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Rights group finds Twitter still failing women over online violence and abuse

Twitter is still not doing enough to protect women from online violence and abuse, despite repeated promises to do so, new analysis by Amnesty International has revealed.

The Twitter Scorecard grades the social media company’s record on implementing a series of recommendations to tackle abuse against women on the platform, since Amnesty first highlighted the scale of the problem in its 2018 Toxic Twitter report.

But Amnesty said “despite some welcome progress, Twitter needs to do much more to address the problem. The company has fully implemented just one of ten concrete recommendations, with limited progress in increasing transparency on how it handles reports of abuse.”

“Twitter is still not doing enough to tackle the deluge of abuse women face on the platform. Our analysis shows that despite some progress, Twitter is not doing enough to protect women users, leading many women to silence or censor themselves on the platform,” said Rasha Abdul Rahim, Co-Director of Amnesty Tech.

“We have outlined clear, straightforward steps that Twitter can take to make its platform a safer place for women to express their views. Twitter can and must do more to protect women from abuse.”

Since the release of Toxic Twitter in 2018, Amnesty International said it has continued to highlight the scale of abuse women face on Twitter, including in ArgentinaIndiaUK and USA. Women have continued to speak out about the abuse they experience on Twitter, and the company’s failure to adequately respond.

According to Amnesty International, the persistent abuse women face on the platform undermines their right to express themselves equally, freely and without fear.

“This abuse is highly intersectional and women from ethnic or religious minorities, marginalized castes, lesbian, bisexual or transgender women – as well as non-binary individuals – and women with disabilities are disproportionately impacted by abuse on the platform,” the organization said.

“Being a Tamil, mixed-caste woman, who speaks out against India’s discriminatory caste system, has proved an explosive mix on Twitter. I receive a torrent of racist and misogynistic abuse, including rape threats. Twitter always seems to be playing catchup and is too slow to address the different types of abuse women face. Twitter is a powerful place to express ourselves, but Twitter needs to do more to clean up the platform and make it a safe place for women,” said Indian author and activist, Meena Kandasamy.

Amnesty International said it provided Twitter “with concrete recommendations on how it can better meet its human rights responsibilities, highlighting ten we believe are key to helping to tackle online abuse against women.”

The Twitter Scorecard uses a traffic light system to grade Twitter’s progress in implementing the recommendations, which cover transparency, reporting mechanisms, and enhanced privacy and security features. Red means the recommendation has not been implemented, amber indicates work in progress, and green means the recommendation has been fully implemented.

The human rights group acknowledged that “due to the lack of meaningful data Twitter provides, it is difficult even to gauge the full extent of the problem.”

“For example, Twitter still does not provide detailed country-level breakdowns of user reports of abuse, nor does it provide data about how many users report specific kinds of abusive language, for example abuse based on gender or race.

“Twitter is also reticent about disclosing detailed information about the number of content moderators it employs, including what kind of coverage they provide across different countries and languages.

“The social media platform needs to be more transparent as to how it designs and implements automated processes to identify online abuse against women. While Twitter has disclosed details on how it is using algorithms to combat misinformation during the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is yet to provide the same level of transparency on how algorithms are used to address abusive tweets,” the organization said.

But not everything is bad, the organization added. It said “Twitter has made welcome progress in some areas, including improving the appeals process, by offering more guidance to users on how the process works and how decisions are made. The company was graded amber for its efforts towards increasing users’ awareness of privacy and security features and in educating users on the harm such abuse causes.”

“Twitter has a responsibility to respect human rights, including the rights to live free from discrimination and violence and to freedom of expression and opinion.

“It is totally in Twitter’s power to implement these changes that would make a real difference to millions of women’s experience on the platform,” said Michael Kleinman, Director of Amnesty International’s Silicon Valley Initiative.

“Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey needs to match words with action to show he is genuinely committed to making Twitter a safer place for women. We will continue to press the company until we see more changes that truly show that abuse against women is not welcome on the platform,” Amnesty International added.

What’s Twitter saying?

In response to our analysis, Twitter acknowledged it needs to do more. However, the company said its combination of human moderation and use of technology, allows it to take a more proactive response to online abuse.  On publishing disaggregated data by country or region, Twitter argued this could be open to misinterpretation and give a misleading impression of the problem.

While Amnesty International acknowledges that context is important, there is nothing to stop Twitter providing context alongside data, and the company’s human rights responsibilities means it has a duty to be transparent in how it deals with reports of violence and abuse.

Amnesty International describes Trump administration’s threats to pull federal resources from cities because of Black Lives Matter protests as ‘damaging’

Amnesty International on Monday described the Donald Trump administration’s threat to pull federal resources from three cities run by Democrats because of Black Lives Matter protests as ‘damaging’.

The Trump administration on Monday named Portland, Seattle and New York City as cities permitting violence and crime, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

It indicated that the designation could affect federal funding for the three large Democrat-run cities without explaining how.

“We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance,” Attorney General William Barr said in a statement.

Justin Mazzola, Researcher at Amnesty International USA, said the administration’s threats were “just another in a long line of abject failures by this administration to protect Black and Brown lives, refusing to do the job that is needed to address the inherent problems in our law enforcement systems.”

Mazzola added: “Rather than denying that there are serious, systemic problems with law enforcement in the U.S., the Department of Justice and Attorney General Barr should listen to the calls of those impacted.

“Making threats to pull federal resources from these cities does nothing to help those communities impacted by police violence, and could be especially harmful to the safety of these communities which are already facing budget deficits due to COVID-19. 

“Rather than seeing advocates for police reform as enemies who must be punished, the Department of Justice should be working with these local communities, listening to the calls of the people impacted, and using the tools at its disposal to reform the police departments that violate the rights of Black and Brown people and those protesting against this police violence.” 

Should Trump run again or resign as U.S. records worst coronavirus death toll in the world with 200,000 Americans dead?

In normal circumstances, President Donald Trump should have offered his resignation letter a long time ago, rather than run for re-election, with around 200,000 Americans already dead from coronavirus, and revelations by himself that he deliberately downplayed the deadly bug.

Mr. Trump, who admitted, in bombshell tapes, to journalist Bob Woodward, that he deliberately downplayed the coronavirus pandemic so Americans would not ‘panic’, has overseen the worst coronavirus response in the world, with more than 6 million Americans infected with the deadly bug.

The United States has about 5 percent of the world population and roughly 20 percent of all coronavirus fatalities.

But, rather than focus on the crisis at hand, and prevent more deaths and more economic collapse that has pushed millions of Americans out of work, with many unable to pay rent or feed, and many being evicted, the President of the United States has been trying to change subject by trying to focus on the Supreme Court battle.

However, not everyone is having it. Speaking on Fox News on Sunday, Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, urged the Trump administration to own up to its failures, and admit that even today, there are still many inadequacies to the coronavirus response.

Mr. Gates told Chris Wallace on Sunday that Mr. Trump’s sudden travel ban on China without putting steps in place to test or quarantine the large number of returnees accelerated the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, rather than being the blessing President Trump has touted.

“We created this rush but we did not have the ability to test or quarantine those people,” Gates said.

“The ban probably accelerated that the way it was executed,” Gates said, adding that “even today, people don’t get their results in 24 hours, which is outrageous that we still have that.”

President Buhari pampers Owelle Rochas Okorocha: “Your large heart will always stand you out”

President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday felicitated with former Governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Anayo Okorocha, on his 58th birthday, joining friends and family to celebrate the consummate entrepreneur and philanthropist, whose kindness cuts across the nation.

President Buhari shared the moment of joy with political associates of Owelle Okorocha, Senator representing Imo West Senatorial district in the ninth assembly, whose antecedents as Chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum, President, Nigeria Red Cross Society, President/Founder, Rochas Foundation Inc, President, Rochas Group of Companies Limited, Pro-Chancellor, African Business School and former Chairman, Board of Nigerian Airspace Management Agency continues to resonate, especially among young leaders.

The President said he believes Sen. Okorocha’s large heart and detribalized outlook on the country will continue to stand him out for recognition and appreciation, using his foundation to reach out to the poor and downtrodden in the society, building schools and health facilities, and providing scholarship for many.

As the Senator turns 58, the President affirmed that his dedication to the development of the country, and unwavering commitment to the welfare of the citizenry deserves commendation.

President Buhari prayed that the almighty God will grant Owelle Okorocha longer life and good health to keep serving the country and humanity.

IMF says Senegalese economy severely hit by COVID-19 would rebound in 2021

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Monday that the Senegalese economy, which has been severely hit by COVID-19 pandemic, would grow by 5 percent in 2021 after shrinking by 0.7 percent this year.

IMF said Senegal’s 0.7 percent projected real GDP contraction this year reflects the larger-than-anticipated disruptions in economic activity stemming from the pandemic and strict containment measures.

“A gradual recovery started in May with the lifting of most COVID-19-related restrictions, followed by the reopening of borders in July,” Ms. Corinne Deléchat of the IMF said in a statement after concluding a virtual mission in Senegal.

Macky Sall
President Macky Sall of Senegal

The mission, from September 9-18, 2020, was to update macroeconomic projections, discuss 2020 budget execution and plans for the 2021 budget.

According to Deléchat, the projected 5 percent rebound in 2021, boosted in part by favorable prospects for agriculture, is “subject to significant downside risks, reflecting uncertainties around the speed of the global recovery and the evolution of the pandemic, which could continue to affect important sectors of the economy such as tourism, transport and hospitality.”

She said the IMF is seeing encouraging signs that Senegal is on a solid path to recovery but uncertainties remain.

Dakar SENEGAL
Dakar Senegal

“Senegal’s strong health response is showing encouraging signs with a steady decline in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations over the past four weeks.

“Budget execution through end-August 2020 was broadly satisfactory, and the objectives for the remainder of the year set in the revised 2020 budget remain within reach. Uncertainties related to the mobilization of programmed resources however remain.”

The IMF is now encouraging Senegalese authorities “to continue with their prudent approach in order to maintain the deficit at around 6 percent of GDP as envisaged in the 2020 revised budget,” Deléchat added.

Boost for global response to COVID-19 as economies worldwide formally join COVAX

  • 64 higher income economies have now joined the COVAX Facility, with a further 38 economies expected to sign in the coming days
  • These self-financing economies, which include 29 from ‘Team Europe’ participating as part of an agreement with the European Commission, join 92 lower income economies eligible for financial support through the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment
  • This means a total of 156 economies, representing nearly two-thirds of the global population, are now committed to or eligible to receive vaccines through the Facility 

At least 64 higher income economies have joined the COVAX Facility, a global initiative that brings together governments and manufacturers to ensure eventual COVID-19 vaccines reach those in greatest need, whoever they are and wherever they live.

The 64 economies include commitments from 35 economies as well as the European Commission which will procure doses on behalf of 27 EU member states plus Norway and Iceland

By pooling financial and scientific resources, the participating economies will be able to insure themselves against the failure of any individual vaccine candidate and secure successful vaccines in a cost-effective, targeted way. 

The 64 members of the Facility will be joined by 92 low- and middle-income economies eligible for support for the procurement of vaccines through the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC), a financing instrument aimed at supporting the procurement of vaccines for these countries. This means that 156 economies, representing roughly 64% of the global population in total, are now either committed to or eligible for the COVAX Facility, with more to follow.

With the Commitment Agreements secured, the COVAX Facility will now start signing formal agreements with vaccine manufacturers and developers, which are partners in the COVAX effort, to secure the doses needed to end the acute phase of the pandemic by the end of 2021. This is in addition to an ongoing effort to raise funding for both R&D and for the procurement of vaccines for lower-income countries via the Gavi COVAX AMC.

“COVAX is now in business: governments from every continent have chosen to work together, not only to secure vaccines for their own populations, but also to help ensure that vaccines are available to the most vulnerable everywhere,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which is coordinating the COVAX Facility. “With the commitments we’re announcing today for the COVAX Facility, as well as the historic partnership we are forging with industry, we now stand a far better chance of ending the acute phase of this pandemic once safe, effective vaccines become available.”

The COVAX Facility is part of COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the World Health Organization (WHO) – working in partnership with developed and developing country vaccine manufacturers, UNICEF, the World Bank, Civil Society Organisations and others. 

The allocation of vaccines, once licensed and approved, will be guided by an Allocation Framework released today by WHO following the principle of fair and equitable access, ensuring no participating economy will be left behind. Policies determining the prioritization of vaccine rollout within economies will be guided by recommendations from the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE), which has recently released a Values Framework laying the groundwork for subsequent guidance on target populations and policies on vaccine use.  

“COVID-19 is an unprecedented global crisis that demands an unprecedented global response,” said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Vaccine nationalism will only perpetuate the disease and prolong the global recovery. Working together through the COVAX Facility is not charity, it’s in every country’s own best interests to control the pandemic and accelerate the global economic recovery.”

The commitment of fully self-financing economies will now unlock vital funding and the security of demand needed to scale up manufacturing and secure the doses needed for the Facility. CEPI is leading COVAX vaccine research and development work, which aims to develop at least three safe and effective vaccines which can be made available to economies participating in the COVAX Facility. Nine candidate vaccines are currently being supported by CEPI; eight of which are currently in clinical trials.

