Sally is a wind of God‘s wrath Jeremiah 23

Hurricane Watch Issued for Parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama as T.S. Sally Leaves Florida

At a Glance

The system will traverse the eastern Gulf of Mexico this weekend.

Flooding rain is the biggest threat from this system from Florida to Louisiana.

Deadly storm surge is also possible in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi.

Sally is expected to become a hurricane before landfall.

Sally is the earliest “S” storm on record.

Tropical Storm Sally is expected to bring heavy rain, dangerous storm surge and gusty winds to Florida and the Gulf Coast through the weekend and into next week, likely as a hurricane.

Sally could produce the deadly duo of human-height storm surge and a foot or more of rainfall in parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Nearly 90% of deaths caused by hurricanes are the result of a combination of rainfall flooding, storm surge and rip currents.

Current Alerts

A hurricane watch has been issued from southeastern Louisiana to the Alabama/Florida border, including Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, and metropolitan New Orleans. Hurricane conditions are possible in this area by early Tuesday.

A tropical storm watch has also been expanded westward to the Alabama/Florida border and currently includes the Florida panhandle eastward to the Ochlockonee River in the Florida Big Bend, including Apalachicola and Panama City. Tropical-storm-force winds are possible there by Sunday night or Monday morning. Tropical storm watches also are in effect for portions of central Louisiana and southwestern Mississippi.

Current Wind Watches and Warnings

A storm surge watch is also in effect from the Mouth of the Mississippi River to the Alabama/Florida border, including Lake Pontchartrain and Mobile Bay.

Happening Now

Sally has been producing scattered showers and thunderstorms over southwestern Florida with bands of rain expected into the overnight hours.

Lower Matacumbe Key in the Middle Florida Keys has received 8-12 inches of rain since early Saturday morning.

Key West has received more than 9 inches of rainfall since Saturday afternoon, and flooding has been reported with numerous street closures and several stalled cars. Several inches of water were seen piled up on Duval Street in Key West Saturday evening. Key West set a daily rainfall record dating back to 1924, and recorded its second-highest hourly rainfall rate on record Saturday evening.

Marathon, Florida set a new September daily rainfall record by 5 p.m. Saturday with more than 6 inches of rainfall. The record has been in place for more than 60 years.

These bands of rain brought gusty conditions to South Florida much of Saturday. Wind gusts of 40-55 mph were recorded from Boca Raton to Miami Beach Saturday morning.

Slow organization is likely today as Sally moves away from southern Florida, but bands of rain will continue to swirl in across the state through the weekend.

A flood watch is in effect for portions of Florida, southern Alabama, southern Mississippi and southeastern Louisiana, where the system is expected to bring heavy rain and could cause flooding through the weekend.

Flood Alerts

(Flood watches mean flooding could occur in that area over the next few days, while flood warnings mean that flooding is expected or ongoing. )

Rip currents are also likely along the West Coast of Florida into Sunday.

A few tornadoes or waterspouts are also possible Saturday night in the Florida Keys, in the Everglades, and Southwest Florida.

Gulf Coast Hurricane Threat

From there, Tropical Storm Sally is expected to move northwestward toward the northern Gulf Coast.

The system will arrive on the northern Gulf Coast in the first half of next week likely as a high-end tropical storm or low-end hurricane, but exactly how strong the winds will be when it arrives on the coast is uncertain.

Current Info and Cone of Uncertainty

Sally will likely slow down near the coast of Louisiana or Mississippi on Monday night into Tuesday.

Sally is expected to intensify through the weekend with plentiful moisture and low wind shear but the system could fight increasing wind shear as it approaches the Gulf Coast. Sally’s slow motion could also cause the storm to dredge up colder water closer to the Gulf Coast, which could also slow the rate of intensification.

In either case, this system’s inching motion toward the coast beginning will spread rainfall, high surf and gusty winds to the shore well before landfall.

A potentially life-threatening storm surge is possible along the Gulf Coast beginning on Monday. Here’s the latest NHC forecast:

Latest Storm Surge Forecast

(These numbers represent how high water levels may climb near the coastline if the peak storm surge occurs at high tide. )

Sally is the earliest “S” storm to form during a season on record, beating 2005’s Stan by 3 weeks.

Active Gulf of Mexico Already

A second disturbance, noted as #2 in the graphic below, is producing limited thunderstorms south of the northwestern Gulf Coast.

