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TAIPEI: Taiwan will resume mandatory street evacuation drills in its annual air-raid exercise later this month, including stopping traffic and ordering pedestrians to stay indoors, amid stepped up Chinese military manoeuvers around the island.
The resumption of the evacuations, which effectively shuts towns and cities across Taiwan for 30 minutes, is also happening against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which has renewed discussion in Taiwan about how best to react in the event of a Chinese attack.
China claims the democratically-run island as its territory.
Periodic air-raid drills are required by law in Taiwan, but the 30-minute mandatory street evacuations have been canceled for the past two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The defense ministry said it will resume the evacuation exercise across Taiwan in late July, during which sirens will sound on streets and an air-raid alert to ask people to seek shelter will be sent via text message.
“Only through thorough preparation and practice in peace time can we immediately demonstrate our overall combat capacity and lower the impact on people’s lives and property at war time,” ministry spokesperson Sun Li-Fang told a news briefing on Tuesday.
Sun said the air-raid drills will take place in a four-day span across Taiwan and will be carried out alongside its main island-wide annual Han Kuang military exercises that week.
In the capital Taipei, sirens will sound at 1:30 p.m. (0330 GMT) on July 25, during which vehicles will have to move to the side of the road and pedestrians wait indoors. Sirens will sound again 30 minutes later to give the all-clear.
China, which has not ruled out taking Taiwan by force, has stepped up its military activities near the island over the past two years or so, seeking to press it to accept its sovereignty claims.
Chinese fighter jets crossed the median line of the sensitive Taiwan Strait on Friday in what Taipei denounced as a provocation.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has made military modernization her top priority and has repeatedly vowed to defend the island, saying only its people can decide their future.
WASHINGTON: A federal jury found Donald Trump’s former aide Steve Bannon guilty of contempt of Congress on Friday for defying a subpoena to testify before lawmakers investigating the assault on the US Capitol.
Bannon, who led Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign, was among hundreds of people called by a House of Representatives committee to address the storming of Congress by Trump supporters on January 6, 2021.
The 68-year-old Republican strategist did not appear on the summons date or provide requested documents, and was indicted on two charges of contempt of Congress.
The 12-person jury deliberated for less than three hours before finding Bannon guilty of both misdemeanor charges.
Bannon, who served as Trump’s strategy chief at the White House before being sacked in 2017, faces a minimum of 30 days in jail and a maximum sentence of a year for each count.
Sentencing was set for October 21.
“We may have lost the battle here today but we’re not going to lose this war,” Bannon said after the verdict. “I stand with Trump and the Constitution.”
Later, in an interview with Fox News, the former investment banker said there would be “a long appeals process” ahead.
“If I go to jail, so be it,” Bannon said.
Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney, the chair and vice chair of the House committee, welcomed the verdict, saying “no one is above the law.”
“The conviction of Steve Bannon is a victory for the rule of law and an important affirmation of the Select Committee’s work,” they said in a statement.
“Just as there must be accountability for all those responsible for the events of January 6th, anyone who obstructs our investigation into these matters should face consequences.”
Presenting the government’s case, prosecutor Amanda Vaughn told the jury that Bannon had made a “deliberate decision” not to obey the subpoena.
Bannon’s attorneys did not call any witnesses during the brief trial and he did not testify in his own defense.
Bannon’s lawyer Evan Corcoran denied his client had ignored the subpoena, saying the date was “the subject of ongoing discussions and negotiation” and “flexible.”
The decision to hold Bannon in contempt was politically motivated, Corcoran said.
Vaughn said the House committee had cause to believe Bannon and other Trump advisers may have information on links between the White House and the Capitol rioters.
According to the committee, Bannon spoke to Trump the day before thousands of his supporters stormed Congress in an effort to block the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory.
They had been egged on by Trump in a fiery speech near the White House, during which he repeated his false claims of election fraud.
After refusing to testify for months, Bannon finally agreed to cooperate with the House investigation, a move prosecutors dismissed as a “last-ditch attempt to avoid accountability.”
In his Fox News appearance, Bannon called for a “sweeping victory” for Republicans in the upcoming November midterm elections.
He called for a “real January 6 committee” to be established to look into unsupported conspiracy theories, such as the Capitol assault being instigated by undercover US law enforcement.
“We have to get to the bottom of it,” he said.
DUBAI: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said a cease-fire with Russia without reclaiming lost territories would only prolong the war, according to an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Friday.
