Category Archives: World

politics news

Britain Contemplates Second National Lockdown as COVID-19 Surges

British Health Minister Matt Hancock said Friday the government is contemplating a second nationwide lockdown as new COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Britain. Hancock commented in two interviews as a new lockdown went into effect in northeastern Britain. Hancock said there has been an acceleration in the number of cases over the last couple of weeks, and the number of people hospitalized with the disease caused by the coronavirus has been doubling about every eight days. FILE – Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock holds the daily coronavirus disease news conference at 10 Downing Street in London, May 21, 2020. (Credit: Pippa Fowles /10 Downing Street/Handout)The health minister said a nationwide lockdown is “the last line of defense,” and the government would prefer isolated, regional lockdowns. But he said the government will do what it must “to protect lives and livelihoods.” Hancock urged British citizens to follow the “rule of six,” with no public gatherings of more than six people; obey local restrictions in their area; and self-isolate if they have tested positive. The Johns Hopkins University says Britain has the fifth-largest number of deaths from COVID-19 after the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico. COVID-19 cases started to rise again in Britain this month, with between 3,000 and 4,000 positive tests recorded daily in the last week, but that is behind France and its more than 10,000 cases a day, officials say. On September 17, Britain recorded 21 deaths from the disease, and the total stands at 41,794, according to Johns Hopkins. 

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Nicaraguan Government Threatens to Close Independent TV Station

Canal 12 is one of the few independent TV stations in Nicaragua. But it could be forced to shut down if the Nicaraguan Justice Department seizes what it says is some $350,000 the station owes in taxes. If that happens, observers say it will continue a trend by the government of President Daniel Ortega of censoring the media and harassing journalists who are critical of the government. VOA’s Donaldo Hernandez in Managua filed this report, narrated by Cristina Caicedo Smit. 

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Interim President Jeanine Áñez Quits Bolivia Presidential Race

Bolivian Interim President Jeanine Áñez says she has dropped out of the nation’s presidential race in an effort to block ex-leader Evo Morales from returning to power.Áñez said she did not want to split the votes in the October 18 election, enabling the Movement for Socialism party of Morales return to power.Prior to her announcement, Áñez was trailing in fourth place in recent opinion polls.Áñez has yet endorse another candidate but she said she wants to link up with a party that has support in opposing Morales’ party.She said if voters do not unite, Morales will return, and democracy will lose.Áñez was named interim president when Morales fled Bolivia last year during protests over allegations of election fraud. 

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Peruvian Congress to Hold Impeachment Hearing Friday Against President

Peruvian lawmakers will hold an impeachment hearing Friday, a day after the country’s top court rejected a request by President Martin Vizcarra to stop the proceedings.Congress voted last week to begin impeachment hearings against Vizcarra on grounds of moral incompetence, following allegations he tried to interfere in a probe into government contracts given to a singer.The move by Congress was fueled by opposition legislators airing secretly recorded audio that appears to show Vizcarra orchestrating a strategy with his aides to answer questions about his meetings with singer Richard Cisneros.Media reports say Cisneros claims the $50,000 worth of contracts were legal.On Thursday, the president did not comment on the allegations while touring a banana plantation in the region of Piura, but a day earlier Vizcarra seemed to lash out at his detractors for attempting to create a political crisis in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. 

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Russia Leading ‘Drumbeat’ of Disinformation Ahead of US Presidential Election

