Iran’s president vowed Saturday to exact revenge over the killing of a scientist linked to Tehran’s disbanded military nuclear program as he joined other officials in blaming Israel for the slaying.
Israel, long suspected of killing scientists a decade ago amid tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program, has yet to comment on the killing Friday of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. However, the attack bore the hallmarks of a carefully planned, military-style ambush.
The slaying threatens to renew tensions between the U.S. and Iran in the waning days of President Donald Trump’s term, just as President-elect Joe Biden has suggested his administration could return to Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers from which Trump earlier withdrew. The Pentagon announced early Saturday that it sent the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier back into the Mideast.
But analysts have compared Fakhrizadeh to being on a par with Robert Oppenheimer, the scientist who led the U.S.′ Manhattan Project in World War II that created the atom bomb.
“We will respond to the assassination of Martyr Fakhrizadeh in a proper time,” Rouhani said.
He added: “The Iranian nation is smarter than falling into the trap of the Zionists. They are thinking to create chaos.”
Friday’s attack happened in Absard, a village just east of the capital that is a retreat for the Iranian elite. Iranian state television said an old truck with explosives hidden under a load of wood blew up near a sedan carrying Fakhrizadeh.
As Fakhrizadeh’s sedan stopped, at least five gunmen emerged and raked the car with rapid fire, the semiofficial Tasnim news agency said.
Fakhrizadeh died at a hospital after doctors and paramedics couldn’t revive him. Others wounded included Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguards. Photos and video shared online showed a Nissan sedan with bullet holes in the windshield and blood pooled on the road.
Hours after the attack, the Pentagon announced it had brought the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier back into the Middle East, an unusual move as the carrier already spent months in the region. It cited the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq as the reason for the decision, saying “it was prudent to have additional defensive capabilities in the region to meet any contingency.”
The attack comes just days before the 10-year anniversary of the killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari that Tehran also blamed on Israel. That and other targeted killings happened at the time that the so-called Stuxnet virus, believed to be an Israeli and American creation, destroyed Iranian centrifuges.
Those assaults occurred at the height of Western fears over Iran’s nuclear program. Tehran long has insisted its program is peaceful. However, Fakhrizadeh led Iran’s so-called AMAD program that Israel and the West have alleged was a military operation looking at the feasibility of building a nuclear weapon. The International Atomic Energy Agency says that “structured program” ended in 2003.
IAEA inspectors monitor Iranian nuclear sites as part of the now-unraveling nuclear deal with world powers, which saw Tehran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
After Trump’s 2018 withdrawal from the deal, Iran has abandoned all those limits. Experts now believe Iran has enough low-enriched uranium to make at least two nuclear weapons if it chose to pursue the bomb. Meanwhile, an advanced centrifuge assembly plant at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility exploded in July in what Tehran now calls a sabotage attack.
Fakhrizadeh, born in 1958, had been sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council and the U.S. for his work on AMAD. Iran always described him as a university physics professor. A member of the Revolutionary Guard, Fakhrizadeh had been seen in pictures in meetings attended by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a sign of his importance in Iran’s theocracy.
In recent years, U.S. sanctions lists name him as heading Iran’s Organization for Defensive Innovation and Research. The State Department described that organization last year as working on “dual-use research and development activities, of which aspects are potentially useful for nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons delivery systems.”
Iran’s mission to the U.N., meanwhile, described Fakhrizadeh’s recent work as “development of the first indigenous COVID-19 test kit” and overseeing Tehran’s efforts at making a possible coronavirus vaccine.
India's government invited leaders of farmers for talks as thousands of them pressed on with a protest in and around the capital on Saturday against agricultural legislation they said could be exploited by the private sector to buy their crops at cheap prices.
After a day of clashes with police who used tear gas, water cannons and baton charges to push them back, the farmers were allowed to enter New Delhi late Friday.
Television images showed some of them moving to the capital while thousands still remained at the outskirts of the city.
Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar invited them for talks.
“We have called all the farmers’ organizations on December 3 and we have talked before and are still ready for talks,” Tomar said.
There was no immediate response from the farmers’ leaders. The protesters said they would not return to their homes until their demands were met.
