Chinese video-sharing application TikTok, along with messaging and payment app WeChat, will be banned from US app stores on Sunday, the US Department on Commerce announced in a statement Friday.

The decision is part of US President Donald Trump’s executive orders signed on Aug. 6 when he said he would ban the TikTok app if its US business is not sold to an American company.

"At the President’s direction, we have taken significant action to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data," Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in the statement.

Although the threats posed by WeChat and TikTok are not identical, Ross said they are similar, each collecting "vast swaths of data from users, including network activity, location data, and browsing and search histories."

While Trump has argued TikTok poses a national security threat to the US by sharing American users' information with Chinese government, some members of the US Congress also demanded the Department of Justice open an investigation into TikTok amid data privacy concerns.

However, TikTok's parent firm ByteDance denied such allegations, stressing that its user data is stored outside China, and saying it is committed to protect the privacy and safety of its users.

US software company Oracle last Sunday beat its rival Microsoft in a bidding war to buy TikTok's US operations, but TikTok's parent firm ByteDance said Thursday any agreement would require an approval of authorities in both Beijing and Washington.

The ban on TikTok could be revoked if Trump approves the Chinese company's deal with Oracle, or national security concerns posed by TikTok would be resolved until Nov. 12.

TikTok was downloaded 315 million times in January-March 2020, more than any app in a single quarter in history, and 37 million times in August alone when it generated a $9 million revenue that month, according to latest data from Sensor Tower.

WeChat was downloaded 6 million times worldwide, generating a $405,000 revenue in August, the analytics company's data shows.





The economic relations between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Zionists are improving and developing after the announcement of their Aug. 13 normalization deal, according to observers and newspaper reports.

Zionist Entity looks for more Gulf States to enter the normalization club which will give Zionist political and security benefits along with the economic and trade benefits.

On Wednesday, the Zionist website of Globes said talks were held between Zionist and UAE officials on establishing an oil pipeline that extends through Saudi Arabia to Israel's Eilat Port on the Red Sea -- with an already existing Zionist pipeline from Eilat to the coastal Mediterranean city of Ashkelon.

According to the Egyptian Professor Nayel al-Shafei, in case this pipeline transports fuel to Europe, the Suez Canal will face a low-cost competitor where Zionist will be the biggest winner, especially after the Egyptian authorities spent over $8 billion to expand the capacity of the canal.

Not only the pipeline proposal will be the challenge but also the recent announced trade partnerships between Dubai ports and Zionist trade firms.

On Tuesday, the Israeli Dovertower company signed a cooperation agreement with multinational company Dubai Ports World on shipping activities.

This cooperation will allow establishing free trade zones as well as sea lines between Zionist and UAE ports.

Last month, the chairman of the Suez Canal Authority Osama Rabea said the canal is an important source for the revenues in Egypt.

He added that the canal's earnings in the financial year 2019-2020, which ended in June, was $5.72 billion in comparison with $5.75 of the previous year.

The Suez Canal, considered the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia, is one of the most important trade routes in the world significant source for hard cash in Egypt./aa


The UN and its World Health Organization agency (WHO) on Friday called for more surveillance of polio to prevent the virus' return to Africa.

Visiting the last survivors of polio cases in Nigeria and Africa, Edward Kallon, UN resident coordinator in Nigeria, asked nations to step up vaccination to ensure polio is not reintroduced to the continent.

"We should not be complacent, we should continue to ensure children are vaccinated at the appropriate ages and [with the] right vaccine to ensure this thing does not repeat itself," Kallon said.

Walter Mulombo, the WHO's country representative, said two Asian countries still have cases of wild poliovirus.

He urged nations to be vigilant, as polo anywhere in the world could spread to other places.

Nigeria was declared polio free in late August by the Africa Regional Certification Commission, an independent regional body for polio and disease outbreak assessment. Before then, it was the only African nation left with the virus.

Polio, an acute infectious disease that causes paralysis, usually affects children under 5. Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only countries in the world with the virus.

After four years without a single case of wild polio, the African region last month was certified free of wild poliovirus.

The announcement was made at a virtual session of the 70th WHO Regional Committee for Africa./aa


The US state of Michigan is fighting a deadly virus besides COVID-19, one that afflicts horses and may have infected one person.

The rare and dangerous mosquito-borne virus known as eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) has been confirmed in 22 horses across the state’s 10 counties as of Sept. 15, Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday in a statement.

While there is twice as many animal cases than this time last year, there is one suspected human case in Barry County, it said, adding: "There is an EEE vaccine available for horses, but not for people. Protecting horses with approved EEE vaccines is an important prevention measure."

People can be infected with EEE from one bite of a mosquito carrying the virus, which has a 33% fatality rate in humans, and 90% in horses. People younger than 15 and older than 50 are at a greater risk of a severe disease following the infection, according to the department.

Most of the US' total 38 EEE cases last year were diagnosed in Michigan, where six people died and four others were hospitalized. People across 10 counties in Michigan are strongly urged to cancel or postpone outdoor events taking place at or after dusk to prevent contracting the virus.

Apart from the EEE, the Midwestern state has also had its share of fatalities from the novel coronavirus.