“This is a landmark moment in the history of public health with the international community coming together to tackle this pandemic. The global spread of COVID-19 means that it is only through equitable and simultaneous access to new lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines that we can hope to end this pandemic”, said Dr Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI. “Countries coming together in this way shows a unity of purpose and resolve to end the acute phase of this pandemic, and we must now work closely with vaccine manufacturers—who play an integral part in the global response—to put in place the agreements needed to fulfil COVAX’s core aim: to have two billion vaccine doses available by the end of 2021. Today, we have taken a great leap towards that goal, for the benefit of all.”

The success of COVAX hinges not only on economies signing up to the COVAX Facility and commitments from vaccine manufacturers, but also filling key funding gaps for both COVAX research and development (R&D) work and the Gavi COVAX AMC to support participation of lower income economies in the COVAX Facility.

Governments, vaccine manufacturers (in addition to their own R&D), organisations and individuals have committed US$ 1.4 billion towards vaccine R&D so far, but a further US$ 700-800 million is urgently needed to continue to move the portfolio forward in addition to US$ 300 million to fund WHO’s SOLIDARITY trial.

The Gavi COVAX AMC has raised around US$ 700 million from sovereign donors as well as philanthropy and the private sector, against an initial target of US$ 2 billion in seed funding needed by the end of 2020. Funding the Gavi COVAX AMC will be critical to ensuring ability to pay is not a barrier to accessing COVID-19 vaccines, a situation which would leave the majority of the world unprotected, with the pandemic and its impact continuing unabated.

The Commitment Agreements also commit higher income governments to provide an upfront payment to reserve doses by 9 October 2020. These funds will be used to accelerate the scale-up of vaccine manufacturing to secure two billion doses of vaccine, enough to vaccinate one billion people assuming the vaccine requires a two-dose regimen. Further details on these upfront payments are available in Gavi’s COVAX Facility Explainer

As well as procuring doses for participating economies, the COVAX Facility will also maintain a buffer of doses for emergency and humanitarian use.

What world leaders are saying

“COVID-19 poses serious health concerns to people everywhere, and that’s why Canada is committed to working with partners around the world to end the pandemic,” said the Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada. “Equitable, timely, and affordable access to a safe and effective COVID vaccine will be critical to help protect people’s health. Canada supports the objectives and principles of the COVAX Facility as the only global pooled procurement mechanism for countries to collaborate on this monumental undertaking. Our country is a part of this important global response.” 

“New Zealand’s commitment to the COVAX Facility supports access to vaccines against COVID-19 for other countries too,” said Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand. 

“COVAX and the idea of equal access to a COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of ability to pay, is not just a moral imperative, it is the only practical solution to this pandemic. Protecting everyone is the only way we can return our world – our trade, tourism, travel, business – to normal,” said the Honourable Dr Edwin G. Dikoloti, Minister of Health and Wellness for Botswana. “We urge those countries who have not yet signed up to do so. Let us work together to protect each other.” 

“Immunisation saves lives. Investing in immunisation infrastructure helps strengthen health systems. We have seen this time and again through our work with Gavi and Alliance partners,” said Dr Lia Tadesse, Minister of Health for Ethiopia. “By being a part of the COVAX Facility and the AMC we can continue this work and protect our citizens – and the world – against the impact of COVID-19.” 

“With COVAX, the world is joining forces and proving that together, we are stronger – and together, we can defeat this pandemic,” said Ekaterine Tikaradze, Minister of Health for Georgia. “Georgia will be joining the COVAX Facility to give our citizens the best chance at having access to safe vaccines. By doing this, we also make sure health care workers and other high risk persons all over the world have access to these life-saving tools, helping to bring the pandemic under control – and we can all recover and rebuild.”

“Joining the COVAX Facility was not a difficult decision – not only will this give Kuwaiti citizens access to COVID-19 vaccines as they become available, it will also mean our friends and partners outside our borders also get access,” said His Excellency Sheikh Dr Basel Humoud Al-Sabah, Minister of Health of the State of Kuwait. “We need a global solution to this global pandemic: we believe COVAX is that solution.”

What development experts are saying

“We believe international cooperation – a global effort – is key,” said Dag-Inge Ulstein, Minister of International Development for Norway. “We must continue to work for equitable access to vaccines, tests and treatments. To defeat the coronavirus pandemic, well-off countries need to act swiftly and boldly to make vaccines and treatments available to those who cannot afford to pay themselves. With the commitments to the COVAX facility we are heading in the right direction.”

“This is a hugely important initiative, which could offer us a path out of the acute phase of this pandemic and a return to normality,” said His Excellency Dr Ahmed Mohammed Obaid Al Saidi, Minister of Health of the Sultanate of Oman. “I would urge every country that has not yet done so to sign up, for all our sakes. It is far better for us to work together than apart.”

“The history of vaccines will be defined by our response to COVID-19; the COVAX facility is at the epicenter of this response. Industry is at the forefront in vaccines development and manufacturing leading to supplies of several billion doses within the next few years”, said Mr. Sai D. Prasad, President of the Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturers’ Network (DCVMN). “The COVAX facility will have a major impact on lives, livelihoods and accelerate the return to normalcy for countries. The DCVMN is fully engaged with its partners to enhance its mission of global public health and to leave no one behind.”       

“It is very encouraging to see so many countries move from talk to full commitment,” said Thomas Cueni, Director General of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (IFPMA). “The Facility can only work, and equitable access can only be achieved, if there is solidarity between rich and poorer countries. Today vaccine makers who have the unique skills and expertise to scale up manufacturing to levels never seen before, stand ready, together, to take up the challenge of providing two billion doses of yet unknown COVID-19 vaccines. This is no mean feat, as it requires doubling existing capacity in record time. Today, marks a significant step forward, and is a historic mark of solidarity which has the power to bring the acute phase of this pandemic to an end; and we are proud to be part of this unique endeavour to leave no one behind.”

“Uniting our efforts through COVAX must guarantee fair allocation and equitable delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine to those who need it most, and not just those who can afford it,” said Jagan Chapagain, Secretary-General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. “We all have a moral and public health imperative to protect the poor in rural communities as the affluent in cities, the old in care homes as the young in refugee camps. The power of our humanity and the success of COVAX will be measured by how we collectively protect the most vulnerable among us.”

“Global cooperation must be the cornerstone of our global response to COVID-19,” said Kevin Watkins, Chief Executive of Save the Children. “The COVAX Facility has the potential to help ensure universal and equitable access to future COVID vaccines. For this to happen, we need to ensure people in low- and middle-income countries get their fair share and can access the vaccines they need to help overcome the biggest public health and child rights crisis of our generation.”

“Seeing such unity in the face of the COVID-19 crisis gives us confidence that, together, we can ensure the equitable delivery of COVID vaccines globally,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “With our globe-spanning supply chain and on-the-ground presence across 190 countries, UNICEF is proud to support this historic effort.”

CDC says revised guidance on airborne coronavirus transmission was ‘posted in error’

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Monday that its revised guidance on airborne coronavirus transmission was posted in error.

“A draft version of proposed changes to these recommendations was posted in error to the agency’s official website. CDC is currently updating its recommendations regarding airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Once this process has been completed, the update language will be posted,” the agency said on its website.

“COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through close contact from person-to-person. Some people without symptoms may be able to spread the virus. We are still learning about how the virus spreads and the severity of illness it causes,” the agency added.

In a previous update posted on Friday, the CDC acknowledged that the novel coronavirus can be transmitted through the air at distances farther than six feet.

The agency said COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, can be contracted through droplets or small particles, such as those in aerosols like coughs and sneezes.

Several months ago, scientists urged the CDC and the World Health organization to acknowledge the disease was transmissible through the air.

The latest update by the CDC, the leading agency in the world, is a recognition that standing six feet apart is no guarantee a person would not be exposed to the coronavirus.

The CDC said airborne transmission is now thought to be the main way the virus spreads and that proper ventilation was important. The previous belief was that a person-to-person transmission was more common.

“There is growing evidence that droplets and airborne particles can remain suspended in the air and be breathed in by others, and travel distances beyond six feet (for example, during choir practice, in restaurants, or in fitness classes). In general, indoor environments without good ventilation increase this risk,” the agency wrote.

The agency recently also updated its guidance around testing for asymptomatic people after saying last August that asymptomatic people did not need to be tested, an update that, was against the recommendation of scientists.

The acknowledgement that the coronavirus virus can be transmitted more than six feet apart puts into question recommendations by health experts around the world to keep six feet distance to prevent the spread of the virus.

Nearly one million people have died worldwide, 200,000 people in the United States and around 34,000 people in Africa.

Nigerian President hails UN for fostering global peace and security for 75 years

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday hailed the United Nations for remaining true to the aspirations of its founders, saying the international organisation has continued to play the crucial role of fostering global peace and security.

The President joined world leaders at a virtual event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.

Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the UN for the first time convened world leaders in a virtual format for the High-level meetings and the annual General Debate.

Antonio Guterres
Antonio Guterres

In his video message to the UN at 75 event, President Buhari amplified Nigeria’s achievements at the UN since 1960 when the country officially joined the organisation.

He highlighted the country’s active contribution in human, financial and material resources to several United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, among other priorities.  

The Nigerian leader said:

”On behalf of the Government and people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I wish to express sincere felicitation to Member States for the giant strides taken towards achieving the objectives of the Organization thus far.

”Today’s celebration is a remarkable milestone in the history of the United Nations. It affords us the opportunity to review our progress and challenges as well as chart the course for our future.

”For over seven decades, the United ‘Nations has remained true to the aspirations of its founders. It continues to play a crucial role in fostering global peace and security. The Organisation has grown in membership and scope to reflect contemporary global trends.

”Collectively, we have improved and saved lives, as well as defended the rights of the vulnerable in adherence to the principles of the United Nations.

”More so, we have worked together to shelter refugees; foster development; invest in conflict resolution and peacekeeping; and promoted women’s and children’s rights. Moreover, we have jointly intensified the fight against deadly diseases such as Malaria, Ebola, Tuberculosis, and the Coronavirus pandemic.” 

On decolonisation, President Buhari called on Member States to abide by UN Resolution 1514 on the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples, warning that ‘‘the quest to realise total decolonisation remains incomplete as long as Non-Self-Governing territories continue to exist.’’

The Nigerian leader noted that beyond the spheres of peace and security, the United Nations had also played active roles in the decolonization of many territories.

”This was achieved through the adoption of many Resolutions that supported the independence and subsequent admission of over Eighty (80) territories into the Organization.

”However, the quest to realise total decolonisation remains incomplete as long as Non-Self-Governing territories continue to exist. In this regard, I call on Member States to abide by UN Resolution 1514 on the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples,’’ he said.

On Nigeria’s participation at the UN, President Buhari said the country has remained a reliable partner of the United Nations in its aspiration to achieve its mandate of a more peaceful, secure, and developed world.

”This year’s celebration is significant to Nigeria as it coincides with our Sixtieth (60) Anniversary of joining this esteemed Organization.

”As an active member of the Organisation, Nigeria has contributed human, financial and material resources to several United Nations Peacekeeping Operations.

”We have also provided humanitarian aid to refugees and displaced persons; helped countries in tackling diseases such as Ebola and extended both human and financial resources as technical aid to other countries.

”In addition, we have served on five occasions as Non-Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council and contributed significantly to the promotion of international peace and security,” he said.

The Nigerian leader added that in spite of progress made in safeguarding world peace and promoting global cooperation, the world is still faced with complex challenges.

”Efforts to address impediments for the attainment of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development were undermined by the advent of Coronavirus pandemic which brought about unprecedented challenges that cannot be tackled by any single country or region.

”The inward-looking tendencies exhibited by Member States in the wake of the pandemic have particularly revealed an urgent need for us to strengthen international cooperation, unity and solidarity to address all negative developments including climate change, violent extremism, natural disasters, and cyber-security.

”However, as we continue to battle the pandemic and search for possible solutions, including an effective vaccine, we implore nations to adopt a global approach in addressing the global health emergency in a bid to build the future we want. “

The President also used the occasion to emphasize the imperative of a fair and equitable representation in the Security Council, ”if we must achieve the United Nations we need.”

He said: ”The demand for the reform of the United Nations Security Council is just and a place for Africa in the very strategic Organ of the Organisation is long-overdue.

”In our collective effort to rebuild the United Nations of our dream, Nigeria reaffirms her commitment to upholding the principles of the United Nations including: Human Rights, Peace and Security, as well as Democratic governance.

”I, therefore, reiterate Nigeria’s rededication to multilateralism and the rules-based international system.

”It is my hope that this anniversary will encourage us to respond to the numerous challenges we face and support efforts aimed at building the United Nations System we desire.”

Trump administration details sanctions on Iran

The United States on Monday detailed its reimposed sanctions on Iran, which went into effect at 8 p.m. Eastern Time on September 19.

In a factsheet after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a briefing in Washington DC on Iran, the administration said the sanctions affect Iranians directly involved in “Iran’s accumulation of enriched uranium in excess of Iran’s commitments” and Iranians “who support Iran’s ballistic missile programs” as well as those who have been associated with “an Iranian organization that has played a key role in Iran-North Korea missile cooperation.”

Also included is Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics and what the administration tagged “the illegitimate dictator of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, under the new, broad sanctions authority pertaining to conventional arms related transfers to and from Iran that was issued by President Trump on September 21, 2020.”

The Trump administration announced on Saturday it had reimposed all United Nations sanctions on Iran, although 13 of the 15 U.N. Security Council members, including long-time allies Britain, Germany and France, have said the move is void.