FBI Director Christopher Wray told lawmakers Thursday that Russia is not letting up in its efforts to sway the outcome of the November presidential election, backing earlier assessments from U.S. counterintelligence officials that Moscow’s main goal is to damage the campaign of Democratic candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden. Wray, testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee, described the Kremlin’s influence operations as “very, very active” on social media, on its own state-run media and through various proxies. Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray testifies before a House Committee on Homeland Security hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 17, 2020.The aim of these influence operations is “primarily to denigrate Vice President Biden and what the Russians see as kind of an anti-Russian establishment,” he said. The FBI director’s comments are in line with a rare public assessment in early August about threats to the U.S. election provided by the nation’s top counterintelligence official, William Evanina. FILE – Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center William Evanina speaks during the Reuters Cybersecurity Summit in Washington, Oct. 31, 2017.”What concerns me the most is the steady drumbeat of misinformation and amplification of smaller cyber intrusions,” Wray said. “I worry they will contribute over time to a lack of confidence [among] American voters.”That would be a perception, not reality. I think Americans can and should have confidence in our election system and certainly in our democracy,” he added. No Signs of Cyberattacks Targeting US Election SystemsTop US officials seek to reassure voters with less than 50 days until the November presidential electionDuring lawmakers’ questioning, Wray also rejected concerns about the expected increase in the use of mail-in ballots for the November election, despite repeated warnings from Trump that voting by mail will lead to massive fraud. “We have not seen, to date, a coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election,” he said, echoing assurances given by senior U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials who spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity just last month. US Officials Reject Claims of Rigged Presidential ElectionSenior intelligence and law enforcement officials say there is ‘no information’ to support claims that someone could use mail-in ballots to manipulate outcome of upcoming electionWray’s assurances, though, appear to leave him at odds with Trump, who later Thursday sent out a series of tweets warning that the use of mail-in ballots will result in a “RIGGED ELECTION” and “lead to massive chaos and confusion!” Just out: Some people in the Great State of North Carolina have been sent TWO BALLOTS. RIGGED ELECTION in waiting!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 17, 2020Unsolicited Ballots are uncontrollable, totally open to ELECTION INTERFERENCE by foreign countries, and will lead to massive chaos and confusion!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 17, 2020Antifa and US protests The FBI director also appeared to clash with Trump, and Republican lawmakers, over antifa, a left-wing protest movement that has been increasingly visible in demonstrations that have spread across the country. Trump has tweeted repeatedly about classifying antifa as a terrorist organization. Major consideration is being given to naming ANTIFA an “ORGANIZATION OF TERROR.” Portland is being watched very closely. Hopefully the Mayor will be able to properly do his job!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2019Consideration is being given to declaring ANTIFA, the gutless Radical Left Wack Jobs who go around hitting (only non-fighters) people over the heads with baseball bats, a major Organization of Terror (along with MS-13 & others). Would make it easier for police to do their job!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 27, 2019But Wray repeatedly shied away from that sort of description Thursday. “We look at antifa as more of an ideology or a movement than an organization,” he told lawmakers, adding there is no evidence that antifa is behind any sort of coordinated campaign to incite violence at protests that have gripped parts of the country. “Much of the violence that we’re seeing does not appear to be organized or attributed to any one particular group or movement,” the FBI director said. Instead, he described attempts by antifa and other movements, like the right-wing Boogaloo Boys, to instigate violence as ad hoc. Boogaloo Boys Aim to Provoke 2nd US Civil War Group goal is to co-opt practically any anti-government event – from anti-lockdown demonstrations to Black Lives Matter protests – to violently confront government”We are seeing, in certain pockets, more kind of regionally organized folks coalescing, often coordinating on the ground in the middle of protests,” Wray said, adding that such attempts can even cross ideological lines, such as in one incident earlier this month in which two self-described Boogaloo Boys attempted to join with the Palestinian terror group Hamas. ICYMI: Self-described “Boogaloo Bois” charged w/attempting to provide #Hamas firearms/parts Per @FBI 30yo Michael Solomon of Minnesota & 22yo Benjamin Teeter of #NorthCarolina are part of a sub-group called the “Boojahideen” & felt their anti-US gvt views aligned w/Hamas— Jeff Seldin (@jseldin) September 4, 2020Wray’s explanations about antifa, however, did not sit well with Republican Representative Dan Crenshaw, from Texas, who has been supportive of the president. “It seems strange to me that we can’t call it a group,” Crenshaw told Wray.  “This is an ideology that organizes locally. It coordinates regionally and nationally. It wears a standardized uniform. It collects funds to buy high-powered lasers to blind federal officers,” Crenshaw said. “It just seems to be more than an ideology.” But Wray said the FBI’s focus is on violence and criminology, and not ideology, which is protected under freedom of speech. “I, by no means, mean to minimize the seriousness of the violence and criminality that is going on,” he said. “To be clear, we do have quite a number of properly predicated investigations into violent anarchist extremists, any number of who self-identify with the antifa movement.” US-based extremists Wray also told lawmakers the FBI sees U.S.-based violent extremists, whether influenced by jihadist ideology or ideology emanating domestically, as the biggest threat to the country. “Racially motivated violent extremism is, I think, the biggest bucket within that larger group,” he said, noting there have been a total of 120 arrests for domestic terrorism this year. 

