Thursday, January 30, 2020
By Austin Ramzy and Donald G. McNeil Jr.
The announcement came as nearly 8,000 cases have been reported worldwide, almost all of them in mainland China.
The decision reversed the organization’s decision just a week ago to hold off such a declaration.
Since then, W.H.O. officials said, thousands of new cases in China and clear human-to-human transmission in several other countries — now including the United States — warranted a reconsideration of that decision by the agency’s expert committee.
The W.H.O.’s declaration — officially called a “public health emergency of international concern” — does not have the force of law. But it serves notice to all United Nations member states that the world’s top health advisory body thinks the situation is grave. Governments then make their own decisions about whether to close their borders, cancel flights, screen people arriving at airports or take other protective measures.
Declaring emergencies also adds urgency to any W.H.O. appeal for money. Thus far, that is hardly relevant: The countries most affected — China, Japan, Germany, South Korea, the United States and Vietnam — can afford to wage their own battles against the virus. By contrast, the Democratic Republic of Congo has needed large infusions of cash and medical expertise to fight an ongoing Ebola outbreak, and the need for money was one of the reasons the W.H.O. declared an international emergency in that case, even though Ebola has not spread outside of Congo except in a few patients who briefly entered Uganda.
Last week, the committee was divided. Declaring emergencies is always a hard decision, said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O.’s director general, because closed borders and canceled flights lead to personal hardships for millions of healthy people near the epicenter and can cause massive economic disruption.
In the worst cases, supplies of food and medicine can run short and panic can spread, threatening to do more damage than the disease does.
The agency has lavishly praised China’s aggressive response to the virus.
China effectively isolated Hubei Province, stranding more than 30 million people, at the height of the New Year holidays — an act tantamount to quarantining the Midwest at Christmastime.
Dr. Tedros, who met with President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Tuesday, said Mr. Xi had led “a monumental national response,” and that he was “struck by the determination of Chinese leadership” and by how much Mr. Xi personally understood about the outbreak.
China said on Thursday that another 38 people had died from the disease, bringing the total to 170. Nearly 8,000 cases have been reported worldwide, almost all of them in mainland China.
On Thursday, Russia closed its 2,600-mile border with China and stopped all trains except for one between Moscow and Beijing.
Within China, some medical experts have questioned their country’s response, arguing that local officials could have put in place stricter travel restrictions before the virus spilled beyond the central city of Wuhan. The country has now confirmed cases in every province and region.
The W.H.O. has made such declarations just five times since its power to do so was established in 2005: for the pandemic influenza in 2009, a polio resurgence in 2014, the Ebola epidemic in West Africa that same year, the Zika virus outbreak in 2016 and an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo last year.
Dr. Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and one of the discoverers of the Ebola virus and the presence of AIDS in Africa, said he personally considered the outbreak an emergency and found the process flawed.
“It is time for the W.H.O. to change its all-or-nothing, binary approach to declaring a PHEIC,” he said, referring to the emergency declaration. “In every emergency, there is a spectrum of alert levels, rather than ‘PHEIC or not PHEIC.’”
Dr. Tedros said the same thing at a news conference on Wednesday, suggesting that the agency might want to go to a graduated green-yellow-red system.
Who’s telling the truth about Ukraine? There’s one way to find out.
It’s just possible that common sense and reality have a shot at prying open the doors to the Senate chamber after all. After Republican senators claimed that it was perfectly reasonable to put a United States president on trial without hearing from any witnesses, a few of them are showing signs of recognizing that the truth matters. Or, at least, that the American people believe it does.
What’s changed? Shocking but not surprising revelations from John Bolton’s book manuscript, which The New York Times reported over the weekend, have made impossible to ignore what everyone has known for months: President Trump withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine to benefit himself politically, and against the strenuous objections of his top aides and both parties in Congress.
On Monday morning, Mitt Romney, of Utah, said, “I think it’s increasingly likely that other Republicans will join those of us who think we should hear from John Bolton.”
It’s refreshing to hear those words. And yet the fact that such a statement is noteworthy at all tells you how far from responsible governance Republicans have strayed. They hold 53 seats in the Senate, and yet the nation is waiting on just four — four!— to do the right thing and agree to call Mr. Bolton, the former national security adviser, and other key witnesses to testify in Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial.