Many diplomats at the UN headquarters in New York have also said few countries are likely to reimpose the sanctions on Iran, including an arms embargo that is due to expire on October 18, exactly 13 years after the U.N. Security Council imposed it in 2007.

The sanctions on Iran were lifted in 2015 under a deal between Iran, the United States, Britain, Russia, China and France. The deal, enshrined in a 2015 Security Council resolution, aimed to stop Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

But President Donald Trump repeatedly labeled it “the worst deal ever”, and in 2018, quit the accord reached under his predecessor Barack Obama.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who is currently leading in the polls, has said he supports the deal with Iran.

He’s not alone. At the UN Security Council last month, the Trump administration failed to extend the arms embargo on Iran, as other powers decided to stick with the accord.

In a statement in Washington D.C. on Saturday,  U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, said the sanctions on Iran took effect at 8 p.m. Eastern Time, on Saturday, October 19, 2020.

“Sanctions are being re-imposed on Iran pursuant to the snapback process under UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 2231,” Pompeo said in a statement received by TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington D.C.

The return to U.N. sanctions, or what Pompeo described as ‘snapback process’, would reimpose the arms embargo and require Iran to suspend all nuclear enrichment activities, ban Iran from developing ballistic missiles or import any product that could contribute to the development of nuclear weapons.

“The United States took this decisive action because, in addition to Iran’s failure to perform its JCPOA commitments, the Security Council failed to extend the UN arms embargo on Iran, which had been in place for 13 years.

“The Security Council’s inaction would have paved the way for Iran to buy all manner of conventional weapons on October 18,” Pompeo said.

“Fortunately for the world, the United States took responsible action to stop this from happening. In accordance with our rights under UNSCR 2231, we initiated the snapback process to restore virtually all previously terminated UN sanctions, including the arms embargo. The world will be safer as a result,” he added.

U.S. sanctions on Iran factsheet

SWEEPING U.S. MEASURES TO SUPPORT RETURN OF UN SANCTIONS RELATING TO IRAN’S NUCLEAR, MISSILE, AND CONVENTIONAL ARMS PROGRAMS

“Our message is very, very simple: the United States will never allow the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism to freely buy and sell planes, tanks, missiles, and other kinds of conventional weapons. These UN sanctions will continue the arms embargo.”

– Secretary Pompeo, August 20, 2020.

When we’ve seen any country violate our current sanctions, the current American sanctions, we’ve held every nation accountable for that. We’ll do the same thing with respect to the broader UN Security Council sanctions as well.
– Secretary Pompeo, August 19, 2020.

THE UNITED STATES IMPOSES SWEEPING MEASURES TO PRESSURE IRAN’S NUCLEAR, MISSILE, AND CONVENTIONAL ARMS EFFORTS

On September 19 at 8 p.m. Eastern time, virtually all UN sanctions on Iran were re-imposed. On September 21, to support these UN measures, the United States imposed sanctions on:

  •   Iranian persons directly involved in Iran’s activities that resulted in Iran’s accumulation of enriched uranium in excess of Iran’s commitments;
  •   Iranian persons on whom UN sanctions are being re-imposed; Iranian
    persons who support Iran’s ballistic missile programs and who have been associated with an Iranian organization that has played a key role in Iran-North Korea missile cooperation; and
  •   Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics and the illegitimate dictator of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, under the new, broad sanctions
    authority pertaining to conventional arms related transfers to and from Iran that was issued by President Trump on September 21, 2020. Now that virtually all UN sanctions have been re-imposed on Iran, stakeholders worldwide are warned that the United States will aggressively use U.S. sanctions authorities to impose consequences for failures to comply with the snapped-back UN measures on Iran and ensure that Iran does not reap the benefits of UN-prohibited activity. NUCLEAR-RELATED MEASURES In recent months, Iran has not only continued to engage in nuclear extortion by expanding its uranium enrichment program, but also failed to fully address multiple, separate questions raised by the IAEA about possible undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran. As a part of the fatally flawed nuclear deal, Iran made nuclear commitments that it has failed to uphold, including commitments related to the enrichment level of Iran’s uranium and the quantity of Iran’s enriched uranium, research and development involving advanced centrifuges, enrichment of uranium at the formerly clandestine Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant, and
  • accumulation of heavy water. These actions are unacceptable and underscore the continued threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program to international peace and security.

On September 19, as a result of a U.S. initiative at the UN, UN nuclear-related restrictions on Iran snapped back, including a binding obligation on Iran to suspend all enrichment-related activities.

Today, the Departments of State, Treasury, and Commerce took coordinated action to increase pressure on Iran’s nuclear program as a part of addressing this threat from the Iranian regime.

The Department of State designates, pursuant to E.O. 13382 (WMD Proliferators and Their Supporters), Hamid Reza Ghadirian and Ahmad Asghari Shiva’i, who are centrally involved in Iran’s uranium enrichment centrifuge operations.

Hamid Reza Ghadirian is a Group Director in the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran
(AEOI). Ghadirian has supported the installation of advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges and has supported the installation of uranium enrichment centrifuges that are used to increase Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile. Ghadirian has arranged for the delivery of items needed to assemble Iranian centrifuges and has supervised centrifuge testing activities to ensure such centrifuges would work as intended. Ghadirian has participated in Iranian centrifuge operations that have resulted in Iran accumulating a stockpile of low enriched uranium in excess of that permitted by Iran’s JCPOA commitments.

Ahmad Asghari Shiva’i is the head of the TESA (the Iran Centrifuge Technology Company) Kashan Complex. In 2011, the State Department designated TESA pursuant to E.O. 13382. The TESA Kashan Complex, of which Shiva’i is the head, is located at AEOI’s Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility and is responsible for uranium gas centrifuge machine assembly, installation, and startup.

The Department of the Treasury designates, pursuant to E.O. 13382, Pezhman Rahimian, Behrouz Kamalvandi, the Nuclear Science and Technology Research Institute (NSTRI), Mesbah Energy Company, the Advanced Technologies Company of Iran (IATC), Javad Karimi Sabet, and Mohammad Qannadi.

Pezhman Rahimian is AEOI Deputy Head for Raw Material and Nuclear Fuel and the Managing Director of Iran’s Nuclear Fuel and Raw Materials Production Company. Rahimian has been involved in activities related to domestic manufacturing of fuel for Iranian nuclear reactors.

Behrouz Kamalvandi is the spokesman for AEOI. Kamalvandi has played a central role in Iran’s nuclear extortion, including threatening Europe that if it did not help Iran, then Iran would cease performing its nuclear commitments such that nothing would remain of the nuclear deal. NSTRI has research schools and laboratories related to plasma physics, nuclear fusion, and nuclear physics and accelerations.

Mesbah Energy Company is responsible for Iranian heavy water production.

UNSCR 2231 removed a number of individuals and entities from the UN sanctions list. During the five years that followed the adoption of UNSCR 2231, the Security Council failed to uphold

its mission maintaining international peace and security with regard to Iran, and not a single individual or entity was designated for sanctions under UNSCR 2231 during this five-year period. Today, to underscore that the U.S. will use our authorities to reinforce vitally important sanctions imposed by the UN, the Treasury Department is designating Javad Karimi Sabet and Mohammad Qannadi, upon whom UN sanctions were reimposed on September 19.

Javad Karimi Sabet is an AEOI Deputy Head and the head of NSTRI. Among his responsibilities, Sabet works on nuclear fuel research.

Mohammad Qannadi is the AEOI Deputy Head of Nuclear Planning and Strategic Supervision.

NSTRI, Mesbah, and IATC are being designated for being owned or controlled by
AEOI. Sabet, Kamalvandi, Rahimian, and Qannadi are being designated for acting for or on behalf of AEOI.

The Department of Commerce adds five Iranian nationals to the Commerce Department’s Entity List, which imposes specific U.S. license requirements for the export, reexport, or transfer of specific items. Specifically, Ahmad Nozad Gholik, Behnam Pouremadi, Hamid Sepehrian, Mojtaba Farhadi Ganjeh, and Sayyed Javad Ahmadi are being added to the Entity List for nuclear-related activities that are contrary to the national security and/or foreign policy of the United States.

Behnam Pouremadi, Hamid Sepehrian, and Mojtaba Farhadi Ganjeh are associated with Iran’s Jabber Ibn Hayan Laboratory (JHL), an AEOI lab that was designated by the UN Security Council in resolution 1803. Pouremadi has sought to acquire sensitive equipment and materials for AEOI using deceptive practices and obfuscation techniques. Ganjeh has worked with overseas Iranian procurement agents to acquire sensitive nuclear-related items, including Western items. He has also traveled overseas for training and has sought to obtain information in support of AEOI technical questions. Ahmad Nozad Gholik is associated with an AEOI subsidiary that implements various projects in the nuclear field and has worked with overseas Iranian procurement agents to procure sensitive items, including items that can be used in spent nuclear fuel reprocessing. Sayyed Javad Ahmadi is an AEOI employee who has traveled overseas for nuclear-related meetings.

MISSILE-RELATED MEASURES

Iran’s development and proliferation of ballistic missiles poses a critical threat to global security. The pace of Iran’s missile launches and tests did not diminish after the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2231, which weakened UN restrictions on Iran’s missile program. On the contrary, Iran continues to prioritize its missile force development. In the past year and a half, Iran has launched over 50 ballistic missiles. Iran has provided missile capabilities to its partners and proxies in the region.

On September 19, as a result of U.S. action at the UN, legally-binding restrictions on Iran’s missile program, including an obligation for Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology, were snapped back.

The Department of the Treasury designates two Iranian missile officials and updates the sanctions listings for another Iranian missile leader and key Iranian missile organization. One of Iran’s Aerospace Industries Organization (AIO)’s subordinate organizations is the UN-designated Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group (SHIG), which is in charge of liquid-propellant ballistic missile development.

Treasury is targeting this threat by designating Asghar Esma’ilpur and Mohammad Gholami pursuant to E.O. 13382. Esma’ilpur has served as the Director of SHIG’s Shahid Haj Ali Movahed Research Center. He is currently a senior official in Iran’s AIO. Mohammad Gholami was a long-time SHIG Shahid Haj Ali Movahed Research Center senior official. Both Esma’ilpur and Gholami participated in and supported the launch of a space launch vehicle that was launched with support and assistance from North Korean missile specialists.

Treasury is also updating the sanctions listing for SHIG’s Shahid Haj Ali Movahed Research Center, which was designated pursuant to E.O. 13382 on January 17, 2016. SHIG’s Shahid Haj Ali Movahed Research Center is also known as SHIG Department 7500 and is responsible for the integration, final assembly, and testing of liquid propellant ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles. The Shahid Haj Ali Movahed Research Center has played a key role in Iran-North Korea missile cooperation. Treasury is also updating the sanctions listing for Seid Mir

Ahmad Nooshin, who was designated pursuant to E.O. 13382 on January 17, 2016 and who was previously the Director of SHIG and now serves as the Director of Iran’s Aerospace Industries Organization. As the Director of SHIG, Nooshin was key to negotiations with the North Koreans on long-range missile development projects.

Treasury also designated a network of two entities and three individuals associated with the provision of support to SHIG. Iran-based Mammut Industries and Mammut Diesel are key producers and suppliers of military-grade, dual-use goods for Iran’s missile program. Since the early 2000s, Mammut Industries has supported the production of ballistic missile equipment for Iran’s AIO and SHIG. As of late 2019, Mammut Industries continued to support SHIG’s production of ballistic missile equipment. Also being designated today are Mehrzad Ferdows, an owner and the CEO of Mammut Industries; Behzad Ferdows, another owner of Mammut Industries; and Mohammad Reza Dezfulian, who has acted or purported to act for or on behalf of Mammut Diesel.

CONVENTIONAL ARMS-RELATED MEASURES

Iran has continued to defy the international community by providing arms to groups abroad in contravention of the UN arms embargo, including to terrorist organizations and Iranian partners across the Middle East, such as in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, and Bahrain. These groups use Iranian weapons, training, and funding to destabilize the region and spread violence. In addition to Iran’s violation of the arms embargo with regard to Iran’s support for armed groups, Iran has also continued to use its arsenal of conventional weapons to directly destabilize the Middle East, including Iran’s brazen September 2019 attack on Saudi Arabia.

On September 19, as a result of U.S. action at the UN, the arms embargo with regard to Iran that was set to expire in October was extended indefinitely.

On September 21, 2020, President Donald J. Trump signed a new Executive Order “Blocking Property of Certain Persons with Respect to the Conventional Arms Activities of Iran” that provides a specific, durable authority to counter Iran’s conventional arms acquisitions, Iran’s indigenous manufacturing programs, and Iran’s ability to support paramilitary organizations with arms and materiel.

Secretary Pompeo designates Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL), Iran’s Defense Industries Organization (DIO) and its director Mehrdad Akhlaghi-Ketabchi, as well as the illegitimate dictator of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, for having engaged, or attempted to engage, in activity that materially contributes to the supply, sale, or transfer directly or indirectly to or from Iran, or for the use in or benefit of Iran, of arms or related materiel, including spare parts.
For nearly two years, the corrupt Iranian and Venezuelan regimes have flouted the UN arms embargo. The two states have continued to exchange defense delegations and have spent significant resources to develop plans, which likely have progressed to include arms sales. The relationship between Iran’s Defense Industries Organization and its Director Mehrdad Akhlaghi- Ketabchi, the Iranian Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, and Venezuelan officials led by the illegitimate dictator of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, are the basis for this most recent scheme. Our placing sanctions on Maduro today is a warning that should be heard clearly worldwide: no matter who you are, if you violate the UN arms embargo on Iran, you risk sanctions.

