Appear Inc to launch World’s Lightest and First Graphene Battery-powered 5G Smartphone

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 07, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Appear Inc. announced the launch of the world's lightest and first graphene battery–powered smartphone with innovative water–resistant technology. There is already a lot of interest in this smartphone. Appear has begun receiving orders and projections call for a million units sold in the first six months. The smartphone would be available in stores and major online retailers by March 2021.

Appear is a technology company already known for its innovative electronic products. The company is based in San Francisco and also operates internationally in countries such as Singapore, UAE, Hong Kong and India. Appear specializes in developing B2B IoT innovations. The company created many innovative technologies such as smartphones, graphene fast–charge battery applications, buoyant and levitating speakers.

Appear Has Partnered With Foxconn for Manufacturing

To meet growing demands, Appear has partnered with Foxconn India for its manufacturing needs. Foxconn is a well–known and trusted manufacturer for many popular brands of smartphones and consumer electronic products. It has the experience, expertise and facilities to meet Appear's high–quality standards.

Graphene Fast–Charge

Appear has always been driven to create innovative products using advanced material science. Its new smartphone exemplifies this mindset. The phone is powered with Qualcomm processors. Appear is known for its Graphene Super 20 Power Bank, which recharges fully in 20 minutes using Appear's proprietary Fast Charge battery technology. Now, this proprietary technology is successfully integrated in a smartphone.

Graphene, similar to graphite, is composed purely of carbon. It has revolutionized many areas of manufacturing due to its unique properties. Though it is stronger than steel, graphene is lightweight and one of the most conductive materials. This allows graphene to act as a super capacitor for Appear's revolutionary Fast Charge Technology. Graphene–enhanced Li–ion batteries have longer lifespans, higher capacities and faster charging times while remaining flexible and light.

The Smartphone Is Complete With Innovative Technology

One of the most exciting features of the new smartphone is its water–resistant technology. Every year, 11% of smartphones are damaged by water. That amounts to 165 million phones per year or 452,000 per day! As consumers become more dependent on their smartphones, water protection has become a necessary feature. Building more resilient phones will also help reduce growing electronic waste. This new smartphone is the perfect option for the eco–conscious consumer.

The smartphone also includes Appear's proprietary mobile applications. These apps will be pre–installed into the product.

Designed by the Same Company That Built Buoyant and Levitating Speakers

The water–resistant technology uses advanced material science. Appear first debuted the technology in its Buoyant Speakers. Those speakers have already proven the water–resistant properties in pools across the world. However, the real show–stopper has been Appear's levitating speakers. When powered, the speaker raises and hovers over the speaker box. These amazing speakers deliver both a song and a show!

This levitating technology can be deployed in many different industries such as home automation, sports and the automotive industry. Appear has plans to license the technology across many industries and countries.

The Appear Smartphone Will Be Available in March 2021

Appear is expecting high consumer demand, so the company has partnered with popular retailers like Amazon and one of the largest distributors in the MENA region –Sharaf DG and many more e–tailers. The company will be working with 70+ distributors to ensure its smartphones are available globally. They are expected to be available in March 2021. You can visit Appear to sign up for update notifications.

Shifting Conversations in Multifaceted Policymaking

People walking in public space with medical masks on to protect themselves from coronavirus infection. Credit: iStock / DragonImages

By Sudip Ranjan Basu
BANGKOK, Thailand, Jan 7 2021 – As the people of Kiribati, Samoa and Tonga gear up as the first nations to welcome 2021, communities around the Asia-Pacific region and beyond look forward to bidding farewell to the most tumultuous year in recent decades.

2020 brought unparalleled human suffering that continued to devastatingly impact on the daily lives of people across all corners of the region. With the emergency authorization and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, people are hoping for a ‘new normal’ recovery from the summer of 2021 onwards.

