Terror investigation launched after two wounded in Paris knife attack

France’s counter-terrorism prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into a knife attack near the former offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo that wounded at least two people.The investigation was opened into “attempted murder in relation with a terrorist enterprise”, according to an official at the prosecutor’s office.One suspect has been arrested.A French soldier on patrol in Paris after the attack (Thibault Camus/AP)While authorities initially thought two attackers were involved, they now believe it was only one person, who was detained near the Bastille plaza in eastern Paris, a city police official said.The official said police are still searching the area while they question the arrested suspect.Police initially announced four people were wounded in the attack but the official said there are in fact only two confirmed wounded.It is unclear what motivated the attack on Friday or whether it had any link to Charlie Hebdo, which moved offices after they were attacked by Islamic extremists in 2015, who killed 12 people inside.AP reporters at the scene of Friday’s police operation saw officers flooding into the neighbourhood, near the Richard Lenoir subway station.Police cordoned off the area including the former Charlie Hebdo offices after a suspect package was noticed nearby, according the police official.They did not release the identities of the attacker or the wounded, who are in “absolutely urgent” condition, the official said.Police on the streets of Paris (Thibault Camus)Prime Minister Jean Castex cut short a visit to a suburb north of Paris to head to the Interior Ministry to follow developments.The trial in the Charlie Hebdo attacks is currently under way in the city.Murmurs broke at the terrorism trial of 14 people accused of helping the attackers in the January 2015 killings as the news filtered through.The widows of the Charlie Hebdo attackers are scheduled to testify on Friday afternoon.

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WeChat could face immediate ban in US

The US Justice Department is seeking an immediate ban on downloads of WeChat in Apple and Google app stores.It said the Chinese-owned messaging service is a threat to national security.Last week, the US Commerce Department moved to ban WeChat from app stores.On Saturday, Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler in California agreed to delay US restrictions, saying they would affect users’ First Amendment rights.In a filing on Friday, the Justice Department asked Ms Beeler to allow for an immediate ban while the case works its way through court.WeChat is a messaging-focused app popular with many Chinese-speaking Americans that serves as a lifeline to friends, family, customers and business contacts in China.It is owned by Chinese tech giant Tencent.The Justice Department claims WeChat allows the Chinese government to collect and use personal data on Americans to advance its own interests.The filing states WeChat has approximately 19 million active daily users in the US in a range of formats including text, images, video and audio.The Justice Department argues the US will suffer irreparable harm, both substantive and procedural, if the court does not stay its decision.The Trump administration has targeted WeChat and another Chinese-owned app, TikTok, for national security and data privacy concerns, in the latest flashpoint amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing.

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US to execute first Black man since resumption of federal death penalty

The US government plans on Thursday to execute Christopher Vialva, a convicted murderer and the first Black man to face the federal death penalty since the punishment was resumed this summer after a 17-year hiatus.Vialva was 19 years old when he and fellow members of a gang in Killeen, Texas, killed Todd and Stacie Bagley, white married Christian youth ministers from Iowa, on the Fort Hood army base in 1999.The Department of Justice says it will kill Vialva using lethal injections of pentobarbital, a barbiturate, at 6 p.m. EDT (11pm Irish time) at its execution chamber in Terre Haute, Indiana, the sixth federal execution this year after the hiatus and the second this week. Vialva, 40, had asked the US Supreme Court for a stay. However, on Thursday night, two hours before the execution was due to take place, the court denied the application for a stay.His lawyers argue that the Federal Death Penalty Act requires the US Bureau of Prisons to obtain an execution warrant from a judge. The court's conservative majority previously dismissed legal efforts to delay the five federal executions that have already taken place this year. Vialva's execution comes as the nation grapples with racial disparities in the criminal justice system, with daily protests occurring in US cities against police brutality against Black people.Of the 56 people on federal death row, 26, or 46%, are Black, and 22, or 39%, are white, according to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), a non-profit organisation based in Washington. Black people make up only 13% of the US population. DPIC published a report this month concluding that racial bias persists in the US system of capital punishment. The report said that the killers of white people were more likely to face the death penalty than the killers of Black people, and a study in North Carolina found that qualified Black jurors were struck from juries at more than twice the rate of qualified white jurors.#ChristopherVialva's mother speaks to the media. @DPInfoCtr #deathpenalty https://t.co/mvtfNruuNY— Robert Dunham (@RDunhamDPIC) September 24, 2020At Vialva's trial in the US District Court for Western Texas in 2000, a jury of 11 white people and one Black person found him and a Black accomplice, Brandon Bernard, guilty of carjacking and murder, and voted for them to receive the death penalty. Bernard's execution date has not been set.The American Civil Liberties Union has said that the teenaged Vialva was unfairly tried as an adult and circulated a video of Vialva this month speaking from prison about racial disparities. "The death penalty has been used disproportionately against Black people for decades," Vialva says in the video. "People are unaware that many of us here were arrested before we were old enough to drink."According to court records, Vialva and his accomplices were looking for someone to rob when they found Todd Begley using a payphone at a convenience store, and he agreed to give them a ride in his car. In the back seat, Vialva pulled out a gun and ordered Begley and his wife to get into the car's trunk. After forcing Begley to disclose his PIN, Vialva withdrew cash from Begley's account at an ATM, though there was less than $100 on deposit. He used the cash to buy fast food and cigarettes, among other items. During the several hours they spent in the trunk, the Begleys could be heard telling their kidnappers to embrace Christianity. Eventually, Vialva parked the car in an isolated part of Fort Hood, opened the trunk and shot both Begleys in the head, killing Todd and rendering Stacie unconscious. Bernard then set the car on fire, and an autopsy showed that she died from smoke inhalation.

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Half of key workers with self-reported Covid-19 symptoms ‘did not have disease’

Around half of nearly 1,000 key workers who self-reported symptoms of Covid-19 did not test positive for antibodies to the disease, according to research.The study, from Public Health England (PHE), includes police, fire and healthcare workers and was conducted in June.The researchers say their findings, which are yet to be peer-reviewed, suggest the symptoms were due to other conditions.Ranya Mulchandani, a field epidemiology training programme fellow at Public Health England and the study’s lead author, said: “Although these findings are still subject to peer review, it is possible that a large number of people in the general population incorrectly believe that they have already had Covid-19.“It is crucial that people do not get complacent and continue to observe government health advice, including social distancing and good hand hygiene, even if they think they have been infected in the past.”The experts led by Ms Mulchandani studied three key worker groups at six acute NHS hospitals and two police and fire and rescue sites across England.It is possible that a large number of people in the general population incorrectly believe that they have already had Covid-19The third group, which was the control group in the cohort, included healthcare workers who had previously had a positive test for Covid-19.The team collected information on the self-reported signs and symptoms of Covid-19 and compared this with the results from two antibody tests.Out of 2,847 participants, 943 (33%) said they believe they had had Covid-19 based on their symptoms.However, the researchers found that 466 (49%) of the 943 individuals tested negative on antibodies, suggesting “it is very unlikely they had had Covid-19”.Those testing negative had significantly earlier dates of symptom onset, shorter illness duration, and a much lower reporting frequency of the loss of taste and smell compared to individuals with antibodies, the team said.Ms Mulchandani said: “In the course of this study, we tested just under a thousand people who thought they had had Covid-19 due to compatible symptoms.“We found that half of them lacked any evidence of having had the infection, testing negative for the presence of antibodies.”The findings were presented at the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Conference on Coronavirus Disease (ECCVID).

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Zero-Covid strategy should be considered by governments, experts say

Adopting a “zero-Covid” strategy like in New Zealand should be considered by governments around the world, scientists have said.In a review published in the journal Lancet, a team of international experts outlined the key lessons learned from experiences of other countries in tackling the disease.The authors wrote: “The argument is strong for countries adopting a so-called zero-Covid strategy, which aims to eliminate domestic transmission.“The New Zealand experience shows that this strategy is challenging but is an important aspiration, not least as the growing burden of so-called long Covid becomes apparent in people who have survived Covid-19 but continue to have symptoms for longer than expected.”As some countries around the world begin to see a resurgence in cases and re-tighten restrictions, it is imperative that countries learn the lessons that we've laid out for the futureHowever, other experts argue that only time will tell whether unilateral elimination of Covid-19 in one country is the best policy.Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor of cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, who was not involved in the review, said: “If a working vaccine is available sooner rather than later, and New Zealanders can be immunised quickly and en masse, it will look like a great policy.“However, if vaccines aren’t available fast enough, New Zealand will increasingly be vulnerable to infection from abroad, and will have to maintain costly global isolation to protect its public.”Aside from recommending a zero-Covid approach, the scientists identified four key factors which have implications for lockdown exit strategies:– An effective test, trace, isolate and support system;– A clear plan with a transparent decision-making process from the government;– Robust systems to closely monitor the infection situation before easing restrictions;– Prolonged control measures to reduce coronavirus transmission – including face masks and social distancing.(PA Graphics)Professor Martin McKee, of London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who was a co-author on the paper, said: “As some countries around the world begin to see a resurgence in cases and re-tighten restrictions, it is imperative that countries learn the lessons that we’ve laid out for the future.”The researchers point out the methods and success of contact tracing and isolation have varied significantly across countries, with many Asian nations promptly mass testing, tracing and isolating all cases from the start of the outbreak, while these processes have been considerably delayed in the UK and most of Europe.Dr Clarke added: “Of particular relevance now is the comparison of systems for test, trace and isolate.“After the problems with testing in recent weeks, this should be required reading for UK health ministers, highlighting how inadequate the UK system for testing has been – particularly as other lockdown measures have been eased.“Other countries are in a far better position than the UK and Spain to ease restrictions on movement and socialising, because they have more effective and capable test and trace systems in place.”

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Harry and Meghan did not collaborate on book, author insists

A recent blockbuster book about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex did not have the couple’s authorisation – and any suggestion they collaborated on it is “false”, author Omid Scobie has insisted.He claimed Harry and Meghan were not interviewed for Finding Freedom, co-authored by Carolyn Durand, and the book was always intended to be “independent and unauthorised”.The duchess, 39, is suing Associated Newspapers (ANL) over the publication in the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline of a “private and confidential” letter sent to her estranged father Thomas Markle, 76. in August 2018.At the latest preliminary High Court hearing on Wednesday the publisher is seeking to amend its written defence to Meghan’s claim to argue that Finding Freedom, was published with the couple’s “extensive co-operation”.In a written witness statement, Mr Scobie said: “Any suggestion that the duke and duchess collaborated on the book is false.“They did not authorise the book and have never been interviewed for it.“The book was always prepared on the understanding that it was to be independent and unauthorised.”Mr Scobie goes on to insist that he has spoken to both the duke and duchess “on occasions in the past”, but “never about the book”.He claimed that in his work as a royal correspondent, he had spoken to the couple when they were working members of the royal family, including speaking to Harry on his tour of South America in June 2014.The witness statement says: “In the book’s authors’ note, we have said that we spoke directly to the couple ‘when appropriate’.“It is discussions of this nature that I was referring to. To reiterate, we have not had any discussions with the duke or duchess about the book.”Mr Scobie’s statement says he and Ms Durand spoke to “to a large number of people (more than 100)” for Finding Freedom, “some of whom were close to the duke and duchess and who gave us information”.“We did not speak with or reach out to the claimant’s (Meghan) mother or father out of respect for their privacy.”Mr Scobie also claims that the authors approached Kensington Palace in a way that was “consistent with protocol in the royal circle when writing a book”, adding “we were not solely relying on the Palace to introduce us to people close to the duke and duchess”.“In fact, we made clear that we would be writing the Book regardless of the Palace’s views: because we were confident in the reliability of the sources we were already able to bring to the table.“We were put in touch with many people close to the couple via other sources who we already knew. There were also people who did not answer our emails.”Mr Scobie says that his book makes “brief reference” to the letter at the centre of Meghan’s claim against ANL, including “very short extracts” of it which were taken from the Mail on Sunday article of February 10, 2019.He claims that “given this information was already in the public domain, I did not seek the consent of the duchess or anyone else to include this information in the book”.He adds: “The issue was widely known following the publication of the Mail articles and the subsequent interviews by The Duchess’s father provided to numerous media outlets.”In written documents, lawyers for ANL argue that Mr Scobie’s witness statement “seems to confirm that people working on behalf of the claimant co-operated with the authors and gave them the names of people close to the claimant who would help, and that the authors spoke to such people and received information from them”.But Meghan’s lawyers argued that references in the book to her letter to Mr Markle were simply “extracts from the letter lifted from the defendant’s own articles” and denied that the duchess “collaborated” with the authors.READ MOREHarry and Meghan launch legal action over alleged drone pictures of son

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Veteran film star Michael Lonsdale dies aged 89

Michael Lonsdale, a giant of the silver screen and theatre in France who worked with some of the world’s top directors in an acting career that spanned 60 years, has died, his agent said.He was 89.From his role as villain in the 1979 James Bond film Moonraker to that of a French monk in Algeria in the 2011 movie Of Gods And Men, Lonsdale acted, often in brilliant second roles, under top directors including Orson Welles, Steven Spielberg, Francois Truffaut and Louis Malle.The child of a French mother and British father, Lonsdale, with soft voice, was a man consumed by his art.He made more than 100 films and performed on stage.Actors Michael Lonsdale, Roger Moore and Richard Kiel, aka Hugo Drax, James Bond and Jaws, at London’s Heathrow Airport (PA)His final performance was in a short film last year for the Opera of Paris, Degas Et Moi (Degas And Me).Lonsdale died peacefully at his Paris home of old age, his agent of 20 years, Olivier Loiseau, said.“It was kind of expected … He was tired.“His spirit was alive but his body was tired,” said Mr Loiseau, of the Aartis agency, who recently spoke with Lonsdale by phone.Michael Lonsdale (Jacques Brinon/AP)Lonsdale was a man of faith and played several roles reflecting his Christian beliefs, from monk Brother Luc in the real-life drama Of Gods And Men, destined to die with fellow monks at the hands of Islamist extremists or a priest in Orson Welles’ 1962 film The Trial.The French daily Le Parisien quotes him as saying in an interview in 2016 that he had no anxiety about dying.“I give myself a reason.“It’s life.”Lonsdale never married and had no children.Funeral arrangements were not immediately known.