President Ramaphosa to reaffirm South Africa’s commitment to UN as agency clocks 75

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday will reaffirm South Africa’s commitment to the United Nations as the agency clocks 75.

The President leader is participating in a number of virtual sessions of the 75th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA75) from September 18, 2020, to October 2, 2020.

75 years since its formation the United Nations has pivotally led global efforts in areas of health, climate change, governance, human rights and the development of international law. In ensuring the stability of the world it carries out political mediation, peacekeeping, conflict prevention and resolution. 

“The commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations is an opportunity for reflection on the work of the United Nations and an overview of its successes and challenges,” the presidency in South Africa said in a statement.

The commemoration will outline the importance of multilateralism in addressing development, human rights, peace and security.

President Ramaphosa will also participate in selected sessions in his capacity as Chairperson of the African Union.

Owing to the coronavirus pandemic, UN Secretary-General António Guterres and 75th President of the UN General Assembly, Mr Volkan Bozkir of Turkey, organised this year’s activities virtually under the theme: “The Future We Want, the UN We Need: Reaffirming our Collective Commitment to Multilateralism.” 

On Tuesday, September 22, 2020, in his Capacity as the African Union (AU) Chairperson, President Ramaphosa will address the opening day of the General Debate of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. 

The President will assert the continent’s position on global and continental peace, security and development’s challenge and outline the African Union’s programme of action in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and achieving the goal of Silencing the Guns. 

South Africa is in its final year of its term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and will take up the Presidency of the Council in December 2020. 

South Africa’s activities at UN75 detailed below

In collaborative effort to enhance and maintain multilateralism, South Africa will partake in the following High Level Meeting during the course of UNGA75:

• G7 Partnership for Women’s Digital Financial Inclusion in Africa and the UN Sustainable  Development Solutions Network. High Level virtual Panel
Date: Wednesday, 23 September 2020

• High-level meeting of the UN Security Council to be held under theme: “Global Governance and post-COVID-19
Date: Thursday, 24 September 2020

• High-level meeting on Financing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the era of COVID-19 and beyond
Date: Tuesday, 29 September 2020

• The Summit on Biodiversity 
Date: Wednesday, 30 September 2020

• High-level meeting of the General Assembly on the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women
Date: Thursday, 01 October 2020

• High-level meeting to commemorate the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons
Date: Friday, 02 October 2020

Proceedings at the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly can be followed on UN Web TV (http://webtv.un.org/)

South Africa deputy president Mabuza submits written replies for oral questions in the national assembly

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On September 3, 2020, the National Assembly passed a motion to allow outstanding Oral Replies by the Deputy President to be submitted as Written Replies. 

Deputy President Mabuza has subsequently submitted the replies to questions by members of the National Assembly in written form. The replies that the Deputy President has submitted were based on questions relating to among others, the Moral Regeneration Movement in post Covid-19 South Africa, coordination between the three spheres of government for successful service delivery, and government procurement in stimulating township and rural economy.

In his response to a question relating to collaboration between the three spheres of government for improved service delivery, Deputy President Mabuza pointed out that although the Constitution is clear on interdependence and interrelatedness of the three spheres of government, in certain areas misalignment and patterns of working in silos have persisted often resulting in inefficient patterns of infrastructure investment and blurred lines of accountability, thus making it difficult for monitoring and oversight of government programmes.

However, after several years of implementing programmes aimed at improving service delivery and of maximising the impact of interventions on communities, lessons that point to a need for more deliberate efforts at collaborating and coordinating across the three spheres of government, have been learnt. 

It is for this reason that the District Development Model was launched to serve as a vehicle for promoting cooperative governance. This is intended to accelerate, align and integrate development under a single and inclusive plan in each district. The model also supports other structures to achieve policy coherence across all three spheres, these include the President’s Presidential Coordinating Committee together with SALGA. 

Another vehicle for achieving collaboration and coordination for improved service delivery, is the Inter-Ministerial Committee on service delivery chaired by Deputy President Mabuza that is tasked with providing political oversight and leadership to ensure that key development priorities are developed and implemented within the framework of the District Development Model. 

Deputy President Mabuza also responded to a question from the official opposition, about his role as Patron of the Moral Regeneration Movement. In his response to a statement issued by the Moral Regeneration Movement about government’s COVID-19 response, the Deputy President was emphatic that government’s position is clear and unrelenting that corruption in all its forms and manifestations must be completely eradicated. 

In this regard, Deputy President Mabuza acknowledged that various programmes of the Moral Regeneration Movement must go deeper into interrogating the root causes of social ills that continue to plague society. These programmes must also seek to address the deep inequalities that exist in our society that further manifest in acts of sexism, patriarchal tendencies and economic exclusion of women, which if not addressed, will undermine the agenda of building a cohesive and united society.

“We therefore support those programmes of the Moral Regeneration Movement that seek to build the nation and enhance social cohesion in line with the vision of a new society, as articulated in our National Development Plan. Such a society should be caring, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and grounded on ethical values”, said Deputy President David Mabuza. 

In assisting the President with the coordination of interventions to stimulate and support rural and township economy, Deputy President Mabuza reminded members that government remains steadfast in transforming townships and villages from labour and consumption reserves into thriving productive investment hubs that contribute to broader economic transformation of previously marginalised communities.

In this regard, some of the measures include initiating a process to modernise and automate public procurement system to enhance oversight and reporting, as well as address fragmentation of procurement systems across spheres of government and entities in order to enable effective participation into the mainstream economy of Historically Disadvantaged Individuals, especially women and youth.

“Failure to adequately empower women and capacitate youth, compromises efforts and campaigns dedicated towards social cohesion and nation building”, said Deputy President Mabuza.  

Coronavirus can be transmitted through the air at distances farther than six feet, U.S. CDC says

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance at the weekend to acknowledge that the novel coronavirus can be transmitted through the air at distances farther than six feet.

The agency said COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, can be contracted through droplets or small particles, such as those in aerosols like coughs and sneezes.

Several months ago, scientists urged the CDC and the World Health organization to acknowledge the disease was transmissible through the air.

The latest update by the CDC, the leading agency in the world, is a recognition that standing six feet apart is no guarantee a person would not be exposed to the coronavirus.

The CDC said airborne transmission is now thought to be the main way the virus spreads and that proper ventilation was important. The previous belief was that a person-to-person transmission was more common.

“There is growing evidence that droplets and airborne particles can remain suspended in the air and be breathed in by others, and travel distances beyond six feet (for example, during choir practice, in restaurants, or in fitness classes). In general, indoor environments without good ventilation increase this risk,” the agency wrote.

The agency recently also updated its guidance around testing for asymptomatic people after saying last August that asymptomatic people did not need to be tested, an update that, was against the recommendation of scientists.

The acknowledgement that the coronavirus virus can be transmitted more than six feet apart puts into question recommendations by health experts around the world to keep six feet distance to prevent the spread of the virus.

Nearly one million people have died worldwide, 200,000 people in the United States and around 34,000 people in Africa.

Buhari urges Kaduna indigenes to live as brothers and sisters for peace and development

President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday urged Kaduna State indigenes to cooperate with government and security agencies to secure peace and harmony, stressing that development will only take place when energies are collectively channelled to building, instead of destruction of lives and property.

“We must live together as brothers and sisters because without peace, development cannot take place,’’ the President noted at virtual opening of the Fifth Kaduna Economic and Investment Summit, with the theme KADInvest 5.0, Infrastructure, Industrialisation and Innovation.

“I wish to commend the efforts of the Kaduna State Government to establish its credentials as one of the new investment destinations of choice in Nigeria. These efforts have received just recognition in the response of the business community which has put in new investments in the state.

“This is a further affirmation of the ranking of the state as Number One for Ease of Doing Business by the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2018. I call on the Kaduna State Government to keep up these laudable efforts and surpass the impressive results already attained,’’ President Buhari said.

He noted that the success of state governments in attracting investments, creating jobs and increasing their internally generated revenues would be critical to the development of the entire country.

“Therefore, I am impressed that the Kaduna State Government has from inception used KADInvest as a serious platform for showcasing its investment potentials. The state’s commitment to consistent implementation of the Ease of Doing Business Charter is exemplary, including its ability to increase its Internally Generated Revenue to N44bn in 2019 from N13bn in 2015 without hiking tax rates. This is very laudable.’’

The President congratulated the Kaduna State government for making KADInvest a regular fixture on the investment calendar, held annually since 2016.

“It is a fitting statement of the resilience of the Kaduna State Government that it is able to host the 2020 edition amidst the severe disruptions to the normal order caused by Covid-19. This is the sort of determined focus that can help the country to navigate the challenging consequences of the pandemic.

“It was my pleasure to commission the Olam Hatchery and Feed Mill project in 2017, about 18 months after the ground-breaking was done at the first edition of KADInvest in 2016. It is commendable that investors like Tomato Jos are creating jobs in the agribusiness sector, taking advantage of Kaduna State’s prioritisation of agriculture. 

“I also note with delight the success of new investments in renewable energy like Blue Camel and tractor assembly and the revitalisation of poultry farms across the state. The ongoing development of iron mining and steel processing capacity in the state through investments by African Natural Resources and Mines Limited is especially commendable.’’

President Buhari said the Federal Government will continue to support efforts to attract job-creating investments.

“We believe that much can be done at the sub-national level to drive human capital development and expand economic opportunity. I note with delight the massive investments in infrastructure upgrade Kaduna State is executing through the urban renewal programmes in Kaduna, Kafanchan and Zaria.

“Given the track record since 2015, I have no doubt that the Kaduna State Government and its private sector partners will take full advantage of the economic windows that are being opened by Federal Government investments such as the Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano gas pipeline.

“The state government should afford full cooperation and support to cross-border federal projects such as the Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano pipeline and the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Highway.’’

Coronavirus deaths near one million globally and 34,000 in Africa

About 34,000 people have died from the novel coronavirus in Africa, and close to one million people around the world, and the World Health Organization has been warning in recent weeks that the pandemic is far from over.

The death toll in Africa, a continent of more than 1.3 billion people, has not been as severe as was forecast back in April.

Still, more than 1.4 million people have contracted the deadly bug in the continent, and close to 34,000 of them have died, according to the latest tally by the Africa Center for Disease Control released on Monday morning.

Most people who contracted the coronavirus in Africa have recovered, about 1.1 million out of 1.4 million, the data show.

However, the virus has been so unpredictable that many health experts warn against complacency, especially because at least 73 countries are seeing a surge in newly detected cases.

There are also worries in the northern hemisphere and regions where cold weather is approaching that a mixture of the common flu and the coronavirus could be deadlier.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Head of World Health Organization
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Head of World Health Organization

In the United States, almost 200,000 people have died from the virus and more than 6.3 million cases have been recorded. The U.S. represents only about 5 percent of the world population, but has recorded a staggering 20 percent global deaths.

In Africa, South Africa has had nearly 16,000 deaths, more than half of all the fatalities in the continent, followed by Egypt with nearly 6000 fatalities.

On Sunday, Microsoft founder Bill Gates praised Africa’s response to the novel coronavirus but warned against collateral damage, including a drastic increase in extreme poverty.

Mr. Gates said the COVID-19 pandemic has “had huge setbacks”, and in some cases, has erased “literally decades of progress”, including a drop of 14 percent of vaccination rates in developing countries. He estimated that the pandemic has erased about 20 years of progress, resulting in many other collateral damage, including mental health and education.

Bill Gates
Bill Gates

In an interview on “Fox News Sunday“, Mr. Gates said Africa has kept the number of COVID-19 infections and fatalities down compared to what was forecast by international agencies, including the United Nations.

Last April, the UN projected in a report that about 300,000 Africans would die from the novel coronavirus.

The United Nations Economic Commission of Africa (UNECA) estimated that at least 300,000 Africans were going to die from the virus and 29 million could be pushed into extreme poverty.

Bill Gates said those projections have not come to pass when it comes to the virus itself, although about 37 million people have been pushed back into extreme poverty.

“The actual death toll in the poorest countries, including most of Africa, has actually not been super high. The population is very young, and other than South Africa, the numbers have been less than was forecast,” Mr. Gates told Fox News’ Chris Wallace.

But he lamented that because of the fragility of Africa’s health system, which has made it difficult for children to be vaccinated during the pandemic, more children are now at risk of malaria and diarrhea.

“Both the vaccination rates have gone down by over 14 percent, which takes us back in time over two decades,” he said, adding that extreme poverty which has been going down in the past few decades, has gone up again, sending around 37 million people back in extreme poverty.

“The breadth of the negative impact – mental health, education, economic, and other health things, not just COVID directly, are more greater than I expected before we started to pull the report together,” he said.

“It really underscores that really we’ve got to bring this pandemic to an end, not just in a few rich countries, but the entire world,” Mr. Gates told Mr. Wallace.

He said once the pandemic is brought under control, it would take ‘special efforts’ to build back on that positive track.

Gates’ interview came as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is giving $650 million to fight the disease, the largest commitment by any independent foundation.

The money, he said, is mainly going toward ensuring that once vaccines are approved, they are able to be manufactured for poor countries as well as more developed countries like the United States.