Sudip Ranjan Basu

Yet, over the past year, the health crisis has produced a synchronized economic downturn that resulted in technical recession episodes in the majority of countries, along with heightened vulnerability of the most marginalized groups.

Commentators and experts are making every effort to better diagnose the underlying symptoms and root causes of fault lines in our societies, which are leading to widespread discrimination, distress and destitution. Simply put, economic growth paradigms and development models, strategic policymaking guidelines and prioritization of implementation roadmaps are all at a variety of inflection points.

Faced with multiple challenges and uncertainties, policymakers are consulting and learning from past policy experiences that could provide practical guidance to the art of policymaking, especially in times of multifaceted crises. Not surprisingly, policymaking continues to remain the crucial tool in building resilience in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Enlarging people’s choices

Since the early days of the Keynesian revolution in the 1930s, decision-making has emphasized the importance of the equilibrium values of output and employment through well-coordinated and sequenced policies. However, the differential outcomes in GDP growth and other development yardsticks, including health and education have led to the concept of going beyond GDP, with a broader and deeper focus on socio-economic well-being, quality of life, and standard of living dimensions.

In the post-second world war rebuilding era, the inadequacy of a trickle-down approach shifted the focus on poverty alleviation, along with non-economic factors such as governance, decentralization, and trans-boundary cooperation, when economic globalization flourished. In fact, through the development decades of the 1960s to the 1990s, policymaking focused on enlarging people’s choices and capabilities, not only on the expansion of income and wealth.

Rediscovering development vision

In the 2000 autumn gathering at the UN Headquarters in New York, world leaders established the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of clear time-bound objectives to achieve eight goals, and commit to substantial reductions in income poverty and other human development benchmarks through sustained economic growth by 2015.

From 2000 to 2015, the Asia-Pacific region made remarkable progress to reduce extreme poverty and other development gaps through calibrated policies to bolster trade openness and regional value chains; industry and technology-led structural transformation; policy coordination on regional public goods, and institution-driven subregional partnerships. Although communities were significantly impacted by the Great Recession of 2007/2008 and the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997/1998.

Additionally, in this period of great convergence, policymaking focused on translating productive investment into building skills development in developing and least developed countries, pushing the envelope of ‘policy space’ in the broader context of trade and finance-technology interlinkages with human development. The shifting of the development paradigm underscored the importance of a robust and conducive international development framework, including expanding opportunities for South-South cooperation. Yet, the MDGs needed another push towards more sustainable development for all.

Integrating sustainability

In a landmark gathering of world leaders in September 2015 at the UN, the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development offered a new lease of life to an integrated approach to development thinking – synergizing the social, economic and environmental pillars of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for transforming our world.

This formulation of ideas helped drive development practice and encouraged forward-looking policymaking to address new and emerging challenges and opportunities across beliefs, ideologies and institutional foundations.

Though at the regional level—a variety of development outcomes stimulated public discourse on diversity, trust and governance—progress towards the SDGs has remained largely uneven. It is, however, not hard to argue that the 2030 Agenda has inspired inclusive development to intersect with structural transformation, and accelerated energy transition and technology-driven industrialization to offer lasting solutions to the growing climate emergencies.

Building back better

Today, over 4.6 billion people of the Asia-Pacific region are confronting hardship and hindrance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are good reasons to believe that the weak health care systems, lack of social protection mechanisms, growing number of informal sector workers, limited diversification, and increased threats of climate change are opening up possibilities of a multi-speed recovery outlook in 2021 and beyond.

As communities gather steam to building back better, governments are recognizing the vital role of reimagining public policymaking to fit within the principle of value-based cooperation and multilateralism. Raising the ambitions of SDGs-centred policymaking is poised to define success in the next Decade of Action for all.

Sudip Ranjan Basu is Programme Officer (Partnerships), Office of the Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic ans Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)


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If Covid-19 is Primarily a ‘First World’ Virus, Why is the Global South in Lockdown?