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Poland’s Governing Alliance Thrown into Crisis Over Animal Rights

Poland’s governing alliance appeared to be in disarray early Friday, as a dispute over animal rights measures highlighted divisions in the ruling camp, raising the possibility of early elections if differences cannot be resolved. Tensions within the alliance led by the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party came into the open after some members did not support the measures, which passed in parliament with opposition support. The dispute over changes to animal rights laws, which are seen as an appeal to younger voters, halted talks on overhauling ministries and threatened deeper problems for the coalition. The measures, which would ban fur farming and curb the slaughter of animals, were opposed by all lawmakers from the ultra-conservative United Poland party. Other lawmakers abstained. Polish farmers take part in a demonstration against a proposed ban on fur farms and kosher meat exports in Warsaw, Poland, Sept. 16, 2020.PiS lawmaker and Agriculture Minister Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski, who had openly criticized the bill, voted against it. Opponents of the bill within the ruling alliance said it would alienate voters in PiS’s rural heartlands and hurt farmers. Poland produces millions of furs a year, and the sector employs about 50,000 people. The country is also one of Europe’s biggest exporters of halal and kosher meat, with 2017 shipments of more than 70,000 tons. Talks had been under way between PiS, United Poland and the more liberal Accord over plans to reduce the number of ministries, potentially concentrating power in the hands of PiS. “Negotiations … have been suspended due to the situation we have in the Sejm,” or parliament, PiS lawmaker and Deputy Parliament Speaker Ryszard Terlecki said before the vote. Asked about ruling as a minority government, Terlecki said this would not be possible. “If that happens, we’ll go to elections. Alone, of course.” In 2007, PiS decided to go for early elections and lost power, making the party well aware of the risks of such a move. 
 

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Social Media Firms Deleting Evidence of War Crimes, Human Rights Watch Says

Social media companies are taking down videos and images that could be vital in prosecuting serious crimes, according to a new report from Human Rights Watch. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are increasingly using artificial intelligence algorithms to remove material deemed offensive or illegal. Human Rights Watch says vital evidence is being missed or destroyed. Henry Ridgwell reports.

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Britain Begins Strict Regional COVID-19 Lockdown

Britain’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, has announced new lockdown measures on the northeast of England after a significant surge in coronavirus cases there. Hancock told parliament that beginning Friday, people in the region would not be allowed to socialize with others outside their households or support groups. Restaurants and bars would be allowed to provide only table service, and “leisure and entertainment venues” would have to close between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.  The health secretary told parliament Thursday the government does not take the steps lightly, and it understands the impact the restrictions can have on families, business and communities. But, he said, “We must follow the data and act. And the data says that we must act now.” Earlier this week, the British government had tightened restrictions across the country, banning social gatherings of more than six people. Residents across England have been struggling to access the COVID-19 testing system since an increase in cases raised the demand for tests. Hancock said the huge spike in demand for coronavirus testing for people who do not have symptoms was creating challenges in the system, after members of parliament shared stories of people without symptoms not being able to get tested. Reuters news agency reports official statistics show Britain recorded 3,991 new positive cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, compared with 3,105 the day before. The news agency also reported a further 20 new deaths from COVID-19. Britain’s overall death toll from the virus is 41,773, the highest in Europe, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