“We’re helping seed some R&D money very quickly for the best vaccine approaches, and then making sure that, when we get a vaccine, it’s not just for the rich countries,” Gates told Chris Wallace.

Africa CDC Director Dr. John Nkengasong in a panel discussion at the Global Health Security Agenda Ministerial Meeting in Kampala, Uganda.
Africa CDC Director Dr. John Nkengasong in a panel discussion at the Global Health Security Agenda Ministerial Meeting in Kampala, Uganda on June 7, 2016.

Globally, nearly 31 million people have contracted the deadly bug and over 958,000 people have died, according to the Johns Hopkins University virus tracker.

Africa is not being left out of the race for a vaccine, and late last week, the Regional Expert Committee on Traditional Medicine for COVID-19 formed by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and the African Union Commission for Social Affairs endorsed a protocol for phase III clinical trials of herbal medicine for COVID-19 as well as a charter and terms of reference for the establishment of a data and safety monitoring board for herbal medicine clinical trials.

“Just like other areas of medicine, sound science is the sole basis for safe and effective traditional medicine therapies,” said Dr Prosper Tumusiime, Director of Universal Health Coverage and Life Course Cluster at WHO Regional Office for Africa.

“The onset of COVID-19, like the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, has highlighted the need for strengthened health systems and accelerated research and development programmes, including on traditional medicines,” said Dr Tumusiime.

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa. Photo by: WHO
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa. Photo by: WHO

A statement said “the endorsed technical documents are aimed at empowering and developing a critical mass of technical capacity of scientists in Africa to conduct proper clinical trials to ensure quality, safety and efficacy of traditional medicines in line with international standards.”

“Phase III clinical trials are pivotal in fully assessing the safety and efficacy of a new medical product. The data safety and monitoring board will ensure that the accumulated studies data are reviewed periodically against participants’ safety. It will also make recommendations on the continuation, modification or termination of a trial based on evaluation of data at predetermined periods during the study,” read the statement received by TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington DC.

Dr Tumusiime said if a traditional medicine product is found to be safe, efficacious and quality-assured, WHO will recommend for a fast-tracked, large-scale local manufacturing, adding that through the African Vaccine Regulatory Forum, there is now a benchmark upon which clinical trials of medicines and vaccines in the region can be assessed and approved in fewer than 60 days.

“The adoption of the technical documents will ensure that universally acceptable clinical evidence of the efficacy of herbal medicines for the treatment of COVID-19 are generated without compromising the safety of participants,” said Professor Motlalepula Gilbert Matsabisa, the Expert Committee Chairman. He voiced hope that that the generic clinical trial protocol will be immediately used by scientists in the region to ensure that people can benefit from the potential of traditional medicine in dealing with the ongoing pandemic.

The 25-members of the Regional Expert Advisory Committee on Traditional Medicine for COVID-19 are tasked with supporting countries to enhance research and development of traditional medicine-based therapies against the virus and provide guidance on the implementation of the approved protocols to generate scientific evidence on the quality, safety and efficacy of herbal medicines for COVID-19.

The Committee members are from research institutions, national regulatory authorities, traditional medicine programmes, public health departments, academia, medical and pharmacy professions and civil society organizations of Member States.

On September 10, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told world leaders Africans must not be left out when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines development and distribution.

“It is essential that African countries benefit from the vaccines being developed,” Mr. Ramaphosa said in remarks at the inaugural meeting of the Facilitation Council of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator simply known as ACT-Accelerator, a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.

President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses 73rd Session of World Health Assembly President Cyril Ramaphosa and as the African Union Chair chairs virtual 73rd Session of the World Health Assembly (WHA). President Ramaphosa was invited to participate as a guest alongside the United Nations Secretary-General, H.E Mr Antonio Guterres; the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, H.E Angela Merkel; the President of the Republic of Korea, H.E. Mr Moon Jae-in, and the Prime Minister of Barbados, H.E. Mia Amor Mottley. Taken on May 18, 2020
President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses 73rd Session of World Health Assembly President Cyril Ramaphosa and as the African Union Chair chairs virtual 73rd Session of the World Health Assembly (WHA). President Ramaphosa was invited to participate as a guest alongside the United Nations Secretary-General, H.E Mr Antonio Guterres; the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, H.E Angela Merkel; the President of the Republic of Korea, H.E. Mr Moon Jae-in, and the Prime Minister of Barbados, H.E. Mia Amor Mottley. Taken on May 18, 2020

COVAX is the vaccines pillar of the ACT Accelerator. It is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and WHO. Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.

It is a clever initiative as it allows countries and scientists around the world to work together for a common goal rather than pursue individualistic ones that may not be very effective. It also pulls resources together, allowing scientists with good ideas but no money to thrive.

For the initiative to work, countries around the world have to fund it. However, only about 10 percent of fundings needed have been received so far, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, revealed at his regular press briefing from Geneva on Thursday.

Mr. Ramaphosa called on countries around the world to support and fund the ACT-Accelerator, insisting that Africans must just be the recipients of vaccines, but must take full part in their developments.

“The clinical testing of the vaccines needs to include African populations to ensure that the vaccines are appropriate for Africans. 

“We cannot achieve universal health coverage when the COVID-19 vaccine is available only to countries that are well resourced in terms of research, manufacturing, distribution and service,” Ramaphosa told the inaugural meeting of the Facilitation Council of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator that had in attendance Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr António Guterres, Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, President of the European Commission, Dr Ursula von der Leyen, Prime Minister of Norway and Co-Chair of the Facilitation Council, Ms Erna Solberg, Chair of NEPAD and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda.

He said:  “As long as someone in the world has the new coronavirus, however remote they may be, we are all at risk from the resurgence of COVID-19. 

“We therefore need to move swiftly to ensure everyone has access to a vaccine at the same time. 

“Countries must together support current global initiatives to fund COVID-19 vaccines. 

“We should use all available infrastructure to conduct research to find safe and effective vaccines. 

“The efforts by WHO to enable collaboration among scientists to conduct clinical trials is very welcome. 

“We all need to support these global efforts because they are likely to massify the availability of vaccines that are appropriate for specific locations and populations. 

“We must also incentivise vaccine development, especially for pharmaceutical companies. They may be concerned that it will not be profitable. 

“As some have already done, governments may need to subsidize the development of vaccines as an incentive to ensure fast and adequate production. 

“As a global community, we must encourage people to participate in safe clinical trials of different vaccines. 

“The ACT-Accelerator is vital to the achievement of these goals. 

“It offers us the requisite tools at the speed and scale needed and an equitable mechanism to distribute them.

“Now that it is a proven, functioning mechanism, we must waste no time in rallying to support it with the political and, crucially, the financial resources it needs to succeed. 

“As South Africa and on behalf of the African Union, we look forward to this cooperation and working with all States and partners to achieve our collective objectives.”

Africa must have permanent seat on UN Security Council, South African president says ahead UN75

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will urge leaders gathering virtually for the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly to grant Africa, a continent of more than 1.3 billion people, a permanent representation on the UN Security Council.

“As South Africa, we will use our virtual presence in New York to continue to advocate for Africa – a continent of more than a billion people – to have permanent representation on the UN Security Council,” Mr. Ramaphosa said in his weekly letter to South Africans on Monday.

“To resolve our global challenges – be they health emergencies, transnational crime, conflict and war, climate change, migration or natural disasters – we must work together. It is only through multilateralism that we can forge common strategies for the benefit of all.

“We therefore need to strengthen bodies like the UN, ensure they are properly resourced and that they are representative. We must use this anniversary to push ahead with the reform of the UN and particularly its Security Council, which does not give equal voice to the different regions of the world. As South Africa, we will use our virtual presence in New York to continue to advocate for Africa – a continent of more than a billion people – to have permanent representation on the UN Security Council,” he wrote.

Mr. Ramaphosa would also push for a more inclusive world, especially the inclusion of women around the globe.

“We recognize that global peace is not just about a world free of conflict, but one free of poverty, inequality and underdevelopment. It is a world of inclusive economic growth and shared prosperity. By providing all the world’s people with the means to live secure and productive lives, we are laying the best foundation for peace and stability.

“One of the greatest challenges to the achievement of this goal is the continued exclusion of half of the world’s population through discrimination and marginalization,” he wrote.

Every year, heads of state and government travel to the UN headquarters in New York to address the General Assembly. But this year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the gathering is taking place virtually.

Ramaphosa praised the initiative, saying leaders were “using technology to bridge the distance between the capitals of the world.”

Read his full remarks below

Dear Fellow South African,
 
The United Nations will this week begin the 75th session of its General Assembly, where the nations of the world gather to seek collective solutions to global challenges.
 
In any other year, heads of state and government would travel to the UN headquarters in New York to address the General Assembly. But this year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, this gathering is taking place virtually, using technology to bridge the distance between the capitals of the world.
 
As South Africa, we will be addressing the General Assembly by videoconference from the Union Buildings and will be participating in several other meetings.
 
This is an important moment for the United Nations. It is 75 years since its formation following the destruction of the Second World War. The countries of the world were determined that never again should such a human tragedy be allowed to happen. They believed that through an organisation like the UN, the world’s problems could be peacefully resolved through cooperation.
 
As the world confronts another global crisis, this time caused by a virus, the United Nations remains as important and relevant as ever.
 
The UN has played a vital role in supporting cooperation among countries and international organisations like the World Health Organisation as they have worked to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. It has focused attention on the most vulnerable countries and those parts of society most badly affected by the pandemic.
 
Importantly, the UN has enabled countries to focus on the work that needs to be done to not only to rebuild economies, but to do so in a manner that advances the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
 
The UN is leading the effort to ensure that the world that emerges from COVID is better, fairer and more peaceful.
 
In the 75 years of its existence, the UN has proven the value of cooperation and solidarity.
 
To resolve our global challenges – be they health emergencies, transnational crime, conflict and war, climate change, migration or natural disasters – we must work together. It is only through multilateralism that we can forge common strategies for the benefit of all.

We therefore need to strengthen bodies like the UN, ensure they are properly resourced and that they are representative. We must use this anniversary to push ahead with the reform of the UN and particularly its Security Council, which does not give equal voice to the different regions of the world. As South Africa, we will use our virtual presence in New York to continue to advocate for Africa – a continent of more than a billion people – to have permanent representation on the UN Security Council.
 
We recognise that global peace is not just about a world free of conflict, but one free of poverty, inequality and underdevelopment. It is a world of inclusive economic growth and shared prosperity. By providing all the world’s people with the means to live secure and productive lives, we are laying the best foundation for peace and stability.
 
One of the greatest challenges to the achievement of this goal is the continued exclusion of half of the world’s population through discrimination and marginalisation.
 
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Conference on Women, which placed the emancipation of women firmly on the global agenda. It is a valuable opportunity to not only review the progress made over the last quarter century, but most importantly to clearly outline the actions we must now take to ensure that women occupy their rightful place as equals in all areas of life in all societies.
 
For Africa, this means, among other things, that we must intensify measures to empower women economically. This is in line with the African Union decision to dedicate this decade to the financial inclusion of women. We therefore welcome the opportunity later this week to take part in a panel of G7 and African countries on women’s digital financial inclusion in Africa. It will look at how women can take advantage of technological advances to start businesses, trade and find meaningful employment.
 
There is much that can be achieved by ensuring that women have greater access to affordable financial services and education. This should take place alongside other measures we are pursuing on the continent, such as efforts to increase the portion of public procurement set aside for women-owned businesses.
 
Our message is that unless women are brought into the mainstream of the economy they will continue to bear the brunt of exclusion and be vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Our message is that a world that empowers women is a prosperous and sustainable world.
 
This sitting of the UN General Assembly must also address the climate change crisis. As the world rebuilds in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic we have an opportunity to place the global economy on a low-carbon, climate resilient path. We should be building green economies, not just for the sake of environmental sustainability but because of the opportunities for job creation and growth.
 
This pandemic has presented the world with a choice – between the global cooperation envisaged in the UN Charter or the pursuit of narrow self-interest. It is a choice between prosperity for all or for a just a few.
 
At the 75th UN General Assembly, the leaders of the world have an opportunity to begin rebuilding a new global order based on justice and equality.
 
By drawing on the spirit of solidarity, friendship and unity of purpose that has long defined the United Nations, we will set a clear path towards lasting peace and sustainable development.
 
Best regards,

Cyril Ramaphosa

Woman accused of sending poison ricin letter to President Trump arrested

A woman suspected of sending an envelope containing the poison ricin to President Donald Trump has been arrested, The Associated Press quoted three law enforcement officials as saying.

The officials said the yet to be identified woman was arrested at New York-Canada border and was taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Peace Bridge border crossing near Buffalo. Officials said she was expected to face federal charges.

The letter appeared to have originated in Canada Canada, the Royal Canada Mounted Police said. It was intercepted before it reached the White House at a government facility that screens mail addressed to the White House.

Officials in the United States said it tested positive for lethal poison ricin.

Again, Obasanjo’s sermon on Nigeria – Perspectives by Abiodun Komolafe

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Nigeria’s former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, will not stop amazing Nigerians! In yet another in the series of what could be described as ‘speaking truth to power’, Obasanjo recently berated the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration for mismanaging the country’s diversity. According to him, “old fault lines that were disappearing have opened up in greater fissures and with drums of hatred, disintegration and separation and accompanying choruses being heard loud and clear almost everywhere.”