A lockdown closer home. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres walking the empty corridors of the UN Secretariat building in New York in 2020. Credit: United Nations

By Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Jan 7 2021 – The currently available Covid-19 vaccines have been authorized for ‘emergency use ‘in Europe and North America. This is due to an apparent spike in Covid-19 flu cases in the northern hemisphere as winter advances. Highly advertised vaccines are being produced and rolled out at ‘warped speed’ by powerful pharmaceutical and bio-technology companies headquartered in Euro-America although their efficacy including how long their immunity lasts is not clear.

Global media and news channels like Al Jazeera, BBC, CNN and India’s NDTV have been marketing vaccines to the world with images of Prime Ministers, Vice President elects, and a Crown Prince in the Middle East taking the jab live on television– seemingly to encourage vaccine skeptics. Vaccine nationalism is growing with is intense competition among Pharmaceutical Corporations and countries that manufacture vaccines and their local partners.

However, the country-specific quantitative and qualitative data now available for many hot and humid tropical South East Asian and African countries for the year 2020, indicate that there is NO Covid-19 emergency in a vast majority of countries in the Global South, and hence little need to rush to buy vaccines.

In Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Tanzania there is a very low incidence of Covid-19 mortality when compared to average annual rates of influenza related deaths.1 In Cambodia and Laos there was not a single Covid-19 death in 2020, while Vietnam had 34 deaths and Thailand a country of 70 million there were 26 deaths due to the virus in the year 2020 according to the Johns Hopkins University official Covid-19 Data base.

Nor have doctors, nurses, PHIs, frontline health workers in quarantine centers lost lives in these Southeast Asian countries, indicating low severity of the disease when compared to Euro-America where lockdowns and curfews did not limit high mortality rates. Nor have industrial, manufacturing or agriculture sector workers died in numbers due to Covid-19 in Southeast Asian countries. Nor were hospitals and intensive care units (ICU), overwhelmed in these countries, where there have been fewer patients in hospitals in 2020 than previous years.

While the Covid-19 virus has spread to all parts of the Global South, it clearly has far less traction in tropical countries than in the so-called ‘first world’ (Euro-America): In Sri Lanka, a country of 22 million there were 204 Covid-19 comorbidities deaths recorded with 35,300 Covid-19 positive tests, although in a normal year between 4,000 and 6000 people die of influenza co-morbidities

The luxury 14 floor Asiri Central Hospital in the capital Colombo was closed for weeks during the first Covid-19 lockdown. In India according to WHO data published in 2018, Influenza and Pneumonia Deaths reached 616,531 or 6.99% of total deaths, while lung Disease Deaths were 819,570 or 9.30% of total deaths in 2018, but there were fewer than 150,000 Covid-19 deaths in India in 2020. 2

Given significant differences in health infrastructure between tropical countries in Global South and Euro-America, the 2020 qualitative and quantitative data clearly shows that Covid-19 is mild in the Global South, since the ‘metric that matters’ to determine the severity of an illness and make effective, targeted policy, national policy is the infection fatality rate (IFC).

However, economically, socially and politically devastating curfews, lockdowns and isolation policies were introduced in these tropical countries on the ‘advice’ of the WHO, resulting in fear, isolation, stigmatization of patients living in crowded and poor neighborhoods, and increasing poverty and inequality.

Many low income and poor countries fell into bigger debt traps and Governments were urged to sell off strategic assets while giving ‘tax relief’ to various international corporations, investors and airlines.

Low Severity of virus but a deadly policy response

The relatively low severity of Covid-19 flu in tropical Asian and African countries compared to Euro-America where the disease is severe is arguably due to several interrelated, region and country-specific contextual factors such as year round hot and humid tropical weather (above 20 degrees Celsius), that degrades the virus and its transmission; more or less universal BCG vaccination that confers innate and trained immunity against respiratory illnesses in tropical countries; national health infrastructure including BCG monitoring; and local diet and food habits.

