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Algerians protest against Bouteflika’s bid for fifth term | News

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Hundreds of demonstrators, in defiance of a ban of protests, rallied in the Algerian capital against a bid by ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika for a fifth term in office.

The protesters chanted pro-democracy slogans at a rally on Friday in Algier’s May 1 Square amid a heavy police presence, witnesses said. 

Security forces cordoned off the square and prevented other protesters from entering it, the witnesses added.

“No fifth mandate,” chanted the mostly young demonstrators, many waving Algerian flags, as they started to march through central Algiers.

Earlier this month, Bouteflika, who has ruled the North African country since 1999, announced his intention to seek a new five-year term in the elections scheduled for April 18, despite concerns over his health.

The 81-year-old head of state uses a wheelchair and has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013.

“Algerians’ dignity has been infringed by the current president’s bid to rule Algeria for five more years despite his ill health,” a protester told dpa news agency on Friday in the capital.





Algerian policemen push back protesters during a demonstration in Algiers [Ryad Kramdi/AFP]

An official ban on demonstrations in Algiers was imposed in 2001. 

Activists used social media to call for Friday rallies against Bouteflika across the country after the weekly Muslim prayers, also filling the main square in Annaba, 400 kilometres east of Algiers with demonstrators, the TSA news website said.

Other smaller gatherings took place in other provinces including Oran in north-western Algeria and Setif in the north east, Algerian newspaper Elkhabar reported online.

The protests came after mosque preachers had cautioned in Friday prayers against demonstrating, warning of violence.

Weak opposition

Bouteflika’s re-election bid comes after the ruling FLN party picked him as its official presidential candidate. Several political parties, trade unions and business organisations have already said they would support his re-election.

In announcing his bid, he spoke of an “unwavering desire to serve” despite his health constraints and pledged to set up an “inclusive national conference” to address political and economic reforms.

Bouteflika is expected to easily win the vote as the opposition remains weak and divided.

On Wednesday, leaders from the country’s diverse opposition parties failed to agree on a joint presidential candidate. 

Bouteflika remains popular with many Algerians, who credit him with ending a long civil war by offering an amnesty to former Islamist fighters.

But many young people feel disconnected from an elite made up of veteran fighters from Algeria’s 1954-1962 independence war with France.

Bouteflika is the only president in North Africa who was spared in the pro-democracy uprisings of the Arab Spring that started in neighbouring Tunisia in 2010.

At the time, his government contained pro-democracy protests with promises of reform and pay raises, financed by the country’s revenues from oil and gas.

In recent years, Algeria’s finances have been hurt by the global drop in oil prices, prompting cuts in state subsidies.    

The president’s office announced on Thursday that Bouteflika will travel to Switzerland for “routine medical checks” ahead of the April 18 election.

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When Ontario declared a COVID-19 health emergency last spring, the first instinct of Ottawa entrepreneur Peter O’Blenis was to preserve cash.

“We basically stopped our discretionary spending,” said O’Blenis, the co-founder and CEO of Evidence Partners, which makes software for accelerating the review of scientific and medical literature, using artificial intelligence. “We cut investments in things meant to help us grow.”

It was a defensive posture born of experience. O’Blenis had 12 years earlier nearly been crushed by the global financial crisis. Another looked to be on the way.

In 2008, O’Blenis and his colleagues, Jonathan Barker and Ian Stefanison, hit a brick wall with their first venture, TrialStat, which helped hospitals manage patients’ electronic data. While TrialStat had secured $5.5 million in venture financing just a couple of years earlier, the founders had burned through most of it during a rapid expansion. When the financial world collapsed, so did their firm.

The trio played things far more conservatively with Evidence Partners, which has relied almost exclusively on customer revenues to finance expansion.

The caution proved unnecessary. Like so many other businesses, O’Blenis underestimated the government’s willingness to keep the economy afloat with easy money. Nor did he anticipate that COVID-19 would prove a significant catalyst for the firm’s revenues so soon.

Evidence Partners is hardly the only local firm with technology particularly suited for the war against COVID-19. Spartan Bioscience and DNA Genotek adapted existing products to create technology for identifying the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Ottawa-based units of Abbott Laboratories and Siemens Healthineers make portable blood analyzers that diagnose patients afflicted by the virus.

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Shepherds of Good Hope wants to expand ByWard Market operation with eight-storey housing complex

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The Shepherds of Good Hope plans to build an eight-storey building near its current shelter for the homeless in the ByWard Market that would include supportive housing for up to 48 people, a soup kitchen and a drop-in centre.

The organization says it wants to be part of the solution to the housing crisis that has fuelled a rise in homelessness in Ottawa.

People would be moved out of the emergency shelters and into their own tiny apartments in the complex, which would include a communal dining hall and staff available to help with mental health, addiction and medical problems, said Caroline Cox, senior manager of communications for the Shepherds.

Some residents in the neighbourhood are opposed, saying services for the homeless and vulnerable should not be concentrated in one area of the city.

“I was flabbergasted,” said homeowner Brian Nolan, who lives one block from the development proposed for 216 Murray St., where currently a one-story building houses offices for the Shepherds of Good Hope.

Nolan said that, in the 15 years he’s lived in the area, it has become increasingly unsafe, with home and car thefts, drug dealing, loitering, aggressive and erratic behaviour, urinating, defecating and vomiting on sidewalks and yards and sexual acts conducted in public on his dead-end street. Before he lets his son play basketball in the yard, he checks the ground for needles and his home security camera to see who is nearby.

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Carleton University Hosts the Forum Lecture: Towards a Feminist Post-COVID City

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evehe Carleton University Forum Lecture: Towards a Feminist Post-COVID City given by Leslie Kern launches Ottawa Architecture Week. Urban geographer, author and academic, Kern will discuss how the pandemic has highlighted long-standing inequalities in the design, use and inclusivity of urban spaces. The talk will share some of the core principles behind a feminist urban vision to inform a wider vision of justice, equity and sustainability.

When
: Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021 at 6:30 p.m.
Registration: https://alumni.carleton.ca/event-registration-architecture-forum-series-with-leslie-kern-2/.

About the Speaker

Kern holds a PhD in Women’s Studies from York University. She is currently an associate professor of Geography and Environment and director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Mount Allison University.

Kern is the author of two books on gender and cities, including Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-Made World (Verso). The book discusses how our cities have failed in terms of fear, motherhood, friendship, activism, the joy and perils of being alone, and also imagines what they could become.

Kern argues, “The pandemic has shown us that society can be radically reorganized if necessary. Let’s carry that lesson into creating the non-sexist city.”

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