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Kenya says all gunmen killed in hotel attack; 14 victims

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NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya’s security forces have killed the Islamic extremist gunmen whose assault on a luxury hotel and shopping complex took 14 “innocent lives,” the country’s president said Wednesday.

“All the terrorists have been eliminated,” President Uhuru Kenyatta said in announcing an end to the overnight operation to secure the complex in the capital, Nairobi.

In a televised address, Kenyatta did not say how many attackers were involved. He said more than 700 people were evacuated during the security operation and urged Kenyans to “go back to work without fear,” saying the East African country is safe.

Sporadic gunfire could be heard while scores of people were rescued at daybreak during what police called a “mopping-up” exercise. A new blast was heard in the afternoon as witnesses said security forces were making a sweep of the complex for any explosives.

Surveillance video showed the attack that began Tuesday afternoon involved at least four armed men.

Al-Shabab — the extremist group allied to al-Qaida and based in neighbouring Somalia — claimed responsibility for the carnage at the DusitD2 hotel complex, which includes bars, restaurants, offices and banks and is in Nairobi’s well-to-do Westlands neighbourhood with many foreign expatriates. Al-Shabab carried out the 2013 attack at the nearby Westgate Mall in Nairobi that killed 67 people.

Most of the victims were Kenyans, a mortuary attendant said. The U.S. State Department confirmed that an American citizen was among the dead, and the company I-DEV International confirmed that its co-founder, Jason Spindler, had been killed. The British high commissioner in Kenya said at least one British national had been killed, without giving details.

Two local victims had been working on a fund to “bring peace and prosperity to Somalia through more than 100 local community initiatives,” the London-based Adam Smith International said of its employees.

Kenyan authorities sent special forces into the hotel to flush out the gunmen. Scores of people were rushed to safety in the early morning hours as explosions and gunfire continued.

“To God be the Glory. We have been rescued. Over 50 people in my group. No injuries,” tweeted a Kenyan businesswoman, Aggie Asiimwe Konde.

Describing the ordeal, Lucy Wanjiru said she had been trying to flee when she saw a woman on the ground floor get shot. She ended up in a washroom with several other scared people. Her friend Cynthia Kibe stayed in contact with her by phone overnight.

“I think I panicked when she told me that the gunshots are next to her,” Kibe said. “I had to keep telling her ‘Just wait, help is on the way, they are almost there, they are almost there.’ And then at one point she was like, ‘Please tell me I am getting out of here alive’ and then it was just like my breaking point.”

Mourning families and friends gathered at a nearby mortuary.

“I am a Muslim and I am Somali, I am Kenyan living here, and in that way I can assure you if al-Shabab found me today they call us what they call ‘Mortad’ (apostates), that is, someone who works against them and they wouldn’t differentiate me from yourself,” said Mohamed Yasin Jama, a friend of two colleagues killed.

The co-ordinated assault began with an explosion that targeted three vehicles outside a bank, and a suicide bombing in the hotel lobby that severely wounded a number of guests, said Kenya’s national police chief, Joseph Boinnet.

Kenyan hospitals appealed for blood donations even as the number of wounded remained unclear.

Associated Press video from inside the hotel showed Kenyan security officers searching the building and scared workers emerging from hiding while gunfire could be heard. Some climbed out a window by ladder. One man got up from the floor where he appeared to be trying to hide under a piece of wood paneling, then showed his ID.

Like the attack at the Westgate Mall, this one appeared aimed at wealthy Kenyans and foreigners. It came a day after a magistrate ruled that three men must stand trial in connection with the Westgate Mall siege.

Al-Shabab has vowed retribution against Kenya for sending troops to Somalia to fight it since 2011. Tuesday’s violence came three years to the day after al-Shabab extremists attacked a Kenyan military base in Somalia, killing scores of people.

The group has killed hundreds of people in Kenya. In the deadliest attack, al-Shabab claimed responsibility for an assault on Kenya’s Garissa University in 2015 that killed 147 people, mostly students.

The latest carnage demonstrated al-Shabab’s continued ability to carry out spectacular acts of bloodshed despite a dramatic increase in U.S. airstrikes against it under President Donald Trump.

