Category Archives: News

worldwide news

Argentina Relaxes COVID-19 Restrictions

Authorities in Buenos Aires have loosened coronavirus restrictions, allowing people inside businesses, including restaurants, bars and gyms for the first time in seven months. Under the new guidelines, businesses are allowed up to 25 percent of their capacity, with assurances they provide proper ventilation. The Associated Press reports the easing of restrictions comes as new COVID-19 cases have trended downward in recent months in Argentina’s capital. Authorities say coronavirus cases have not dropped in other areas of the country and people in Buenos Aires are urged to remain vigilant in following safety protocols. Argentina has confirmed more than 1,100,000 coronavirus cases and at least 29,301 deaths. 

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Hurricane Zeta Makes Landfall on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula 

Hurricane Zeta pounded Mexico’s northern Yucatan Peninsula with strong winds and heavy rains late Monday into Tuesday. The U.S.-based National Hurricane Center said Zeta made landfall north of Tulum with maximum sustained winds of 130 kilometers per hour. A hurricane warning is posted for the resort island of Cozumel, and from Punta Allen to Progreso, Mexico. People in the Mexican resort city of Cancun are also bracing for Hurricane Zeta. Forecasters say Zeta is expected to regain strength Tuesday as it moves into the Southern Gulf of Mexico on a northerly pattern toward the United States, where a hurricane watch is in effect for the metropolitan New Orleans area and Morgan City, Louisiana, east  to the Mississippi-Alabama border.   People in the U.S. central Gulf Coast will begin seeing the effects of Zeta by Tuesday night before the storm moves inland toward Georgia Wednesday then into the southern Appalachians Wednesday night and the Mid-Atlantic region on Thursday. Zeta is the second storm to strike Mexico this month. Hurricane Delta hit the Yucatan Peninsula in early October, downing trees and knocking out power to thousands but no reported deaths. Hurricane Delta also made landfall in the U.S. Gulf coast state of Louisiana, where Hurricane Laura hit in late August, killing at least six people. 

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British Special Forces Storm Tanker After Reports of Possible Hijacking

British officials say a Liberian-registered oil tanker is docked safely in Southampton and its crew “safe and well” after British naval special forces stormed the ship following a report that stowaways threatened violence. In a statement, ship operator Navios Tanker Management, says the Nave Andromeda left Lagos, Nigeria, on October 6 and had been due to dock in Southampton on Sunday when the ship’s master became “concerned for the safety of the crew due to the increasingly hostile behavior of the stowaways.” A report by the British Broadcasting Corporation indicates the crew had been aware of the stowaways – believed to have been from Nigeria – but said they became unruly and even violent as the ship neared Britain. The ship was circling an area a few kilometers southeast of the Isle of Wight, south of Southampton, and when it failed to dock, local authorities were contacted. A statement on the British ministry of Defense’s Twitter account indicates police requested assistant from the military.  The coast guard was also called in and scrambled helicopters to reach the scene.  A nearly five-kilometer exclusion zone was established around the vessel.  After several hours, commandos from the Royal Navy Special Boat Service were lowered from helicopters onto the ship, whose crew had locked themselves in a secure area. Within minutes, the commandos had detained seven people and secured the vessel. Speaking to reporters Monday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson thanked both the police and armed forces for what they did “to keep our shores safe.” 
 

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Erdogan Calls for Boycott of French Goods

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told Turkish citizens to boycott French goods in response to what he says is France’s “anti-Islam” agenda.During a televised speech Monday, he also called for European Union countries to pressure France to end French President Emmanuel Macron’s efforts to fight what he called “Islamist separatism.” Macron has said separatism threatens to take over some Muslim communities in France.”Never give credit to French-labeled goods. Don’t buy them,” Erdogan said, according to the BBC. He added that “European leaders should tell the French president to stop his hate campaign.”Tensions between the two NATO allies have risen in recent months as Macron vowed to defend secularism in the wake of the public beheading of a French teacher earlier this month by a Muslim militant over cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad.French President Emmanuel Macron speaks after meeting with the medical staff of the Rene Dubos hospital center, in Pontoise, outside Paris, Oct. 23, 2020.Macron called Islam a religion “in crisis,” the BBC reported, and announced measures to stem what he called separatism. France has the largest Muslim community in Western Europe.Just how much of an impact a boycott would have remains to be seen. France is the 10th largest source of imports to Turkey. France is also Turkey’s seventh biggest market for exports, Reuters reported.France and Turkey have also clashed recently over policy in Syria and Libya, as well as Turkish oil and gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. More recently, the two have been at odds over the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.