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100,000 join march as protests continue in Belarus

Tens of thousands of people calling for the authoritarian president of Belarus to resign have marched through the capital as the country’s wave of protests entered its seventh week.Hundreds of soldiers blocked off the centre of Minsk, deploying water cannons and armoured personnel carriers and erecting barbed wire barriers. Protests also took place in several other cities, including Brest and Grodno.The crowd in Minsk included about 100,000 people, said Ales Bialiatski, head of the Viasna human rights organisation. He said dozens of demonstrators were arrested in Minsk and Grodno.Protests began on August 9 after an election that official results say gave President Alexander Lukashenko a sixth term in office. Opponents and some poll workers say the results were manipulated.Mr Lukashenko, who has repressed opposition and independent news media during 26 years in power, has rejected suggestions of dialogue with the protesters. Many members of the Coordination Council that was formed by the opposition to push for a transition of power have been arrested or have fled the country.The Minsk demonstrators carried the red-and-white flags that were independent Belarus’ national standard before being replaced in 1995, early in Mr Lukashenko’s tenure.Although protests have taken place daily since the election, the Sunday gatherings in Minsk have been by far the largest, attracting crowds of as many as 200,000 people.“Every Sunday, you are showing yourselves and the world that the Belarusian people are the power,” said Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who was Mr Lukashenko’s main election opponent. She released the statement in a video message from Lithuania, where she is in exile.Protesters stand in front of a police line in Minsk (AP Photo/TUT.by)The marchers also carried portraits of Maria Kolsenikova, a top opposition figure who has been jailed for two weeks and is facing charges of undermining state security that could bring a five-year prison term. Ms Kolesnikova has said security forces drove her to the border with Ukraine to try to make her leave the country, but that she tore up her passport so she could not cross the border.In a statement relayed by her lawyer, Ms Kolsenikova urged protesters to continue.“Freedom is worth fighting for. Do not be afraid to be free,” she said. “I do not regret anything and would do the same again.”Meanwhile, interior ministry spokeswoman Olga Chemodanova said an investigation has been opened into the release by hackers of the personal information of more than 1,000 employees of the ministry, which runs the nation’s police forces.

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Coronavirus found on imported food packaging in China

Authorities in China's northeastern Jilin province have found the novel coronavirus on the packaging of imported squid, health authorities in the city of Fuyu said on Sunday, urging anyone who may have bought it to get themselves tested.One of the packages had arrived in the city via the provincial capital Changchun, Fuyu city's health office said on its official WeChat account on Sunday.It asked people who had bought and eaten imported squid at the local Sanjia Deda frozen seafood wholesale shop between August 24th-31st to report to neighbourhood authorities and seek a Covid test.The Changchun Covid-19 prevention office said the squid had been imported from Russia by a company in Hunchun city and brought to the provincial capital.Chinese customs said on Friday they would suspend imports from companies for a week if frozen food products tested positive for coronavirus and for a month if a supplier's products tested positive for a third time or more.Mainland China has recently reported very few infections with the virus which emerged in Wuhan late last year, with just 10 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday. It says most recent cases come from people entering China from elsewhere.In August, local authorities in two Chinese cities said they had found traces of the virus on cargoes of imported frozen food. The World Health Organization said then it saw no evidence of Covid-19 being spread by food or packaging. – ReutersREAD MOREProtests in Spain as local lockdowns to be imposed in parts of Madrid

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Sixth weekend of protests against Lukashenko continue in Belarus

Tens of thousands of people marched through Minsk today chanting "go away" on the sixth straight weekend of protests against President Alexander Lukashenko, keeping up the pressure on the veteran Belarusian leader to quit.At least 10 people were detained, Russia's TASS news agency quoted police as saying.Videos shared by local media outlets showed security forces in helmets or masks hauling protesters off the streets.The eastern European country was plunged into turmoil following a presidential election last month that Mr Lukashenko says he won by a landslide but the opposition says was rigged.In power for 26 years, the former Soviet collective farm manager has shown scant inclination to resign, buoyed by support from Russia.The European Union vowed weeks ago to impose sanctions on Minsk for alleged election fraud and human rights abuses, but is likely to miss its own Monday deadline for action.Police data leakedIn tandem with the protests, anonymous hackers leaked the personal data of 1,000 police officers in retaliation for a crackdown in which thousands of people have been detained, many complaining of beatings and torture in jail. The government has denied abusing detainees.The loyalty of the security forces is crucial to Mr Lukashenko's ability to cling on to power. Their faces are often obscured by masks, balaclavas or riot helmets. Some protesters have physically torn off the masks of some officers."As the arrests continue, we will continue to publish data on a massive scale," said a statement that was distributed by the opposition news channel Nexta Live on the messaging app Telegram. "No one will remain anonymous even under a balaclava."The government said it would find and punish those responsible for leaking the data, which was widely distributed on Telegram channels on Saturday evening."The forces, means and technologies at the disposal of the internal affairs bodies make it possible to identify and prosecute the overwhelming majority of those guilty of leaking personal data on the Internet," said Olga Chemodanova, the spokeswoman for the Ministry of Internal Affairs.Strategic bufferThe government said 390 women were detained for taking part in a protest yesterday. Most have been released.Minsk reacted angrily to reports that Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the leading opposition candidate in last month's election, could soon meet EU foreign ministers.Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also criticised the EU for inviting Tsikhanouskaya to the ministerial meeting as well as for considering sanctions against Minsk, saying Brussels was trying to "rock the boat" in Belarus.Russia sees Belarus as a strategic buffer state against the EU and NATO, and has accused the United States of fomenting revolution in its neighbour.Moscow agreed to give a $1.5 billion (€1.266 billion) loan to prop up Mr Lukashenko's government following a meeting between him and Russian President Vladimir Putin.Belarus will channel about $330 million (€287.6 million) of its new loan to cover its outstanding debt to Russian gas giant Gazprom, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov was quoted by TASS as saying. -ReutersREAD MOREProtests in Spain as local lockdowns to be imposed in parts of Madrid

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Hancock warns of second UK lockdown if public fail to follow Covid-19 rules

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned Britain is at a “tipping point” as he refused to rule out a second national coronavirus lockdown if the public fails to follow social distancing rules.With cases rising across the country, Mr Hancock said there was a danger the numbers could “shoot through the roof” unless effective action was taken to halt the spread of the virus.His warning came as the UK government announced anyone in England who refuses an order to self-isolate could face a fine of up to £10,000 (€10,900).'What does your data show, are people following the Rule of Six?'@MattHancock says people have become more relaxed with social distancing over the Summer, but "now is the moment when everybody needs to get back to the Rule of Six."#Ridge https://t.co/GvaT6GJIXE pic.twitter.com/zvbWbGjEo2— Sophy Ridge on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) September 20, 2020The Health Secretary said that hospital admissions for the disease were doubling “every eight days” and would be followed by an increase in the number of deaths.“This country faces a tipping point,” he told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show.“If everybody follows the rules – and we will be increasingly stringent on the people who are not following the rules – then we can avoid further national lockdowns.“But we of course have to be prepared to take action if that’s what’s necessary.”We will support people who do the right thing and we will come down hard on people who do the wrong thingDuring a round of broadcast interviews, Mr Hancock said the government had taken the decision to impose a legal duty on people to self-isolate if instructed as the data showed some were failing to do so.At the same time ministers have said people on benefits in England will be eligible for a one off support payment of £500 (€545) if they face a loss of earnings as a result of being required to self-isolate.Mr Hancock told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: “We will support people who do the right thing and we will come down hard on people who do the wrong thing.”READ MOREIndia set to overtake US as country worst hit by coronavirus

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Belarusian police arrest 200 women at opposition protest

Police in the capital of Belarus have cracked down sharply on a women’s protest march demanding the authoritarian president’s resignation.Officers arrested more than 200 demonstrators including an elderly woman who has become a symbol of the six weeks of protest that have rocked the country.More than 2,000 women took part in the march in Minsk.Such anti-government marches have become a regular feature of the unprecedented wave of large protests that began after the August 9 presidential election.Officials said President Alexander Lukashenko won a sixth term in office with 80% support in that vote but opponents and some poll workers say the results were rigged.Police officers arrested around 200 protesters (TUT.by/PA)During Mr Lukashenko’s 26 years in office, he has consistently repressed opposition and independent news media.Large demonstrations have been held in cities throughout the country and some Sunday protests in Minsk have attracted crowds estimated at up to 200,000 people.The human rights group Viasna said more than 200 people were arrested during Saturday’s march.“There were so many people detained that lines formed at the prisoner transports,” Viasna member Valentin Stepanovich told The Associated Press.Women stand holding hands in front of police officers (AP Photo)Among those detained was Nina Bahinskaya, a 73-year-old former geologist whose defiance has made her a popular figure in the protests.Many of the women in Saturday’s march chanted “We’re walking!” referring to when police told Ms Bahinskaya that she was taking part in an unauthorised protest and she snapped back “I’m taking a walk”.Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Mr Lukashenko’s main opponent in the election, praised the women’s march in a video statement from Lithuania, where she took refuge after the election.“They have frightened and put pressure on women for the second month, but despite this, Belarusians are continuing their peaceful protest and showing their amazing fortitude,” she said.Protesters wants the president to step down (TUT.by/AP)Several top members of the Coordination Council the opposition has created to push for a new election have been jailed and others have been forced to leave the country. Maxim Znak, a leading member of the council, declared a hunger strike in prison on Friday.Last month thousands of protesters were detained and some displayed deep bruises from police beatings. Still, that did not stop the protests from growing to include strikes at major factories that had previously been a source of support for the embattled Mr Lukashenko.In a new strategy to stem the huge Sunday rallies, the Belarusian Prosecutor General’s office said it has tracked down parents who took their children to opposition demonstrations.

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Police: Fatal victims of shooting at New York party were not intended targets

Two people who died at a party in New York state were not the intended targets of a shooting, police have said.Fourteen other people were injured in the incident, which comes after unrest in the city of Rochester following the suffocation death of Daniel Prude while he was arrested by police.As many as 100 people were at the gathering when the shooting started just before 12.30am local time (5.30am BST), acting police chief Mark Simmons told reporters.Officers are still trying to piece together who opened fire and why.Police on Saturday night identified the victims as 19-year-olds Jaquayla Young, a graduate of East High School, and Jarvis Alexander, a graduate of University Preparatory Charter School for Young Men, or UPrep. No arrests have been announced.“We have two innocent victims here that were attending a party with a few friends and unfortunately they lost their lives as a result because three or four individuals decided to carry handguns and pull them out and shoot at a crowd of 100 to 200 people,” police captain Frank Umbrino said at a news conference.None of those who were wounded are believed to have life-threatening injuries. They are being treated at two area hospitals.The shooting comes as the city’s police department has been rocked by days of protests over Mr Prude’s death, caused when officers put a hood over his head to stop him from spitting, then pushed his face into the pavement until they noticed he had stopped breathing.On Monday, the city’s mayor sacked police chief La’Ron Singletary, who she said initially misled her about the circumstances of the death.La’Ron Singletary (Democrat & Chronicle/AP)Other senior police officials announced they would retire or leave top command positions.Mr Simmons expressed frustration early on Saturday that someone had held a large, late-night party amid that tumult, apparently in defiance of a state ban on large gatherings because of the coronavirus pandemic.“This is yet another tragedy where individuals are having these illegal, unsanctioned house parties taking place in these properties, which – number one – is not safe because of Covid-19, because of the conditions. And then you add in alcohol and violence and it just becomes a recipe for disaster,” Mr Simmons said.Officers responded to calls of shots fired and found “approximately 100 people” running from the scene, Mr Simmons said.Before the call, police were not aware of the party and had received no complaints about noise, he said.Rochester mayor Lovely Warren issued a statement asking for “prayers and support for all involved”.She said: “I’m begging everyone to remain calm and exercise deep restraint as RPD investigates what happened here and seeks those responsible.”

