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CBS broadcasts Sisi interview despite Egypt request not to air it | News

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US network CBS has broadcast an interview with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi despite a request by the Egyptian government not to air the programme.

During the station’s “60 Minutes” investigative news show, el-Sisi told host Scott Pelly that his country was engaged in military co-operation with Israel in Sinai and denied the detention of political prisoners in Egypt.

Before the airing of the interview on Sunday, CBS had said the information given by el-Sisi was “not the kind of news his government wanted broadcast”.

“The 60 Minutes team was contacted by the Egyptian ambassador shortly after and told the interview could not be aired,” the network said, without specify which part of the president’s comments Cairo objected to.

Under Sisi, Egypt has quietly cooperated with Israel on security in Egypt’s Sinai, a desert peninsula demilitarised as part of a US-sponsored 1979 peace treaty between the two countries but where Cairo’s forces now operate freely.

Acknowledging such cooperation with Israel can be a sensitive and potentially damaging topic in Egypt.

Asked whether the cooperation was the closest and deepest that he has had with Israel, Sisi responded: “That is correct. The Air Force sometimes needs to cross to the Israeli side. And that’s why we have a wide range of coordination with the Israelis.”

Egypt’s military last year denied media reports that it was cooperating with Israel against fighters in northern Sinai, now led by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.

Asked why he had not managed to wipe “the estimated 1,000 terrorists” out after receiving $1bn in annual US military aid, el-Sisi responded by pointing to the challenges that Washington has faced in Afghanistan against the Taliban.

“Why hasn’t the US eliminated the terrorists in Afghanistan after 17 years and spending a trillion dollars?” he asked.

Rabaa killings

El-Sisi was also asked about the massacre of more than 800 Muslim Bortherhood supporters in Rabaa al-Adawiya Square in 2013 when he was defence minister, and whether he gave that order?

“Allow me to ask you a question,” el-Sisi told Pelly who had asked him whether he had given the order. “Are you closely following the situation in Egypt? From where do you get your information? There were thousands of armed people in the sit-in for more than 40 days. We tried every peaceful means to disperse them,” el-Sisi said.






WATCH: Egypt marks five years since ‘Rabaa massacre’ (2:18)

Pelly then asked whether the response by security forces was “necessary” to the peace and stability of Egypt, citing a Human Rights Watch report on Rabaa which said that “using armored personnel carriers, bulldozers, ground forces and snipers, police and army personnel attacked the protest encampment with hundreds killed by bullets to their heads, necks and chests”.

In response, el-Sisi denied that the HRW was a “sound statement”.

“There were police personnel and they were trying to open peaceful corridors for the people to go safely to their homes.

El-Sisi also dismissed reports from international rights organisations estimating that Egypt has imprisoned as many as 60,000 political activists

“I don’t know where they got that figure. I said there are no political prisoners in Egypt,” el-Sisi said, his face shiny with sweat. “Whenever there is a minority trying to impose their extremist ideology … we have to intervene regardless of their numbers.”

Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein was arrested in December 2016 as he returned home to visit his family. Hussein has been held in an Egyptian prison without charge for 745 days.

The detentions are part of a large crackdown on dissent that includes tight control of the media, placing draconian restrictions on rights groups and reversing most of the freedoms gained by a 2011 uprising against autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

‘Uncomfortable, sweating’

Khaled el-Gindy, non-resident fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, said that “the optics were not good” for el-Sisi during his 60 Minutes interview.

“He came across as uncomfortable, sweating and also of course his responses just completely denying everything that has been documented … by so many other human rights groups both in Egypt and outside Egypt,” el-Gindy told Al Jazeera.






WATCH: Al Jazeera speaks to Mahmoud Hussein’s daughter about his arrest (7:09)

“There was no nuance at all to his responses, they were simply very absolute and sweeping, ‘there are absolutely no political prisoners’, which is simply not believable.”

El-Gindy said it was “striking” that el-Sisi – who is not known for giving many TV interviews – had agreed to speak to 60 Minutes and “surprising” how Egyptian officials went and asked CBS not to air the programme.

Commenting on the Egyptian president’s decision to appear in the show, el-Gindy said that el-Sisi “to a certain extent … feels a little bit more emboldened” with Donald Trump at the White House.

“He probably felt that having a friendly administration in power in Washington was a good opportunity to try and reach out to at least President Trump’s base – that may be part of his thinking that he can win over some segment of the American public that would support him and his narrative as well as that of President Trump, but I don’t think it will go over well with the American public at large,” said el-Gindy.

El-Sisi won a second, four-year term in office last year after running virtually unopposed.

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Ottawa transit commission hopes to prioritize COVID-19 vaccines for OC Transpo workers

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Ottawa’s transit commission is pushing local and provincial health officials to recognize the role OC Transpo operators have played in keeping the city running during the COVID-19 pandemic, hoping to bump train and bus drivers in the vaccination queue amid a recent surge in coronavirus infections affecting transit workers.

More than 100 OC Transpo staff across the entire organization have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to an update at Wednesday morning’s transit commission meeting.

Of those cases, 26 employees are currently recovering from the disease in self-isolation.

OC Transpo has seen a recent jump in COVID-19 cases, with Ottawa city council receiving reports of eight operators testing positive for the virus over a recent eight-day period.

Transit commissioner Sarah Wright-Gilbert attempted to find out how many of the total cases are traced to workplace transmission, but OC Transpo boss John Manconi said he’s been advised by medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches that he can’t share that information for privacy reasons.