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Opposition Announces National Strike in Belarus 

Belarus’s opposition called a countrywide general strike on Monday — the latest in a series of efforts to dislodge longtime leader Alexander Lukashenko from power following what opponents say was a rigged presidential election in the former Soviet republic last August.  Svetlana Tikhanovskaya — Lukashenko’s primary opponent in the race and who fled the country under state pressure following the vote — threatened the strike two weeks ago in an effort to reinvigorate the protest movement.  FILE – Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, candidate for the presidential elections, foreground, greets people during a meeting to show her support, in Brest, 326 km southwest of Minsk, Belarus, Aug. 2, 2020.Her demands: Lukashenko resign, end police violence against demonstrators, and free hundreds of political prisoners or face a national work stoppage.   On Monday, the independent media site Tut.by posted photos of workers striking at several key factories. The news service also reported dozens of workers detained at the Grodno Azot factory for joining the strike. Nexta, People with old Belarusian national flags march during an opposition rally to protest the official presidential election results in Minsk, Belarus, Oct. 25, 2020.Yet once again, Lukashenko’s security troops and riot police were out in force.  Central metro stations were closed in advance — forcing people to walk towards the city center.  Crowds chanting “Strike, Strike, Strike” were met with stun grenades, rubber bullets, and tear gas as they closed in on Lukashenko’s residence — sending protesters running for cover.  The Interior Ministry also reported demonstrators had thrown rocks and broken windows outside a police headquarters in central Minsk.  The damage did not appear to be widespread.  Meanwhile, the human rights group Vesna reported more than 300 protesters arrested — adding to the estimated 8,000 detained in the wake of the vote.  On social media, a widely shared video showed masked security guards terrorizing protesters who had fled into a nearby apartment.  Its unbearable to watch. Ferocious from impunity, Lukashenka’s police are hunting protesters in private apartments, threatening to use gas if the people don’t go with them FILE – Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko takes his oath of office during his inauguration ceremony at the Palace of the Independence in Minsk, Belarus, Sept. 23, 2020.Lukashenko has refused to step down — arguing he won the election in a landslide with 80% of the vote.  He also has backing from his neighbor Russia, which seeks to maintain a predictable ally in charge along its western border.   Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov implied Russia was growing concerned about the strike’s ability to impact Russia’s economy — noting the two economies were integrated “at the highest levels.” “For us, it’s extremely important how rhythmically and reliably the Belarus factories function,” added Peskov.  President Vladimir Putin has provided both economic aid and assurances of military support if necessary. In another sign of Moscow’s careful watch over events in Belarus, Sergei Narishkin, the head of Russia’s external intelligence services, was in Minsk to meet  with Lukashenko last week. Meanwhile, the U.S. and other Western governments have denounced the violence against demonstrators and backed sanctions on the Lukashenko regime — with the European Union declaring it no longer saw Lukashenko as the head of Belarus.  French President Emanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are among European leaders who have met with Tikhanovskaya directly.  FILE – Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya meets with French President Emmanuel Macron in Vilnius, Lithuania, Sept. 29, 2020.Washington calling In a separate development, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Lukashenko by phone on Saturday —   the first publicly known high-level contact between the U.S. and the embattled Belarusian leader since the political crisis began.  Secretary Pompeo had been behind recent U.S. efforts to improve relations with Minsk — even meeting with Lukashenko during a high profile visit to Minsk last February.  According to the State Department, Pompeo “reaffirmed U.S. support for the democratic aspirations of the people of Belarus” and demanded the release and evacuation of Vitali Shkliarov, 44, a Belarusian-American political analyst who was arrested ahead of the August vote while visiting his parents in Grodno.  FILE – Belarusian opposition activist Maria Kolesnikova greets protesters during a rally at Independence Square in Minsk, Belarus, Aug. 22, 2020.In recent days, Kolesnikova issued a letter from prison saying Lukashenko’s security forces were threatening to jail her for the next 25 years.  