((The potential area(s) of tropical development according to the latest National Hurricane Center outlook are shown by polygons, color-coded by the chance of development over the next five days. An “X” indicates the location of a current disturbance. The current locations of Paulette and Rene are also shown in this map. ))

It has a low chance of development but will bring rain and gusty winds to the northern and western Gulf of Mexico through the weekend and to South Texas and northern Mexico by early next week.

Forecast Rainfall

Most of Florida will see more than an inch of rainfall, but parts of South Florida could see totals higher than 6 inches. The Florida West Coast can expect 2-5 inches of rainfall.

The relatively slow motion of whatever Sally is when it gets to the northern Gulf of Mexico could lead to high rainfall totals, with many communities near and east of the point of landfall seeing double-digit rainfall totals. Sally could drop up to 18 inches of rain locally along the immediate Gulf Coast near and east of the point of landfall.

Much of northern Florida, southern Alabama, southern Mississippi and southern Lousiana should expect 3-10 inches of rainfall through Thursday.

Southwestern Louisiana, which was hit hard by Hurricane Laura, may get up to two inches of rainfall depending on the track of this system.

Parts of South Texas and northern Mexico may receive up to 2 inches of rain.

Hurricane Season’s Second Half

With the peak of hurricane season passing on Thursday, activity will gradually decline through the end of the season in November.

According to the latest forecasts, numerous tropical storms and hurricanes are still expected over the next few months.

Stay tuned to The Weather Channel and always be prepared, not scared for what hurricane season may bring.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

Terrorists reject Arab’s normalization agreement with Israel

Hamas, Islamic Jihad slam Bahrain’s normalization agreement with Israel

Source: Xinhua| 2020-09-12 04:11:28|Editor: huaxia

GAZA, Sept. 11 (Xinhua) — The Hamas movement and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) slammed on Friday the fresh U.S.-sponsored normalization agreement between Israel and Bahrain.

Hazem Qassem, Hamas spokesman in Gaza, told Xinhua that the wave of Arab countries’ normalization with the Israel is part of the implementation of the provisions of the U.S. so-called “Deal of the Century.”

He added that the Palestinian people largely reject this deal, which aims at eliminating the Palestinian cause.

“Joining the path of normalization by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and then by Bahrain makes them become partners with U.S. Deal of the Century, which is a clear aggression against our people,” Qassem said.

Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that his administration had sponsored a normalization agreement between Israel and the UAE.

The declaration of the agreement between Israel and the UAE sparked Palestinian outrage, and Palestinian demonstrators burned the flags of the UAE in several towns in the Palestinian territories.

Two days ago, the state of Palestine failed to convince the Arab League’s foreign ministry to issue a statement that condemns the normalization between the Arab countries and Israel.

Meanwhile, the PIJ said in a statement that the agreement between Israel and Bahrain “is a new episode in the series of betrayal to Palestine.”

“It’s a blatant coup against all Arab, national and Islamic constants of Palestine,” it said. “This treacherous agreement won’t undermine the Palestinian people’s rights and the justice of their cause.” Enditem

The Irony Is Biden And Obama Started This Process

Biden Says Iran Closer to Nuclear Weapons Under Trump, Would Re-Enter Deal

On 9/11/20 at 5:15 AM EDT

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has claimed that Iran is now closer to a nuclear weapon that it was during President Barack Obama’s administration, criticizing President Donald Trump for walking away from the nuclear deal Biden wishes to resurrect.

At a virtual fundraiser hosted by the JStreet PAC on Thursday, Biden said he would seek to re-engage with Tehran though admitted this would not be easy after four years of antagonism.

On Thursday, Biden said Trump had made an Iranian nuclear weapon more likely despite his claims to the contrary. “Iran is closer to a weapon now than we were when we left office in 2017,” he said, according to a press pool report sent out by his campaign.

The former vice president defended the JCPOA, describing it as the “most intrusive inspection regime in history.”

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Trump abandoned the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in May 2018, claiming the deal was too lenient and fulfilling a promise that became a key part of his foreign policy campaign strategy.

Trump withdrew despite other signatories urging him to reconsider and despite the International Atomic Energy Agency confirming that Tehran was complying with the agreement.

U.S.-Iran reactions have continued deteriorating since, with the two sides launching strikes against each other and flirting with an open conflict. Trump has maintained his “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran, seeking to undermine the regime with crippling economic sanctions.

The Trump administration has tried to rally its allies against Iran but has failed. The other signatories to the JCPOA—Russia, China, the U.K., Germany and France—remain committed, and the United Nations Security Council has rejected U.S. efforts to extend an arms embargo on Iran or re-apply the sanctions lifted by the JCPOA.