Continue Reading Police: Fatal victims of shooting at New York party were not intended targets

Donald Trump vows to nominate a woman to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s vacant seat

Donald Trump has promised to put forth a female nominee to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.Taking the stage at a North Carolina rally to chants of “Fill that seat”, the president said he would nominate his selection despite Democrats’ objections.And, after conducting what he joked was a “very scientific poll” of the Fayetteville crowd as to whether supporters wanted a man or a woman, he declared the choice would be “a very talented, very brilliant woman”.He added that he did not yet know whom he would choose.“We win an election and those are the consequences,” said the president, who then seemed to signal that he’d be willing to accept a vote on his nominee during the lame duck period after the election. “We have a lot of time. We have plenty of time. We’re talking about January 20th.”Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed on Friday night, hours after Ms Ginsburg’s death, to call a vote on whomever Mr Trump nominated..@GOP We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices. We have this obligation, without delay!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2020But Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said any vote should come after the November 3 election. “Voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice to consider,” Mr Biden said.Ms Ginsburg, a towering women’s rights champion who became the court’s second female justice, died aged 87 at her home in Washington.A statement from the court said Ms Ginsburg died as a result of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer.Former president Barack Obama was among those paying tribute to Ms Ginsburg.He said: “Over a long career on both sides of the bench – as a relentless litigator and an incisive jurist – justice Ginsburg helped us see that discrimination on the basis of sex isn’t about an abstract ideal of equality; that it doesn’t only harm women; that it has real consequences for all of us. It’s about who we are – and who we can be.”US chief justice John Roberts also mourned Ms Ginsburg’s passing, saying: “Our nation has lost a jurist of historic stature.Statement from the President on the Passing of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pic.twitter.com/N2YkGVWLoF— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2020“We at the supreme court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn, but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her – a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”Ms Ginsburg announced in July that she was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for lesions on her liver, the latest of several battles with cancer.She spent her final years on the bench as the unquestioned leader of the court’s liberal wing and became something of a rock star to her admirers.Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought to the end, through her cancer, with unwavering faith in our democracy and its ideals. That’s how we remember her. But she also left instructions for how she wanted her legacy to be honored. My statement: https://t.co/Wa6YcT5gDi— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) September 19, 2020Young women especially seemed to embrace the court’s Jewish grandmother, affectionately calling her the Notorious RBG, for her defence of the rights of women and minorities, and the strength and resilience she displayed in the face of personal loss and health crises.Those health issues included five bouts with cancer beginning in 1999, falls that resulted in broken ribs, the insertion of a stent to clear a blocked artery and assorted other hospital treatments after she turned 75.She resisted calls by liberals to retire during Barack Obama’s presidency at a time when Democrats held the senate and a replacement with similar views could have been confirmed.Instead, Mr Trump will almost certainly try to push Ms Ginsburg’s successor through the Republican-controlled senate — and move the conservative court even more to the right.

Continue Reading Donald Trump vows to nominate a woman to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s vacant seat

Envelope addressed to White House found to contain ricin

US officials have intercepted an envelope addressed to the White House that contained the poison ricin, a law enforcement official said.The letter was intercepted at a government facility that screens mail addressed to the White House and President Donald Trump.A preliminary investigation indicated it tested positive for ricin, a poison found naturally in castor beans, the official said.Federal investigators were working to determine where the enveloped originated from and who posted it. The FBI, the Secret Service and the US Postal Inspection Service were leading the investigation.A Navy veteran sent envelopes dusted with ricin to Donald Trump in 2018 (Evan Vucci/AP)In a statement, the FBI said agents were working to investigate “a suspicious letter received at a US government mail facility” and that there is “no known threat to public safety”.A Navy veteran was arrested in 2018 and confessed to sending envelopes to Mr Trump and members of his administration that contained the substance from which ricin is derived.Authorities said the man, William Clyde Allen III, sent the envelopes with ground castor beans to the president, FBI director Christopher Wray, along with then-defence secretary Jim Mattis, then-CIA director Gina Haspel, Admiral John Richardson, who at the time was the Navy’s top officer, and then-Air Force secretary Heather Wilson. The letters were intercepted and no one was hurt.In 2014, a Mississippi man was sentenced to 25 years in prison after sending letters dusted with ricin to President Barack Obama and other officials.

Continue Reading Envelope addressed to White House found to contain ricin

US says all UN sanctions on Iran restored in move rest of the world to ignore

The US has declared all international sanctions against Iran have been restored despite the rest of the world vowing to ignore the move.Donald Trump’s administration said on Saturday night its triggering of the so-called “snap back” mechanism in the UN Security Council resolution that enshrined the 2015 Iran nuclear deal had taken effect.It comes 30 days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified the council Iran was in “significant non-performance” of its obligations under the deal.The mechanism would mean that international sanctions eased or lifted under the nuclear deal are reimposed and must be enforced by UN member states.Virtually all @UN sanctions have returned on Iran, the leading state sponsor of terrorism and anti-Semitism. This includes a permanent extension of the arms embargo. This is great news for peace in the region!— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) September 20, 2020However other members of the council say Washington lost the legal ability to invoke it after the US withdrew from the nuclear deal and reimposed American sanctions on Iran.In a statement, Mr Pompeo said “the world will be safer as a result” of the US decision.The White House plans to issue an executive order on Monday spelling out how it will will enforce the restored sanctions, with the State and Treasury departments expected to outline how foreign individuals and businesses will be penalised for violations.Trump administration officials have been attacking the 2015 nuclear deal for years. They say it is fatally flawed because certain restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activity gradually expire and will allow the country to eventually develop atomic weapons.Washington’s immediate concern has been the indefinite extension of the arms embargo that would otherwise expire on October 18. The Security Council rejected a US effort to extend the embargo in a lopsided vote which saw Washington get support from only one country, the Dominican Republic.

Continue Reading US says all UN sanctions on Iran restored in move rest of the world to ignore

Fines of up to £10,000 for failing to self-isolate in England

People in England who refuse an order to self-isolate will face fines of up to £10,000 (€10,900), the UK government has warned amid deepening concern at the sharp upsurge in coronavirus infections.In a significant toughening up of the regulations, UK ministers will impose a new legal duty on people to self-isolate if they test positive for the disease or are told to do so by NHS Test and Trace after coming into contact with someone with the virus.Those on lower incomes who face a loss of earnings as a result of going into quarantine will be eligible for a one-off support payment of £500 to help them cope financially.With new cases of the infection doubling every week, Boris Johnson said the measures were necessary to control the spread of the virus and to protect the most vulnerable from becoming infected.However they are likely to alarm some Conservative MPs already concerned at the wide-ranging powers being taken by ministers to curb the disease with little or no debate in Parliament.The new regulations will come into force in England on September 28, although ministers are in discussion with the devolved administrations for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland about extending them UK-wide.Following an increase in #COVID19 cases, further restrictions will be introduced in parts of the North West, the Midlands & west Yorkshire.— Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) September 18, 2020It follows a warning by Professor Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London – whose modelling led to the original nationwide lockdown, that the authorities needed to act “sooner rather than later” if they were to avoid a return to the infection rates of last March.On Friday, the Prime Minister acknowledged the long-feared second wave of the pandemic affecting countries such as France and Spain had reached Britain and that more cases of the disease were “inevitable”.(PA Graphics)Announcing the new rules, Mr Johnson said: ““The best way we can fight this virus is by everyone following the rules and self-isolating if they’re at risk of passing on coronavirus.“And so nobody underestimates just how important this is, new regulations will mean you are legally obliged to do so if you have the virus or have been asked to do so by NHS Test and Trace.“People who choose to ignore the rules will face significant fines. We need to do all we can to control the spread of this virus, to prevent the most vulnerable people from becoming infected, and to protect the NHS and save lives.”Fines will initially start at £1,000 rising to £10,000 for repeat offenders and for “the most egregious breaches” including those who stop other people from self-isolating, such an employer who requires a staff member to come into work in violation of an order.The penalties are in line with those for people who fail to quarantine for 14 days after returning to the UK from a country not on the list of low risk nations.Officials said NHS Test and Trace would be in regular contact with individuals told to self-isolate and would report any suspicions that people were not complying to the police and local authorities.If we leave it another two to four weeks we will be back at levels we were seeing more like mid-MarchPolice will also check compliance in Covid-19 hotspots and among groups considered to be “high-risk” as well as following up reports from members of the public of people who have tested positive but are not self-isolating.Prosecutions could follow in “high-profile and egregious” cases of non-compliance.As with other coronavirus rules, there will be specific exemptions for those who need to escape from illness or harm during their isolation, and for those who require care.Officials said just under four million people on benefits in England would be eligible for the support payments if they lose income as a result of being unable to go into work.The latest announcement comes just days after the “rule of six” – banning social gatherings of more than six people – came into force and will been seen as further evidence of the concern in Whitehall at the rate of spread of the disease.You MUST NOT meet socially in groups of more than 6 people if you live in England.— Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) September 18, 2020On Friday, the Government announced tough new restrictions were being imposed in large parts of England’s North West, West Yorkshire and the Midlands.It means by Tuesday, when the measures come into force, around 13.5 million people in the UK will be living under some form of additional coronavirus controls.Prof Ferguson said the country was caught in a “perfect storm” following the easing of lockdown restrictions over the summer, and that swift action was needed to stop the virus spreading out of control.“Right now we are at about the levels of infection we were seeing in this country in late February,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.“If we leave it another two to four weeks we will be back at levels we were seeing more like mid-March. That’s clearly going to cause deaths because people will be hospitalised.“I think some additional measures are likely to be needed sooner rather than later.”

Continue Reading Fines of up to £10,000 for failing to self-isolate in England

Trump backs proposed TikTok deal with Oracle and Walmart

President Donald Trump says he has given his “blessing” to a proposed deal between Oracle and Walmart for the US operations of TikTok, the Chinese-owned app he has targeted for national security and data privacy concerns.President Trump said the proposed deal will result in a new company which is likely to be based in Texas and under the control of US-based Oracle and Walmart.“I have given the deal my blessing,” he said. “If they get it done, that’s great. If they don’t, that’s OK too.”The apps were said to be a security threat (Mark Schiefelbein)President Trump has been demanding that TikTok, a video app popular with younger people, be sold to a US company or else its US operations shut down.He has also been targeting WeChat, another Chinese-owned app. The dispute over the two apps is the latest flashpoint in the rising tensions between the world’s two largest economies.Just a day earlier, the US Commerce Department said it would bar TikTok from US app stores as of late Sunday. Further restrictions that would prevent TikTok from accessing essential internet services in the country would go into effect on November 12.The deal President Trump signed off on would allow TikTok’s US operations to keep functioning.Commerce is imposing similar restrictions on WeChat, although all of those restrictions go into effect on Sunday night at 11:59 p.m.Earlier on Saturday, WeChat users asked a US judge to block the moves targeting the app, saying they would restrict free speech.WeChat is an all-in-one app with instant-messaging, social media and other communication tools.The US government argued that it is not restricting free speech because WeChat users still “are free to speak on alternative platforms that do not pose a national security threat”.The aggressive tactics are part of President Trump’s latest attempt to counter the influence of China, a rising economic superpower.Since taking office in 2017, President Trump has waged a trade war with China, blocked mergers involving Chinese companies and stifled the business of Chinese firms like Huawei, a maker of phones and telecom equipment.China-backed hackers, meanwhile, have been blamed for data breaches of US federal databases and the credit agency Equifax, and the Chinese government strictly limits what US tech companies can do in China.China’s ministry of commerce condemned the US moves and urged it to stop what it called bullying behaviour. It also said China may take “necessary measures” to protect Chinese companies.