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Chileans Vote by Millions to Tear Up Pinochet’s Constitution

Chileans poured into the country’s main squares on Sunday night after voters gave a ringing endorsement to a plan to tear up the country’s Pinochet-era constitution in favor of a new charter drafted by citizens. In Santiago’s Plaza Italia, the focus of the massive and often violent social protests last year which sparked the demand for a new magna carta, fireworks rose above a crowd of tens of thousands of jubilant people singing in unison as the word “rebirth” was beamed onto a tower above.   With more than three quarters of the votes counted, 78.12% of voters had opted for a new charter. Many have expressed hopes that a new text will temper an unabashedly capitalist ethos with guarantees of more equal rights to healthcare, pensions and education.   “This triumph belongs to the people, it’s thanks to everyone’s efforts that we are at this moment of celebration,” Daniel, 37, told Reuters in Santiago’s Plaza Nunoa. “What makes me happiest is the participation of the youth, young people wanting to make changes.”   Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera said if the country had been divided by the protests and debate over whether to approve or reject plans for a new charter, from now on they should unite behind a new text that provided “a home for everyone.” The center-right leader, whose popularity ratings plummeted to record lows during the unrest and have remained in the doldrums, spoke to those who wanted to keep the present constitution credited with making Chile one of Latin America’s economic success stories.Referendum on a new Chilean constitution, in Santiago, Oct. 26, 2020.Any new draft must incorporate “the legacy of past generations, the will of present generations and the hopes of generations to come,” he said. He gave a nod to fears that the high expectations placed in a new charter cannot be met, saying: “This referendum is not the end, it is the start of a road we must walk towards a new constitution.” As votes were counted on live television around the country, spontaneous parties broke out on street corners and in squares around the country. Drivers honked car horns, some as revelers danced on their roofs, and others banged pots and pans. The flag of the country’s indigenous Mapuche people, who will seek greater recognition in the new charter, was ubiquitous.   Four fifths of voters said they wanted the new charter to be drafted by a specially-elected body of citizens – made up of half women and half men – over a mixed convention of lawmakers and citizens, highlighting general mistrust in Chile’s political class.   Members of a 155-seat constitutional convention will be voted in by April 2021 and have up to a year to agree a draft text, with proposals approved by a two-thirds majority. Among issues likely to be at the fore are recognition of Chile’s Mapuche indigenous population, powers of collective bargaining, water and land rights and privatized systems providing healthcare, education and pensions. Chileans will then vote again on whether they accept the text or want to revert to the previous constitution. The National Mining Society (Sonami), which groups the companies in the sector into the world’s largest copper producer, said it hoped for “broad agreement on the principles and norms” that determine the sector’s coexistence with Chilean citizens and that the regulatory certainty that have allowed the sector to flourish would continue. 

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New Storm Zeta a Hurricane Threat to Mexico, US Gulf Coast