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Greece Moves Refugees From Burned Camp to New Shelter

Greek authorities have begun moving thousands of refugees to a new army-built camp on the island of Lesbos after a fire destroyed the country’s largest migrant facility last week.  More than 12,500 people from 70 countries, mostly refugees from Afghanistan, African nations, and Syria, were left without shelter and access to food, water, and proper sanitation when fire decimated the overcrowded Moria camp.  Authorities dressed in masks and white protective suits have so far guided some 1,800 migrants and refugees, who had been sleeping in makeshift shelters on the side of the road, to the new temporary facility at Kara Tepe near the port of Mytilene.  Seventy female officers were flown in to organize the transfer of women and children to the new camp. No violence was reported.  A dog sits next to migrants as they sleep on a road leading from Moria to the capital of Mytilene, on the northeastern island of Lesbos, Greece, Sept. 17, 2020.”As long as it is peaceful, we believe it is a good move,” said Astrid Castelein, head of the U.N. refugee agency’s office on Lesbos. “Here on the street it is a risk for security, for public health, and it’s not dignity, which we need for everyone.” Authorities have charged five Afghan asylum-seekers with starting the fires. Law enforcement officials say that the blazes broke out after 35 people tested positive for the coronavirus, triggering a lockdown of camp residents. A small group of inhabitants objected to being put into isolation. There have been no reported deaths as a result of the fires. Greek officials say the new camp is equipped to host at least 5,000 people, but many migrants are hesitant to move there. Moria had a capacity of roughly 2,700 people but was home to more than 12,500 at the time of the blaze.  The Greek government said it aims to replace open-air tent facilities with formal migrant centers that have temporary housing options, but a number of migrants and refugees hope to leave Lesbos. They say they fear that the living conditions at camp Kara Tepe will be no better than they were at Moira, which international aid groups had called “appalling.” Medical careDuring the operation to move residents to the temporary camp, they were tested for the coronavirus and so far, 35 have been found positive.  A child sits between plastic bags as migrants pull their belongings in Kara Tepe, near Mytilene, the capital of the northeastern island of Lesbos, Greece, Sept. 17, 2020.The nongovernmental medical aid organization Medecins Sans Frontieres, known as Doctors Without Borders, says that Greek police denied the health care workers access to its new clinic in Lesbos. According to the group, it took several hours before its workers were finally allowed to reopen their facilities, but says it was “highly concerning” that their critical medical care services were compromised during the move. Critics of the Moria camp say that the inhuman conditions there were a symbol of Europe’s failed migration policies.  The number of migrants seeking refuge on Greek islands near Turkey has fallen significantly since 2015, although camps remained overcrowded. In the past, the Greek government has accused wealthier European Union nations of failing to share the burden of assisting refugees, migrants, and asylum-seekers as they seek a new life in Europe.  Transfer to GermanyThe German government said this week it would take in 1,553 migrants, many of whom are families with refugee status, who had been living at camp Moria at the time of the fire.  Migrants wait to enter a new temporary refugee camp in Kara Tepe, near the capital of the northeastern island of Lesbos, Greece, Sept. 17, 2020.German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday that any transfer of migrants to Germany would need to go hand-in-hand with a broader European initiative to support the refugee crisis in Greece.  Merkel has voiced support for the Greek government to build a new reception center for migrants and refugees on Lesbos. The structure would be managed by EU agencies. Following the fire, Greece’s top public order official said plans to decongest migrant camps will be accelerated. On Tuesday, the Greek government vowed that the island of Lesbos will be emptied of refugees by early April 2021.  In a statement to The Guardian newspaper, Greece’s civil protection minister Michalis Chrysochoidis said, “Of the roughly 12,000 refugees here currently, I foresee 6,000 being transferred to the mainland by Christmas and the rest by Easter. The people of this island have gone through a lot. They’ve been very patient.”
 

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