In the temperate regions of the industrialized world, larger volumes of processed food are consumed and non-communicable diseases that constitute the co-morbidities profile for Covid-19 are more widespread than in tropical countries, especially those where rice is a staple food.

The WHO appears to have used questionable epidemiology models, metrics and as several scientists have showed flawed PCR tests that inflate the numbers and create fear psychosis while recommending lockdown in countries in the Global South rather than use country-specific data and the tried and tested Infection Fatality Rate (IFR). The WHO’s Covid-19 global pandemic narrative has been crafted on the Case Fatality Rate (CFR), rather than the IFR which is much less by orders of magnitude as the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration note.

Treat Covid 19 like a health issue and not a disaster, wrote Jay Battacharya and Sanjiv Agarwal, in July 2020. 3 Many international scientists have exposed the fact that high numbers of false positive PCR tests account for high rates of supposedly asymptomatic cases and question the Covid-19 data presented by the WHO and the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) data base.

In India highly flawed PCR tests gave up to 80 per cent false positives and a community survey was abandoned 4 Sri Lanka and many other impoverished countries in the South have been locked down and economically devastated based on false positive tests and a global media narrative that exaggerated the number of Covid-19 cases. This is in a nutshell is the Covid-19 scam.

‘Test, test and trace’ using flawed tests has been the mantra for a global policy of economically, socially and politically devastating lockdowns and isolation, implemented by government and military in many countries. However, these policies were not based on country specific, quantitative and qualitative Covid-19 data analysis and were counter-productive to the mental and physical health and well-being of the population.

In many countries in Southeast Asia, constantly shifting announcements of Covid-19 cases without context or comparison with new lockdowns keeps up the fear psychosis, confuses workers who worry about their and their family’s safety if they return to work. Constant uncertainty and unavailability of public transport has devastated economies, social and political activity, while distracting from analysis of the relevant data.

Hunger Virus: The deadly policy response in the Global South

It is not Covid-19 virus, but the Covid-19 infodemic, as well as, WHO-led international policy that has triggered a deep economic, social and political crisis in the Global South at this time. The call for lockdowns, curfews and stoppage of public transport systems, often implemented by militaries based on the “Global pandemic” narrative and infodemic of Covid-19 infection figures form the John’s Hopkins University data base with contradictory messages resulted in creation of Covid-19 fear psychosis and anxiety in many tropical countries where the Corona virus is mild. As a result, millions have not been able to go to work and have lost jobs and livelihoods in countries like Sri Lanka and Thailand.

As OXFAM’s ’Hunger Virus” Report noted: COVID-19 is deepening the hunger crisis in the world’s hunger hotspots and creating new epicentres of hunger across the globe. By the end of the year 12,000 people per day could die from hunger linked to COVID-19, potentially more than will die from the disease itself.

The pandemic is the final straw for millions of people already struggling with the impacts of conflict, climate change, inequality and a broken food system that has impoverished millions of food producers and workers.

The Covid-19 narrative and WHO led global policy response has increased poverty and inequality across the world and widened disparities between the Global South and north, while eroding democratic space and practices, and militarizing public life and health systems: In Sri Lanka a punishing military curfew with just 4-hours prior notice was imposed in March 2020, after which the WHO head, Tederos, called the President of Sri Lanka to congratulate him. This same policy was implemented in India a few weeks later in India, where millions of migrant workers lost jobs and many died walking hundreds of miles to get home.

Meanwhile, as OXFAM noted “those at the top are continuing to make profits: eight of the biggest food and drink companies paid out over $18 billion to shareholders since January even as the pandemic was spreading across the globe – ten times more than has been requested in the UN COVID-19 appeal to stop people going hungry.” 56 new billionaires were created in 2020.