Newly formed Tropical Storm Zeta strengthened Sunday in the western Caribbean and will probably become a hurricane before hitting Mexico’s resort-dotted Yucatan Peninsula and the U.S. Gulf Coast in coming days.Zeta was the earliest named 27th Atlantic storm recorded in an already historic hurricane season.The system was centered about 275 miles (445 kilometers) southeast of Cozumel island early Sunday evening, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.The storm was nearly stationary, though forecasters said it was likely to shear the northeastern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula or westernmost Cuba by late Monday or early Tuesday and then close in on the U.S. Gulf Coast by Wednesday, but could weaken by then.The storm had maximum sustained winds of 50 mph (85 kph), and forecasters said Zeta was expected to intensify into a hurricane Monday.Officials in Quintana Roo state, the location of Cancun and other resorts, said they were watching the storm. They reported nearly 60,000 tourists in the state as of midweek. The state government said 71 shelters were being readied for tourists or residents who might need them.The government is still handing out aid, including sheet roofing, to Yucatan residents hit by Hurricane Delta and Tropical Storm Gamma earlier this month.Zeta may dawdle in the western Caribbean for another day or so, trapped between two strong high pressure systems to the east and west. It can’t move north or south because nothing is moving there either, said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy.“It just has to sit and wait for a day or so,” McNoldy said. “It just needs anything to move.”When a storm gets stuck, it can unload dangerous downpours over one place, which causes flooding when a storm is over or near land. That happened in 2017 over Houston with Harvey, when more than 60 inches (150 centimeters) of rain fell and 2019 over the Bahamas with a Category 5 Dorian, which was the worst-case scenario of a stationary storm, said Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.While Zeta was over open ocean Sunday, Jamaica and Honduras were getting heavy rains because the system is so large and South Florida was under a flood watch, McNoldy said.But once Zeta eventually gets moving, it won’t be stalling over landfall, Klotzbach said.The Hurricane Center said Zeta could bring 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) of rain to parts of the Caribbean and Mexico as well as Florida and the Keys before drenching parts of the central Gulf Coast by Wednesday.A 2018 study said storms, especially in the Atlantic basin, are slowing down and stalling more. Atlantic storms that made landfall moved 2.9 mph (4.7 kph) slower than 60 years ago, the study found. Study author James Kossin, a government climate scientist, said the trend has signs of human-caused climate change.Zeta is also in a dangerous place to stall. The western Caribbean is “where storms can cook” and rapidly intensify because of the deep, warm waters, like 2005’s Wilma, Klotzbach said. However, the National Hurricane Center was not forecasting rapid intensification for Zeta.The lack of steering currents also meant wide spread of possible landfalls when Zeta eventually heads north to the Gulf Coast. The hurricane center said it could make landfall anywhere from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle.Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards urged his state’s citizens to monitor the storm, and the state activated its Crisis Action Team.On Sunday, a hurricane warning was called for the Yucatan Peninsula from Tulum to Rio Lagartos, including Cancun and Cozumel, while a tropical storm warning was in effect for Pinar del Rio, Cuba.Zeta broke the record of the previous earliest 27th Atlantic named storm that formed Nov. 29, 2005, according to Klotzbach.This year’s season has so many storms that the hurricane center has turned to the Greek alphabet after running out of official names.Zeta is the furthest into the Greek alphabet the Atlantic season has gone. There was also a Tropical Storm Zeta in 2005, but that year had 28 storms because meteorologists later went back and found they missed one, which then became a “unnamed named storm,” Klotzbach said.Additionally, Hurricane Epsilon was moving quickly through the northern portion of the Atlantic Ocean. Forecasters said it would become a post-tropical cyclone later Sunday. Large ocean swells generated by the hurricane could cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions along U.S. East Coast and Atlantic Canada during the next couple of days.

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Early Count Has Chileans Backing Rewriting Constitution

Amid a year of contagion and turmoil, Chileans turned out Sunday to vote on whether to draft a new constitution for their nation to replace guiding principles imposed four decades ago under a military dictatorship, and early returns gave the “yes” forces a big lead.The country’s conservative government agreed with the center-left opposition to allow the plebiscite after the outbreak of vast street protests that erupted a year ago in frustration over inequality in pensions, education and health care in what has long been one of South America’s most developed nations.The Electoral Service said Sunday evening that of the first 1.3 million ballots counted, 77.5% favored a new charter and less than 22.5% were opposed. Among the 60,000 Chileans living abroad who voted in 65 nations, the vote was 86% for a new constitution and 13% against, officials said. About 15 million Chileans were eligible to vote.Recent polls indicated heavy backing for a new constitution despite opposition from conservative groups., and center-right President Sebastián Piñera said after voting that he assumed the measure would be approved.“I believe the immense majority of Chileans want to change, modify our constitution,” he said.If the measure is approved, a special convention would begin drafting a new constitution that would be submitted to voters in mid-2022.Chile’s current constitution was drafted by the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, and was sent to voters at a time where political parties had been banned and the country was subject to heavy censorship.It was approved by a 66%-30% margin in a 1980 plebiscite, but critics say many voters were cowed into acceptance by a regime that had arrested, tortured and killed thousands of suspected leftist opponents following the overthrow of an elected socialist government.“I think that many people went to vote out of fear,” said political scientist Claudio Fuentes, who wrote a book about that plebiscite titled, “The Fraud.”“The current constitution has a flaw of origin, which is that it was created during the military dictatorship in an undemocratic process,” said Monica Salinero, a 40-year-old sociologist who supports drafting a new charter.The free-market principles embodied in that document led to a booming economy that continued after the return to democracy in 1990, but not all Chileans shared.A minority was able to take advantage of good, privatized education, health and social security services, while others were forced to rely on sometimes meager public alternatives. Public pensions for the poorest are just over $200 a month, roughly half the minimum wage.Luisa Fuentes Rivera, a 59-year-old food vendor, said hopes that “with a new constitution we will have better work, health, pensions and a better quality of life for older people, and a better education.”But historian Felipe Navarrete warned, “It’s important to say that the constitution won’t resolve the concrete problems. It will determine which state we want to solve the problems.”Claudia Heiss, head of the political science department at the University of Chile, said it would send a signal about people’s desires for change, and for a sort of politics that would “allow greater inclusion of sectors that have been marginalized from politics.”Conservative groups fear the revamp could go too far, and endanger parts of the constitution that have helped the country prosper.“The people have demonstrated saying they want better pensions, better health, better education. and the response of the political class” is a process that won’t solve the problems and will open a period of uncertainty,” said Felipe Lyon, 28-year-old lawyer and spokesman for the group “No, Thanks” that opposes the change.The decision to allow the vote came after hundreds of thousands of Chileans repeatedly took to the streets in protests that often turned violent.The vote was initially scheduled for April, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has killed some 13,800 Chileans, with more than 500,000 people infected by the new coronavirus.Officials trying to ensure voters felt safe barred infected persons or those close to them from the polls, and long lines formed at voting places. Voters had to wear masks — dipping them only briefly for identification purposes — and brought their own pencils.The manner of drafting a new constitution was also on the ballot. Voters were choosing between a body of 155 citizens who would be elected just for that purpose in April, or a somewhat larger convention split equally between elected delegates and members of Congress.

