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Ethiopia says Tigray town seized, war embroils Eritrea
16 November 2020, 12:02 PM

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government said on Monday it had captured another town in the northern Tigray region after nearly two weeks of fighting in a conflict already spilling into Eritrea and destabilising the wider Horn of Africa.

Hundreds have died, at least 20 000 refugees have fled to Sudan and there have been reports of atrocities since Abiy ordered airstrikes and a ground offensive against Tigray’s rulers for defying his authority.

The conflict could jeopardise a recent economic opening, stir up ethnic bloodshed elsewhere around Africa’s second most populous nation, and tarnish the reputation of Abiy who won a Nobel Peace Prize last year for a peace pact with Eritrea.

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which governs the region of more than 5 million people, has accused Eritrea of sending tanks and thousands of soldiers over the border to support Ethiopian federal troops. Asmara denies that.

Tigray forces fired rockets into Eritrea at the weekend.

A task force set up by Abiy to handle the government’s response to the crisis, said troops had “liberated” the town of Alamata from the TPLF.

“They fled, taking along around 10 000 prisoners,” it added, without specifying where those were from.

With communications mainly down and media barred, Reuters could not independently verify assertions made by all sides.

There was no immediate comment from Tigray’s leaders on events in Alamata, near the border with Amhara state, about 120 km (75 miles) from Tigray’s capital Mekelle.

TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael urged the United Nations and African Union to condemn Ethiopia’s federal troops, accusing them of using high-tech weaponry including drones in attacks he said smashed a dam and a sugar factory.

“Abiy Ahmed is waging this war on the people of Tigray and he is responsible for the purposeful infliction of human suffering on the people and destruction of major infrastructure projects,” he said.

“We are not the initiators of this conflict and it is evident that Abiy Ahmed conducted this war as an attempt to consolidate his personal power,” he added, warning that Ethiopia could become a failed state or disintegrate.

FIGHTING SPREADS

The fighting has spread beyond Tigray into Amhara, whose local forces are allied with Abiy’s forces. On Friday, rockets were fired at two airports in Amhara in what the TPLF said was retaliation for government airstrikes.

Tigray leaders accuse Abiy, who is from the largest Oromo ethnic group and Africa’s youngest leader, of persecuting them and purging them from government and security forces over the last two years. He says they rose up against him by attacking a military base.

Amnesty International has denounced the killing of scores and possibly hundreds of civilian labourers in a massacre that both sides have blamed on each other.

The Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) has around 140,000 personnel and plenty of experience from fighting Islamist militants in Somalia and rebel groups in border regions, plus a two-decade border standoff with Eritrea.

But many senior officers were Tigrayan, much of its most powerful weaponry is there and the TPLF has seized the powerful Northern Command’s headquarters in Mekelle.

There are reports of defections of Tigrayan members of the ENDF. And the TPLF itself has a formidable history, spearheading the rebel march to Addis Ababa that ousted a Marxist dictatorship in 1991 and bearing the brunt of a 1998-2000 war with Eritrea that killed hundreds of thousands.

Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki – a long-time foe of the Tigrayan leaders – controls a vast standing army which the United States’ CIA puts at 200,000 personnel.

Abiy once fought alongside the Tigrayans and was a partner in government with them until 2018 when he took office, winning early plaudits for pursuing peace with Eritrea, starting to liberalise the economy and opening a repressive political system.

Nadal straight into the groove at ATP Finals
16 November 2020, 11:21 AM

London is bidding farewell to the ATP Finals after hosting it since 2009 but Rafa Nadal has unfinished business alongside the River Thames and his opening win over Andrey Rublev on Sunday suggests he is ready to land the one big title to elude him.

The 34-year-old Mallorcan has struggled at the ATP’s year-ender with two runner-up finishes in London his best showings.

Often he has arrived physically spent after grueling years, but he looked full of beans in a 6-3 6-4 victory that put him top of the London Group, ahead of Austrian Dominic Thiem who got his campaign off to a fine start with a 7-6(5) 4-6 6-3 victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas who he lost to in the 2019 final.

Nadal will face Thiem on Tuesday.

After winning the French Open last month for a 13th time, Nadal sounded unsure whether he would appear in London.

The fact he is here, with London in COVID-19 lockdown and the O2 Arena without any fans, shows that he regards it as a great opportunity to finally win the title.

Often a slow starter indoors, Nadal was straight into the groove against Rublev, whose five titles this year is more than any other player on the ATP Tour.

Rublev was a little unlucky to drop serve at 2-3 in the first set, his forehand flicking the net and landing out.

But after that, it was a foregone conclusion with Nadal rock-solid on serve and clinical from the baseline.

“I think it’s a positive start,” Nadal said. “Always here the first match is tricky. You are playing the best of the best. Now I have a super tough match against Dominic.”

Twelve months ago Tsitsipas beat Thiem in a three-set humdinger in front of 18 000 fans.

This time, while the quality of their tennis was high, the atmosphere felt depressingly flat in the cavernous arena, hardly the farewell party the ATP envisaged for the 50th edition of their blue-riband event before it uproots to Turin.

There was nothing between them in the first set but Tsitsipas, who saved the only breakpoints on offer, looked set to take the opener when he led 4-1 in the tiebreak, only for Thiem to hit back.