Covid-19 reveals a deep crisis in the International Aid and Governance System

Economically, socially and politically devastating lockdowns in 2020 have wiped out development and poverty reduction gains in some of the poorest countries in the world where Covid-19 is demonstrably milder than seasonal flu. Meanwhile, all the plastic and sanitary sprays and disposable masks further contribute to the global plastic garbage and toxicity environmental crisis.

Fundamental questions arise about the integrity of data, analysis and policy “advice’ provided by WHO, the John’s Hopkins University Covid-19 Global Data base and other UN agencies. It is increasingly apparent that many of the WHO’s recommendations and policy response on Covid-19 has marginalized data, perspectives and voices from the Global South.

As Debapriya Bhattacharya and Sara Khan noted in a recent paper: “the narrative on the post-COVID world seems to be once again characterised by the usual dearth of inputs from the global South. “Even though it has been accepted time and again that actors from the Global South will be critical in shaping the emerging international development landscape, gatekeepers are yet to come out of their comfort zones and make credible space for more Southern perspectives and initiatives. The current discourse continues to have a top-down view of issues that demand more local level contextualisation and substantiation…”. 5

The international development policy response to Covid-19 in the global south has exposed a deep crisis in the UN led international Development Aid system dominated by OECD DAC countries and continuing structures of colonial domination in the UN system. The deliberately hyped “global pandemic” media narrative coupled with the WHO’s and JHU’s daily ‘infodemic’ of Covid-19 numbers of infections, has distracted from the metrics that matter to determine the severity of a disease in a particular county.

Science has been turned on its head, as Scientific Principles like regional Context and Comparison, and country-specific data analysis are important for evidence-based policy making, seem to have been be dis-regarded amidst the JHU infodmeic, enabling hi-jacking of national and local level policy processes in countries in the Global South, by so-called international development agencies and related Corporate actors and interest. The quarantining of healthy people in counties where data shows that there is no Covid-19 health emergency is counter to science and common sense!

Low Covid-19 rates and vaccine Colonialism: BCG versus mRNA

The WHO has promised to provide 20 percent of vaccines free to the Government of Sri Lanka, but questions are now being raised as to why national health authorities in many Southeast Asian and African countries where there is NO Covid-19 health emergency, are being urged by the WHO and UNICEF, with the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB), providing loans to buy vaccines at this time, especially when it is claimed that there may not be sufficient doses for populations in North America and Europe where there appears to be a Covid-19 emergency?

As these vaccines have not gone through an adequate trials process and their long term impacts on populations in the Global South (where the health and nutrition statuses of people are different than in the northern hemisphere), are unknown, would it not be prudent for governments in countries where the 2020 data shows that there is no Covid-19 health emergency to await non-emergency authorization of use of these vaccines? Moreover, would not the WB and ADB loans be better spent to build back livelihoods lost due to Covid-19 curfews and lockdown policy?

On average, it takes over 5 to 10 years to systematically trial vaccines. The ultra-costly Pfizer and Biontech and Moderna mRNA vaccines, that use brand new, never before used technology, were the first to be authorized in the UK and US. The WHO’s subsequent first authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for use throughout the world has conferred ‘first mover advantage” or strong brand recognition and product loyalty on the US Govt. allied Pfizer Pharmaceutical company before other cheaper vaccine come to the market.

However, there are questions about these mRNA vaccines and suggestions that the anti-bodies they trigger may last less than 10 months, while a US nurse tested Covid-19 positive after receiving a vaccine, and another nurse in Portugal died a week after taking the vaccine.

At the beginning of the Covid-19 epidemic in Euro-America in March 2020, the WHO, contrary to many scientific studies denied outright the hypothesis that the 100-year-old BCG vaccine may be protecting populations in tropical countries with universal BCG vaccination where there were low rates of Covid-19 infections and death.

This despite the fact that numerous studies had shown that the COST-EFFECTIVE tried and tested Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG), may be useful against Covid-19 as a bridging vaccine as it protects against a broad range of respiratory tract illness in many parts of the Global South. Early BCG trials for Covid-19 adaptation seem to have disappeared from radar screens to be trumped by mRNA vaccines, as WHO contrary to many scientists had affirmed that there was ‘no evidence’ the BCG could fight Covid-19?