Meanwhile, Iran has ended compliance with the JCPOA’s terms. Tehran is now expanding its enriched uranium stockpile and ramping up its ability to produce more. Iran had been ending compliance piecemeal since Trump’s withdrawal, but said it would no longer respect any restrictions after the U.S. assassinated Major General Qassem Soleimani in January.

The Trump administration has accused Iran of running a clandestine nuclear operation outside of the JCPOA, citing Israeli intelligence. A nuclear-armed Iran would represent an existential threat for Israel.

Iran has denied the allegations and international inspectors repeatedly confirmed Iranian compliance in the years before Trump’s withdrawal.

Biden said Thursday he would reenter the deal if Iran “returns to compliance,” though said he would need help from the other JCPOA signatories, including U.S. rivals Russia and China. “I promise you it will be a significant initiative of mine to get back into the deal,” Biden said.

Trump has vowed to secure a new, more restrictive deal with Iran, one that would include limits on Tehran’s ballistic missile program and malign regional influence. Earlier this year, Trump urged Iran to “make the big deal” before November’s presidential election.

But Iranian officials have repeatedly refused new talks with the Trump administration, and dismissed any suggestion it would renegotiate the deal to make it more restrictive.

Russia’s Deterrent Nuclear Weapons (Revelation 16)

Russia’s Avangard Glide Vehicle ‘More Deterrent Weapon Than Nuclear Bomb’, Chinese Media Claims – Sputnik International

Oleg Burunov16:10 GMT 12.09.2020

Late last year, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu confirmed that the country’s first Strategic Missile Forces regiment armed with the nuclear-capable Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle had entered combat duty.

Although the US remains the country with the most comprehensive air defence system in the world, even this missile shield is unable to intercept Russia’s Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, the Chinese news outlet Sina reports.

The vehicle’s characteristics, especially its strike speed and resistance to interception, “make the Avangard missile a more deterrent weapon than a nuclear bomb”, Sina claimed.

The news outlet added that by showcasing the Avangard, Russia is sending a message to the US that “the existing American air defences are useless when it comes to intercepting Russian missiles”.

© Photo : Russian Defence Ministry

Avangard hypersonic missile system

The remarks came a few days after The Washington Post (WaPo) published excerpts of veteran American journalist Bob Woodward’s soon-to-be-released book on the Trump presidency, in which the reporter specifically cited POTUS as mentioning what he described as an “incredible” US nuclear weapons system.

“I have built a nuclear – a weapons system that nobody’s ever had in this country before […]”, Trump told Woodward, adding that the US has “stuff” Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping “have never heard about before”.

Even though Trump did not elaborate, some quickly suggested that POTUS was probably referring to the W76-2, a new low-yield nuclear warhead designed to fit on the US Navy’s Trident D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

The WaPo report followed Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov noting last week that it was Washington’s move to modernise low-yield nukes, not Russia’s actions, that is destabilising the global nuclear deterrent. Antonov was responding to US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence Robert Soofer, who earlier declared that Russia was initiating an arms race in the sphere of non-strategic weapons.

Earlier in September, Soofer said that bipartisan support for the creation of the W76-2 remains “divided”, as he outlined the US’ Nuclear Deterrence Strategy, which “places a premium on ensuring the survivability of nuclear forces that can threaten the adversary”.

Avangard Missile Enters Service

In late 2019, Russian Strategic Missile Forces commander Col-Gen Sergei Karakaev confirmed that the first Avangard-armed missile regiment had been stationed at the Yasnensky missile compound in the Orenburg region, about 1,200 km southeast of Moscow.

Russian Defence Ministry

Russia’s Avangard Hypersonic Glide Vehicle Not Violating New START Deal – General Staff

The statement was preceded by Russian President Vladimir Putin telling the country’s Federation Assembly in February 2019 that the significance of creating the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle can be likened to the creation of the Earth’s first artificial satellite.

Presenting the Avangard missile during his Federation Assembly address the year before, Putin said that the missile is capable of changing course mid-flight, thereby avoiding being tracked and intercepted.

He noted that the speed of the missile, which “flies like a meteorite or a fire ball”, was in excess of Mach 20 and that it is capable of penetrating any existing missile defence system.

The China and US Horns Clash

China-US Media Relations Are Cratering. That’s a Serious Problem.