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Two killed after gunfire erupts at party in New York state

Two people have died after a shooting at a party in the city of Rochester, New York state.Fourteen other people were injured in the incident, which comes after unrest in the city following the suffocation death of Daniel Prude while he was arrested by police.As many as 100 people were at the gathering when the shooting started just before 12.30am local time (5.30am BST), acting police chief Mark Simmons told reporters.Officers are still trying to piece together who opened fire and why.Mr Simmons said it was too early to say whether more than one person had opened fire, or who the intended targets may have been.A man and woman, estimated to be in their late teens or early 20s, were killed.None of those who were wounded are believed to have life-threatening injuries. They are being treated at two area hospitals.Mr Simmons said at a news conference near the home: “This is truly a tragedy of epic proportions.“I mean, 16 victims is unheard of, and for our community, who’s right now going through so much, to have to be dealt with this tragedy, needlessly, for people who decide to act in a violent manner is unfortunate and shameful, and we’re going to do everything that we can as a department to bring those people involved to justice.”The shooting comes as the city’s police department has been rocked by days of protests over Mr Prude’s death, caused when officers put a hood over his head to stop him from spitting, then pushed his face into the pavement until they noticed he had stopped breathing.On Monday, the city’s mayor sacked police chief La’Ron Singletary, who she said initially misled her about the circumstances of the death.La’Ron Singletary (Democrat & Chronicle/AP)Other senior police officials announced they would retire or leave top command positions.Mr Simmons expressed frustration early on Saturday that someone had held a large, late-night party amid that tumult, apparently in defiance of a state ban on large gatherings because of the coronavirus pandemic.“This is yet another tragedy where individuals are having these illegal, unsanctioned house parties taking place in these properties, which – number one – is not safe because of Covid-19, because of the conditions. And then you add in alcohol and violence and it just becomes a recipe for disaster,” Mr Simmons said.Officers responded to calls of shots fired and found “approximately 100 people” running from the scene, Mr Simmons said.Before the call, police were not aware of the party and had received no complaints about noise, he said.The acting police chief said no suspects were in custody, but there was no reason to believe the neighbourhood was unsafe.The names of the two people killed were not immediately released.Rochester mayor Lovely Warren issued a statement asking for “prayers and support for all involved”.She said: “I’m begging everyone to remain calm and exercise deep restraint as RPD investigates what happened here and seeks those responsible.”

Continue Reading Two killed after gunfire erupts at party in New York state

Trump calls for Senate to consider his Ginsburg replacement ‘without delay’

Donald Trump has urged the Republican-run Senate to consider “without delay” his upcoming nomination to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.“We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us,” Mr Trump tweeted, “the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices. We have this obligation, without delay!”Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed on Friday night, hours after Ms Ginsburg’s death, to call a vote on whomever Mr Trump nominated..@GOP We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices. We have this obligation, without delay!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2020But Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said any vote should come after the November 3 election. “Voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice to consider,” Mr Biden said.Ms Ginsburg, a towering women’s rights champion who became the court’s second female justice, died aged 87 at her home in Washington.A statement from the court said Ms Ginsburg died as a result of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer.Former president Barack Obama was among those paying tribute to Ms Ginsburg.He said: “Over a long career on both sides of the bench – as a relentless litigator and an incisive jurist – justice Ginsburg helped us see that discrimination on the basis of sex isn’t about an abstract ideal of equality; that it doesn’t only harm women; that it has real consequences for all of us. It’s about who we are – and who we can be.”US chief justice John Roberts also mourned Ms Ginsburg’s passing, saying: “Our nation has lost a jurist of historic stature.Statement from the President on the Passing of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pic.twitter.com/N2YkGVWLoF— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2020“We at the supreme court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn, but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her – a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”Ms Ginsburg announced in July that she was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for lesions on her liver, the latest of several battles with cancer.She spent her final years on the bench as the unquestioned leader of the court’s liberal wing and became something of a rock star to her admirers.Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought to the end, through her cancer, with unwavering faith in our democracy and its ideals. That’s how we remember her. But she also left instructions for how she wanted her legacy to be honored. My statement: https://t.co/Wa6YcT5gDi— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) September 19, 2020Young women especially seemed to embrace the court’s Jewish grandmother, affectionately calling her the Notorious RBG, for her defence of the rights of women and minorities, and the strength and resilience she displayed in the face of personal loss and health crises.Those health issues included five bouts with cancer beginning in 1999, falls that resulted in broken ribs, the insertion of a stent to clear a blocked artery and assorted other hospital treatments after she turned 75.She resisted calls by liberals to retire during Barack Obama’s presidency at a time when Democrats held the senate and a replacement with similar views could have been confirmed.Instead, Mr Trump will almost certainly try to push Ms Ginsburg’s successor through the Republican-controlled senate — and move the conservative court even more to the right.People lay flowers and light candies outside the Supreme Court late on Friday after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Alex Brandon/AP)Ms Ginsburg antagonised Mr Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign in a series of media interviews, including calling him a faker. She later apologised.Her appointment by then-president Bill Clinton in 1993 was the first by a Democrat in 26 years. She initially found a comfortable ideological home somewhere left of centre on a conservative court dominated by Republican appointments. Her liberal voice grew stronger the longer she served.Ms Ginsburg was a mother of two, an opera lover and an intellectual who watched arguments behind oversized glasses for many years, though she ditched them for more fashionable frames in her later years. At argument sessions in the ornate courtroom, she was known for digging deep into case records and for being a stickler for following the rules.She argued six key cases before the court in the 1970s when she was an architect of the women’s rights movement. She won five.A message left outside the Supreme Court late on Friday (Alex Brandon/AP)At the time of her appointment, Mr Clinton said: “Ruth Bader Ginsburg does not need a seat on the supreme court to earn her place in the American history books. She has already done that.”Following her death, Mr Clinton said: “Her 27 years on the court exceeded even my highest expectations when I appointed her.”On the court, her most significant majority opinions were the 1996 ruling that ordered the Virginia Military Institute to accept women or give up its state funding, and the 2015 decision that upheld independent commissions some states use to draw congressional districts.Ruth Bader Ginsburg stood for all of us. She was an American hero, a giant of legal doctrine, and a relentless voice in the pursuit of that highest American ideal: Equal Justice Under Law. May her memory be a blessing to all people who cherish our Constitution and its promise.— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) September 19, 2020Besides civil rights, Ms Ginsburg took an interest in capital punishment, voting repeatedly to limit its use. During her tenure, the court declared it unconstitutional for states to execute the intellectually disabled and killers younger than 18.In addition, she questioned the quality of lawyers for poor accused murderers. In the most divisive of cases, including the Bush v Gore decision in 2000, she was often at odds with the court’s more conservative members – initially chief justice William H Rehnquist and justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony M Kennedy and Clarence Thomas.The division remained the same after John Roberts replaced Rehnquist as chief justice, Samuel Alito took Ms O’Connor’s seat, and, under Mr Trump, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh joined the court, in seats that had been held by Mr Scalia and Mr Kennedy, respectively.Ms Ginsburg would say later that the 5-4 decision that settled the 2000 presidential election for Republican George W Bush was a “breathtaking episode” at the court.We have lost one of the most extraordinary Justices ever to serve on the Supreme Court. Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life and landmark opinions moved us closer to a more perfect union. And her powerful dissents reminded us that we walk away from our Constitution’s promise at our peril. pic.twitter.com/dDECiBxae6— Bill Clinton (@BillClinton) September 19, 2020When Mr Scalia died in 2016, also an election year, senate majority leader Mitch McConnell refused to act on Mr Obama’s nomination of judge Merrick Garland to fill the opening.The seat remained vacant until after Mr Trump’s surprising victory. Mr McConnell has said he would move to confirm a Trump nominee if a vacancy came up this year.Ms Ginsburg authored powerful dissents of her own in cases involving abortion, voting rights and pay discrimination against women.Ruth Bader Ginsburg takes the court oath from chief justice William Rehnquist, right, as then-president Bill Clinton (left) looks on, after her 1993 appointment (Marcy Nighswander/AP)She said some were aimed at swaying the opinions of her fellow judges while others were “an appeal to the intelligence of another day”, in the hopes that they would provide guidance to future courts.“Hope springs eternal,” she said in 2007, “and when I am writing a dissent, I’m always hoping for that fifth or sixth vote – even though I’m disappointed more often than not.”She married her husband, Martin Ginsburg, in 1954, the year she graduated from Cornell University. He died in 2010. She is survived by two children, Jane and James, and several grandchildren.

Continue Reading Trump calls for Senate to consider his Ginsburg replacement ‘without delay’

Mitch McConnell and Joe Biden clash over quick vote for next US Supreme Court justice

The death of US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg little more than six weeks before the election cast an immediate spotlight on the high court vacancy, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell quickly vowing to bring a vote on whoever President Donald Trump nominates.Democratic nominee Joe Biden vigorously disagreed, declaring “voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice to consider”.Mr McConnell, in a statement some 90 minutes after Ms Ginsburg’s death was announced, declared unequivocally that Mr Trump’s nominee would go to a vote, even though he had stalled President Barack Obama’s choice for months ahead of the 2016 election, eventually preventing a ballot.Mr Trump, in brief remarks to reporters after learning of her death, called Ms Ginsburg “an amazing woman” who “led an amazing life”.He had continued with a campaign speech for more than an hour after her death was announced, saying later he had been unaware of her passing.Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday aged 87 (Craig Fritz/AP)Mr Trump had said in the speech that the next presidential term could offer him as many as four appointments to the nine-member court, whose members are confirmed for life, and added: “This is going to be the most important election in the history of our country and we have to get it right.”Mr Biden, returning to Delaware from his own campaign stop in Minnesota, praised Ms Ginsburg on his arrival.She was “not only a giant of the legal profession but a beloved figure,” he said, adding she “stood for all of us”.The process of replacing her should not begin until after the election, he made clear.Ms Ginsburg’s death could significantly affect the presidential race, further stirring passions in the deeply divided nation as the campaign pushes into its stretch run ahead of the November poll.Voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice to considerMr Trump took the stage for a Minnesota rally soon before Ms Ginsburg’s death was announced. He spoke for more than 90 minutes and did not mention it, apparently having not been alerted to the development. He spoke to reporters about her passing as he boarded Air Force One to return to Washington.A confirmation vote in the Senate is not guaranteed, even with a Republican majority.Typically it takes several months to vet and hold hearings on a Supreme Court nominee, and time is short ahead of the election.Key senators may be reluctant to cast votes so close to the election. With a slim majority of Republicans – 53 seats in the 100-member chamber – Mr Trump’s choice could afford to lose only a few.Mr McConnell did not specify the timing, but pushing a confirmation off to the post-election “lame-duck” session would carry other complications, including the political tangle of trying to push it through in the final weeks of the year after voters have decided who controls the White House and the Senate.Joe Biden says the vote on Ms Ginsburg’s replacement should be held after the election (Carolyn Kaster/AP)Mr Trump has made the appointing of federal judiciary figures – including two Supreme Court justices – part of his legacy. He said last month he would “absolutely” try to fill a vacancy on the high court if one came up before the end of his first term.“Absolutely, I’d do it,” Mr Trump said in an August 11 interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.“I would move quickly. Why not? I mean, they would. The Democrats would if they were in this position.”Mr Trump last week added 20 names to the list of candidates he has pledged to choose from if he had future vacancies to fill.The president tried to cast the list in contrast with judges who could be nominated if Mr Biden wins in November, warning Mr Biden would select “radical justices” who would “fundamentally transform America without a single vote of Congress”. This came even though Mr Biden has never outlined his list of potential picks, and the fact the Senate must confirm any nominee.Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell believes a quick vote should be held on the new Supreme Court justice, despite his actions in 2016 (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)Naming his possible choices, less than two months before the election, is aimed at repeating the strategy Mr Trump employed during his 2016 campaign, when he released a similar list of potential judges in a bid to win over conservative and evangelical voters who had doubts about his conservative credentials.The average number of days to confirm a justice, according to the Congressional Research Service, is 69 days, which would be after the election.Mr Biden has promised to nominate a black woman to the high court if given the chance.He has said he is also working on a list of potential nominees, but the campaign has given no indication it will release names before the election.Democrats believe doing so would unnecessarily distract from Mr Biden’s focus on Mr Trump’s handling of the pandemic and the economy, while also giving the president and his allies fresh targets to attack.Mr Trump, however, insisted presidential candidates “owe the American people” a list of figures they would consider because, aside from “matters of war and peace, the nomination of a Supreme Court justice is the most important decision an American president can make”.