Are we not seeing what Naomi Klein termed “Disaster Capitalism” in her book titled “The Shock Doctrine” unfolding in Real Time? Klein uses the terms to describe the “brutal tactic of using the public’s fear and disorientation following a collective shock, be it, bio-terrorism, war, coups, market crashes or natural disasters to push through radical pro-corporate measures often called “shock therapy”. Thus, by accident or design, a disaster occurs and then the “humanitarian” business solution or cure is provided, as a total solution and complete business and profit cycle.

The WHO’s Covid-19 vaccine authorization process may reveal its cozy relationship with some big Pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer that are also backed by vaccine Czar, Microsoft’s Bill Gates. Gates Foundation is now WHO’s second largest funder, after China, since Donald Trump withdrew US funding from WHO. Gates is also promoting a shift to the digital economy and surveillance that enable gaming data analytics the world over — in competition with China’s Huawei.

The WHO-led Covid-19 policy response reveals a deep crisis in the UN and International “Aid” system that is increasingly captive to Corporate interests and great power rivalry. This issue is not new as a Transparency International’s British Branch Report has noted some years ago: “Within the health sector, pharmaceuticals stands out as sub-sector that is particularly prone to corruption.”

“There are abundant examples globally that display how corruption in the pharmaceutical sector endangers positive health outcomes. Whether it is a pharmaceutical company bribing a doctor for prescribing its medicines irrespective of a health need or a government employee facilitating the infiltration of substandard medicines into the distribution system, public resources can be wasted and patient health put at risk.”

Finally, it is highly likely that in many Tropical Asian countries may have achieved a degree of ‘herd immunity’ as the flu season at the end of 2019 had all the signs of Covid-19, also given high levels of travel and tourism to and from China in the region, but since there is no systematic anti-body testing, we do not know if this is the case.

Rather than buying vaccines it would be appropriate to conduct anti-body tests to assess how many in the population have immunities and if herd immunity has been achieved as the country-level data and statistics seem to indicate. Those who would like a vaccine may take a BCG booster.

1 Source: and also Johns Hopkins University CSSE COVID-19 Country-specific Data.
4 The COVID-19 RT-PCR Test: How to Mislead All Humanity. Using a “Test” To Lock Down Society by Dr. Pascal Sacre
5 COVID-19: A game changer for the Global South and international co-operation?


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Is the COVID-19 Vaccine a Potential Biological Weapon in Reverse?

Patients arrive at a health centre in Gaza. Credit: UNRWA

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 7 2021 – If the coronavirus is not deemed a biological weapon, is the heavily-publicized Covid-19 vaccine in danger of being weaponized when over 159,000 Palestinians who have tested positive in Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) are being denied treatment during a deadly pandemic?

The London-based human rights organization Amnesty International (AI) says Israel’s vaccine roll-out plan excludes the nearly 5 million Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip under Israeli military occupation.

Since the beginning of the pandemic last March, nearly 1,600 Palestinians in the OPT have died of the virus.

AI says the Israeli government must stop ignoring its international obligations as an occupying power and immediately act to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are equally and fairly provided to Palestinians living under its occupation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,

Saleh Higazi, AI’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa points out that Israel’s COVID-19 vaccine programme highlights the institutionalized discrimination that defines the Israeli government’s policy towards Palestinians.

“While Israel celebrates a record-setting vaccination drive, millions of Palestinians living under Israeli control in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will receive no vaccine or have to wait much longer – there could hardly be a better illustration of how Israeli lives are valued above Palestinian ones.”

Dr Ramzy Baroud, a journalist and Editor of The Palestine Chronicle, told IPS Israel’s exclusion of the occupied Palestinian people from having access to vaccines is entirely consistent with Israel’s trajectory of racism, where Palestinians are exploited for their land, water and cheap labor, while never factoring in as an item on Israel’s list of priorities, even during the time of a deadly pandemic.

