising.

Specifically, China’s military buildup, and its quest for dominance in the South China Sea — a major trade route for Australia — made the French submarines obsolete before they were even delivered. Because the US-made submarines rely on nuclear power, they have a far greater range than conventional submarines, don’t require refueling, and have better stealth capabilities — meaning they can stay underwater for months at a time without being detected, Australian National University researcher AJ Mitchell explained in the Conversation this week.

With the AUKUS pact, Australia will join six other nations — the US, UK, Russia, India, France, and China — in deploying nuclear submarines, assuming the deal goes forward as planned. Prior to this new alliance, the US had shared its submarine technology only with Britain.

In addition to the advantages of nuclear submarines, Australia’s previous deal with France — a $66 billion submarine contract, finalized in 2016, that would have provided Australia with 12 conventional, diesel-powered Barracuda submarines — has been rife with difficulties.

The deal with France was only canceled on Wednesday, just hours before Morrison announced the AUKUS agreement in a teleconference with Biden and Johnson, but it had already begun to unravel — falling behind schedule as costs nearly doubled — when Australia approached the US about acquiring its submarine technology shortly after Biden took office earlier this year.

In June, Australian Defense Minister Scott Moriarty signaled in a Senate hearing that the original deal was proving untenable, Politico reports, and that Australia was pursuing other options should the pact fall apart.

On top of cost overruns and delays, there were other issues as well. Shortly after Australia and France reached the agreement in 2016, the French shipbuilder, then called DCNS, revealed it had been hacked and documents related to a separate Indian submarine project exposed. And while France’s submarine technology — conventional, diesel-powered attack vessels that could be switched to nuclear power — may have made sense when Australia’s relationship with China was less contentious, that relationship has soured recently due to China’s aggressive foreign policy in the Pacific and elsewhere.

AUKUS took France by surprise

While issues with the Australia-France deal have long been apparent, neither the US nor the Australians discussed the shift with their French counterparts until just a few hours before Morrison, Johnson, and Biden announced the new alliance, according to the New York Times.

In fact, Australia and the US reportedly conspired to keep the developing deal from France, even as officials from both countries met with their French counterparts. Biden discussed the future of their alliance with Macron in June and Secretary of State Antony Blinken made no mention of the pact when he met with Le Drian that same month in Paris.

Australia also hid its plans from France when Morrison and Macron met in June, although Morrison says he did raise concerns about the viability of diesel-powered vessels, according to the Hill. Australia’s defense and foreign ministers even met with their French counterparts late last month and issued a joint statement about furthering their defense cooperation, specifically citing the submarine program.

But by that date, according to the New York Times, the AUKUS deal was all but signed. The news caught French officials off-guard, with French ambassador to Australia Jean-Pierre Thebault reportedly learning of the new alliance when the news broke in the Australian press, and while Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, did discuss the decision with French ambassador Philippe Etienne just before the official announcement, that did not stop France from recalling Etienne to Paris for consultations.

The complex roots of France’s fury

In addition to diplomatic issues, France’s disappointment in the dissolution of its original submarine deal has a financial component.

Indeed, the scuttled $66 billion deal was billed as the “contract of the century” in France, and Parly noted Thursday that the French government won’t rule out asking Australia for compensation.

The now-defunct deal also intersects with France’s long-term foreign policy goals.

Macron has long sought to establish what he calls “strategic autonomy” for the European Union, asking members of the bloc to increase their military spending and establish a stronger political relationship with NATO. In February, Macron emphasized at an Atlantic Council forum that “the EU is a credible player and one at a relevant level.

The dissolution of the French-Australian defense deal prevents Macron from flexing the country’s — and the bloc’s — security and political muscles in the Indo-Pacific.

That doesn’t mean France’s outrage this week augurs a major shift for the country going forward, however.

As Daniel Baer, senior fellow at the Carnegie Institute for International Peace, points out in Foreign Policy, “For the French—or anyone else—to spin a substantial commercial loss into a paradigm-busting strategic reorientation is a misinterpretation of the meaning of the pact, the main strategic focus of which is, after all, the Indo-Pacific.”





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Social Media Post on Use of Ivermectin for Refugees Lacks Context – FactCheck.org


There are no cures for COVID-19. So far, only a few evidence-based treatments are available.

One is the antiviral drug remdesivir, which received approval from the Food and Drug Administration in October for COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization. The FDA based its approval on randomized, controlled clinical trials that found faster recovery times and statistically significant odds of improving conditions among patients with mild to severe COVID-19 who received the drug, compared with those who got a placebo plus standard care.

That’s the only FDA-approved treatment, but the agency has granted emergency use authorization to others. For instance, based on the findings of randomized controlled trials, it has authorized the use of several monoclonal antibodies that target SARS-CoV-2 for patients with mild to moderate disease who are at high risk for developing severe COVID-19. These drugs are synthetic antibodies that are designed to prevent the virus from entering cells, although some may not be effective against all variants of the coronavirus.

Another key drug in the limited arsenal is the steroid dexamethasone, which was found in a large randomized controlled trial in the U.K. to provide a mortality benefit in hospitalized COVID-19 patients who were ventilated or receiving supplemental oxygen. The finding was announced in June 2020. Dexamethasone, however, did not help patients who weren’t receiving respiratory support, and may have harmed them.

The FDA has also issued EUAs for two immune modulating drugstocilizumab and baricitinib, for use in certain patients who are hospitalized, in combination with other drugs. Both drugs are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and are thought to help by tamping down an overactive immune system later in the disease progression.

Baricitinib was authorized in combination with remdesivir for hospitalized patients who require ventilation or supplemental oxygen; that decision was based on a randomized, controlled clinical trial that found faster recovery times and better odds of improvement with the drug combination. Tocilizumab was authorized for patients taking systemic corticosteroids, such as dexamethasone, who need supplemental oxygen or ventilation.

Convalescent plasma, or the part of the blood that contains antibodies from people who have recovered from COVID-19, has also been studied as a potential treatment. In February 2021, the FDA modified its EUA to include only plasma with a high concentration of antibodies “for the treatment of hospitalized patients early in the disease course,” following studies that found no benefit with lower antibody amounts. In a March 9 letter, the FDA noted that “the clinical evidence supporting this EUA remains limited” and encouraged health care providers to enroll patients in ongoing clinical trials. The NIH’s COVID-19 treatment guidelines do not currently recommend convalescent plasma for any patient group.

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