The Wolverine state bordering Canada has seen 6,955 deaths, 3.5% of total nearly 198,000 deaths in the US, from COVID-19 as of Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University data./aa


Oil prices rose on Friday after the OPEC+ meeting, which pressed for further compliance with the group’s production cut decision to ease oversupply concerns.

International benchmark Brent crude was trading at $43.75 per barrel at 0728 GMT for a 1.04% increase after closing Thursday at $43.30 a barrel.

American benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was at $41.45 a barrel at the same time for a 1.17% increase after ending the previous session at $40.97 per barrel.

Oil prices spiked after the OPEC+ meeting on Thursday, which resulted in full commitment to the OPEC+ agreement and compensation mechanism.

Tolga Uysal, an energy markets specialist and founding partner of Deriva Consulting, told Anadolu Agency of the determination of many OPEC countries to comply with the production cuts.

However, he said that countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Iraq and Nigeria, which have overproduced, have been asked to compensate for this by the end of the year.

“We will see in time how Russia will later react to these cuts. Therefore, any rift on this issue may put pressure down prices,” he said.

Given the ongoing fragility in the supply-demand balance, Uysal said it might take until next spring to stabilize supply and demand in spite of the approximate 10% output cuts aimed at reducing OPEC supply.

OPEC and allies including Russia, a grouping known as OPEC+, is currently cutting output by 7.7 million barrels per day up to December to support prices, as the coronavirus crisis continues to hamper demand.

"However, due to COVID-19, the world economy will shrink this year and the aviation sector especially will be adversely affected, signaling a demand rebound will not be soon,” Uysal added.

Political risk and oil analyst Jose Chalhoub noted that despite the OPEC+ group's continuing demand concerns and the impact of coronavirus on oil prices, Saudi Arabia's harsh response to overperforming countries that did not comply with production cuts was a very clear indicator of "who is in charge of the game".

Further oil price increases were capped as energy firms started to return crews to offshore oil platforms after Hurricane Sally weakened in the Gulf of Mexico where more than half of the US oil refineries are located./aa

ROME (Reuters) - Some 70 migrants jumped overboard from the Spanish rescue ship Open Arms on Thursday, in an attempt to swim to the nearby southern Italian city of Palermo.

Those who jumped into the sea, part of a group of more than 270 people, were picked up by Italian coastguard and police ships.

The charity vessel carried out three separate rescue operations in the central Mediterranean between Sept. 8 and 10. The crew are still waiting for instructions on where the migrants will be allowed to disembark.

The Italian coastguard have transferred two pregnant women and one of their husbands onto land for medical assistance in recent days.


After being for years the primary route into Europe for hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers and other migrants, Italy has seen a drop in arrivals after a crackdown on smuggling networks.

However, numbers have picked up again in 2020 although Rome banned rescue ships from docking in its ports due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sometimes those saved at sea are transferred to ferries and quarantined there, off the Italian coast.

Moscow — If there is life on Venus, it might want to start learning Russian. The boss of Russia's government space agency has claimed it as a "Russian planet."

The bold territorial claim comes on the heels of scientific research suggesting life could exist on Earth's celestial neighbor, the second planet from the sun.

Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin, who's known for espousing unconventional scientific views — and for frequently sarcastic anti-Western rhetoric — said this week that Russia wants to send its own mission to Venus, in addition to an already-proposed joint venture with the United States called "Venera-D."

"We think that Venus is a Russian planet, so we shouldn't lag behind," Rogozin, a former deputy prime minister, told reporters on Tuesday. He noted that the Soviet Union was "the first and the only one" to land a spacecraft on Venus.

"The spacecraft gathered information about the planet — it is like hell over there," he said in remarks quoted by the Tass news agency.

Research published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy details British and American scientists' discovery of phosphine gas in the clouds around Venus, considered a potential sign of life on the planet.

The atmosphere of Venus is made up almost entirely of carbon dioxide, and it's considered the hottest planet in our solar system.

The new study renewed public interest in Venus, likely prompting the Roscosmos chief to remind the world of the former Soviet Union's achievements in early space exploration.

NASA's Mariner 2 became the first spacecraft to fly by Venus and measure its extreme surface temperature in 1962. The Soviet Union launched several "Venera" spacecraft, and in 1970 Venera 7 became the first spacecraft to make a successful soft landing on the planet, though it melted within seconds.

Its successor Venera 9 took the first image, and the only one to date, of the Venusian surface from the ground-level perspective.

"The huge gap between the Soviet Union and its competitors in Venus research contributed to the fact that the United States called Venus 'the Soviet planet,' the space agency wrote on its website on Tuesday.

Shortly after the study was published this week, the Breakthrough Initiatives program, supported by Russian-born billionaire Yuri Milner, announced that it would fund a study into the possibility of primitive life in Venus' clouds, led by Sara Seager from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Last month, Rogozin declared Venus "more interesting than Mars," suggesting that studying the planet could help scientists understand how to address climate change on Earth./ CBS

Rohingya groups around the world displayed a rare show of solidarity on Thursday with Myanmar's ethnic Rakhine, who they say are suffering "horrifically familiar" war crimes and atrocities at the hands of the military. 