“Frequently we speak of Israel’s apartheid, often illustrating that in terms of giant walls, fences and military checkpoints that cage in Palestinians. But in Israel, apartheid runs much deeper as it reaches almost every facet of society where Israeli Jews, including settlers, are treated far better than Palestinians, whether those living in Israel or in the occupied territories,” he pointed out.

“Excluding Palestinians from a vaccine that is necessary to save the lives of thousands is part of protracted and systemic Israeli apartheid and racial discrimination”, said Baroud, a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) and also at the Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC).

As of 3 January 2021, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), 159,034 Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), including East Jerusalem, have so far tested positive for coronavirus since the first confirmed case was reported in March 2020.

As the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and de facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip cannot independently fund vaccines and their distribution among the Palestinian population, they depend on global co-operation mechanisms such as COVAX, which still has not begun distributing vaccines, said Amnesty International.

“Israel must provide full financial support to ensure that the vaccine is promptly distributed to the Palestinian population without discrimination. Israel must also lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip to enable the proper functioning of its health system in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Gaza’s health care system –- subjected to half a century of occupation and more than a decade of blockade -– is already unable to meet the needs of its population. The COVID-19 pandemic and lack of fair access to vaccines have only magnified the discrimination and inequality faced by the Palestinian population, said Amnesty International.

Meanwhile, 10 human rights and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are urging the Israeli authorities to live up to their legal obligations and ensure that quality vaccines be provided to Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and control in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as well.

The 10 organizations include Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Amnesty International Israel, B’Tselem – the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights, Medical Human Rights Network IFHHRO, MEDACT, Physicians for Human Rights, Israel and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

Dr Baroud said even before the vaccines arrived in Israel, Tel Aviv has greatly mishandled the crisis from the onset.

In the West Bank, Israeli soldiers repeatedly demolished Palestinian makeshift clinics, which aimed at testing people for COVID-19, confiscated equipment and restricted movement essential to making testing kits available to hard-hit areas, he added.

In Gaza, which has been under Israeli siege for many years, he noted, the problem was much more severe, as the population of two million people had to cope with the ravages of the disease without any tools to test for the virus, let alone to contain it.

“While Israel’s behavior is expected, it is also self-defeating, as Israelis and Palestinians are constantly in contact through the military occupation, the prison system and other forms of such repugnant interactions”.

There can be no containing the pandemic in Israel if it continues to spread in Palestine. The Coronavirus doesn’t respect Israel’s matrix of control, of walls, checkpoints and the likes, said Dr Baroud, author of five books, including “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press).

“The views of marginalized groups must be at the forefront of any decision-making to ensure that national vaccine policies aren’t exclusionary or discriminatory. All states must confront existing inequalities to ensure everyone has access to vaccines,” said AI’s Higazi.

In early December, Israel reached an agreement with Pfizer pharmaceutical company to supply 8 million doses of its newly approved COVID-19 vaccine – enough to cover almost half of Israel’s population of nearly 9 million since each person requires two doses.

Israel also reached a separate agreement with Moderna to buy 6 million doses of its vaccine – enough for another 3 million Israelis, according to AI.

As the race to distribute COVID-19 vaccines gathers pace, Amnesty International calls on states and companies to ensure that no one is denied access to health care, including vaccines, because of where they live, who they are or what they earn.


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Was It a Coup? No, But Siege on US Capitol Was the Election Violence of a Fragile Democracy

Photo by Andy Feliciotti on Unsplash

By External Source
Jan 7 2021 – Supporters of President Donald Trump, following his encouragement, stormed the US Capitol building on Jan. 6, disrupting the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory. Waving Trump banners, hundreds of people broke through barricades and smashed windows to enter the building where Congress convenes. One rioter died and several police officers were hospitalized in the clash. Congress went on lockdown.

