- The Wuhan National Biosafety Lab had sought bids for extensive revamp of its air disinfection and central air conditioning systems, despite the fact that the research facility was less than two years old, stated the report from the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Republican staff, released by Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas. Furthermore, an overhaul to a tune of around $1.5 million had been requested in July 2019 for the facility’s hazardous waste treatment system. China has pushed back amid the Wuhan lab leak allegations, dismissing them as a conspiracy theory. In June, the Chinese newspaper Global Times urged the international community to look into “suspicious” activities at American biological research institutions, particularly the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland.
- Former President Barack Obama, who turns 60 on 4 August, is reportedly planning to host a birthday party for himself on his nearly 30-acre property in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama purchased the mansion in 2019 purportedly for $11.75 million. Coming on the heels of recently updated federal mask guidance amid precautions prompted by the more-transmissible Delta variant of CVD, guests will reportedly be asked to take a coronavirus test and be vaccinated.
- US Naval Forces Europe-Africa Commander Robert Burke claimed recently that Russia is “baiting” the United States into “shooting first” in the Black Sea. The admiral stressed this will not happen “without provocation.” Burke said that both US and NATO fleets operate in the Black Sea “as often as we can.” The deployment of warships in the Black Sea seeks to ensure “peace through presence,” Burke added. Earlier, the Russian military had reported a major escalation in NATO drilling and reconnaissance activity in the Black Sea in recent weeks.
- SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk plans to build a satellite station on the Isle of Man to provide “blanket coverage” across the UK, particularly in rural areas in the north of the country, according to The Telegraph. Earlier, Starlink in test mode launched a subscription to satellite Internet at speeds up to 150 Mbps in Britain. At the end of June, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that the satellite internet network Starlink will have global connectivity by August and will serve more than 500,000 users within a year.
- New measures to curb domestic violence come into force in France starting Monday in an attempt to stop a rise in abuse, mainly of women, since early 2020, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said. According to official statistics, 125 deaths were reported last year as a result of domestic violence — 102 women and 23 men. On average, these killings occur every three days. France also registered 238 attempted murders among couples in 2020.
- The Taliban’s advances in Afghanistan after the West’s withdrawal is currently sending thousands of Afghans fleeing westward, David Vestenskov, a Defence Academy chief consultant who has been monitoring the situation in Afghanistan for ten years, told Danish Radio. “Afghans are fleeing because the system that has been built over the past 20 years is being phased out,” he ventured. “The West chose to withdraw without any political agreements or prospects for political agreements. That leaves a security vacuum,” he said, predicting that will be exploited not only by the Taliban, but by numerous ethnic groups.
- New Zealand’s Human Rights Commission has termed the country’s housing crisis a “massive human rights failure” as it launched an inquiry into the issue. Soaring property values have led to a spike in homelessness. Over the past year, property prices have increased by close to 30%. According to a real estate report, only 12,684 homes are available for purchase across the country. Noting that “successive governments had failed New Zealanders,” chief human rights commissioner Paul Hunt said in a statement that the housing crisis was having a “punishing impact especially on the most marginalized in our communities.”
News Burst 3 August 2021