A far more representative attitude in the Republican caucus was expressed by Roy Blunt, of Missouri, who said on Monday, “Unless there’s a witness that’s going to change the outcome, I can’t imagine why we’d want to stretch this out for weeks and months.” With this tautology Senator Blunt gives away the game: All witness testimony to date — all presented as part of the House impeachment proceedings — has only strengthened the case against Mr. Trump, but Republicans will not vote to convict him under any circumstances. By definition, then, no witness in the Senate could possibly change the outcome.The reporting on Mr. Bolton’s manuscript, which is scheduled for publication in March, has scrambled that strategy. Mr. Bolton’s foreign-policy disagreements with Mr. Trump have been public knowledge for months. Last fall, Fiona Hill, a Russia expert and former Bolton aide, testified in the House that Mr. Bolton was alarmed by Mr. Trump’s aid-for-investigations scheme, which Mr. Bolton characterized as a “drug deal.”In the manuscript, detailed descriptions of which were leaked to The Times, he recounts nearly a dozen instances in which he and other top administration officials pleaded with Mr. Trump to release the aid, to no avail. He describes Mr. Trump’s fixation on conspiracy theories about Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election, and about the supposed corruption of Marie Yovanovitch, the American ambassador to Ukraine. He says that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo admitted privately to him that he knew there was nothing to the theories regarding Ms. Yovanovitch, whom Mr. Trump fired last spring.
Mr. Bolton, a hard-line conservative with decades of service in Republican administrations, is no anti-Trump zealot, which makes his allegations against the president that much more devastating. And his decision to tell these stories publicly nearly certainly waives any claims of executive privilege Mr. Trump might try to assert over their communications.
Let’s not forget the newly revealed evidence that came to light on Saturday, in the form of a tape recording released by the lawyer for Lev Parnas, who had worked for Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, in the Ukraine scheme. Mr. Trump has denied even knowing Mr. Parnas, but on the tape the two men can be heard in conversation at a dinner in April 2018. “Get rid of her,” Mr. Trump said of Ms. Yovanovitch. “Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. O.K.? Do it.”
In a late-night tweet, Mr. Trump angrily denied Mr. Bolton’s allegations. “I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens,” Mr. Trump wrote.
You know what would be a good way to figure out who’s telling the truth? Subpoena Mr. Bolton to testify under oath.
This isn’t a close call. A majority of Americans of all political stripes want to hear from Mr. Bolton, at the least. They believe, as do congressional Democrats, that you can’t vote on whether to remove a president from office without getting the fullest possible account of his alleged offenses.
But Senate Republicans have so far refused to hear from any witnesses or to demand any documents, following the lead of Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, who has never hesitated to undermine the country’s institutions if he thinks doing so will help his party. Mr. McConnell and nearly all in his caucus seem to imagine that if they block their eyes and ears and let their mouths run, the turbulence of impeachment will eventually pass.
This is a risky strategy. One reason good lawyers insist on deposing witnesses and subpoenaing documentary evidence is to avoid any unwelcome surprises at trial. Mr. Bolton has now provided the latest of those surprises. It is surely not the last. The most galling part is that Republicans have already admitted how bad the president’s behavior was. Back in September, Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican and one of Mr. Trump’s staunchest defenders, said: “What would’ve been wrong is if the president had suggested to the Ukrainian government that if you don’t do what I want you to do regarding the Bidens, we’re not going to give you the aid. That was the accusation; that did not remotely happen.”
Except that it did, as Mr. Bolton is apparently willing to say under oath. Republicans don’t want him to do that because they don’t want Americans to exercise the simple good judgment that Mr. Graham once did.
Recounting the hellish conditions of eight years spent on death row on blasphemy charges but also the pain of exile, Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi has broken her silence to give her first personal insight into an ordeal that caused international outrage.
Bibi was sentenced to death on blasphemy charges by a Pakistani court in 2010 but then dramatically acquitted in 2018. She now lives in Canada at an undisclosed location.
French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet, who has co-written a book about her, was once based in the country where she led a support campaign for her.
She is the only reporter to have met Bibi during her stay in Canada.
In the book “Enfin libre!” (“Finally Free”) -- published in French on Wednesday with an English version due out in September—Bibi recounts her arrest, the conditions of prison, the relief of her release but also the difficulty of adjusting to a new life.