While violent and shocking, what happened on Jan. 6 wasn’t a coup.

This Trumpist insurrection was election violence, much like the election violence that plagues many fragile democracies.


What is a coup?

While coups do not have a single definition, researchers who study them – like ourselves – agree on the key attributes of what academics call a “coup event.”

Coup experts Jonathan Powell and Clayton Thyne define a coup d’etat as “an overt attempt by the military or other elites within the state apparatus to unseat the sitting head of state using unconstitutional means.”

The U.S. didn’t have a coup, but this Trump-encouraged insurrection is likely to send the country down a politically and socially turbulent road

Essentially, three parameters are used to judge whether an insurrection is a coup event:

1) Are the perpetrators agents of the state, such as military officials or rogue governmental officials?

2) Is the target of the insurrection the chief executive of the government?

3) Do the plotters use illegal and unconstitutional methods to seize executive power?


Coups and coup attempts

A successful coup occurred in Egypt on July 3, 2013, when army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi forcefully removed the country’s unpopular president, Mohamed Morsi. Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected leader, had recently overseen the writing of a new constitution. Al-Sisi suspended that, too. This qualifies as a coup because al-Sisi seized power illegally and introduced his own rule of law in the ashes of the elected government.

Coups don’t always succeed in overthrowing the government.

In 2016, members of the Turkish military attempted to remove Turkey’s strongman president, Reçep Erdogan, from power. Soldiers seized key areas in Ankara, the capital, and Istanbul, including the Bosphorus Bridge and two airports. But the coup lacked coordination and widespread support, and it failed quickly after President Erdogan called on his supporters to confront the plotters. Erdogan remains in power today.


What happened at the US Capitol?

The uprising at the Capitol building does not meet all three criteria of a coup.

Trump’s rioting supporters targeted a branch of executive authority – Congress – and they did so illegally, through trespassing and property destruction. Categories #2 and #3, check.

As for category #1, the rioters appeared to be civilians operating of their own volition, not state actors. President Trump did incite his followers to march on the Capitol building less than an hour before the crowd invaded the grounds, insisting the election had been stolen and saying “We will not take it anymore.” This comes after months of spreading unfounded electoral lies and conspiracies that created a perception of government malfeasance in the mind of many Trump supporters.

Whether the president’s motivation in inflaming the anger of his supporters was to assault Congress is not clear, and he tepidly told them to go home as the violence escalated. For now it seems the riot in Washington, D.C., was enacted without the approval, aid or active leadership of government actors like the military, police or sympathetic GOP officials.

American political elites are hardly blameless, though.

By spreading conspiracy theories about election fraud, numerous Republican senators, including Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, created the conditions for political violence in the United States, and specifically electoral-related violence.

Academics have documented that contentious political rhetoric fuels the risk of election-related violence. Elections are high-stakes; they represent a transfer of political power. When government officials demean and discredit democratic institutions as a simmering political conflict is underway, contested elections can trigger political violence and mob rule.


So what did happen?

The shocking events of Jan. 6 were political violence of the sort that too often mars elections in young or unstable democracies.

Bangladeshi elections suffer from perennial mob violence and political insurrections due to years of government violence and opposition anger. Its 2015 and 2018 elections looked more like war zones than democratic transitions.

In Cameroon, armed dissidents perpetrated violence in the 2020 election, targeting government buildings, opposition figures and innocent bystanders alike. Their aim was to delegitimize the vote in response to sectarian violence and government overreach.

The United States’ electoral violence differs in cause and context from that seen in Bangladesh and Cameroon, but the action was similar. The U.S. didn’t have a coup, but this Trump-encouraged insurrection is likely to send the country down a politically and socially turbulent road.


Clayton Besaw, Research Affiliate and Senior Analyst, University of Central Florida and Matthew Frank, Master’s student, International Security, University of Denver

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.