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Belarus Opposition Prepares Mass Strikes After Lukashenko Ignores Deadline to Quit

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko defied an ultimatum to surrender power by midnight on Sunday, challenging his opponents to make good on their threat to paralyze the country with a national strike.Eleven weeks after a disputed presidential election, the crisis in the former Soviet republic entered a new phase with the expiration of the “People’s Ultimatum” set by opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.Lukashenko’s refusal to quit after 26 years in power will test whether the opposition has the mass support it needs to bring enterprises across the country of 9.5 million people to a halt.Tsikhanouskaya, who fled to Lithuania after the Aug. 9 election for the safety of her family, has urged Belarusians starting Monday to block roads, shut down workplaces, stop using government shops and services and withdraw all money from their bank accounts.Lukashenko has scoffed at the calls for a strike. “Who will feed the kids,” he has asked, if workers at state-owned enterprises go on strike.Tsikhanouskaya on Sunday called for the strike to go ahead after police forces loyal to Lukashenko fired stun grenades and detained scores of people in a clampdown on protests by tens of thousands in Minsk and elsewhere.”The regime once again showed Belarusians that force is the only thing it is capable of,” she wrote in a statement. “That’s why tomorrow, Oct. 26, a national strike will begin.”The standoff is being closely watched by neighboring Russia and by Western governments.Russian President Vladimir Putin has no desire to see another leader toppled by protests in a former Soviet state, as happened in Ukraine in 2014 and in Kyrgyzstan earlier this month. He too has faced street demonstrations at various times, including for the past three months in the far eastern city of Khabarovsk.Since the crisis began, Moscow has backed Lukashenko with a $1.5 billion loan and increased security cooperation, including a series of joint military exercises and a visit last week by the head of Russia’s foreign intelligence agency.Agencies: Belarus and Russia Will Respond to External Threats, Lukashenko Tells Pompeo Lukashenko had sought to mend fences with the West in recent yearsSecurity crackdownLukashenko, 66, claimed victory in the Aug. 9 election with officially more than 80% of the vote, but the opposition accused him of vote-rigging on a massive scale.He has responded to mass street protests by arresting around 15,000 people, though most have since been released, and jailing opposition leaders or forcing them to leave the country.
A U.N. human rights investigator said last month that thousands of people had been “savagely beaten” and there were more than 500 reports of torture, which the authorities deny.The United States, European Union, Britain and Canada have imposed travel bans and asset freezes against a string of officials accused of election fraud and human rights abuses.Tsikhanouskaya presented her ultimatum on Oct. 13 after the government said police would be authorized to use combat weapons against protesters if needed.Three days later, a senior police official repeated the threat.”We will of course humanely use weapons against them, including firearms, and we will remove the most dangerous ones from the streets,” said Nikolai Karpenkov, head of the police unit in charge of fighting organized crime.

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