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Associated Press writer Andrew Meldrum in Johannesburg contributed.

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Follow Africa news at https://twitter.com/AP_Africa

Ben Curtis, The Associated Press












































































































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Global coronavirus cases top 20M as Russia approves vaccine

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ROME — The number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide topped 20 million, more than half of them from the United States, India and Brazil, as Russia on Tuesday became the first country to approve a vaccine against the virus.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that one of his two adult daughters had already been inoculated with the cleared vaccine, which he described as effective. “She’s feeling well and has a high number of antibodies,” Putin said.

Russia has reported more than 890,000 cases, the fourth-highest total in the world, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally that also showed total confirmed cases globally surpassing 20 million.

It took six months or so to get to 10 million cases after the virus first appeared in central China late last year. It took just over six weeks for that number to double.

An AP analysis of data through Aug. 9 showed the U.S., India and Brazil together accounted for nearly two-thirds of all reported infections since the world hit 15 million coronavirus cases on July 22.

Health officials believe the actual number of people infected with the virus is much higher than the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University, given testing limitations and that as many as 40% of those with the virus show no symptoms.

As a result, the race to develop and deliver a vaccine has topped the global health care and geopolitical agenda, even as the United Nations has warned that any vaccine must be safe and made available to all, not just the wealthy.

Putin said the Russian vaccine underwent the necessary tests and offered a lasting immunity from the coronavirus. But scientists at home and abroad have warned that rushing to start using the vaccine before Phase 3 trials — which normally last for months and involve thousands of people — could backfire.

“The point is not to be first with a vaccine,” U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday during a visit to Taiwan when asked about the Russian vaccine. “The point is to have a vaccine that is safe and effective for the American people and the people of the world.”

The U.S. has a half-dozen vaccine candidates under development, China has begun inoculations with an experimental vaccine and European countries have several trials underway.

In Europe, countries that appeared to have gotten their outbreaks under control during nationwide lockdowns and lifted many public restrictions worked to prevent a resurgence of the virus. Finland joined France and Germany in announcing it would test travellers from at-risk countries upon arrival.

Spain, which along with Italy was hardest hit when the virus first exploded on the continent, now has the most confirmed cases in western Europe at nearly 323,000. The number of new cases has risen steadily in Spain since its strict, three-month lockdown ended on June 21, reaching 1,486 on Monday.

In Greece, which imposed strict lockdown measures early and kept its reported cases low during the height of the European epidemic, the government announced new measures Monday to prevent an outbreak. It ordered bars, restaurants and cafes in several regions to shut between midnight and 7 a.m.

Outside Europe, infection rates are exponentially higher.

The number of new cases reported daily continues to rise in India, hitting a rolling seven-day average of 58,768. In the U.S., which so far has more than 5 million confirmed cases, the daily average has decreased since July 22nd, but remains high at over 53,000.

South Africa has more than a half-million cases. In the country with the world’s largest number of HIV-positive people, the virus has disrupted the supply of antiretroviral drugs that a United Nations agency says could lead to 500,000 additional AIDS-related deaths.

In the 45 days it took reported coronavirus cases worldwide to double to 20 million, the number of reported virus deaths climbed to 736,191 from 499,506, according to the Johns Hopkins count, an average of more than 5,200 a day.

About one-fifth of reported deaths, or more than 163,000, have been in the U.S., the most in the world.

Caseloads are still rising quickly in many other countries, including Indonesia and Japan.

In Mexico, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, like Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro and U.S. President Donald Trump, seldom wears a mask and has resisted calls for a strict lockdown, saying Mexicans should be persuaded to observe social distancing, not forced to do so by police or fines.

With nearly 500,000 cases and more than 50,300 deaths, Mexico has struggled with how to curb outbreaks given that just over half its people work off the books with no benefits or unemployment insurance.

A full lockdown would prove too costly for people with little savings and tenuous daily incomes, said Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell, the president’s point man on the epidemic.

“We do not want a solution that would, in social terms, be more costly than the disease itself,” he said.