“You already know my story through the media,” she said in the book.
“But you are far from understanding my daily life in prison or my new life,” she said.
‘Depths of darkness’
“I became a prisoner of fanaticism,” she said. In prison, “tears were the only companions in the cell”.She described the horrendous conditions in squalid jails in Pakistan where she was kept chained and jeered at by other detainees.“My wrists are burning me, it is hard to breathe. My neck... is encased in an iron collar that the guard can tighten with a huge nut,” she wrote.
“A long chain drags along on the filthy ground. This connects my neck to the handcuffed hand who pulls me like a dog on a lead.
“Deep within me, a dull fear takes me towards the depths of darkness. A lacerating fear that will never leave me.”
Many other prisoners showed her no pity. “I am startled by the cry of a woman. ‘To death!’ The other women join in. ‘Hanged!’ Hanged!’.”
‘At what price?’
Blasphemy is an incendiary charge in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where even the whiff of an unsubstantiated allegation of insulting Islam can spark death at the hands of mobs.
Her acquittal on the charges, which stemmed from an incident in 2009 when she argued with a Muslim co-labourer, resulted in violent protests that paralysed the country, led by firebrand cleric, Khadim Hussain Rizvi.
Bibi, who vehemently denied the charges against her, argued in the book that the Christian minority in overwhelmingly Muslim Pakistan still faces persecution.
“Even with my freedom, the climate (for Christians) does not seemed to have changed and Christians can expect all kinds of reprisals,” she said.
“They live with this sword of Damocles over their head.”
And while Canada gives her a safer and more certain future, Bibi also has to come to terms with likely never setting foot in her homeland again.
“In this unknown country, I am ready for a new departure, perhaps for a new life. But at what price?
“My heart broke when I had to leave without saying goodbye to my father or other members of the family.”
“Pakistan is my country. I love my country but I am in exile forever,” she said.
FARAHNAZ ISPAHANI ‘Muslims should go to Pakistan’ is not better than Modi’s ‘Hindus have no place in Pakistan’, and is unlikely to contribute to a better world. As India slides into what is widely seen as an anti-minority environment, many people, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have cited Pakistan’s poor record of protecting religious minorities as a defence, as if it somehow justifies exclusionary policies against India’s minorities. Critics of the Modi government, on the other hand, have questioned the very notion that Pakistan may have driven out large numbers of Hindus and Sikhs to dilute the proportion of minorities in its population. Both are wrong. ‘Muslims should go to Pakistan’ is not better than ‘Hindus have no place in Pakistan’, and is unlikely to contribute to a better world. A slippery slope Unmitigated repression in Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim majority state before it was made into two union territories, legitimately worries minority rights activists around the world. Federations do not suddenly deprive a constituting state of its statehood nor do democracies practice unlimited suspension of civil rights or detention of politicians. When such a roll-back of democracy and federal rights takes place in a region where the national minority is the majority, it naturally raises questions about treatment of the minority.So, the world is sitting up to notice. Most recently, 626 of 751 members of the European Union (EU) have moved six resolutions against India’s actions in Kashmir and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.India’s new citizenship law also cannot be justified by the persecution of minorities in Pakistan. If the purpose of the law is to enable those persecuted for their religion in India’s neighbouring countries to become Indian citizens, a law enabling citizenship for all religiously persecuted refugees would have sufficed. Listing religions whose followers would get protection, and excluding Muslims from that list clearly has a communal purpose. Just because India is on a slippery slope in its treatment of minorities, with widely reported attacks on Muslims and Christians and legal manoeuvres to link citizenship with religion, there is also no reason to whitewash Pakistan’s poor record of protecting religious minorities. No purity in the ‘pure’ If anything, Pakistan’s track record should serve as a cautionary tale for Indians who see current developments as anything less than the beginning of a process that just cannot end well.As the author of a book on the history of Pakistan’s religious minorities, let me state clearly that the real culprit in the widespread persecution of religious minorities in the case of Pakistan was the desire of some to create a purer Islamic state. Since purity is always relative, every step towards purification ends up demanding another. The goal should be a diverse and secular India, albeit with a Hindu majority, and diverse and secular Pakistan and Bangladesh, with Muslim majorities, living