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‘Earth began to purge us too’: slam poet brings refugee voices to Glasgow

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November 8, 2021

By Hanna Rantala

LONDON (Reuters) – She heard them when she spoke to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, and when she met Syrians at a camp in Jordan: the same cries of the dispossessed that rang during her own childhood, when she escaped from Darfur.

Now, Sudanese-American poet Emtithal “Emi” Mahmoud – crowned world champion at the 2015 Individual World Poetry Slam in Washington DC – is carrying the message of those voices to world leaders at the climate summit in Scotland.

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Her mission, she explained to Reuters, is “to just get the most vulnerable people’s voices into spaces where we’re not normally represented”.

“At 11 years old I saw my neighbour’s house crumble before my eyes,” she writes in her poem entitled ‘Di Baladna’, or ‘Our Land’ in Arabic, which she unveils on Monday at the COP 26 U.N. climate summit in Glasgow.

“Our country was already locked in turmoil and now the earth began to purge us too,” it reads.

As a refugee herself and a goodwill ambassador for U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, she has spoken to fellow refugees around the globe. She saw how much they had in common.

“…You realise that the same vulnerabilities and issues and sensitivities and crises that we witnessed during the Darfur crisis are being repeated over and over,” she said.

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“I think I try to answer the question a little bit of how it is that we can bring everyone into the same cause that a lot of us are in right now.”

At COP26, she will be appealing for urgent action but also highlighting the efforts refugees are already making to adapt to their habitats.

“Is the situation dire? Absolutely, yeah. But can it be changed? It can, and they’ve already changed it themselves. But that work can go to waste if we don’t support them sometime soon.”

(Reporting by Hanna Rantala; Editing by Peter Graff)

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One of suspected killers of Saudi journalist Khashoggi arrested in France – RTL

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December 7, 2021

PARIS (Reuters) – One of the suspected killers of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was arrested at the Roissy airport near Paris on Tuesday as he was about to board a flight to Riyadh, French RTL radio reported.

RTL said the person arrested was a former Royal Guard of Saudi Arabia who is believed to have been involved in the killing of Kashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

(Reporting by Tassilo Hummel, Writing by GV De Clercq, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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Biden, Putin begin talks, RIA says, after U.S. warning of toughest sanctions yet if Russia invades Ukraine

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December 7, 2021

By Steve Holland and Andrew Osborn

WASHINGTON/MOSCOW (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden began a video conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, Russian state television said, after U.S. officials warned Moscow could be hit with the toughest economic sanctions yet if it invades Ukraine.

The officials said the sanctions, which one source said could target Russia’s biggest banks and Moscow’s ability to convert roubles into dollars and other currencies, were designed to dissuade Putin from using tens of thousands of troops massed near the Ukrainian border to attack its southern neighbour.

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The Kremlin, which said before the meeting it did not expect any breakthroughs, has denied harbouring such intentions and has said its troop posture is defensive.

But Moscow has voiced rising vexation over Western military aid to Ukraine, a fellow former Soviet republic that has tilted towards the West since a popular revolt toppled a pro-Russian president in 2014, and what it calls creeping NATO expansion.

Moscow has likewise questioned Ukrainian intentions and said it wants guarantees that Kyiv will not use force to try to retake territory lost in 2014 to Russia-backed separatists, a scenario Ukraine has ruled out.

“We’re looking for good, predictable relations with the United States. Russia has never intended to attack anyone, but we have our concerns and we have our red lines,” said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

Calling for everyone to keep “a cool head”, Peskov said it was vital that Putin and Biden speak given what he called the extraordinary escalation of tensions in Europe.

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The Russian rouble weakened slightly on Tuesday, with some market analysts predicting the talks would de-escalate tensions and others saying that the U.S. sanctions threat eroded hopes of finding common ground.

Ahead of his first direct talks with Putin since July, Biden discussed the sanctions plan with European allies on Monday, seeking a strong joint stance in support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

He spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

They called on Russia to defuse tensions and return to diplomacy and said their teams would stay in close touch, including in consultation with NATO allies and EU partners, on a “coordinated and comprehensive approach”, the White House said.

Biden’s team has identified a set of economic penalties to impose should Russia launch an invasion, a senior Biden administration official said.

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A separate source familiar with the situation said targeting Putin’s inner circle has been discussed but no decision made. Sanctions against Russia’s biggest banks and curbing the conversion of roubles into dollars and other currencies were also being considered, another source said.

(Additional reporting by Idrees Ali in Washington, Gleb Stolyarov, Dmitry Antonov, Alexander Marrow, Tom Balmforth and Katya Golubkova in Moscow, Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Catherine Evans and Mark Heinrich)

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Britain reports 101 more cases of Omicron coronavirus variant

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December 7, 2021

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain has found a further 101 confirmed cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant, the UK Health Security Agency said on Tuesday, taking the total number of cases to 437.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by William Schomberg)

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