Onset point down Tsitsipas had the court at his mercy with an easy put-away but Thiem guessed right to get back into the point with a lob and then forced an error.

Tsitsipas quickly re-grouped to break early in the second set on his way to levelling the match.

But Thiem, who broke into the Grand Slam winners’ club at the US Open, is made of tough stuff these days and raised his game at the start of the decider to grab the decisive break.

The world number three said it was hard to play in front of empty seats though.

“If you have a huge win like today and you get the atmosphere from 17 000 people, it brings so much positive energy, and all of this is missing,” Thiem said.

“You have all the time to push yourself, give yourself energy.”

Greek Tsitsipas succinctly summed up the difference between this match and last year’s clash on the same court.

“Main differences? People in the stands,” he said.

US COVID-19 cases cross 11 million as pandemic intensifies
16 November 2020, 10:39 AM

The number of coronavirus cases in the United States crossed the 11-million mark on Sunday reaching yet another grim milestone, according to a Reuters tally, as the third wave of COVID-19 infections surged across the country.

Reuters data shows the pace of the pandemic in the United States has quickened, with one million more new cases from just 8 days ago when it hit 10 million, making it the fastest since the pandemic began. This compares with 10 days it took to get from 9 to 10 million and 16 days it took to reach 9 million from 8 million cases.

The United States, hardest-hit by the coronavirus, crossed 10 million COVID-19 cases on November 8 and is reporting over 100 000 daily cases for the past 11 days straight.

The latest 7-day average shows the United States is reporting more than 144 000 daily cases and 1 120 daily deaths, the highest for any country in the world.

Texas and California have reported the highest number of COVID-19 infections across the United States, together accounting for about 2.1 million cases or about 19% of the total cases since the pandemic began, according to Reuters analysis.

As COVID-19 related hospitalizations continue to rise, crossing 69 000 on Saturday, US President-elect Joe Biden’s top advisers have stressed the need to control the pandemic, warning that local healthcare systems are at a tipping point.

The Midwest remains the hardest-hit region based on the most cases per capita with North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska the top five worst-affected U.S. states.

Illinois, which has emerged as the pandemic’s new epicenter in the region as well as across the country, reported a record 15 433 new cases on Friday, the most of any state in a 24-hour period, surpassing the previous all-time high of 15 300 set by Florida in July.

Several states this week reimposed restrictions to curb the spread of the virus across the nation. North Dakota became the latest state to require that face coverings be worn in public, as it joins 39 other states this month in reporting record daily jumps in new cases.

State governors urged residents to stay home as much as possible, including Nevada Democrat Steve Sisolak, who said late on Friday that he became the fourth governor to become infected with the virus.

The United States accounts for about 20% of more than 54 million global cases and close to 19% of the 1.31 million deaths reported worldwide, according to a Reuters tally.

Global coronavirus update:

Brucella Bacteria outbreak confirmed in KZN
16 November 2020, 9:29 AM

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture has confirmed in a statement that there is an outbreak of Brucella Bacteria which causes spontaneous abortions (miscarriages) and infertility in livestock and people in the province.

The confirmed cases of Brucellosis are said to be in areas in the northern part of the province.

This outbreak is said to reduce milk production and weaken joints in both livestock as well as humans.

The department says currently there are over 400 confirmed cases.

Efforts to curb foot and mouth disease progressing

Earlier this year, the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development was working tirelessly to curb the outbreak of the foot and mouth disease.

Spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo says the disease has been contained on some farms in the Molemole Municipal area, north of Polokwane.

The outbreak has led to the ban of auctions in livestock in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Gauteng and the North West.

Ngcobo says they understand the frustrations of livestock farmers and auctioneers.

“We understand the frustration of our auctioneers as well as our farmers, but we feel that the ban is indeed working. For the fact that we managed to contain this disease in the province of Limpopo under Molemole municipality, the people will have different ideas because it affects them directly – but we are working through the task team with all the role players to ensure that the ban is lifted so that our people can  go on with their normal auction.”

In the video below, Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza speaks about the foot and mouth disease:

Brackenfell High School’s governing body, EFF back in court
16 November 2020, 8:04 AM

An application for an urgent interdict to stop the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) from protesting outside Brackenfell High School will be heard today in the High Court in Cape Town.

The matter was postponed last week to allow the EFF to make representations. The application has been brought by the school’s governing body.

Judge Siraj Desai last week said that the EFF gave an undertaking that it would not disrupt matric exams at the school.

Violent clashes erupted at the school last Monday between parents and EFF members protesting over allegations of racism. This after 42 white learners allegedly attended a private party at a wine estate.

Western Cape education authorities say the event was not organised or funded by the school.

Western Cape Education Department Spokesperson Bronagh Hammond says, “The Judge has postponed it until Monday to allow for the EFF to make representations. The Western Cape Education Department is monitoring the situation very closely. Our primary concern is the safety of learners and educators at the school. They are writing matric exams. They have worked so hard this year. They don’t deserve any disruption for them in this very crucial week.”

The Western Cape Government authorities met with the Principal of Brackenfell High and the School Governing Body on Tuesday.

The EFF on violent clashes outside Brackenfell High School:

 

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