For the last two months, farmer unions have rejected the laws, which were passed in September, and have camped out on highways in Punjab and Haryana states. They say the measure could cause the government to stop buying grain at guaranteed prices and result in their exploitation by corporations that would buy their crops cheaply.
The government says the laws are needed to reform agriculture by giving farmers the freedom to market their produce and boosting production through private investment.
“We are fighting for our rights. We won’t rest until we reach the capital and force the government to abolish these black laws,” said Majhinder Singh Dhaliwal, a farmer leader.
Opposition parties and some Modi allies have called the laws anti-farmer and pro-corporation.
Farmers have long been seen as the heart and soul of India, where agriculture supports more than half of the country’s 1.3 billion people. But farmers have also seen their economic clout diminish over the last three decades. Once accounting for a third of India’s gross domestic product, they now produce only 15% of the country’s $2.9 trillion economy.
Farmers often complain of being ignored and hold frequent protests to demand better crop prices, more loan waivers and irrigation systems to guarantee water during dry spells.
The Walt Disney Co. announced plans to lay off 4,000 more employees largely due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The announcement by the company was made in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing earlier this week, saying 32,000 employees at the parks, experiences and products division will be terminated in the first half of fiscal year 2021, which began last month.
In late September, the company had already announced plans to terminate 28,000 theme park workers. The company did not say how many of the additional 4,000 employees work at the California or Florida theme parks.
In the SEC document filed on the eve of Thanksgiving Day, the company said it also put 37,000 employees not scheduled for termination on furlough as a result of the pandemic.
“Due to the current climate, including COVID-19 impacts, and changing environment in which we are operating, the company has generated efficiencies in its staffing, including limiting hiring to critical business roles, furloughs and reductions-in-force,” the document said.
The company also said they may make more cuts in spending such as reducing film and television content investments and additional furloughs and layoffs.
In Florida, the company has been limiting attendance at its parks and changing protocols to allow for social distancing by limiting characters’ meet and greets.
Disney’s parks closed in March as the pandemic started spreading in the U.S. The Florida parks reopened in the summer, but the California parks have yet to reopen pending state and local government approvals.
Also read : Disney to axe 28,000 jobs
A significant East-West divide and people over 50 years old are revealed as contributory factors as undiagnosed cases of HIV climb throughout the European Region as a whole, according to a report published Thursday by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe (WHO Europe).
"More than 136,000 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in 2019," said a joint press release of the WHO Europe and ECDC.
However, it is the statistical revelation that every second HIV diagnosis (53 percent) is being made during the latter stage of the infection when the immune system is already beginning to fail which draws most concern from the report's compilers.
Significantly, the report reveals that new diagnoses across the more prosperous European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) countries also declined by 9 percent during the same period.
"Despite the focus on COVID-19 right now, we must not lose sight of other public health issues like HIV. Earlier diagnosis of HIV is an urgent priority," said ECDC Director Andrea Ammon.
The report maintains that the importance of early diagnosis is that it allows people to start HIV treatment sooner, which increases their chances of survival and prevents the possibility of further transmission.
A surprising takeaway from the HIV/AIDS surveillance data for 2019 revealed that those who diagnosed with HIV late increases at a higher proportion with age.
Across the whole 53-member Region, 67 percent of people aged 50 and older were diagnosed late in the course of their HIV infection, one in five of new HIV diagnoses.
"The reasons for this are not yet fully understood. It may be that older adults themselves, or the health-care workers looking after them, underestimate the risk of infection," said the report.
The new report was released on the eve of World AIDS Day observed annually on Dec. 1. World AIDS Day was introduced by WHO in 1988 to raise awareness of the AIDS epidemic caused by HIV infection.
Countries with decreasing COVID-19 numbers still need to stay "vigilant," a World Health Organization (WHO) official said Friday.
"Even as case numbers are coming down, all countries need to remain vigilant. You've heard of this before, but we really need to emphasize it again. Do not let your guard down," Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead for WHO's Health Emergencies Program, said during a virtual briefing, reports Xinhua.
"It's good to see the measures taking effect and transmission going down. But it's not time to let up. It's time to even scale up," Van Kerkhove added.
Global COVID-19 cases have surpassed 61 million with the death toll topping 1.4 million, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
"What we don't want to see is situations where you are moving from a so-called lockdown state to bring the virus under control to moving to a so-called lockdown state," she warned.