Amid the tensions, media on both sides have been casualties. That bodes very poorly for the future of U.S.-China relations.

Mu Chunshan

Credit: Pixabay

A few days ago, I saw the speech by John Pomfret, former Beijing bureau chief at the Washington Post, at a June hearing of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission to evaluate China’s view on the competition with the United States. Hearing Pomfret talk about China reminded me of the interviews and exchanges I had with him about 20 years ago. At the time, he was working in Beijing; my team and I were studying China’s image in foreign media.

Back then, he was optimistic about China’s development. Based on his recent speech, it seems his impression of the changes in China has considerably worsened.

If so, he’s not alone. Many foreigners probably also have similar views. It shows a serious problem: In the past 20 years, the foreign media’s view of China – and, correspondingly, China’s image in the foreign public’s eyes — may have become worse.

It is necessary to analyze the reasons, especially in the context of the increasing impact of the China-U.S. tensions on the media.

Why have foreign impressions of China deteriorated? I suggest two main reasons: One is from the Chinese government; the other is from the U.S. government.

To illustrate my first point, I would like raise an example. About five years ago, as a news director, I was arranging coverage on Sino-U.S. relations. I asked a reporter to interview a well-known American scholar on China issues, Bonnie Glaser. Later she replied via email, but instead of accepting the interview outright, she first asked us: Can you publish all of what I say in your media?

This is a difficult question to answer. It implied that she would definitely talk about some sensitive issues, and would probably criticize the Chinese government. In the end, the interview didn’t happen.

I always say that China should be more confident. There is no need to assume that every criticism is designed to overthrow the government, or to deny the Chinese Communist Party. Even two friends may have different opinions from each other – can friends only give compliments and never point out any shortcomings?

Using a decades-old playbook to manage media in the era of social media obviously will not work.

In addition to the Chinese government’s problems, the U.S. government has demonized China, which is also deteriorating China’s image. One aspect of this is a new paranoia about the Chinese media. The U.S. government has threatened not to issue visas to Chinese journalists, and China is taking the same countermeasures.

This has caught my attention. I am a reporter and think that even if the relationship between our two nations is poor, media exchanges between China and the U.S. should continue.

Media reports are very important for the two peoples to understand each other objectively. Most Americans and Chinese people can’t travel to see each other, and they have to learn about what happens through the media.

I find that many U.S. media reports paid too much attention to Chinese politics and diplomacy, and too little attention to the real situation of Chinese people’s lives.

Let me illustrate using data from China’s number two leader, Premier Li Keqiang. A few months ago he publicly stated that China has 600 million people with a monthly income of just about a little more than 1,000 Chinese renminbi — that is to say, almost half of China’s people have a monthly income of about $150. Do ordinary Americans know this?

Obviously most U.S. media has not focused on this point, nor have U.S. officials. But this information is very important for Americans to understand China.

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that China has a dark ambition to replace the United States in international status. If he said as much to these 600 million Chinese, they certainly would have a different view. What they want is not some grand geopolitical gambit, but to change their daily life.

So the most important issue for Chinese government now is economic development, which will boost support for the regime. That is the most urgent task for the CCP. What are the development goals for China that top leader Xi Jinping put forward a few years ago? Not to surpass the United States, not to replace Western powers, but to lift all Chinese people out of poverty.

That is part of the truth about China’s development that U.S. media has been unable to tell Americans.

Of course, Chinese media has its own problems. I really don’t like way some Chinese media peers speak just like officials making statements. That only raises questions from the outside world and even deliberately causes confusion.

That’s why many Americans, including the U.S. government believe there is no independent thought among those in the Chinese media. That perception harms media exchanges between the two sides. It also blurs the line between media voices and official policy, which is potentially dangerous.

For example, Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times, recently said that China should develop 1,000 nuclear weapons. Many in the U.S. military took this as the voice of the Chinese government. In fact, this is a misunderstanding.

Hu’s identity is too in line with official rhetoric — but his comments do not represent the official attitude of the Chinese government. After he said this, he was criticized and questioned. Some nuclear weapons experts from the Chinese military posted articles in the media criticizing him, saying the size of China’s nuclear force is a professional military issue and should not be discussed by media people like Hu.

In fact, there have been more and more cases where the attitudes of some Chinese media people come to influence international relations. Another example involves the relations between China and Israel.