Continue Reading Mitch McConnell and Joe Biden clash over quick vote for next US Supreme Court justice

Senate to vote on Trump nominee for Ginsburg replacement

US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the Senate will vote on President Donald Trump’s choice to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, despite this being an election year.The Republican Senate leader issued a statement on Friday night, some 90 minutes after the Supreme Court announced the liberal justice’s death from complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer.When conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, also an election year, Mr McConnell refused to act on President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to fill the opening.Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday aged 87 (Craig Fritz/AP)The seat remained vacant until after Mr Trump’s surprising presidential victory.Mr Trump ultimately nominated Neil Gorsuch, who was confirmed to the court.The 2020 election is 46 days away.Mr McConnell had earlier said he would move to confirm a Trump nominee if there were a vacancy this year.Meanwhile, Democratic House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Ms Ginsburg’s replacement should have a “commitment to equality, opportunity and justice for all”.

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Women’s rights champion Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies aged 87

US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a diminutive yet towering women’s rights champion, has died aged 87.The court’s second female justice died from complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer, though she made few concessions to age and recurrent health problems in her latter years.In her final years on the court, Ms Ginsburg was the unquestioned leader of the liberal justices, as outspoken in dissent as she was cautious in earlier years.Regarding Justice Ginsburg https://t.co/OcnymACp0b— U.S. Supreme Court (@USSupremeCourt) July 30, 2020During her latter period she also became a social media icon, the Notorious RBG, a name coined by a law student who admired her dissent in a case cutting back on a key civil rights law.The justice was at first taken aback. There was nothing “notorious” about this woman of rectitude who wore a variety of lace collars on the bench and often appeared in public in elegant gloves.But when her law clerks and grandchildren explained the connection to another Brooklynite, the rapper The Notorious BIG, her skepticism turned to delight:“In the word the current generation uses, it’s awesome,” Ms Ginsburg said in 2016, shortly before she turned 83.Her stature on the court and the death of her husband in 2010 probably contributed to Ms Ginsburg’s decision to remain on the bench beyond the goal she initially set for herself, to match Justice Louis Brandeis’s 22 years on the court and his retirement at the age of 82.Ms Ginsburg had special affection for Mr Brandeis, the first Jew named to the high court. She was the court’s second woman and its sixth Jewish justice, but in time was joined by two other Jews, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, and two other women, Ms Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.Ms Ginsburg’s journey to the US Supreme Court, where people gathered following her death, began when she left law school in 1959 (Alex Brandon/AP)Both developments were perhaps unthinkable when Ms Ginsburg graduated from law school in 1959 and faced the triple bogey of looking for work as a woman, a mother and a Jew.Forty years later, she noted that religion had become irrelevant in the selection of high-court justices and that gender was heading in the same direction, though when asked how many women would be enough for the high court, Ms Ginsburg replied without hesitation, “Nine”.She could take some credit for equality of the sexes in the law. In the 1970s, she argued six key cases before the court when she was an architect of the women’s rights movement, and won five.“Ruth Bader Ginsburg does not need a seat on the Supreme Court to earn her place in the American history books,” President Bill Clinton said in 1993 when he announced her appointment. “She has already done that.”Ms Ginsburg was nominated to the court by Bill Clinton (Marcy Nighswander/AP)Her time as a justice was marked by triumphs for equality for women, as in her opinion for the court ordering the Virginia Military Institute to accept women or give up its state funding.There were setbacks, too. She dissented forcefully from the court’s decision in 2007 to uphold a nationwide ban on an abortion procedure that opponents call partial-birth abortion.The “alarming” ruling, Ms Ginsburg said, “cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away at a right declared again and again by this court — and with increasing comprehension of its centrality to women’s lives”.The justice once said that she had not entered the law as a champion of equal rights. “I thought I could do a lawyer’s job better than any other,” she wrote. “I have no talent in the arts, but I do write fairly well and analyse problems clearly.”The justice, pictured with Joe Biden, right, died of metastatic pancreatic cancer at age 87 (Marcy Nighswander/AP)Besides civil rights, Ms Ginsburg took an interest in capital punishment, voting repeatedly to limit its use. During her tenure, the court declared it unconstitutional for states to execute the intellectually disabled and killers younger than 18.She voted most often with the other liberal-leaning justices, fellow Clinton appointee Mr Breyer and two Republican appointees, John Paul Stevens and David Souter, then later with President Barack Obama’s two appointees, Ms Sotomayor and Ms Kagan.“Hope springs eternal,” she said in 2007, “and when I am writing a dissent, I’m always hoping for that fifth or sixth vote — even though I’m disappointed more often than not.”Joan Ruth Bader was born in Brooklyn in 1933, the second daughter in a middle-class family. Her older sister, who gave her the lifelong nickname “Kiki,” died at age 6, so Ms Ginsburg grew up in Brooklyn’s Flatbush section as an only child. Her dream, she had said, was to be an opera singer.

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Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday at her home in Washington. She was 87.A diminutive yet towering women’s rights champion who became the court’s second female justice, Ms Ginsburg died of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer, the court said.Ms Ginsburg announced in July she was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for lesions on her liver, the latest of her several battles with cancer.She spent her final years on the bench as the unquestioned leader of the court’s liberal wing and became something of a rock star figure to her admirers.Ruth Bader Ginsburg enjoyed rock star-like status among her followers (Alex Brandon/AP)Young women especially seemed to embrace the court’s Jewish grandmother, affectionately calling her the Notorious RBG, for her defence of the rights of women and minorities, and the strength and resilience she displayed in the face of personal loss and health crises.Those health issues included five bouts with cancer beginning in 1999, falls that resulted in broken ribs, insertion of a stent to clear a blocked artery and assorted other hospital treatments after she turned 75.She resisted calls by liberals to retire during Barack Obama’s presidency at a time when Democrats held the Senate and a replacement with similar views could have been confirmed.Instead, President Donald Trump will almost certainly try to push Ginsburg’s successor through the Republican-controlled Senate — and move the conservative court even more to the right.

Continue Reading Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

French Finance Minister tests positive for coronavirus

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Friday he had tested positive for coronavirus, but had no symptoms and would continue to carry out his duties while quarantined at home.“I tested positive for Covid-19 this evening,” Le Maire said in a statement on Twitter, adding that he would remain at home for seven days. “I immediately followed the health measures brought in by the government by self-isolating at home.”He gave no further details.J’ai été testé positif à la COVID-19 ce soir. Je me suis immédiatement mis à l’isolement à mon domicile conformément aux règles sanitaires édictées par le gouvernement. Je ne présente aucun symptôme. Je resterai à l’isolement pendant 7 jours. Je continue à exercer mes fonctions.— Bruno Le Maire (@BrunoLeMaire) September 18, 2020French Prime Minister Jean Castex last week tested negative for Covid-19, after he came into contact with someone who tested positive at the Tour de France cycle race.France has been grappling with a surge in new confirmed coronavirus cases, and earlier on Friday reported a record number of 13,215 for any 24 hour period since the start of the pandemic. The daily death toll jumped to a four-month high.Epidemiologists blame the increase on a combination of faster circulation of the virus and a six-fold increase in testing since the government made it free.READ MOREGuatemalan president tests positive for coronavirus

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Actor Danny Masterson’s lawyer denies and denounces rape charges

That ’70s Show actor Danny Masterson, charged with raping three women, has made his first appearance in a Los Angeles courtroom – where his lawyer declared his innocence and denounced the charges against him as “politicised”.Masterson, 44, who has been free on bail since his June arrest, stood in court in a blue suit and face mask next to lawyers Tom Mesereau and Sharon Appelbaum, as the three women sat in the gallery.Masterson did not enter a plea, but Mr Mesereau said the charges, based on events nearly 20 years old, were the result of unfair hype from media outlets and pressure to prosecute his client as Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey faces an election.Actor Danny Masterson, centre, stands with his attorneys (Lucy Nicholson/Pool Photo via AP)“There have been repeated attempts to politicise this case,” said Mr Mesereau, who also represented Bill Cosby and Michael Jackson in their sexual misconduct cases.“He is absolutely not guilty and we’re going to prove it.”Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller called the statements “pure speculation, with no basis in fact”.Mr Mesereau spoke as the judge was considering media requests to allow cameras in court, which he approved.Mr Mesereau argued that the media presence would be unfairly prejudicial to Masterson and taint potential jurors.“We want to do anything we can to tone down the cameras and the circus-like atmosphere that have pervaded this case,” the lawyer said.“We’re just trying to protect his rights.”Superior Court Judge Miguel T Espinoza also denied a request from the defence for a protective order sealing case files and preventing police, prosecutors and potential witnesses from revealing case information to the media, but said he would reconsider similar request later.The defence has filed documents asking the criminal complaint against Masterson be thrown out as insufficient. A hearing on the issue will be held before Masterson is asked to enter a plea.Masterson’s arrest came after a three-year investigation that resulted in the rare prosecution of a famous Hollywood figure in the #MeToo era.Despite dozens of investigations, most have led to no charges based on lack of evidence or too much time passing.About 20 friends and supporters accompanied Masterson to court, standing in the courthouse hall with him as he awaited the hearing, but only a few were allowed inside the courtroom because of coronavirus distancing requirements.He spoke only to answer “yes” to the judge’s questions.Masterson is charged with three counts of rape by force or fear. Prosecutors allege that he raped a 23-year-old woman sometime in 2001, a 28-year-old woman in April of 2003, and a 23-year-old woman between October and December of 2003.Prosecutors said all of the alleged attacks happened in his home.He could face up to 45 years in prison if convicted.The alleged rapes came at the height of Masterson’s fame as he starred as Steven Hyde on the ensemble retro sitcom That ’70s Show alongside Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis and Topher Grace. The series ran on Fox TV from 1998 to 2006 and has had a long afterlife in reruns.He was removed from the Netflix show The Ranch in 2017 over the allegations that would eventually lead to the charges.

Continue Reading Actor Danny Masterson’s lawyer denies and denounces rape charges

Second wave of coronavirus has arrived in UK, Johnson says

Boris Johnson is warning that a second wave of coronavirus has arrived in the UK, as scientists reported the “widespread growth” of the virus across the country.The UK government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said the R number – representing the number of people an infected person will pass the virus to – has risen to between 1.1 and 1.4, meaning cases could rise very quickly.As UK ministers announced tough new restrictions affecting 13.5 million people, prime minister Johnson said they would “keep everything under review”.There’s no question, as I’ve said for several weeks now, that we could expect (and) are now seeing a second wave coming in.“There’s no question, as I’ve said for several weeks now, that we could expect (and) are now seeing a second wave coming in,” he told reporters during a visit to the Vaccines Manufacturing Innovation Centre construction site near Oxford.“We are seeing it in France, in Spain, across Europe – it has been absolutely, I’m afraid, inevitable we were going to see it in this country.”Public Health England (PHE) warned that data published on Friday could be a sign of “far worse things to come”, as the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said cases are thought to have almost doubled in a week to 6,000-a-day in England.National lockdownIt comes as ministers discuss whether further national restrictions are needed, such as forcing pubs and restaurants to close at 10pm or curbs on people socialising.The Prime Minister insisted that he did not want a second national lockdown, but said it was essential that people followed social distancing guidelines – including the new “rule of six”.“But as we look at this particular curve and what is happening now, clearly we are going to keep everything under review. I don’t want to get into a second national lockdown at all, it is the last thing anybody wants,” he said.“I don’t want to go into bigger lockdown measures at all, we want to keep schools open and it is fantastic the schools have gone back in the way they have. We want to keep the economy open as far as we possibly can, we want to keep businesses going.“The only way we can do that is obviously if people follow the guidance.”Ministers are thought to be considering a two-week national “circuit break”, an attempt to break the chain of transmission.Earlier, however, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock stressed the focus remained on local interventions, as he announced new restrictions for large parts of England’s North West, West Yorkshire and the Midlands.Residents must not socialise with other people outside of their own households or support bubble in private homes and gardens, while restaurants, pubs and bars will be restricted to table service only in these areas.Today I visited the @JennerInstitute at @UniofOxford, where scientists are leading efforts in developing vaccines for the world’s most infectious diseases. pic.twitter.com/StPqPXW0Ea— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) September 18, 2020Residents are also advised to avoid public transport unless it is essential, as well as professional or amateur sporting events.The new rules do not apply to Bolton or Greater Manchester, where separate restrictions are already in place.Overall, around 13.5 million people are currently living under restrictions or will be from Tuesday.Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, warned local lockdown restrictions were “increasingly likely” in the capital after he held an emergency meeting with the Government and council leaders.On Friday, new confirmed daily cases of coronavirus hit 4,322 – the highest since May 8th.Cases of the virus and hospital admissions for Covid-19 are doubling every seven to eight days in the UK, according to the new data.READ MOREFrench Finance Minister tests positive for coronavirus