Well, Obasanjo may, perhaps, have made more than enough enemies – in and outside this country – for himself, it will be unwise to ignore the ‘weighty message’ bothering on nation building and survival, which he has brought up at this critical time of our national existence. To begin with, we can’t deny the fact that Nigeria, as we speak, is bleeding, and in need of urgent and all-encompassing attention! As a matter of fact, the whole country would have been adjudged dim-witted if wise counsels like the one in discourse are discarded simply because the bearer of the counsel is a certified rogue. 

Looking at the merits of his arguments, have Obasanjo’s accusers realized that those issues he raised can be supported by true empirical facts, which have nothing to do with sentiments? For example, if the former president said that Nigeria “is fast drifting to a failed state”, is she not, already? If she is not at the moment, is she not speedily on her way towards becoming a pariah state? If he said that the country’s political actors have raped democracy, has it not been raped? If OBJ, as he is fondly called, described dear country as “becoming a basket case and poverty capital of the world”, for God’s sake, isn’t the picture on ground looking even gloomier? Is Nigeria not currently seated, comfortably, as the 6th miserable, and the 3rd poorest nation on earth? Is she not in bottom 10 in child flourishing, of course, below Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and South Sudan? On the Global Corruption Index, is she not146th?

In a country that is deeply buried under the rubbles of COVID-19, and inflation rate is currently at 13.22%, the highest jump since October 2016; where bread can no longer be regarded as the staple food of the common man; and, where fuel price and electricity tariff have moved from where they were to where they ought not to have been; ditto for Value Added Tax (VAT), the odds are starkly against the government. For a government that is said to have lost 65% of its national revenue, these are the issues to think about, neither claptraps about the messenger, nor motion-without-movement, medicine-after-death, dead-on-arrivalassurances that can’t assuage the anger and frustrations of the people.

Matter-of-factly speaking, it is not enough to identify problems or look at the solution from a grandiose, political end. Hence, the philosophy of what works! Yes, what Nigeria needs at a time like this are concerted efforts that can blur political, selfish interests, and subsume everything under national interest! It is only then that Nigeria can survive. Whether we like it or not, Obasanjo has opened the Pandora box. Let those who have ears hear and meditate on what ‘Balogun Owu’ has said to the nation! That he has even “opened his big mouth” again is not the issue here. Whether or not he was once found wanting as a former president may neither be too relevant nor have significant bearing on what’s on ground. His mouth may even be too small but, should the man collapse and die today, history will vindicate him for sounding the right alarm, forewarning Nigerians of imminent danger. 

So, it’s time even the “garrulous and coarsened functionaries and sectarian opportunists”dropped their political toga and worked in the national interest. But if we think the way out lies in myopic, sectional paths, then, Nigerians had better go their separate ways effortlessly (if that’s possible). The other alternative that is already looking very feasible is catastrophe! One can only pray it would not get to that!

My heartfelt gratitude!

Again, losing a father and confidant can be emotionally traumatizing. That I am, therefore, heartbroken as a result of the passage of my father, Pa Sunday Alaba Komolafe, is to say the least. 

To this end, let me seize this opportunity to express sincere gratitude to those, who, through personal calls and condolence messages, showed me solidarity and empathized with me during the trying period. In this list include: Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, former Governor of Osun State, and Professor Adebayo Williams. Also among them are ‘Wole Olanipekun, SAN; Tola Adeniyi; Babafemi Ojudu; and Victor Ifijeh, Managing Director, Vintage Press Limited.

However, the most pleasant gesture came from my state governor, Mr. Gboyega Oyetola, who was physically present, more or less, by representation, using Charles ‘Diji Akinola, his quick-witted Chief of Staff. The governor, who, majority of the good people of Osun believe is on the right path in governance, even with less or low noise, yet outstanding achievements, found time to send comforts to my family. Mr. Governor, I’m grateful sir. With your current silent revolution of repositioning the state, Nigerians are quite optimistic that, by the end of your first four-year, and second tenure, Osun would have soared beyond the Next Level, looking forward to our El Dorado!

Rt. Hon. Timothy Owoeye, Speaker, Osun State House of Assembly, who is also from my base, also supported me. Bunmi Obeisun, Chairman, Oriade Local Government, Ijebu-Jesa, was physically present to make sure that the burial passage was a success story.

My thanks also go to His Royal Majesty, Oba Moses Agunsoye, the Elegboro of Ijebu-Jesaand the paramount ruler of Egboroland. The foremost traditional ruler led some other traditional rulers to the occasion. Kabiyesi, k’ade pe lori! Ki bata pe lese! Igba odun, odun kan!

The Rt. Reverend Isaac Oluyamo (Bishop, Ijesa North Anglican Diocese); the clergy and the laity of Ijesa North and Osun Anglican Dioceses; and, of course, Olukayode Akinyemi, the retired Archbishop of Kwara Anglican Archdiocese), you have my deepest thanks.

Gboyega Famodun, Osun APC Chairman; Ajibola Famurewa, Executive Chairman, Osun SUBEB; Remi Omowaye, Commissioner for Works, Osun State; Jamiu Olawumi, Special Adviser to the Governor on Education; Olawale Oshun, Oluwatomilayo Aloba, IJGS (’85 Set); SP Taiwo Olugbemileke, the Divisional Police Officer (DPO), Ijebu-Jesa, and others too numerous to mention, you all made my day.

May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, repose the soul of my departed father!

*KOMOLAFE writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria (ijebujesa@yahoo.co.uk; 07087941459 – SMS only)

abiodun KOMOLAFE,

O20, Okenisa Street,

Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State.

Aisha Buhari sends relief materials to flood victims in Kebbi State

In continuation of the distribution of palliatives to communities affected by the recent flood disaster across the country, First Lady, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Mrs. Aisha Muhammadu Buhari dispatched a team consisting of her Aides and officials of Future Assured to Kebbi State to deliver the relief materials and commiserate with the victims. Kebbi state is known to have many flood prone communities because of the presence of three major rivers; the recent flooding, however, affected communities in all the 21 Local Government Areas. Some of the communities visited by the team included Kalgo, Bagudo, Zagga, Jega, Makera (Birnin Kudu), and Argungu.

Speaking on behalf of the First Lady at Jega town in Jega local government area, Aliyu Abdullahi, Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity (Office of the First lady) conveyed Mrs. Buhari’s message of sympathy over the losses they incurred during the disaster which deprived the affected communities their shelters, farmlands and properties. The First Lady prayed to God to compensate for the losses they incurred. “As a mother, I am particularly concerned with the plight of women and children during such disasters”, said Mrs. Buhari.

Mr. Abdullahi assured all the affected communities that they are on the mind of the First Lady at this trying time.

Mrs. Buhari under her Future Assured Program sent large quantities of relief materials that were distributed amongst the affected communities in order to assuage the impact of the losses the communities incurred. This includes food items such as Rice, Vegetable Oil and other edibles, clothing materials, toiletries and blankets.

Chairman of Jega Local Government, who witnessed the distribution along with traditional rulers, Alhaji  Adamu Isyaku Kimba spoke at the occasion, expressing the appreciation of the people of Jega over the kind gesture of the First Lady, saying she has lived up to her title as the mother of the nation. He said the people of Jega would remain grateful for her kind gesture.

In the same vein, His Excellency, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, the Executive Governor of Kebbi State also extended his gratitude and appreciation to Mrs. Buhari and her Future Assured Program for always being there for the people of Kebbi State.

INTERVIEW: Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Maria Bartiromo of Fox News Sunday Morning Futures

Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Maria Bartiromo of Fox News Sunday Morning Futures

September 20, 2020

Plano, Texas

QUESTION:  Secretary, good morning to you.  Thanks very much for being here.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Maria, it’s great to be with you.  Thanks for having me on the show this morning.

QUESTION:  I want to discuss the magnitude of this agreement in a moment, but first I do want to get your thoughts on Justice Ginsberg’s passing this morning.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Well, we always mourn the loss of life.  She was an amazing, hardworking woman committed to her vision of America.  We pray for her and her family.  And her service to America is unquestionable.  She was doing her best every day to try to deliver on the things she cared about deeply, and she had a real impact on our country. 

QUESTION:  She sure did.  And there’s such conversation this morning about that impact.  Secretary, I want to ask you about this incredible Middle Eastern situation, the significance of Tuesday’s signing, how it will make the Mideast better.  Walk us through how this all came about.  Why now?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah, so that’s the right question.  These overnight successes, as you know, Maria, in life are from years of hard work.  For three years President Trump has taken a fundamentally different approach.  The establishment Middle East policy was that you had to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians first.  The President came to understand quickly that the real threat to these countries was the Islamic Republic of Iran, so we flipped the narrative.  We worked to deliver a coalition to get the Gulf states to work together, to convince them that they could, in fact, work alongside and partner with and do commerce with the state of Israel and recognize them, and that they would be safer, their people would be more prosperous.  Those are the central underpinnings. 

It then took action.  It took principled action on behalf of President Trump and our administration to convince them that the Americans would be there.  And whether that was the decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem, to acknowledge that the Golan Heights properly belonged to Israel – all things previous presidents had just said were nuts, that you couldn’t do.  It was against the establishment’s vision for how to create stability in the Middle East.  And then the work that we did to kill Qasem Soleimani and take down an enormous threat to everyone in the region. 

I think those things gave these Middle Eastern states the trust, the confidence that the United States would stand behind its commitments, and it created the space for not one but two agreements, the first two in over a quarter of a century, between Israel and the UAE and between Israel and Bahrain, that will make the lives better for each of the peoples of each of those three countries.  It’s really quite a momentous day.  We hope there’s more to follow.

QUESTION:  And American negotiations have tried this for years, decades, and with no success.  What was it about this administration’s prodding, this administration’s laying out the potential for peace and progress, that really moved the needle here, and are there other countries lining up to perhaps engage in a similar deal to normalize relationships with Israel? 

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yes, Maria, there will be other countries that will make the right decision to recognize that Israel has its right to exist, and they’ll want to do business with them, and they’ll want to connect with them, and they’ll want their people to have exchanges.  I saw the number of LinkedIn exchanges between the United Arab Emirates and Israel – off the charts the day after this announcement.  The people of those countries understand that this historic rejection of Israel, its right to exist, was the wrong thing to do, so I think you’ll see more nations follow and make the right decision.

What created the opportunity was the recognition that the way to create stability was to make Iran more isolated, and we’ve done that.  It’s been talked about how America has been isolated in the region.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Israel has now more partners, more friends.  The United States now has more partners and more friends in the region than at any time in recent history, and they did that because they came to trust President Trump and his team would be there with him, would do the right thing by them, and that we would support them when they made the right decision to recognize the state of Israel. 

QUESTION:  Are you expecting retaliation of any sort from Iran, and what has been the reaction from the leaderships of these countries in the face of pushback from Iran?  Are they getting bullied by the Iranian officials? 

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Well, remember there’s two things going on.  One, we have this peace deal, and then last night at midnight the UN sanctions snapped back, putting another increasing restraint on the capacity for the Islamic Republic of Iran to create harm in the Middle East.  We now – the United States has led and will prevent arms trafficking by Iran.  It was – the previous deal with Secretary Kerry and Vice President Biden signed off on was to allow the Iranians on October 18th, just a couple of weeks from now, to traffic in weapons again.  It’s nuts, absolutely nuts.  We stopped that.  We stopped it last night with action at the United Nations.  We’ll talk more about that tomorrow.

But Iran has been fomenting terror in the region for 40 years since the revolution.  There’s no reason to expect that in the short run they have any way of getting out of the box and changing their ideology and their theocratic, kleptocratic nature.  What President Trump has said is we’re going to deny them the resources.  We’re not going to send crates of cash.  We’re not going to allow them to do business in the world.  We’re not going to allow them to create the very wealth that destroys the opportunity for peace in the region.

I’ll give you another example.  Everyone wants Lebanon to get better.  President Macron is leading an effort there.  And yet the Europeans have not joined us in stopping arms trafficking.  Those weapons – those weapons that Iran will sell – will end up in the hands of Hizballah and make life tragically worse for the people of Lebanon. 

The world needs to unite around the central idea that the Islamic Republic of Iran is the greatest threat, and when that regime changes its behavior, we have the chance to create true global stability in the region.  It’s what we’ve been working on.  It’s what President Trump asked us to do.  And now, three years in, we can show the fruits of that effort. 

QUESTION:  Yeah.  I mean, where is Europe in this?  Similar situation as it relates to China.  You’ve got 30 countries pushing back on Huawei and we’re still waiting on any resolution in Europe.  Same with Iran.  Can you talk about that a bit and just give me the practical changes that we’ll see as a result of this snapback in sanctions on Iran?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So the second question as a practical thing, there’ll be a whole lot more things that would have taken place absent the UN Security Council resolutions coming back into effect last night – arms sales, tanks, air defense systems.  All of those in a couple of weeks would have been permitted to have been sold. 

And the Europeans have not joined us in this.  They know we’re right.  They tell us privately we don’t want the arms sales to come back.  Indeed, they’ve put in a letter that they are very concerned about these arms sales, but they haven’t lifted a finger.  They haven’t done the work that needs to be done.  They have no option, no alternative to what we’ve done, to ensure that that doesn’t happen.  I hope they’ll join us.  I hope they’ll get to the right place.  They’re still wedded to this silly nuclear deal that was signed now five years ago.  I hope they will come to understand that if you really want to lead, if you want to be part of a global coalition to reduce risk in the Middle East, then you need to join us.  We need these sanctions to snap back. 