A month ago, a columnist from China Daily publicly criticized Israel on Twitter for not using 5G equipment from Chinese companies under U.S. pressure. The columnist attacked Israel as the “U.S. poodle,” and even called Israel ungrateful, drawing a line between the 5G decision and the fact that Shanghai provided safe haven for 30,000 Jews fleeing Nazi Germany during World War II. Such comments angered Israelis. The Jerusalem Post rebuked him in the editorial page, saying Israel does not owe China.

Obviously, the Israelis took the private thinking of a China Daily columnist as the attitude of the Chinese government. Perhaps in their view, because China Daily is an official English-language media organization, there is government instigation behind the columnist’s article. But the fact is that the Chinese government is much smarter than that.

This is the embarrassment of Chinese media and media people — they are always considered to represent the voice of the government, but in fact most of the time they only represent themselves. Although some media outlets are official, journalists can have their own ideas.

Americans need to understand the complexity of Chinese media and society. And the United States should not refuse to interact with the Chinese media. Otherwise, this will make China more closed and Chinese people will obtain less international information.

China and the United States are two countries with different political systems, as well as different media systems. But being different does not mean we are enemies. Both sides, especially in the media are sure to find the possibility of cooperation.

Of course, cooperation is always affected by politics.

I think the White House is hyper-alert to every Chinese movement in the United States, including to the actions of Chinese media people. It’s just like a cat staring at every sound. It would be if funny, if the consequences for individuals and both societies weren’t so sad.

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There are many stories that the U.S. government and media seldom focus on, but are necessary for general Americans to know China more comprehensively and better. Of course, nowadays, in most Chinese media outlets it’s hard to get a full picture of the United States either. You can hardly see any articles about positive U.S. news, which is also a pity. As a journalist, I am very worried about the media environment between our two countries.

I think if this situation is to be changed, in addition to improving Sino-U.S. relations, more media people need to look at each other more objectively.

Trump’s ‘Secret’ Nuclear Weapons System

What Is the Secret Nuclear Weapons System Trump Is Blabbering About?

Trump revealed the existence of a secret weapons program during a call with journalist Bob Woodward, but it’s just as possible he’s just making shit up.

by Matthew Gault

In a conversation with Bob Woodward in January, Trump dropped a juicy tidbit about national security. “I have built a nuclear—a weapons system that nobody’s ever had in this country before,” Trump said, according to The Washington Post. “We have stuff that you haven’t even seen or heard about. We have stuff that Putin and Xi have never heard about before. There’s nobody—what we have is incredible.”

It sounds like Trump is talking about a secret nuclear project, the kind of weapon that could compete with the new and varied nuclear weapons Russia is developing. According to Rage, Woodward’s new book on the Trump presidency, he confirmed the existence of the new weapon system but couldn’t get any additional details. That’s left experts and journalists wondering just what the weapon might be. We have good guesses but no concrete answers.

The first problem is that Trump isn’t a reliable source of information. “No one knows what Trump is talking about, least of all Trump himself,” Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear policy expert and professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California, told Motherboard on the phone. “We are all trying to match his demented ramblings to some sort of ordered reality.”

America is in the process of modernizing its nuclear arsenal, has recently dropped out of several important nuclear treaties, and has floated the idea of resuming nuclear testing. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that America is developing new nuclear weapons. It recently deployed the W76-2, a “low-yield” submarine-launched ballistic missile. Trump dropped his nuclear secret on Woodward in a December 2019 conversation. We learned about the deployment of the new SLBMs after a December so it’s possible that’s what Trump is talking about.

Task & Purpose speculated that that the “secret weapon” is likely the modified W7-62. This variant of the Trident missiles is thought to have an explosive power of around five kilotons, compared to the 90-kiloton W76-1 and ludicrous 455-kiloton W88, all of which may be present on America’s nuclear armed submarines.

According to Lewis, and defense journalists at The War Zone, the more likely explanation is that Trump isn’t talking about a nuclear weapon at all. “When he mentions nuclear, to my ears, he appears to correct himself,” Lewis said. “So I don’t think he’s actually talking about a nuke. And then he proceeds to say a couple of things that are interesting. He calls it incredible. He talks about how Xi and Putin don’t have one and nobody’s ever heard of anything like this before.”

Lewis said that this is exactly how Trump has talked about another new U.S. weapon—the common hypersonic glide vehicle. Hypersonic glide vehicles are a new kind of body for munitions that would allow them to “glide” through the air and navigate missile defense systems at hypersonic speeds. America, China, and Russia are all testing them for use with conventional munitions. Putin has said Russia is developing a hypersonic nuclear weapon.