He warned that a cease-fire that allows Russia to keep Ukrainian territories seized since the invasion in February would only encourage an even wider conflict, giving Moscow an opportunity to replenish and rearm for the next round.
Zelensky also spoke about US-supplied high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS), saying, “the Western supplies of Himars, while making a material difference, are much lower than what Ukraine needs to turn the tide.”
“Freezing the conflict with the Russian Federation means a pause that gives the Russian Federation a break for rest,” the Wall Street Journal reported, citing comments by Zelensky.
He said, “Society believes that all the territories must be liberated first, and then we can negotiate about what to do and how we could live in the centuries ahead.”
“A more pressing need is air-defense systems that could prevent Russia from raining long-range missiles on otherwise peaceful cities hundreds of miles from the front lines,” Zelensky added.
Referring to the deal signed with Russia to reopen grain exports Zelensky said, “Diplomatic concessions to Moscow might stabilize the markets somewhat, but would only provide a temporary respite and boomerang in the future.”
Russia and Ukraine signed a landmark deal on Friday to reopen Ukrainian Black Sea ports for grain exports, raising hopes that an international food crisis aggravated by the Russian invasion can be eased.
SAO PAULO, Brazil: In a region where the first Arab immigrants arrived in the 19th century and an estimated 18 million people have Middle Eastern roots, Arabic food has become an integral part of the local cuisine in several Latin American countries. A new generation of Arabs on the continent is now seeking to expand the concepts and possibilities of their culinary traditions.
In Brazil, where researchers estimate that at least 10 million people are of Syrian or Lebanese descent, kibbeh and sfiha have become so popular that many people have forgotten their Levantine origin. “Sfiha was mainly brought to Brazil by Armenians from Aleppo,” Lebanese-born chef Georges Barakat told Arab News.
When he arrived in the city of Sao Paulo in 2004, he realized that Brazilians were very interested in Arabic food. Since he opened his restaurant Shahiya in 2012, he has been reinventing Lebanese dishes, giving them contemporary attributes without making them lose their roots.
“As with any other cuisine, the Arabic one can be transformed, but always keeping its essence,” he said.
“I try to offer my clients nostalgic recipes that remind them of the food they used to eat with their grandmothers, but with a modern touch.”
Both in Shahiya, located in an upscale area of Sao Paulo, and in his work as a culinary consultant at the Mount Lebanon Club — one of the most traditional institutions of the Lebanese community in the city — Barakat offers high-level food presentation and a sumptuous atmosphere.
His experiments include grape-leaf rolls stuffed with Portuguese cod, a fusion of the traditional Lebanese dish with a popular filling in Brazil. “I want to please different tastes. Nobody will lose anything with that effort,” he said.
Brazilians have transformed sfiha into their own dish, and now make sausage and even chocolate versions. In Mexico, the historical presence of Arab immigrants has also generated a curious synthesis with the local cuisine. The most notorious example is the taco arabe, a fusion between the Arabic shawarma and the Mexican taco.
It was a creation of Assyrian-Chaldean immigrants who settled in the city of Puebla at the beginning of the 1920s.
“My grandfather and his brother realized that it wasn’t easy to find pita bread, so they began using tortillas,” Zacarias Galiana, the heir of Tacos Bagdad — the pioneering restaurant in the production of tacos arabes — told Arab News.
“They also replaced the yogurt with chipotle sauce, and the preferred meat became pork.”
Galiana, who manufactures the chipotle sauce that his grandfather created, also serves a more Arabized version of the taco, using a tortilla more similar to pita bread and traditional shawarma fillings such as yogurt and onions. “We’re totally connected, and fusion food is a natural consequence,” he said.
In Chile, where at least 600,000 Palestinians form their largest community outside the Middle East, the new generation seems to be eager to innovate.
Jad Alarja, a 33-year-old Palestinian-born chef in the capital Santiago, is a culinary instructor at the online platform Ochomil.cl, and has been teaching viewers how to make traditional Arabic dishes. He is not afraid of experimenting with new flavors and textures.
“The new generations are willing to have new food experiences, but we Arabs tend to be stuck with the same old ways of doing things,” he told Arab News. Alarja’s classes have been shared on social media by Chile’s Palestinian community. At times, he receives negative feedback.
“Once I taught how I prepare tabbouleh and a person said, ‘I come from a family with five generations of cooks, and that isn’t how tabbouleh should be done’,” he said.
“Why do people prefer to compete over who makes things more traditionally instead of creating new things?”