Transit operators are listed in the second priority group of essential workers as part of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine sequencing plans, but several commissioners speaking Wednesday wanted to get the city’s bus and train drivers bumped higher in the order.

Councillors Riley Brockington and Glen Gower both put forward motions looking to get front-line OC Transpo employees prioritization in vaccine sequencing, but others pointed out that the much-debated public health topic of who gets the vaccine and when is well beyond the scope of the transit commission.

“We are not in a position in transit commission to be decreeing, or making an edict, about what group of essential workers is more at risk than others and should be prioritized. That should be left up to public health experts,” Wright-Gilbert said.

Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Keith Egli, who also chairs the Ottawa Board of Health, reflected on the board’s four-plus-hour meeting on Monday evening, during which vaccine sequencing and prioritizing essential workers dominated the conversation.

“Vaccine sequencing is obviously a very difficult maze to get through,” he said.

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COVID-19: Ottawa police announce end of 24-7 presence at Ontario-Quebec border

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Less than two days after the Ontario government’s latest COVID-19 restrictions came into effect, calling for non-essential traffic to be stopped at the province’s borders with Quebec and Manitoba, the Ottawa Police Service has announced it is stopping its 24-hour checkpoints.

According to a statement issued by the service Tuesday evening, the around-the-clock border checkpoints were set to end as of 8 p.m. on Tuesday in favour of rotating checkpoints across the city throughout the day until Ontario’s temporary regulations end.

“Since the onset of the border operations, the OPS has been working closely with Ottawa Public Health (OPH) along with local stakeholders and interprovincial stakeholders (the City of Ottawa, the City of Gatineau, the Ontario Provincial Police etc.) to assess any local public health, traffic and safety impacts. The assessment resulted in today’s operational changes,” the statement said.

“The operational changes announced today are designed to better ensure the health and safety of all, to minimize delays and/or hazards for travellers and to ensure essential workers can get to their places of employment on time.”

The statement also said the police service, while working to comply with the provincial order, was focused on education and enforcement actions that “support improved public health outcomes and respect the concerns of our most marginalized and racialized communities”

Officers said they will be conducting daily assessments on border crossings and that there could be further changes.

In a statement to Global News, a spokesperson for Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said that the border closures are ultimately subject to the discretion of local police enforcing the regulations.

“Local police services are best positioned to determine the operational deployments necessary to ensure the continued safety of their communities,” the spokesperson said, noting that the order’s regulations still apply to individuals entering the province.

The temporary order restricts Quebec residents from entering Ontario. If prompted, individuals must stop when directed by an enforcement officials and provide their reason for entering the province.

The main exemptions to the restrictions include if the person’s main home is in the province, if they work in Ontario, if they’re transporting goods, if they’re exercising Indigenous or treaty rights, if they need health care or if there’s a basis on compassionate grounds.

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COVID-19 vaccines in Ottawa: Nearly half of all residents in their 60s have at least one dose

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Public Health’s latest COVID-19 vaccination update shows that nearly half of all residents 60 to 69 years old have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, a figure that has all but doubled in the past week.

OPH’s COVID-19 vaccination dashboard shows 58,000 residents 60 to 69 have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, accounting for 49.3 per cent of that age group’s population in Ottawa. Last Wednesday, OPH reported 30,000 residents 60 to 69 had had at least one dose, which was 25.4 per cent.

As age demographics get younger, the population grows larger and the coverage by percentage may appear to grow more slowly, even if clinics are vaccinating greater numbers of people. For example, the latest figures show that 83 per cent of people aged 70 to 79 have had at least one dose. By raw population that’s 60,000 people, only slightly higher than half of all people in their 60s.

Vaccinations are open through the Ontario portal to anyone 60 and older and, this week, the AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for administration at pharmacies and primary care clinics to anyone in Ontario 40 and older.

OPH reported a new shipment this week of 25,740 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. To date, Ottawa has received 305,130 doses of COVID-19 vaccines from the provincial government.

The number of eligible residents (i.e. 16 and older) with at least one dose of a vaccine is now up to 28 per cent.

Tuesday was Ottawa’s second-busiest day for vaccinations overall, with the OPH reporting 9,729 shots administered. Last Friday saw 9,887 shots administered in a single day.

QUICK STATS

  • Ottawa residents with at least one dose: 248,668
  • Ottawa residents with two doses: 26,722
  • Percent of eligible population (residents 16 and older) with at least one dose: 28 per cent
  • Percent of eligible population (residents 16 and older) with two doses: 3 per cent
  • Percent of total population with at least one dose: 24 per cent
  • Percent of total population with two doses: 3 per cent

VACCINATION COVERAGE BY AGE FOR OTTAWA RESIDENTS WITH AT LEAST ONE DOSE

  • 10-19: 1.6 per cent (1,804 people)
  • 20-29: 8.3 per cent (13,452 people)
  • 30-39: 9.5 per cent (14,999 people)
  • 40-49: 12.9 per cent (17,350 people)
  • 50-59: 28.8 per cent (40,320 people)
  • 60-69: 49.3 per cent (58,627 people)
  • 70-79: 82.9 per cent (62,808 people)
  • 80-89: 87.5 per cent (29,358 people)
  • 90+: 89.2 per cent (7,893 people)
  • Unknown age: 2,057 people 

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