Mexico’s relatively high death rate results partly from the country having one of the world’s highest rates of obesity and diabetes. There has also been relatively little testing. Of all tests done, 47% are positive, suggesting that only seriously ill people are getting tests. That has hindered contract tracing.

India reported 53,601 new cases Tuesday as its count of total infections neared 2.3 million. Its reported case mortality rate, at 2%, is much lower than in the U.S. and Brazil.

Vietnam went from having reported no confirmed deaths and very few cases to battling fresh outbreaks that emerged in the seaside city of Danang.

New Zealand, which has been praised for quickly getting the virus under control, on Tuesday reported the first cases of local transmission in the country in 102 days. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said authorities found four cases of the coronavirus in one Auckland household from an unknown source.

Meanwhile, outbreaks in mainland China and semi-autonomous Hong Kong declined, with the number of new community infections in China falling to 13, all in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. Hong Kong counted 69 new cases.

Border closures, masks, lockdowns and infection data are now the new way of life for much of the world, not the politically combustible topics they are in the U.S.

A review by the Kaiser Health News service and The Associated Press found that at least 49 state and local public health leaders have resigned, retired or been fired since April across 23 states. The list has grown by more than 20 people since the AP and KHN started keeping track in June.

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Kurtenbach reported from Mito, Japan. Stevenson reported from Mexico City. Associated Press journalist Nicky Forster in New York contributed to this report, as did other AP journalists from around the world.

Nicole Winfield, Elaine Kurtenbach And Mark Stevenson, The Associated Press















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Over half of Americans oppose Trump tariff on Canadian aluminum, survey suggests

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OTTAWA — A new opinion survey suggests Donald Trump’s recent decision to slap a tariff on Canadian raw aluminum is garnering poor reviews on both sides of the border.

In a web survey conducted by polling firm Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies, 58 per cent of American respondents said they disagreed with the 10 per cent import tax.

In what comes as less of a surprise, 90 per cent of Canadians who took part in the survey objected to the White House’s tariff.

The survey was conducted Aug. 7 to 9 among 1,513 Canadians and 1,003 Americans, 18 or older, who were recruited from an online panel.

Since polls created from internet panels are not random samples, the survey cannot be assigned a margin of error.

The polling firm says that using data from the 2016 census, results were weighted according to age, gender, language spoken, region, level of education and presence of children in the household in order to ensure a representative sample of the population.

Trump announced last week he was reimposing a tax on Canadian raw aluminum because Canada had broken a promise not to flood the U.S. market with the product.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland vehemently denied the dumping claim and said Canada would soon retaliate with $3.6 billion in tariffs on American items that contain aluminum.

“In imposing these tariffs, the United States has taken the absurd decision to harm its own people at a time its economy is suffering the deepest crisis since the Great Depression,” she said.

“Any American who buys a can of beer or a soda or a car or a bike will suffer.”

The comments might help explain why 28 per cent of Americans surveyed said they somewhat disagreed with Trump’s move, while 30 per cent said they totally disagreed.

Jean-Marc Leger, president of the survey firm, suggested the numbers reflect a lack of a clear rationale for the action by the mercurial U.S. president.

“Why the 10 per cent? Why at this moment?” he said. “It looks like another impulsive decision.”

Sixty-nine per cent of Canadians who participated in the survey said they completely disagreed with the tariff, with 21 per cent somewhat opposed.

Seventy per cent of Canadian respondents said Ottawa should fight back by imposing tariffs of its own on U.S. products.

The trade spat shattered the brief harmony between Ottawa and Washington that followed a successful renegotiation of the North American free trade agreement.

While nearly two-thirds of Americans told Leger that Canada and the U.S. benefit equally from their commercial exchanges, only 38 per cent of Canadians supported the notion.

Trump has also proposed banning popular video-sharing platform TikTok on national security grounds due to its corporate ties to China.

Forty-six per cent of American respondents supported the idea.

Fifty-four per cent of Canadians said they believed the Chinese government was using TikTok to spy on people. But only about one-third said Ottawa should outlaw the platform.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 11, 2020.

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press

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august, 2020

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