side by side on a subcontinent its peoples have shared for centuries. The effect of Partition Now, a word about recent suggestions that mistreatment of religious minorities, particularly the decline of minorities in Pakistan’s population after Partition, are somehow wrong or exaggerated.One article recently claimed that “there is no authentic and reliable official data on the religious composition of Pakistan’s population in 1947” before proceeding to question the data, which comes from my book Purifying the Land of the Pure.The fact remains that in the last census preceding the creation of Pakistan in 1947 –the 1941 census – non-Muslims comprised 20.5 per cent of the population in the geographical area that became West Pakistan. There were also 32.2 per cent non-Muslims in the districts that became East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Swapping or mass transfers of population were not envisaged in the partition scheme, and no mass movement of population occurred before 1947. So, when the partition plan was announced in June 1947, non-Muslims were expected to constitute 27.3 per cent of the population of areas that were to become Pakistan. In his 1948 academic essay ‘The Partition of India and the Prospects of Pakistan’, Australian geographer O.H.K. Spate used district-wise census data, coupled with growth estimates, to compute the numbers of Muslims and non-Muslims for each of the new dominions, India and Pakistan. The demographics of West Pakistan changed completely within a few months of Partition. Ishtiaq Ahmed’s excellently researched book The Punjab: Bloodied, Partitioned, and Cleansed explains how riots and organised attacks resulted in Hindus and Sikhs leaving Pakistan’s portion of divided Punjab, followed by mass exodus and expulsion of Muslims from the Indian part. In his 1949 article titled ‘India and Pakistan: The Demography of Partition’, American sociologist and demographer Kingsley Davis said: “In 1941 there were 94.5 million Muslims and 270.2 million Hindus in the subcontinent. The Muslims comprised 24.3 percent of the total population [of undivided India], and the Hindus 69.5 percent. No other religious group represented so much as 3.0 percent of the population. Since these proportions change very slowly, they effectively describe the situation existing on the eve of partition.” Davis explained further that 76 Muslim majority districts were situated in two clusters, one in the northwest and one in the northeast, and it was the existence of these clusters embracing some 56 million Muslims that “made the establishment of Pakistan possible.” But a major corollary of Partition was that “40 percent of all Muslims (38 million) lived outside of the two clusters of Muslim-dominated districts and these districts contained 20.2 million non-Muslims, representing more than one-fourth of their total population. These two facts indicate the great demographic obstacle to the establishment of Pakistan: clearly partition would create two minority problems where before there had been only one, notwithstanding the fact that in each case the minority would have a contiguous nation to speak for it”. Davis estimated that some six million Muslims entered [West and East] Pakistan and about five million non-Muslims left it. “Approximately one million persons died in the process, from starvation, exhaustion, disease or violence,” he writes. “While the mass migrations did not bring all of the Muslims into Pakistan nor take all of the non-Muslims out, they did alter the religious composition of the two countries,” Davis points out. “The estimated percentage of Muslim inhabitants in Pakistan territory rose from 77 in 1941 to 83 in 1949.” The new demographic reality was reflected in Pakistan’s 1951 census. Not an example to follow The creation of Bangladesh in 1971 reduced Pakistan’s non-Muslim population significantly but between 1947 and 1951, West Pakistan had already lost the bulk of its Hindus and Sikhs and accepted large numbers of Muslim migrants primarily from Indian Punjab. Non-Muslims went from being 20.5 per cent of the population of West Pakistan (today’s Pakistan) to around 3.5 per cent. But extremists were not content with the reduction in Pakistan’s non-Muslim population. The Muslimisation of Pakistan was followed by Islamisation in stages. Once the number of Hindus and Sikhs had dwindled, hardliners turned on Ahmadis who consider themselves Muslims and had supported Partition actively. Later, it was the turn of Shia Muslims, whom extremist Sunnis want to exclude from the fold of Islam. So, the case of Pakistan can’t be cited by India’s extremists to justify their desire to reduce the presence and freedoms of minorities. Nor should others try and deny the extent of the problem in Pakistan to advance the case for a pluralist India. The depletion of Pakistan’s minorities post-Partition led to subsequent demands for Islamisation that have not brought peace and progress to Pakistan to this day. For its social peace and economic prosperity, India must not go down that path. https://theprint.in/opinion/modi-critics-decry-india-mistreating-minorities-but-cant-whitewash-pak-islamisation/355536/