Alarja said during the COVID-19 pandemic, many Arab Chileans began cooking and selling food, something that may contribute to expanding the reach of Arabic cuisine in the country.
The expansion of Arabic food in Latin America is also a result of the influx of Syrian refugees, who have been coming to the region for the last 10 years due to humanitarian visas distributed by countries such as Brazil and Argentina.
Some of them opened restaurants and have been serving the food they used to prepare in Syria, which can at times surprise Latin Americans used to a specific Arabic cuisine.
Haneen Nasser, a 30-year-old Syrian who came to Argentina six years ago, married a Lebanese Argentinian and settled in Santa Rosa, a small city in La Pampa province.
There, they began cooking in 2018 and soon caused some surprise among their clients. “The city doesn’t have a large Lebanese community like Buenos Aires and Cordoba, but people have their established ideas about Arabic food. At times we impact them,” she told Arab News.
That was the case with the mint and cheese sfiha, a traditional dish in her hometown Latakia but until then unknown in Argentina.
“Even my Lebanese mother-in-law didn’t know it. Now it’s a success, especially among vegetarians and kids,” Nasser said.
A graduate in English studies, she never cooked professionally in Syria but fell in love with the idea in Argentina. At time, she asks for help from her mother and aunt in Syria with some recipes.
“We’re now starting a small restaurant with the idea of not only serving food, but also presenting our culture to the people,” Nasser said. “It’s our life project for the future.”
Barakat said: “Many Arab chefs go to Europe for training and end up becoming chefs of foreign food. I’m the opposite: I want to be an ambassador of Lebanese — and Arabic — food all over the world.”

 
 
COLOMBO: Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe appointed on Friday a new Cabinet comprising allies of the country’s ousted leader Gotabaya Rajapaksa, despite earlier promises to form a unity government with opposition members.  
Former president Rajapaksa fled to the Maldives and then Singapore last week to escape a months’-long popular uprising over the role his family played in the country’s worst economic meltdown since independence from Britain in 1948.
Wickremesinghe, a former prime minister holding the finance portfolio under Rajapaksa, won a vote in parliament to complete the ex-leader’s term and was sworn in on Thursday, amid protests which were violently dispersed by security forces on Friday night.
The violence overshadowed a Friday morning ceremony during which he appointed Dinesh Gunawardena as his successor to the premiership.
Wickremesinghe’s former classmate at Royal College in Colombo, Gunawardena is a lawmaker from the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party led by the Rajapaksa family, and is seen as the right-hand man of the ex-president’s most prominent brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was forced to resign from the premiership in May when anti-government demonstrations turned deadly.  
Hours after Gunawardena’s appointment, the new 18-member Cabinet was sworn in.
“The new interim Cabinet of Ministers was sworn in before President Ranil Wickremesinghe today. The swearing-in ceremony took place at the Prime Minister’s Office on Flower Road, Colombo,” the presidential office said in a statement.
While Wickremesinghe last week urged all parties in parliament to come to a “common consensus on the establishment of an all-party interim government,” previous ministers were retained in his new Cabinet, except for former Justice Minister Ali Sabry, who was appointed as foreign minister.
Wickremesinghe retained his portfolio as finance minister.
Both the new president and his Cabinet have been rejected by protesters who since March have been taking to the streets of Colombo and across the country despite continuous announcements of a state of emergency and the deployment of troops to secure order.
“The new Cabinet has no meaning, the only change is the new foreign minister Ali Sabry who was also a former justice minister,” Namal Jayaweera, leader of the protest movement, told Arab News.
“Ranil (Wickremesinghe) spoke about the all-party government and unity government and finally ended up with the old group of ministers who are allies of the Rajapaksa family, their cronies and persons who were notorious for corruption and nepotism.”
Senaka Perera, a lawyer representing the protesters, said that they had seen Wickremesinghe from the beginning as a “henchman” of the Rajapaksa family.
“We will continue our fight to oust Ranil (Wickremesinghe), as we did to expel Gotabaya from office,” he told Arab News from a protest site at the Galle Face Green park in Colombo.
Protests have continued in the Sri Lankan capital since March and have spread across the country as people struggle with daily power cuts and shortages of basic commodities such as fuel, food and medicines.
Sri Lanka has run out of foreign currency reserves, leaving it unable to pay for imports.
In May, the island nation of 22 million people officially defaulted on its debt and is seeking a $3 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund to put its public finances back on track.

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