Trump talked about the hypersonic glide vehicles in February and May of 2020. This is the famed super duper missile. “In that case he said it was incredible, he said Xi and Putin didn’t have one and said that nobody had ever heard of a thing like that,” Lewis said. “So he said something pretty similar…to me, the language he used in December with Woodward is very much like the language he used in February and May to refer to the common hypersonic glide body.”

But Trump said nuclear on the call with Woodward. “It’s true he says nuclear,” Lewis said. “He doesn’t say ‘wait, I was wrong. He just blunders through it by changing what he said. I admit, I’m responding tonally to what I hear.”

Trump on paper and Trump heard are two very different things. On paper, it looks like Trump is talking about a new nuclear missile. When you listen to it, it sounds like a guy who accidently said the wrong thing and corrects himself.

“The one thing I would say against my hypothesis,” Lewis said. “Is that in the clip we have, he doesn’t call it super duper. That’s the one thing that’s missing…there’s not going to be a simple correspondence of words that come out of Donald Trump’s mouth and the facts in the real world. So that makes this hard. It’s possible he’s talking about a thing that doesn’t exist. Or it’s possible he’s talking about a thing that he wished existed. He could be talking about a new sex doll that he got. He’s just so disconnected from reality.”

With the nuclear arms race heating up and the dissolution of America’s nuclear treaties, it’s entirely possible that the Pentagon has designed a new nuclear weapon it has yet to reveal to the world. But keeping such a weapon a secret is counter to a foundational idea of nuclear war. Nuclear weapons are based on deterrence—the idea that you have a weapon so terrible the enemy won’t attack.

That doesn’t mean it wasn’t developed, or even that Trump was talking about hypersonic glide bodys. It’s possible he made the whole thing up and Woodward’s other sources were mistaken. As with so much else in the Trump White House, it’s impossible to parse what’s misinformation, what is fiction, and what is an outright lie.

COVID-19: Antichrist resumes Friday prayers

COVID-19: Muqtada al-Sadr resumes Friday prayers, as Iraq records over 4,200 new daily infections

Workers spray supporters of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr with disinfectant, as they take part in the Friday prayers in Sadr City, east of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, Sept. 11, 2020, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraq’s mercurial and populist Shi’ite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, resumed Friday prayers for his followers, as the Iraqi Ministry of Health and Environment announced over 4,200 new daily infections for the coronavirus.

Iraq has been experiencing a rapid increase in coronavirus cases. It is one of the hardest-hit countries in the Middle East, and on September 4, it recorded over 5,000 cases in a single day—the highest figure, since the disease first appeared in Iraq last February.

Iraq now ranks number 20 in the world in terms of its reported coronavirus cases, according to the highly regarded Johns Hopkins University data base (Iran, the epicenter of the disease in the Middle East, ranks number 12.)

Nonetheless, Sadr announced on Wednesday that he would conduct communal prayers on Friday. Iraq’s health care system is strained from decades of conflict and neglect, and Sadr’s followers are among the poorer segments of society. They are likely to suffer most, as the virus spreads. Still, thousand of worshippers attended his sermon earlier today.

Some six months ago, the Iraqi government prohibited the holding of Friday prayers, because of the coronavirus. The government has not changed that order, but Sadr, and his followers, chose to disregard it.

Latest Iraqi Statistics

The Iraqi Ministry of Health and Environment announced over 4,200 new daily infections on Friday. It reported that it had conducted 23,168 tests over the past 24 hours, making for a total of 1,864,099 tests conducted since the first case in Iraq was confirmed in February.

According to the ministry’s statement, the total number of people across the country who have contracted the disease has reached 282,672, 7,881 of whom have died.

The resumption of sermons by the Sadrists comes at a time, when Iraqi health authorities have warned that they are in danger of “losing control” over the virus, following the religious rites for Ashura, the Shi’ite holiday that marks the martyrdom of the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson.

Iraq has been experiencing a high daily infection rate, ranging between 4,000 and 5,000 new cases.

Nonetheless, it has recently begun to take steps towards returning life to a semblance of normality by removing some of the coronavirus health restrictions. Health officials around the world have warned that such moves must be made with extreme caution, if further mass outbreaks are to be avoided.

Even countries with advanced medical systems, like Spain and France, have experienced great difficulties, as they try to re-open, without triggering a spike in cases. On Thursday, Israel, which has faced the same problem, announced that it would impose a second, nation-wide lockdown next week.

Editing by Laurie Mylroie