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Books worth €2.7m stolen in UK warehouse heist found under Romanian house

Around 200 “irreplaceable” books worth more than €2.7 million have been found buried under a house in Romania, more than three years after they were stolen from a warehouse in London.The books, which include works by Galileo and Sir Isaac Newton, were taken during the burglary in Feltham, west London, in January 2017, according to the Metropolitan Police.Thieves broke in by cutting holes in the roof and avoided sensors by abseiling down into the warehouse, where the books were being stored ahead of being sent to Las Vegas for a specialist book auction.Priceless historical antiques included first editions of Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton from the XVI and XVII century . 📚📙 The books were reported stolen from a warehouse in the UK in 2017 and were uncovered buried underground in Romania: https://t.co/yXMHtIkDQV 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/AMQDo6My97— Europol (@Europol) September 18, 2020Officers recovered the items on Wednesday following the underground search of a house in Neamt, in north-east Romania.An investigation identified the suspects as part of a Romanian organised crime group, responsible for high-value warehouse burglaries across the UK.The group has been linked to another 11 offences in London where a further £2 million worth of goods have been stolen, using the same method of entering the property through a roof.As part of an international operation, officers from Scotland Yard have been working alongside officers from the Romanian National Police and Italian Carabinieri, supported by Europol and Eurojust.Some 45 addresses have been raided across the UK, Romania and Italy.The Metropolitan Police said 13 individuals were charged in the UK with conspiring to commit burglaries between December 2016 and April 2019, and to acquire criminal property.Criminal Investigations chief commissioner Emil Tudor of the Romanian Police (Vadim Ghirda/AP)Some 12 of those have pleaded guilty and will be sentenced later this month, while the 13th defendant will be tried in March, the force added.Detective inspector Andy Durham, from Specialist Crime South, said: “This recovery is a perfect end to this operation and is a demonstration of successful joint working between the Met and our European law enforcement partners in Romania and Italy – and at Europol and Eurojust.“These books are extremely valuable, but more importantly they are irreplaceable and are of great importance to international cultural heritage.“If it wasn’t for the hard work of detective constable David Ward and others in this Joint Investigation Team these books would have been sadly lost to the world forever.”

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Covid-19: Fresh restrictions for England's north and midlands

Huge parts of England’s north and midlands face tough new restrictions from Tuesday as the country's health minister Matt Hancock refused to rule out a national lockdown.Ministers announced a tightening of rules in response to “major increases” in Covid-19 cases in large areas of the northwest and Yorkshire and parts of the midlands.Lancashire, Merseyside, West Yorkshire, Warrington, Halton and Wolverhampton face new restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings and further public health rules in restaurants and pubs. (PA Graphics)Mr Hancock said: “We are seeing cases of coronavirus rise fast in Lancashire, Merseyside, West Yorkshire, Warrington, Halton and Wolverhampton.“Local leaders in these areas have asked for stronger restrictions to be put in place to protect local people, and we are acting decisively to support them.“I know these restrictions will make every-day life harder for many, but I know that residents will work together and respect the rules so we can reduce rates of transmission.(PA Graphics)“I urge local people to isolate and get a test if you have symptoms, follow the advice of NHS Test and Trace, and always remember ‘hands, face, space’. By sticking to these steps, we will get through this together.”In the week to September 11th, Covid-19 rates in Liverpool have increased to 100.6 per 100,000 people, while in Warrington they have risen to 111.2, and 145.5 in Oadby and Wigston.In Wolverhampton, rates have increased to 61.8 per 100,000 people, according to the Department of Health.It comes after Mr Hancock said a second national lockdown in the UK to curb the spread of coronavirus has not been ruled out but the “great hope” is that people will heed current advice to help manage a “very serious” situation.He said a national lockdown was the “last line of defence” as he responded to reports that ministers are considering further national measures, even for just a two-week period, such as imposing a curfew on bars and restaurants.The UK government is still under fire over the NHS Test and Trace system, which has seen up to four times the number of people trying to book a test as the number of tests available.Experts have said that, without effective testing and tracing, it will be much harder to control the spread of the virus and pinpoint larger outbreaks.New figures from the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Friday showed an estimated 59,800 people in private households in England had Covid-19 between September 4th and 10th – around one in 900 individuals.The ONS said the latest estimate “shows the number of infections has increased in recent weeks”.The figures do not include people staying in hospitals or care homes.READ MORECovid-19 in Ireland: Latest county-by-county data

Continue Reading Covid-19: Fresh restrictions for England's north and midlands

US banning use of TikTok and WeChat

The US will ban the use of WeChat on Sunday to “safeguard the national security of the United States”.The Chinese app TikTok will also be banned by November 12, but US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said early on Friday on CNBC that access to that app may be possible if certain safeguards are in place.“At the president’s direction, we have taken significant action to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data, while promoting our national values, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive enforcement of US laws and regulations,” Mr Ross said in a prepared statement.Today’s actions prove once again that President @realDonaldTrump will do everything in his power to guarantee our national security and protect Americans from the threats of the Chinese Communist Party. https://t.co/xGLqRVwhao— Sec. Wilbur Ross (@SecretaryRoss) September 18, 2020The US government said its order, previously announced by Donald Trump in August, will “combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data”.The government previously said that using and downloading the app to communicate will not be a banned transaction, although messaging on the app “could be directly or indirectly impaired” by the ban, and people who use it for messaging will not be subject to penalties.Some security experts have raised concerns that ByteDance Ltd, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, would maintain access to information on the 100 million TikTok users in the United States, creating a security risk.

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UK joins initiative for Covid-19 vaccine discovery, manufacture and distribution

The UK has joined Covax, the international initiative to support discovery, manufacture and fair distribution of Covid-19 vaccines for one billion people by the end of 2021.Covax is the vaccines pillar of the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a global collaboration to speed up the development, production, and equitable access to coronavirus tests, treatments, and vaccines.It is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).Covax is looking to invest six billion US dollars (£4.56 billion) to secure access to a diverse portfolio of vaccine candidates.The global effort to find a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine is not a competition but is among the most urgent shared endeavours of our lifetimeThe UK is working with international partners to set up Covax as quickly as possible, which will support access to any coronavirus vaccine in the UK for millions of people.On June 4 at the Global Vaccines Summit, the UK announced £48 million to finance Covax vaccines for lower income countries.Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “The global effort to find a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine is not a competition but is among the most urgent shared endeavours of our lifetime – it benefits us all to be better equipped to fight this virus.“That’s why I am delighted to confirm that the United Kingdom will join the global Covax initiative to expedite the discovery, manufacture and fair distribution of a vaccine to one billion people.“Today’s landmark agreement complements the various vaccine deals the UK has already made and ensures we have the best chance of accessing a safe and effective vaccine for people in the UK as soon as one becomes available, as well as supporting access in poorer countries.”

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Covid vaccine: Russia announces treatment drug and China trials vaccines

Additional reporting from Reuters and PA It has been just over seven months since Covid-19 was officially declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). According to the WHO, as of today there have been close to 30 million cases (29,987,026) worldwide and 942,735 deaths. Talks of developing a vaccine have been floated around ever since the start of the pandemic, but it is still not clear when a potential vaccine might be available. Ireland is part of a European wide agreement around access to vaccines so if one is developed the government will have it distributed to them by the EU. Around the world though there have been some signs of a possible breakthrough when it comes to a vaccine as well as possible treatments. According to the WHO, there are currently over 169 Covid-19 vaccine candidates under development, with 26 of these in the human trial phase. They said when a safe and effective vaccine is found, COVAX (led by WHO, GAVI and CEPI) will facilitate the equitable access and distribution of these vaccines to protect people in all countries. They also said people most at risk will be prioritized. Russia Today, Russia approved R-Pharm's Coronavir treatment for outpatients with mild to moderate Covid-19 infections and the antiviral drug could be rolled out to pharmacies in the country as soon as next week, the company said on Friday. Coronavir's approval as a prescription drug follows the green light for another Russian COVID-19 drug, Avifavir, in May. Both are based on favipiravir, which was developed in Japan and is widely used there as the basis for viral treatments. R-Pharm's announcement is another sign Russia is pushing hard to take a global lead in the race against the virus. It is already exporting its COVID-19 tests and has clinched several international deals for supplies of its Sputnik-V vaccine. R-Pharm said it received approval for Coronavir after Phase III clinical trials involving 168 patients with COVID-19 They has started talks with pharmacies about orders, the company's spokeswoman said, with Coronavir supplies expected to be rolled out in the near future, possibly as soon as next week. Coronavir is made at R-Pharm's facility in Yaroslavl, about 300 km (186 miles) northeast of Moscow China Meanwhile, in Beijing around 350,000 people have taken experimental coronavirus vaccines developed by China National Biotec Group (CNBG), as part of the country's emergency inoculation programme. China has been actively offering vaccines that are still undergoing late-stage trials to people facing high infection risk and considering expanding the programme to prepare against a potential resurgence, raising safety concerns from experts. At least three vaccine candidates including two developed by CNBG, a unit of state-owned China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm), are offered in the emergency use programme. So far, none of those who have taken the CNBG vaccines through the emergency use program or clinical trials have shown antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) effect, an adverse reaction where antibodies against the virus worsens the infection, CNBG Chairman Yang Xiaoming said. He said further monitoring was needed. "Not every one of the 1.4 billion people [in China] needs vaccination," Yang told a forum sponsored by China's science and technology ministry, saying that inoculating key groups of people could be sufficient to prevent outbreaks. The company's two coronavirus vaccine factories are expected to be able to produce a combined 300 million doses of vaccines in a year, and CNBG plans to expand its annual capacity to 600-800 million doses, Yang said. UK The UK meanwhile has joined Covax, the international initiative to support discovery, manufacture and fair distribution of Covid-19 vaccines for one billion people by the end of 2021. Covax is the vaccines pillar of the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a global collaboration to speed up the development, production, and equitable access to coronavirus tests, treatments, and vaccines. It is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Over 150 countries engage in #COVAX Facility, the #COVID19 vaccine global access facility designed to guarantee rapid, fair & equitable access to life saving vaccines for every country in the 🌐, rich & poor, to halt the spread of the pandemic worldwide.https://t.co/BZVNdGpeLl — World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) July 15, 2020 Covax is looking to invest six billion US dollars (£4.56 billion/€5million) to secure access to a diverse portfolio of vaccine candidates. The UK is working with international partners to set up Covax as quickly as possible, which will support access to any coronavirus vaccine in the UK for millions of people. On June 4 at the Global Vaccines Summit, the UK announced £48 million to finance Covax vaccines for lower income countries. United States Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump and the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) disagreed yesterday about when a COVID-19 vaccine would become widely available. Trump has said one could initially be available by the Nov. 3 election, while the CDC director said vaccines were likely to reach the general public around mid-2021, an assessment more in line with most experts General availability is when every American who wants the vaccine can get it. There are currently no Covid-19 vaccines approved by U.S. regulators, although a handful are in late-stage trials to prove they are safe and effective. We all want a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible, but it needs to be based on science — not politics. Tune in as I discuss how we can develop and equitably distribute a safe and effective vaccine: https://t.co/KPxTaqAiVd — Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) September 16, 2020 Experts estimate that at least 70 per cent of roughly 330 million Americans would need to be immune through a vaccine or prior infection to achieve what is known as herd immunity, which occurs when enough people are immune to prevent the spread of the virus to those unable to get a vaccine.. The CDC anticipates that 35 million to 45 million doses of vaccines from the first two companies to receive authorization will be available in the United States by the end of this year. The current front runners are Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc. Drugmakers have been more ambitious with their calculations. AstraZeneca Plc has said it could deliver as many as 300 million doses of its experimental vaccine in the United States by as early as October. Pfizer and German partner BioNTech SE have said they expect to have 100 million doses available worldwide by the end of 2020, but did not specify how much of that was earmarked for the United States. Moderna has said it is on track to make between 500 million and 1 billion doses a year beginning in 2021. Several drugmakers including Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax Inc have all said they expect to produce at least 1 billion doses of their vaccines next year if they get regulatory authorization.