The armed forces are currently locked in battle with the Arakan Army (AA), a militant group fighting for more autonomy for ethnic Rakhine Buddhists in the country's northwest. 

The area has long been a tinderbox of religious and ethnic tensions.

Military operations in 2017 forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh in violence that sees Myanmar facing genocide charges at the UN's top court.


Ethnic Rakhine mobs stand accused of aiding soldiers to drive out the long-oppressed group.

But Thursday's announcement from 29 Rohingya advocacy groups around the world showed signs of a potential rapprochement between the two minorities. 

"Our fight for justice is a fight for everyone that has been killed, injured or abused by the Tatmadaw," read the joint statement, referring to the military by its Myanmar name.

It accused the military of committing "war crimes and atrocities" against Rakhine civilians. 

"For us Rohingya, these crimes are horrifically familiar," it said. "We stand in solidarity with our Rakhine brothers and sisters."

Both the military and AA militants accuse the other of human rights abuses in the ongoing unrest that has seen hundreds killed or wounded and forced some 150,000 from their homes.

On Monday, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet slammed the military for the apparent targeting of civilians she said "may constitute further war crimes or even crimes against humanity".

- 'Symbolically important' -

The alleged atrocities evoke accounts of the 2017 military crackdown, which Myanmar has justified as a means of rooting out Rohingya militants.

But the emergence last week of video confessions of two former soldiers -- filmed and released by the AA -- could potentially add weight to the allegations.

The soldiers detailed how they were ordered to "exterminate" Rohingya Muslims and "wipe out" their villages before taking part in the massacre of scores of men, women and children.

The military disputed the testimony, saying the confessions had been given under duress -- a claim dismissed by the rebel group.

The Rakhine political parties contacted by AFP declined to comment on the Rohingya groups' statement, though activist Nyo Aye said she welcomed their "support and solidarity".

While the move was "symbolically important", analyst David Mathieson said it was hard to see how it would help bring a peaceful resolution on the ground. 

Inter-communal relations in Mrauk U, a town in northern Rakhine, remained as tense as ever, one Rohingya man told AFP. 

He described how the Rohingyas' movements were restricted by street patrols of ethnic Rakhine, not soldiers.

"The Rakhine do not mean us well," he said by phone, asking not to be named.

Coronavirus cases aren't the only thing that's spiked in the US since March. According to ABC News, US Customs and Border Protection has reported a 1,000 percent increase in drugs seized along the Canadian border since the pandemic began.

A CBP officer says the agency has seized nearly 40,000 pounds of marijuana valued between $100 million and $120 million since mid-March.

Kevin Kelly, who heads the Homeland Security Investigations field office in Buffalo, New York, told ABC News that the surge is largely due to the legalization of marijuana in Canada.

"Since March 16, we've seen a huge uptick in marijuana seizures at the ports of entry," Mr Kelly said, adding that the groups smuggling drugs into the US through Canada are more "symbiotic" than those on the southern border.

"What you're seeing is traditional organized crime, Asian organized crime, East Indian organized crime, outlaw motorcycle gangs — all having a piece or a stock in this sophisticated coordination of getting marijuana into the US," Mr Kelly explained. "It's well structured, it's well choreographed, it's a business model."

Canada legalized cannabis for recreational purposes in 2018. While some US states have legalized or decriminalized marijuana, it remains illegal at the federal level — which may explain why smuggling the drug into the US has become so rampant.

Supervisory CBP officer Aaron Bowker also noted that there has been an increase in gun and weapon seizures along the border this year.

In August, the CBP's Detroit Field Office, which covers all points of entry throughout Michigan, reported a spike in narcotics seized since travel restrictions were put in place in response to the coronavirus pandemic. According to the Detroit Free Press, US customs agents seized over 5,500 pounds of marijuana at the border between March and August, six times the total for 2019.

A restriction of all non-essential travel across the border was recently extended by Canadian officials until 21 September.


Right-wing and republican lawmakers walked out of a meeting in France’s parliament Thursday due to the presence of a woman wearing a Muslim headscarf. 

During the meeting in Paris, which was discussing the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on young people, some right-wing members of parliament as well as ruling party member Anne-Christine Lang said they could not accept that students’ union representative Maryam Pougetoux was wearing a headscarf and left.

Lang argued on Twitter that she could not digest the presence of a person with a headscarf at a meeting held at the national assembly, “the heart of democracy.”

“As a member of parliament who is a feminist and protector of women's rights, committed to republican values and secularism, I cannot accept the participation of a person wearing a headscarf to our meeting,” she said.

Another ruling party member, Sandrine Morch, who chaired the session, said the lawmakers’ reaction was unnecessary and there was no rule preventing people from attending the meeting in religious attire.

Morch noted that she would not allow the fake discussion around the headscarf to shift the focus of the meeting, where the future of the country’s youth was being discussed.

Pougetoux was also exposed to criticism by then-Minister of State for Gender Equality Marlene Schiappa and many other political figures when she was appointed as the speaker by the students’ union UNEF in 2018./aa