Europe is getting better, Maria, with respect to how they’re thinking about China.  We spent a couple years just sharing the risks with them.  We’ll begin an EU-China dialogue before too terribly long, where we’ll begin to have conversations about how we can together put down this threat from the Chinese Communist Party that it presents to the freedom, to religious freedom, to commerce and trade – all the things that Western nations value, all the value sets that we hold.  We’ll push back, and I am hopeful that the Europeans will get onboard.  Many of the countries have already.  I hope the larger ones will join us in this as well.

QUESTION:  Well, you’ve done an incredible job on this.  Real quick before you go, China.  And you’ve spoken about this so much over the last several years, and you have been the first administration because of your work, the President’s work, on pushing back on the bad behavior of China.  They’re still doing business with Iran. 

And now the President is giving his blessing to this deal between TikTok, Oracle, and Walmart.  Can you explain how this is not a national security risk, Secretary, because ByteDance, the Chinese company, still are going to own 80 percent of this TikTok Global, and we know that if the Chinese company – the Chinese Communist Party wants that data of American citizens, they’re going to get it given the civil-military fusion laws in China?  So how is this not a risk?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah, Maria, this – you’ve nailed the right point with respect to WeChat, TikTok, and all other Chinese telecommunications companies.  We’ve been working on Huawei for years now. 

The single rule is this:  We don’t want American data in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party for the exact reasons you’ve described.  It will end up in the hands of their MSS, their security apparatus, their military, their civil-military fusion programs.  So that’s the rule President Trump laid down. 

As with the transaction around TikTok, I’ve seen the outlines of it.  The President now has said he is conditionally okay with what they’re doing.  This deal, if approved in the end, if ultimately approved, will ensure that no American’s data has any access to anyone in China that has any capacity to move this to a place we don’t want it.  We will ensure that that firewall is real, that the protection is serious, that the data resides in places that aren’t connected to the Chinese information system. 

Whether there is still some Chinese ownership or they still collect a royalty check from the benefits of the business, there will be an American headquarters.  It will be controlled by Americans.  And the data – most importantly, the data, the very reason we have gone after TikTok – that data will be in a place that we have confidence that no American will have the risk that their data will end up in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.

QUESTION:  Not accessible by the company that owns 80 percent of the franchise?  ByteDance, a Chinese company?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Think about oil deals.  I used to do oil deals all the time.  I didn’t have any access to the company’s information.  I just got a royalty check, right?  That’s the situation, just a passive shareholder who collects money and/or writes a check if the company is not doing well.  No access to the company, no decision-making authority, to ability to peer into what they’re doing; just a passive shareholder.  And President Trump has made clear he will make sure that this is solid, that it is locked in.  He’s not going to leave open the possibility this information will get into the hands of the very people that we went after this to make sure they did not have. 

QUESTION:  Secretary, it’s great to see you this morning.  Thanks so much for your leadership, sir.  We appreciate your time today.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Thank you, Maria.  Have a good day.

QUESTION:  See you soon, and to you.  Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

REMARKS by Secretary Michael R. Pompeo And Pastor Jack Graham at Prestonwood Baptist Church: “Keeping Faith in the Public Square”

MR GRAHAM:  Well, I am so happy to be able to introduce to you Secretary of State of the United States of America Mike Pompeo, who first and foremost in his resume – and you’re about to hear an incredible resume – but first and foremost, he is a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ and a believer in our savior.  (Applause.)

He was born out in California and ultimately landed at West Point, and he graduated at West Point first in his class at this great United States Military Academy, in 1986.  (Applause.)  He then – he then served as a cavalry officer patrolling the Iron Curtain before the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Imagine that.  And he also served with the 2nd Squadron of the 7th Cavalry in the U.S. Army’s 4th Infantry Division.  So thank you for our service there, Mr. Secretary.  And then he returned to the United States and entered Harvard, and he graduated from the Harvard Law School having been editor of the Harvard Law Review.  He ultimately ended up in Kansas – back in Kansas – where he began a business, an oil and gas business, and he spent some time out in west Texas and east Texas.  And while he is back to the great state of Texas, this Trump administration is taking really good care of the oil and gas business and we here in Texas, we really appreciate that, don’t we?  (Applause.)  They get it.

Ultimately, Secretary Pompeo ran for Congress out of Kansas and he was elected to the U.S. Congress and he served on very important committees, including Energy and Commerce and the House Select Benghazi Committee.  That must have been extremely interesting.  It must have prepared him for his next assignments in God’s call upon his life, which was the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA – America’s top spy.  Mike.  (Laughter.)  Mike Pompeo.  That was my James Bond effort right there.  (Laughter.)

But so – and then he was sworn in as our great Secretary of State April 26th, 21 – 2018.  And he has served with distinction as America’s chief ambassador, top diplomat.  It’s a vital position.  If you know your civics, you know that’s – that’s third in line to the presidency of the United States.  That’s how close this is.  He has the Cabinet.  And I’m so glad that he does because he is a man with integrity, commitment, devotion to our country.  And Mr. Secretary, you are among great friends today at Prestonwood Church.  Let’s all welcome together Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.  (Applause.)

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Good morning.  Good morning, everyone.  What a glorious welcome.  I think I’m going to take that choir with me wherever I go.  (Laughter.)  Good things would surely follow.

Pastor Graham, thank you for having me here today.  It’s been delightful to get to meet you.  First Lady, nice to see you.  My wife Susan and I for these past months, much like many of you, haven’t been able to go to church.  We’ve been streaming our home church, Eastminster Presbyterian up in Wichita, Kansas, just a couple hours up I-35 from here.  It’s not the same thing as gathering with our fellow believers.  Those people at Eastminster are near and dear to our hearts.  They’re our friends, the people we love to worship with.  I was a deacon there.  That was my first entry into politics.  (Laughter.)  And then I taught fifth grade Sunday School.  Susan and I taught a class together there for a number of years.  I would try and teach the boys scripture, which has been perfect to become Secretary of State.  (Laughter.)  Fifth-graders and tyrants around the world share certain common characteristics.  (Laughter.)  Having once had a fifth-grade boy myself, I was ready.

It – look, it put an enormous smile on my face to come in here today, to see the parking lot full of big trucks and to see the pews filled with Christian believers, followers of Jesus.  This is the America that I know and the America that I love.  It’s great to be with you all here today.

Just a little over three years ago, I was the director of the CIA.  I was traveling to a pretty difficult, dark place in the world.  I was – climbed off the airplane.  It was in the middle of the night.  Came down the steps and an older gentleman reached out his hand to me and we shook hands, and into my hand he placed a small palm-sized Bible, kind of tattered.  I grabbed it.  I didn’t know exactly what it was.  I thanked him, said hello, and hopped on into my vehicle.  I got in the – got in the car and opened it up, and there was a note from him inside the Bible.  It said, “Mr. Director, you have been a light to me and to the world.  Bless you.”  I later learned that he was a State Department employee.  I had no idea that someday I would lead his team.  But I did know that for at least one person at that moment in time, I had been a beacon, I had been a light, I had shone for him.

I tell you this story because this is what I want to talk about today.  It’s not because of something that I did.  I tell you that story because it tells each of us about how we have a responsibility to model Christian behavior and to be a light unto the world.

I am now America’s most senior diplomat.  I travel the world.  I meet with people of many, many faiths.  How America leads in the world is being watched.  And there is an absolute responsibility to make sure that they understand our founding as a Judeo-Christian nation.  And I believe deeply, with all my heart, that faith – faith in the public square, for each of us – faith in the public square is not only lawful, but righteous.  That faith is not only powerful but required by the American tradition.  And especially – especially in these challenging times, keeping faith in the public square is not simply acceptable, but it’s an imperative.  Our President believes that and the senior leaders of America believe that, and we every day strive to help all of us, for all of us who have a responsibility to keep faith in the public square, whether that’s at home or at work or on soccer fields with our kids or at a PTA meeting.  Wherever we may find ourselves, this is essential.  It’s an essential part of the American tradition.

I know I’m in Texas.  I know some of you think it’s a country.  I know it’s not.  (Laughter.)  My team reminded me that, sir, you’re headed to Guyana, Suriname, Brazil, Colombia, and then you’re going to Texas.  (Laughter.)  And the original press release said “five countries, five days.”  (Laughter.)  It is an enormous privilege to serve as Secretary of State and a blessing – a blessing that none of us should forget that the good lord has bestowed upon us and that our founders enshrined in our documents, our core documents for us and preserved for us this right that comes not from governments.  The fact that we are human beings; our founders recognized that.  And these men – these amazing men back 240-plus years ago – enshrined it in our core documents that faith would in fact be in the public square.  We need to live up to that each and every day.

They knew.  They came from different faith walks themselves, but they knew.  They knew that each of us had human dignity because we were – because we were created in the image of God.  That certainly counts for us in America, but it counts for all people.  It was George Washington who wrote, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”  Think about that.  They were fighting a revolution.  They were working to build out a nation.  And they turned to those central ideas upon which to build.  They put protection of human dignity and human freedom at the heart of our founding documents.  They knew that religious freedom, the capacity to worship in the way that you wanted, was central to the well-being of a nation.  And to this day – to this day, while imperfect, America reflects this.  Our State Department, the work that we do all across the world must reflect this as well.

I’ll give you a good example from just this week.  I was in the northern part of Brazil, on the – near the Venezuelan border, and the refugees were fleeing from the brutal Maduro regime.  And you saw Americans there, some of them working for the government, but many there volunteering.  There was mission work taking place as well, providing humanitarian assistance help and a thoughtful prayer for those people who were in such difficult conditions.

We know – we know America is at its best when faith is in the public square.  We defend human rights inside of our borders and outside of our borders like no other nation in the history of civilization.  And we’re not perfect.  We get it wrong sometimes.  Indeed, in America, our – some of our greatest failings have been when we didn’t acknowledge the place that faith must play in our lives. 

In America, we have a very broad understanding.  If you have no faith and that is your choice, we rightly don’t permit a national government to establish a state religion.  But everyone in this room knows what nations look like when religious freedom is stomped out and faith in the public square is eliminated. 

There’s examples that are ongoing today.  We see what’s happening in places like Cuba.  Pastor Graham spoke about the fact that I served as a young soldier on the West German–East German border.  I sat in my tank and I could see the sullen faces of the East German people who lived in a communist police state.  We know the horrors of Adolph Hitler and his godless regime. 

Today, sadly, millions and millions of people still live under regimes that want to banish faith from the public square, or any of notion of God from basic civic life. 

Today, perhaps the most egregious example is the Chinese Communist Party.  Today in the western part of China, a place that none of us might know, a place called Xinjiang, more than a million Chinese have been forced into internment camps, being surveilled 24/7, forced sterilizations, forced abortions, today, in the world in which we inhabit.  They are submitted – subjected to torture, and worse.  It’s part of the Chinese Communist Party’s constant attack on faith.  It’s a war on faith that’s been happening for decades.  The United States for the first time in many years is taking this on under President Trump in a serious way. 

Earlier this summer, I read a pleading message from a Chinese woman whose husband is a pastor imprisoned in China.  She wrote to me, quote, “Beloved brothers and sisters… I earnestly ask for your prayers for me and for my family.  It has been over six months since [my husband] has been incarcerated.  At first, he would make phone calls, I’d hear from him from prison.  He would let me know that he is okay.  Now, the remaining hope that I have is painfully small, and my hope every day is to receive a three-minute phone call.  All I have left is prayer.”

We should be mindful of our responsibility, our duty, our obligation, and our capacity to keep our faith, our light in the public square.

As Christians we’re called to do that.  We have that responsibility.  It’s fundamentally American too.  We should pray.  That’s the first of all things.  I feel prayers.  I get notes from people who say they’re praying for me.  I can feel it.  My wife, my son, we all appreciate it. 

Of course, too, you should keep supporting the missionaries that come from your church and from others.  They’re doing remarkable work.  I see it as I travel all around the world.  They are bringing salt and light to some of the darkest corners of the world.  But you can also do it in simple ways.  In every interaction that you have, whether you’re at church or at a Bible study, at your work, or wherever you may find yourself, exercise your right to religious freedom.  Be open.  Be clear about who you are. 

Imagine millions of Americans of faith – all faiths – exercising these freedoms every day.  The cumulative effect is massive.  And it would empower me as the Secretary of State of the United States of America.  You will be telling the world who we are as a nation.  And too, you’ll give nations that are torn apart by religious conflict hope that people of different faiths can live in unity.  This is something we do here that is uniquely American.  We can pass that on all around the world.

If you hide your light in an open society like ours, that sends a terrible message to places that are more difficult, who have trouble or who are threatened if they choose to be bold in their faith.  I’d urge every one of you to use your precious freedoms to do big things for our country alongside of doing big things for our kingdom.

Now, the world is watching us, and there will be naysayers.  There will be critics.  If you speak up about your faith, it is undoubtedly the case that someone will suggest that that’s not the right thing to do.  But don’t be discouraged.  It means you’ve got conviction and that you showed it. 

I know this firsthand.  I’m not a victim, but I’ve seen it.  A previous national security advisor said that it was “problematic” that Mike Pompeo is “overtly religious.”  The New York Times wrote a piece that my wife still gives me trouble about.  It said – it says, quote, “no Secretary of State in recent decades has been as open and fervent as Mr. Pompeo about discussing Christianity and foreign policy in the same breath.”  (Applause.)