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Alabama reports second death from Hurricane Sally as Alpha forms

A second death from Hurricane Sally has been reported in Alabama on a day that also saw the National Hurricane Centre have to resort to using the Greek alphabet for storm names in a record-setting season.Baldwin County coroner Dr Brian Pierce said the death in the Foley area and was of someone who was involved in storm clean-up.He gave no other details on the death.Another person in the county died on Wednesday morning as the hurricane was blowing through in an apparent drowning.And in Florida, authorities were looking for a missing kayaker who was feared dead, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said.The US Coast Guard is looking for the man who went out on the day of the storm, he said“We’ve been telling everyone how fortunate we are about not having any deaths. We may have our first hurricane-related death as a result of it,” the sheriff said.A damaged business is seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Sally (Angie Wang/AP)Meanwhile far east in the Atlantic, Subtropical Storm Alpha formed.It is only the second time the Hurricane Centre has had to use the Greek alphabet after running out of its traditional storm names.Tropical Storm #Wilfred Advisory 1: Wilfred Forms in the Eastern Tropical Atlantic. Get Out the Greek Alphabet For the Rest of 2020. https://t.co/VqHn0u1vgc— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) September 18, 2020Subtropical Storm #Alpha Advisory 1: Subtropical Storm Alpha Forms Near the Coast of Portugal. Expected to Be Short-Lived But Bring Winds and Rain to Portions of Portugal. https://t.co/VqHn0u1vgc— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) September 18, 2020The only time they had done this before was in the deadly 2005 hurricane season, during which Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.Alpha came just hours after Tropical Storm Wilfred formed in the eastern Atlantic, using the last of the traditional names for tropical systems.That storm’s maximum sustained winds on Friday morning were near 40 mph.Slight strengthening was possible during the day but weakening should start over the weekend, the U.S. National Hurricane Centre said.Wilfred was centred about 630 miles west-southwest of the Cabo Verde Islands and was moving west-northwest near 17 mph.The prior record for the earliest 21st named storm was Wilma on October 8 2005, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.

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Kremlin accuses Navalny team of hampering probe by taking suspected evidence

The Kremlin has accused colleagues of opposition leader Alexei Navalny of hampering a Russian investigation by taking items from his hotel room out of the country.The colleagues revealed on Thursday that the items they removed included a water bottle that had traces of the Soviet-era nerve agent German authorities said was used to poison Mr Navalny.“Regrettably, what could have been evidence of poisoning was taken away,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.Mr Navalny, the most visible opponent of Russian president Vladimir Putin, fell ill on the domestic flight on August 20 and was transferred to Germany for treatment at his wife’s request two days later.A German military lab later determined that Mr Navalny was poisoned with Novichok, the same class of Soviet-era agent that Britain said was used on a former Russian spy and his daughter in England, in 2018.Members of the Navalny team said they searched his hotel room in the city of Tomsk upon learning that he collapsed on the flight home.They said they packed half-empty plastic water bottles and other items and sent them on to Germany for further inspection to help investigate what they suspected to be his poisoning.The Charite building, where Alexei Navalny is treated, in Berlin, Germany (Markus Schreiber/AP)Mr Navalny’s colleagues said on Thursday that a German laboratory subsequently found a trace of Novichok on a bottle from his hotel room.Top associate Georgy Alburov noted that the German experts concluded that the bottle did not contain the Novichok that Mr Navalny consumed, saying he likely transferred a tiny trace of the toxic substance behind when he drank from the container after having already been poisoned.Chancellor Angela Merkel has said the German lab conducted tests on “various samples from Mr Navalny,” but neither she nor other German officials have not given details of what samples were tested.The German government had no comment on Friday on the Navalny team’s statement that Novichok was found on the water bottle taken from Russia.Germany has said that independent tests by labs in France and Sweden backed up the military lab’s findings.The Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons also is having samples from Mr Navalny tested.Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr said those tests were ongoing and Germany had not received any results.The Kremlin reiterated that before Mr Navalny’s transfer to Charite Hospital in Berlin, Russian labs and a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk found no sign of a poisoning.Moscow has called for Germany to provide its evidence and bristled at the urging from Ms Merkel and other Western leaders to answer questions about what happened to the politician.“There is too much absurdity in this case to take anyone at their word,” Mr Peskov said Friday.The Kremlin spokesman charged that Germany and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have pointed to the other when Russia demanded access to the analyses and samples that allegedly demonstrated his poisoning.“The OPCW’s technical secretariat tells us, ‘We don’t know anything, turn to the Germans,’ and the Germans tell us, ‘We don’t know anything, turn to the OPCW’,” he said.Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the Russian parliament’s lower house, suggested on Friday without offering any evidence that Western spy agencies could have poisoned Mr Navalny to pave way for new sanctions against Russia.Asked if the Kremlin agreed with Mr Volodin’s theory, Mr Peskov replied, “We can neither agree nor disagree” with the claim.“The only way to shed light on this incident is to share information, biomaterials and evidence and to work together in analysing the situation,” he said.Ms Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert told reporters on Friday that Germany was in contact with its European partners regarding the consequences Russia might face.“We have urgently asked Russia to explain itself on this matter, and this demand continues to stand,” he said.

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UK’s R value remains above 1 as Sage warns infections may be doubling every week

The reproduction number, or R value, of coronavirus transmission across the UK remains above 1.Data released on Friday by the Government Office for Science and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) shows the estimate for R across the UK is between 1.1 and 1.4.R represents the average number of people each Covid-19 positive person goes on to infect.When the figure is above 1, an outbreak can grow exponentially.Sage also said it is concerned coronavirus cases may currently be doubling as quickly as every seven days nationally, with transmission rates potentially even faster in some areas of the country.It said: “It’s even more important for people to remain disciplined and adhere to the current rules.”Last week, the R number was said to be between 1.0 and 1.2.In England, R is between 1.2 and 1.4.The estimates for R and growth rate are provided by the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M), a subgroup of Sage.The growth rate for the UK, which estimates how quickly the number of infections is changing day by day, is between +2% and +7%.The most likely value is towards the middle of that range, experts advising the Government say.The current growth rate means the number of new infections is growing by between 2% and 7% every day.Scientists behind the data said the doubling times of coronavirus infections can be estimated from the positive growth rates.But they also said R and growth rates are not the only important measures of the epidemic and should be considered alongside other metrics.These include the number of new cases of the disease identified during a specified time period (incidence), and the proportion of the population with the disease at a given point in time (prevalence).(PA Graphics)In the East of England, the R number is 1.0-1.3, while the growth rate is between zero and plus 5%.The R number in the Midlands is 1.2-1.5, while the growth rate is between plus 4% and plus 8%.In the North East and Yorkshire, the R value is 1.2-1.4, while the growth rate is between plus 3% and plus 8%.In the South East, the R value is 1.1-1.4 and the growth rate is between plus 3% and plus 7%.The South West has an R value of 0.9-1.6 and a growth rate of between zero and plus 9%.In London, the R value is between 1.1-1.4, while the growth rate is between plus 3% and plus 7%.The North West has an R value of 1.2-1.5 and a growth rate of between plus 3% and plus 8%.(PA Graphics)Over the past few months, R and growth rate estimates have been less useful in determining the state of the epidemic as the number of coronavirus cases was low.But as cases continue to rise, experts say they now have a better estimate of these figures and this week’s data is “deemed to be reliable”.Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at the Open University, described the latest figures as “undoubtedly concerning”.He said: “We must hope that recent interventions and policy changes will mean that it does not get up to that level in future.“Even at growth rates within the estimated range, the number of new cases could grow to high levels quickly if the interventions are not sufficiently effective.”

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Von der Leyen ‘convinced’ UK-EU trade deal can still be done

The European Commission chief has said she is “convinced” a trade deal remains possible with the UK but called Boris Johnson’s attempt to override the Brexit treaty an “unpleasant surprise”.Ursula von der Leyen, in comments made to reporters on Thursday, said Downing Street’s controversial UK Internal Market Bill had “distracted very strongly” from the two sides being able to secure fresh trade terms before the looming deadline.The post-Brexit transition period, during which relations between the European Union and the UK have remained static, is due to end after December 31 and leaders on both sides of the Channel have warned that an agreement is needed by October if a deal is to be ratified in time for the start of 2021.Where the UK is concerned, we want an agreement, and I think the attempt to violate the Withdrawal Agreement distracted very strongly from the ongoing negotiationsWith the cliff edge only a month away, the Prime Minister has faced criticism domestically and on the world stage for pursuing legislation that would defy the Withdrawal Agreement brokered with the EU last year, breaking international law in the process.Mr Johnson was forced on Wednesday to agree to table an amendment to the Internal Market Bill, giving MPs a vote before the Government can use the powers related to Northern Ireland which would breach the treaty.But the compromise has not seen Brussels back down, with Eric Mamer, chief spokesman for the European Commission, telling a press briefing that its position had not changed and it still wanted the offending clauses to be withdrawn from the legislation.Despite the wrangle over the Bill – which has been derided by every living former prime minister, scores of senior Tory backbenchers, US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and Brussels – commission president Ms von der Leyen said she remained sure that consensus on a future partnership with the UK could be reached.Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced criticism over the UK Internal Market Bill (House of Commons/PA)It comes after the former London School of Economics student used her annual State of the Union address to the European Parliament on Wednesday to warn Mr Johnson the UK could not unilaterally set aside the Withdrawal Agreement.Ms von der Leyen, in comments reported by Politico, told reporters on Thursday: “Where the UK is concerned, we want an agreement, and I think the attempt to violate the Withdrawal Agreement distracted very strongly from the ongoing negotiations.“This was an unpleasant surprise.“And therefore it is time now that our British friends restore the trust in the validity of a signature under treaty, and that we keep on going, focused to negotiate because time is running out.”In reply to another question, the German politician said she was “still convinced” a deal with London “can be done”.The commission president’s comments come as the UK confirmed “some limited progress” had been made between the negotiation teams during informal talks in Brussels this week.“The UK’s negotiating team had useful informal discussions with the EU this week as we seek to reach an agreement by mid-October on our future relationship,” said a UK Government spokesman.“These covered a broad range of issues and some limited progress was made, but significant gaps remain in key areas, including fisheries and subsidies.“We will continue to work hard to bridge those gaps in talks next week, without compromising our fundamental position of being an independent country.”READ MOREBiden warns NI peace deal must not be ‘casualty’ of Brexit

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Trump ‘suggested Covid-19 might stop him shaking hands with disgusting people’

A former adviser to US vice president Mike Pence has said Donald Trump once suggested that Covid-19 might be a good thing because it would stop him from having to shake hands with “disgusting people”.Olivia Troye, who served on the White House coronavirus task force, is the latest former member of the Trump administration to speak out against the president and urge US voters to deny him a second term.She joins a growing list that includes Miles Taylor, former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security, and former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.NEW AD: @OliviaTroye was @VP's lead staffer on COVID-19. She put her heart & soul into the job.— Republican Voters Against Trump (@RVAT2020) September 17, 2020Mr Trump said that he did not know Ms Troye, who was Mr Pence’s homeland security adviser.In a video released on Thursday by the group Republican Voters Against Trump, Ms Troye says working for the US leader was “terrifying” and claims he was more concerned about his re-election chances than about protecting the nation from the virus.“The truth is he doesn’t actually care about anyone else but himself,” she says.Ms Troye alleges that, during one task force meeting she attended, the president said: “‘Maybe this Covid thing is a good thing. I don’t like shaking hands with people. I don’t have to shake hands with these disgusting people.'”She said: “Those disgusting people are the same people that he claims to care about.US vice president Mike Pence (AP)“These are the people still going to his rallies today who have complete faith in who he is.”And she insists: “If the president had taken this virus seriously, or if he had actually made an effort to tell how serious it was, he would have slowed the virus spread, he would have saved lives.”Asked about Ms Troye as he left the White House for a campaign rally in Wisconsin, Mr Trump said he had no idea who she is.“She worked for the vice president. She was on the task force as some kind of a lower-level person. I have no idea who she is,” the US president told reporters.“I never met her to the best of my knowledge. Maybe she was in a room. I have no idea who she is. She doesn’t know me. It’s just another person that leaves, and whether it’s CNN or Washington Post, they say negative things.”pic.twitter.com/FpEkwOgkhY— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 17, 2020Mr Trump said he had been told about the “most beautiful going away letter” written by Ms Troye.“She wrote a beautiful letter as I understand it, a letter praising the administration,” Mr Trump said. “But then the people get a hold of her and say: ‘Let’s say some bad things about Donald Trump.'”The vice president’s office released a copy of Ms Troye’s departure email, dated July 23 and addressed “Dear Task Force Members”. Mr Pence chairs the task force.Ms Troye opened the letter with praise for their dedication and commitment to “doing the right thing”.A lifelong Republican, Ms Troye said she plans to vote for the Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, in November’s presidential election.The White House adamantly denied the exchange Ms Troye described, with White House spokesperson Judd Deere saying “her assertions have no basis in reality and are flat-out inaccurate”.Yesterday, I met with some of our nation's top experts to discuss how we distribute a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. If I win this election, I know that there won't be a minute to waste. I'll get to work on day one implementing an effective distribution plan. pic.twitter.com/GfgSnBwjTQ— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) September 17, 2020He further dismissed Ms Troye as “disgruntled” and said she generally watched task force meetings from an overflow staff room and was never in private meetings with the president.“Ms Troye is a former detailee and a career Department of Homeland Security staff member, who is disgruntled that her detail was cut short because she was no longer capable of keeping up with her day-to-day duties,” added Keith Kellogg, Mr Pence’s national security adviser. He said Ms Troye reported to him and never once expressed concern about the administration’s response.Mr Pence said he had not read her comments, “but it reads to me like one more disgruntled employee that has decided to play politics during election year”.“I couldn’t be more proud of the work we’ve done,” he added.Mr Trump himself told journalist Bob Woodward in recorded interviews that he intentionally downplayed the virus in public comments even though he was fully aware of the danger it posed.He is also a self-described germophobe and denounced the practice of shaking hands before he ran for office.Republican Voters Against Trump is one of several groups trying to persuade Republicans and others who once supported the president to vote for Mr Biden.The group’s strategic director Sarah Longwell said: “Never before have so many high-ranking staffers of an incumbent president opposed his reelection and endorsed his opponent.”