My son, Nick, who’s almost 30 now, his primary function in life is to keep me humble.  (Laughter.)  He read that and texted me.  He says, “Well, how many breaths are you supposed to take between the two?”  (Laughter.)  A reasonable question from a wonderful young Christian believer.

Look, connecting faith to America’s foreign policy is an imperative.  It’s important.  It’s a good thing.  I was reminded of that just this week, just this past week on Tuesday.  On Tuesday I was at the White House for a ceremony.  The leaders of two Muslim nations made peace with the Jewish state of Israel.  (Applause.)  Many things that we did enabled that.  The President made the decision to recognize this biblical land and Jerusalem as the rightful capital of that nation.

But in the end, those leaders, both in public and in private, made very clear that they were adamant that their faith was at the center of this accomplishment, what it is we were collectively able to achieve.  Even though these nations had and likely will have disagreements on many things for time to come, I am confident that their faith was what drove them to be able to get to the right place to make these good decisions for both of their peoples.  It is no coincidence that the historic agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Israel and Bahrain are known as the Abraham Accords.

Now, I know that God’s name can be invoked for evil, but we should welcome it when leaders across the world feel bound by a higher power, feel bound by a higher power to pursue harmony with other nations.  It’s a glorious thing.  It’s a deeply Christian thing.  Faith strengthens American diplomacy.  It doesn’t diminish it.

More good news.  I’m not the only one at the State Department that believes this.  Recently a group of light-shiners who work at the State Department started the first ever faith-based employee affinity group at the State Department.  One of the faith group’s leaders came to me and she said, “Mike, before you arrived, we did not think it wise to gather around our belief in Jesus.  Now, because of you, we know we must show the value added by people of all faiths to the State Department mission.”  What a glorious thing.  The right heart.  (Applause.)

So don’t let anybody tell you that faith is disconnected from who we are as Americans.  As I travel the globe from Israel to India, from South Korea to Senegal, world leaders always talk to me about their faith.  And they tell their people about their faiths too.  It’s at the center of lives all across the world.  Indeed, it is in the places where faith is suppressed or targeted for total erasure that we see brutality and evil and where humanity is most oppressed.

We have a special responsibility to keep faith in the public square here in the United States of America.  Look, I have this great blessing.  I get to carry out this mission, this privilege to serve as America’s 70th Secretary of State.  It’s only because of God’s grace in my life that I have had this chance.  I keep on a table over on the right-hand side of my office a Bible.  I try to dig into the Word each and every day.  It’s a little harder as I get busier.

I use – there’s an elevator I ride every day into work.  It’s about 20 seconds.  I use that to bow my head and set myself for the day to pray when I’m in Washington.  It’s consistent with what the Bible tells us in Galatians Chapter 6 Verse 9.  It reads, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” 

Look, I know these times are difficult.  We’re getting our churches and our schools back open.  This is fantastic.  We will do this good work alongside the Lord.  We have great help.  It is his “power [that] is made perfect in weakness.”

So here at Prestonwood, my friends, and everywhere else, don’t ever give up shining the light.  Don’t ever walk away from an opportunity to put faith in the public square.  Do walk with the Lord.  And keep at it.  Stay true.  Keep believing.  All of us together will make this nation a light unto the world.

Thank you for letting me be here today.  May God bless each and every one of you.  (Applause.)

MR GRAHAM:  Thank you so much.  Just what we wanted to hear and needed to hear, knew we would hear coming from you.  I was just wondering – tell us a little bit more about how you got this Christian worldview.  We’re in a worldview series right now talking about how we see the world through the lens of scripture, and I know that you have a worldview that is Christian and biblical, clearly.  You’ve shared that.

How did that start for you?  How did you come to know Christ in a personal way?  You shared a little bit about that in the earlier service.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah, a little more so.  I grew up in southern California.  I went to church.  But I was going to be an NBA basketball star.

MR GRAHAM:  There you go.  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah.  So – but when I headed off to the United States Military Academy, in my freshman year there were two older cadets – they would have both been juniors, if I recall correctly – who were holding a bible study, and they offered cookies.  I was all in.  (Laughter.)

But more seriously, they brought me to Jesus and they taught me how to read the Bible.  My walk with the Lord really began with them, and it has been with me ever since.  And my faith grows as I travel around the world and I watch people.  I’ll have people come tug on my sleeve and thank me for being a Christian, for being a leader.  It reminds me of the centrality of who Jesus Christ is in my life, the responsibility that I have to share that each time I get an opportunity to do so, and reinforces my faith and understanding that it is only through him that good things will happen in the world.

MR GRAHAM:  It’s really incredible for – to see how President Trump has surrounded himself with people like Mike Pompeo who are believers and followers of Jesus.  (Applause.)  Like Mike Pence, who you know quite well from the Midwest, Betsy DeVos, Ben Carson, of course, and our own Governor Rick Perry, who is here, now retired from the Cabinet.  But it’s very important for us who are believers and followers of Jesus that we know people who are leading our country seek God and seek God’s wisdom, and thank you for doing that.

And this man’s light shines, and I can tell you up close and personal he’s warm, he’s winsome, just as he appears here.  Thank you for being so genuine in your faith and open about your faith.  That’s an inspiration for every one of us.  If the Secretary of State of the United States of America can be an ambassador for Christ first, then I know we all can as well.

One of the key issues for us thinking about world view and our view of the world and the Bible is the sanctity of life.  And you see it because life is valuable, because life is created by God, as you talked about.  We believe life is sacred and that we are therefore very much pro-life.  We – from the womb to the tomb, all the way through.  That’s why we started two pregnancy centers plus a mobile unit.  We’re saving babies and we say, Mr. Secretary, that we are pro-life in our beliefs and pro-love in our actions.  And that’s salt and light that’s being – making a difference.  That’s being an ambassador.

Tell us your views on life and the sanctity of life.  I know you have some.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So you all have the right end of the stick on this, and that’s important.  Never walk away from that.  Never round edges on that central issue of human dignity and protecting every human life.

I get a chance to work on this now all around the world.  We are an enormously generous nation.  We provide humanitarian assistance all across the globe to some of the most difficult places, and we do real good.  It is unfortunate that from time to time, under certain administrations, some of that money goes to underwriting the termination of life, to abortions.  This President has said no, we’re not going to do that.  And I, as the Secretary of State, get the chance to enforce that.  We underwrite these places.  We have to make sure that no U.S. taxpayer dollars, none of the money that you provide, will ever go to funding an organization that is connected to abortion.  (Applause.)

MR GRAHAM:  How many of you know that we have a Supreme Court vacancy now?  And we are at the tipping point on the issue of life in America.  We really are.  I believe – I tell young people all the time – you hear a lot about millennials.  I say, “You can be the generation that ends this holocaust in America,” and we’re getting close.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Amen.

MR GRAHAM:  And we need to pray for our President as he appoints the next justice of the Supreme Court, pray that God will give him wisdom and that that will go well.

Let’s talk a little bit more about the Middle East.  I know – in fact, we’ve met I think somewhere along the way, but I got to sit down with the President – with the Secretary, rather, and a few other Christian leaders in your office, in your conference room actually.  And we talked about the situation in Jerusalem and moving the embassy there, but beyond that trying to create some kind of an agreement with the Arab nations and Israel.  We had a time of prayer.  The Secretary expressed his heart and intentions on that and now, as you mentioned, it’s happening.  It’s happening with this recent agreement, the Abraham agreement. 

Can you tell us a little bit more, a little inside scoop on some of that?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  The Abraham Accords are the classic overnight success that took forever.  (Laughter.)  There had been so much work, and the President had made this such a priority.  He first laid out his vision for peace in the Middle East.  We then recognized that, in the end, the problem wasn’t the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis that was driving so much of the harm.  It was the threat from Iran.

And when we made that shift, that we said we’re going to defend and we’re going to work with the people of Israel, we’re going to build our coalitions that respect and honor them and recognize their right to exist, that was the thing that unlocked the key that gave us this incredible opportunity.  And now truly remarkable leaders of multiple faiths have said we recognize Israel’s right to exist; it is indeed the Jewish homeland, but we’re going to partner with them.  We’re going to work with them.  We will pray together.  Right?  Those of you who had the privilege to travel to Israel have seen, right?  You’ve been to the Temple Mount.  You’ve seen al-Aqsa Mosque.  You’ve seen where these three religions come together. 

And we now have an enormous opportunity to build out on what happened this week and hopefully create a lasting set of understandings that will create a much less dangerous Middle East and give Christians that are in places like Iraq and Christians that are in Syria and Christians who are in Lebanon a greater chance to practice their faith without being oppressed by their leaders.  (Applause.)

MR GRAHAM:  One of the things that we pray about is the blessing and the protection of God upon America.  I thank you for your reference to the Founding Fathers.  There are a lot of people who want to seemingly rewrite American history that somehow it started in a bad way and continues in a bad way.  We love America and I know you do.  (Applause.)

Tell us your thoughts of history a little bit and in this whole cultural, cancel culture environment that we’re in right now, how can we as Christians think well of our country and love our country?  Can we love our country like we want to?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Amen, amen. 

MR GRAHAM:  Yeah.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  We not only can, we must.  It’s actually – Pastor Graham, it’s why I picked this topic this morning to talk about.  I served as America’s diplomat to the world, but I am keenly aware that conflict and strife here in the United States undermines my capacity to be a beacon, to have this most exceptional nation in the history of civilization be that light to the world.

And so when I – to your point, when I see people suggesting that somehow this nation didn’t start with this founding in 1776, where our forefathers declared we’re going to make a more perfect union, and that we work on this every day and that we strive towards it, I think there’s two things.  One, we have to do this in our civic life in the way we carry ourselves in the world; but second, we need to return to the founders’ central understandings about faith and how this Judeo-Christian nation is central to the world and we must stand with it and we can’t let anybody try and rewrite history to suggest otherwise.  It is an absolute imperative that we stand on these traditions and continue to build them up.  It’s for our kids and for our grandkids.  It’s absolutely imperative.  (Applause.)

MR GRAHAM:  Yes.  And how – this is an election year, and we all know that.  Interestingly enough, in 2016, 25 million people who identified themselves as evangelical Christians did not vote.  Many were unregistered to vote.  Here at Prestonwood, we want you to register to vote.  We pray that you will vote.  We are asking you to vote.

What is our civic responsibility just to participate, Secretary, and how can we be involved and how can we pray for you, our President, and our country right now?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So we should pray that the elections that we’ll have in 40-some days now will be safe and secure and that everyone’s vote will be counted precisely once.  (Laughter and applause.)  And I just – I am reminded when I travel the world and we try to help countries build out election systems, and we spend a lot of our time in – I went to Guyana because they had their first democratic election in an awfully long time, and it was amazing to see the responses – people alongside the road for America coming to help them build out a democratic system in their country and to stand – when there was fraud in their vote counting to say we weren’t going to accept it, and we’ve – we worked to get it right.  We have a responsibility.

As the Secretary of State I’m not allowed to do politics, but I can do duty, and it is everyone’s duty to be counted, to stand up and express your preference, the things that you want, and to go to the polling place and exercise that freedom that we have been given and that our officers and security teams will ensure that we have the opportunity to go vote.  Go exercise that right and make sure every one of your friends does the same, and then the Lord will pass upon it and we will come out of this election a stronger, better nation.  I am confident of that.

MR GRAHAM:  Amen.  (Applause.)  So register and vote.  We do pray for our President, Vice President, and you, Mike Pompeo, and the entire Cabinet.  But we have a very unique privilege today to pray for this man that God has brought our way, and hasn’t he blessed us today just with his words?  And thank you.  (Applause.)

So I want you to stand with me and the Secretary, and I’m going to pray for him with you, and we’re going to ask God’s favor and faithfulness, which is always present, to continue to be upon him.  I know God’s presence is with him, and we want to pray to that end.

Lord, we thank you that you have called us to be ambassadors, ambassadors for Christ, and that you have uniquely and strategically placed this man in his office and assignment, and in your providence and your divine plan he is there representing you, our nation, the Constitution.  We thank you that he so overtly and openly lets his light shine.  We pray for his wife, his son, his family.  We pray that you would watch over him with your peace, body, mind, soul, and strength, that he would love you with all his heart and love our neighbors, neighbors here in this country and neighbors around the world that you’ve put in his heart to do. 

Where there is despair, may he be a light of hope.  Give him joy in this journey.  Give him peace and make him a peacemaker.  Lord, give him faith, the strength that he needs, to do the job that you have given him – a huge job, a big assignment.  And literally, so often the weight of governments and the world and this country is on this man’s shoulders, so we pray that you would help him by your strength to bear this up and that his faith – so strong and true – would sustain him and give him wisdom.  And as we honor him today, we thank you that he turns that honor back to you.

Lord, we pray for our nation.  We pray for peace in the world.  We pray for our President, President Trump and Vice President Pence, this Cabinet.  And we pray, oh God, in the selection of a Supreme Court justice that your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.  We know your heart is for every baby, born and unborn, that you are the giver and the author of life.  We pray that we could make a difference where we are.  And oh God, we promise, we pledge to pray for Mike Pompeo and, Lord, that you will continue to use him for your glory in Jesus’ name, and everyone said, “Amen.”  Amen.  Thank you, Secretary.  (Applause.)