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Trump heats up culture wars as he appeals to Wisconsin voters

US president Donald Trump has stepped up his rhetoric on cultural issues, aiming to boost enthusiasm among rural voters in the state of Wisconsin as he tries to repeat his path to victory from 2016.Making his fifth visit to the pivotal battleground state this year, Mr Trump views success in its less-populated counties as critical to another term in office.He held a rally on Thursday evening in Mosinee, in central Wisconsin, an area of the state that shifted dramatically toward Republicans in 2016, enabling Mr Trump to overcome even greater deficits in urban and suburban parts of the state.A vote for Republicans is a vote for safe communities, great jobs, and a limitless future for ALL Americans. Instead of letting Washington change us, despite all that we have been through, we are changing Washington! https://t.co/WwzdPhlJcp pic.twitter.com/sgFzTc4rl0— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 18, 2020Mr Trump has increasingly used his public appearances to elevate cultural issues important to his generally whiter and older base, as he hinges his campaign on turning out his core supporters rather than focusing on winning over a narrow slice of undecided voters.In Mosinee, he called for a statute to ban burning the American flag in protest – a freedom protected by the US supreme court – and criticised sports players and leagues for allowing demonstrations against racial inequality.“We have enough politics, right?” he said, joking that sometimes: “I can’t watch me.”Addressing protests in sport, he added: “People don’t want to see it and the ratings are down.”Mr Trump spoke out against protests during popular sports (AP)Earlier on Thursday, in a speech at the American National Archives to commemorate Constitution Day, he derided The New York Times’ “1619 Project”, which aims to recognise the often-overlooked consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans.“For many years now, the radicals have mistaken Americans’ silence for weakness. But they are wrong,” Mr Trump said.“There is no more powerful force than a parent’s love for their children – and patriotic moms and dads are going to demand that their children are no longer fed hateful lies about this country.”Mr Trump told supporters in Wisconsin: “We’re launching a new pro-American lesson plan for students called 1776 Commission. We’re going to teach our children the truth about America.”Mr Trump’s last visit to Wisconsin came on September 1, when he met with law enforcement and toured damage from protests in Kenosha that turned violent after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man hit seven times in the back during an attempted arrest.Mr Trump promised aid to farmers (AP)Mr Trump has sought to use the unrest after the August shooting of Mr Blake and the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May to tout a “law and order” message and paint an apocalyptic vision of violence if his Democratic rival Joe Biden wins on November 3.“I saved the suburbs,” Mr Trump said, regarding his call for federal law enforcement and national guard troops to confront protesters.He added that police “did a great job in Kenosha”.Mr Trump also previewed aid to the region’s farmers, saying 13 billion US dollars (£10 billion) would begin flowing “starting next week” to help farmers. He provided no details.The president took another victory lap two days after he presided over Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recognising Israel in a White House ceremony.“I got nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize. That’s a big deal,” Mr Trump said, adding: “I should’ve gotten nominated seven times.”The choice in this election couldn’t be more clear.— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) September 18, 2020Mr Trump won Marathon County, which includes Mosinee, by more than 12,000 votes in 2016 – over three times more than the margin by which 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney won the area.The president’s team is wagering the 2020 contest on a similar performance in the county and the dozens of others like it across battleground states.Mr Trump’s path to the 270 electoral college votes necessary to keep him in the White House may well hinge on Wisconsin, and his campaign is investing tens of millions of dollars on advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts in the state.The rally event took place largely outside an aircraft hangar at the Mosinee airport, his campaign’s preferred format for mass rallies amid the coronavirus, though Mr Trump has been willing to host large events indoors as well, sometimes in violation of state and federal distancing guidelines.Republican senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin was set to join Mr Trump on Air Force One, but ended up under quarantine on Thursday after learning he was exposed to someone earlier in the week who subsequently tested positive for the virus.Mr Johnson tested negative on Wednesday night, his office said.

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Joe Biden blasts Donald Trump’s ‘criminal’ pandemic response

Joe Biden on Thursday went after President Donald Trump again and again over his handling of Covid-19, calling the president’s downplaying of the pandemic “criminal”.“You’ve got to level with the American people — shoot from the shoulder. There’s not been a time they’ve not been able to step up. The president should step down,” the Democratic presidential nominee said to applause from a CNN drive-in town hall crowd in Moosic, outside his hometown of Scranton.Speaking about Mr Trump’s admission that he publicly played down the impact of the virus while aware of its severity, Mr Biden declared: “He knew it and did nothing. It’s close to criminal.”I never, ever thought I would see just such a thoroughly, totally irresponsible administrationLater, Mr Biden decried Americans’ loss of basic “freedoms” as the US has struggled to contain the pandemic.“I never, ever thought I would see just such a thoroughly, totally irresponsible administration,” he said.Mr Biden faced a half-dozen questions about the coronavirus and a potential vaccine in the town hall from moderator Anderson Cooper and audience members.The pandemic was not just the main topic of the night — it was the cause of the unusual format of the event: a drive-in with 35 cars outside PNC Field.You lost your freedom because President Trump didn't act. #BidenTownHall pic.twitter.com/wOOeSSNmH6— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) September 18, 2020The town hall marked the first time that Mr Biden had faced live, unscripted questions from voters since winning the nomination.Mr Trump participated in a town hall on Tuesday in an auditorium in Philadelphia.The appearances have been seen as tuneups before the three presidential debates, the first set for September 29.Mr Biden’s uneven debate performances during the Democratic primary contributed to his initial struggles in polls and the early primary vote, and Mr Trump has pushed unfounded conspiracy theories about Mr Biden taking performance-enhancing drugs while raising questions about his opponent’s mental acuity.Mr Biden, meanwhile, has promised to be a “fact-checker on the stage” with Mr Trump but has said he does not want to get drawn into a “brawl” with the Republican.Mr Biden was also pressed on his stance on the Green New Deal, the sweeping proposal from progressives in Congress that calls for achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across the economy by 2030.Unlike President Trump, I’ll be a president for all Americans — not just the ones who vote for me. #BidenTownHall pic.twitter.com/2lttWNRl5n— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) September 18, 2020His proposal does not go as far, but it does aim to reduce emissions to zero by 2050 and has a goal of achieving an entirely carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035.Mr Biden interrupted a questioner who suggested his climate plan embraces the Green New Deal to insist, “No, it doesn’t,” but when asked by the moderator if he supports the proposal, he said, “I don’t think it’s too much.”Still, Mr Biden added, “I have my own deal,” which he noted the Democratic Party has incorporated as part of its platform.Mr Biden also weighed in on foreign policy issues, promising to reduce America’s military footprint abroad and saying that any attempt to interfere with the election by a foreign power is a “violation of our sovereignty”.He promised that if he is elected and it becomes clear post-election that Russia interfered in the election, “they’ll pay a price for it, and it’ll be an economic price.”As president, I will bring Americans together and finally deliver much needed policing reform. #BidenTownHall pic.twitter.com/7iwYuXOS2p— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) September 18, 2020Mr Biden described Russia as an “opponent”, but declined to use the same word when asked about China.He instead called the nation a “competitor” and pledged to improve trade policy with China.Mr Trump signalled he had been watching the town hall before he took the stage for a rally in Misonee, Wisconsin, on Thursday night.“I just see he’s up there tonight getting softball questions from Anderson Cooper. They don’t ask me questions like that,” the president told the crowd gathered at the airport.Mr Trump’s ABC town hall was held inside a half-empty auditorium, with attendees socially distanced and wearing masks.

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Rescuers reach people cut off by Hurricane Sally

Rescuers on the Gulf Coast used high-water vehicles to reach people cut off by floodwaters in the aftermath of Hurricane Sally, even as a second round of flooding took shape along rivers and creeks swollen by the storm’s heavy rains.Across southern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, homeowners and businesses began cleaning up and officials inspected bridges and highways for safety.The clean-up begins a day after Sally rolled through with 105 mph winds, a surge of seawater and 1 to 2 1/2 feet (0.3 to 0.8 metres) of rain in many places before it began to break up.Sally’s remnants were over South Carolina on Thursday afternoon and were expected to move into the Atlantic within 24 hours.A rainmaker to the end, what was left of the storm was forecast to dump as much as eight inches (20 centimetres) in isolated areas in the Carolinas and southern Virginia, prompting warnings of widespread flash flooding and “moderate” river flooding.In hard-hit Pensacola and surrounding Escambia County, where Sally’s floodwaters had coursed through downtown streets and lapped at car door handles on Wednesday before receding, authorities went door-to-door to check on residents and warn them they were not out of danger.“Please, please, we’re not out of the woods even if we’ve got beautiful skies today,” said Escambia County emergency manager Eric Gilmore.Laura Coale, communications director for Escambia County, Florida, said rescue crews were taking a secondary pass through flooded areas on Thursday afternoon to see if anyone who declined to leave earlier would like to evacuate.Officials’ biggest concern was keeping people off the roads so power trucks can work and people can clean debris safely.Florida governor Ron DeSantis urged Panhandle residents not to let their guard down even though the hurricane had passed.A man stands on his deck as flood water surrounds his home in Milton, Florida (Annie Blanks/Pensacola News Journal via AP)“You’re going to see the rivers continue to rise,” Mr DeSantis said after an aerial tour of the Panhandle.Crews carried out at least 400 rescues in Escambia County, Florida, by such means as high-water vehicles, boats and water scooters, authorities said.Rescuers focused their effort on Innerarity Point, a narrow strip of land close to Pensacola that is home to waterfront homes and businesses.Floodwaters covered the only road out, though authorities said no one was in immediate danger.The Florida National Guard said it had deployed about 500 soldiers and airmen to help local authorities evacuate 113 people, though it did not say when and where the rescues took place.In Alabama, on both sides of Mobile Bay, National Guard soldiers from high-water evacuation teams used big trucks to rescue at least 35 people, authorities said.At least one death, in Alabama, was blamed on the hurricane.Joe Mirable surveys the damage to his business after Hurricane Sally moved through Perdido Key, Florida (Angie Wang/AP)More than 427,000 homes and businesses in Florida, Alabama and Georgia were without power as of Thursday afternoon, down from more than a half-million a day earlier.A section of the main bridge between Pensacola and Pensacola Beach collapsed after it was hit by a barge that broke loose during the storm.At a downtown marina, at least 30 sailboats, fishing boats and other vessels were found clumped together in a mass of fibreglass hulls and broken docks.Some boats rested atop sunken ones. The hurricane also drove two large ferry boats into a concrete seawall and left them grounded.Also on Thursday, the National Hurricane Centre said a new tropical depression formed in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico.Forecasters said the depression could become a tropical storm as it moves slowly over the western Gulf during the next few days.Meanwhile, Hurricane Teddy strengthened to an immensely powerful Category 4 storm in the Atlantic on Thursday. The storm currently poses no threat to land.

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