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         News And Events
 
Mon, 13 Jul 2020 12:17:00 -0400
New Jersey woman survives mile-long ride through storm drain
Mon, 13 Jul 2020 12:16:15 -0400
Judge seeks more details on Trump's clemency for Roger Stone

Judge seeks more details on Trump's clemency for Roger StoneA federal judge on Monday demanded more information about President Donald Trump's decision to commute the prison sentence of longtime ally Roger Stone. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered that the parties provide her by Tuesday with a copy of the executive order that commuted Stone's sentence. Trump commuted Stone's 40-month prison sentence on Friday evening, just days before he was to report to prison.


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 12:05:06 -0400
Brexit: Get ready because this time it’s for real

Brexit: Get ready because this time it’s for realA new government document on preparing for Brexit presents a daunting checklist for business.


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 11:39:37 -0400
International appeal for calm in Mali after protest deaths

International appeal for calm in Mali after protest deathsMali's worried allies and neighbours have appealed for restraint and dialogue as the country's deepening political crisis spirals into bloodshed. The situation remained tense on Monday, after three days of unrest in the capital Bamako, as gunfire was heard in an opposition stronghold in the city. Representatives of the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union and West African bloc ECOWAS late Sunday voiced their concern over the recent clashes.


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 11:34:14 -0400
Coronavirus: Infections rising amid economic downturn in Africa

Coronavirus: Infections rising amid economic downturn in AfricaCountries have taken different routes in lifting restrictions - and some are reinstating them.


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 11:20:23 -0400
Mobile roaming: What will happen to charges after Brexit?

Mobile roaming: What will happen to charges after Brexit?Will Britons be able to use their mobile phones in Europe after Brexit transition without paying extra?


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 11:10:44 -0400
Nelson Mandela's daughter Zindzi dies at 59

Nelson Mandela's daughter Zindzi dies at 59The youngest daughter of South Africa's first black president dies in Johannesburg.


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 10:50:51 -0400
UN: Pandemic could push tens of millions into chronic hunger

UN: Pandemic could push tens of millions into chronic hungerThe United Nations says the ranks of the world’s hungry grew by 10 million last year and warns that the coronavirus pandemic could push as many as 130 million more people into chronic hunger this year. The grim assessment was contained in the latest edition of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, an annual report released Monday by the five U.N. agencies that produced it. The U.N. agencies estimated that nearly 690 million people, or nearly 9% of the world's population, went hungry last year, an increase of 10 million since 2018 and of nearly 60 million since 2014.


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 10:43:34 -0400
Sudanese forces break up protest camp in Darfur, killing 1
Mon, 13 Jul 2020 10:37:24 -0400
World hunger worsening as coronavirus weighs and obesity rises: UN

World hunger worsening as coronavirus weighs and obesity rises: UNNearly one in nine people in the world are going hungry, with the coronavirus pandemic exacerbating already worsening trends this year, according to a United Nations report published Monday. Economic slowdowns and climate-related shocks are pushing more people into hunger, while nutritious foods remain too expensive for many, contributing not only to undernourishment, but to growing rates of obesity in adults and children. "After decades of long decline, the number of people suffering from hunger has been slowly increasing since 2014," said the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World annual report.


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 10:34:13 -0400
Time to make masks mandatory? It's not just a US debate

Time to make masks mandatory? It's not just a US debateAmid pervasive backsliding on social distancing, Britain and France are weighing whether to require people to wear masks in public places. Scientists say the two countries' governments should have done so ever since they started easing lockdowns — like many other European nations did – instead of exposing their populations to the risk of infections from mass dance parties and summer vacationers who think there’s no longer anything to worry about. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged U.K. residents Monday to wear face coverings in shops and other tight indoor spaces — but stopped short of making it compulsory.


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 10:20:05 -0400
Court refuses to order Houston to host Texas GOP gathering

Court refuses to order Houston to host Texas GOP gatheringThe Texas Supreme Court on Monday upheld Houston's refusal to allow the state Republican convention to hold in-person events in the city due to the coronavirus pandemic. The court dismissed an appeal of a state district judge’s denial of a temporary restraining order sought by the state Republican Party. Shortly after the ruling, GOP leaders said they would call a meeting of the party's executive committee to “finalize our path forward."


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 10:15:23 -0400
Strong demand for virus testing services; snacking surges

Strong demand for virus testing services; snacking surgesThe outbreak of the coronavirus has dealt a shock to the global economy with unprecedented speed. — Two vaccine candidates from Pfizer and BioNTech being developed to help protect against the virus that causes COVID-19 have received fast track designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The designation was granted based on preliminary data from early-state studies that are currently ongoing in the U.S. and Germany as well as animal immunogenicity studies.


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 09:56:55 -0400
Coronavirus: South Africans divided over second alcohol ban

Coronavirus: South Africans divided over second alcohol banWhile some back the government restrictions others say citizens are being blamed for state failures.


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 08:02:43 -0400
How Russia Built a Channel to the Taliban, Once an Enemy

How Russia Built a Channel to the Taliban, Once an EnemyKABUL, Afghanistan -- During one of the most violent stretches of fighting in northern Afghanistan, as the Taliban scored victories that had eluded them since the beginning of the conflict, the top U.S. commander went public with a suspicion that had nagged for years: Russia was aiding the insurgents.In diplomatic circles in Kabul around the time of that accusation, in 2017, there were murmurs that the Russian assistance had included night-vision goggles and armor-piercing ammunition.But Gen. John W. Nicholson, the commander, offered no definitive evidence, and that spoke to how confusing the battlefield had become as three longtime adversaries -- the Taliban, Russia and Iran -- agreed on their common interest in seeing the Americans leave Afghanistan. In the maze of corruption, cash and foreign hands in Afghanistan, it was no easy task to pin down who was doing what."We've had weapons brought to this headquarters and given to us by Afghan leaders and said, 'This was given by the Russians to the Taliban,'" Nicholson said a year later. "We know that the Russians are involved."The recent revelation of an American intelligence assessment that Russia had provided the Taliban with bounties to attack U.S. and coalition troops stunned political leaders in Washington and added a potent dose of Cold War-style skulduggery to deliberations over Afghanistan's future. Both Russia and the Taliban have rejected the assertion.But while that would be a notable escalation of Russian interference in Afghanistan, it was clear to many officials that Russia had been working to hedge its bets with the Taliban for years. The Russians saw the Afghan government as entirely controlled by the United States, and at worst so fragile that it would struggle to survive the U.S. withdrawal.In interviews, Afghan and U.S. officials and foreign diplomats with years of experience in Kabul say that what began as a diplomatic channel between Russia and the Taliban just under a decade ago has more recently blossomed into a mutually beneficial alliance that has allowed the Kremlin to reassert its influence in the region.The shift coincided with increasing hostility between the U.S. and Russia over Syria's civil war and other conflicts, analysts say, as well as Russia's frustration with rising instability in Afghanistan and the slow pace of the U.S. pullout.Now, the U.S. is conducting the troop withdrawal it agreed to with the Taliban even without a final peace deal between the insurgents and the Afghan government which the U.S. has supported for years. But Russia's covert efforts, officials and analysts say, are aimed at harassing and embarrassing the U.S. as the troops leave rather than profoundly changing the course of the conflict."It was in modest quantities; it was not designed to be a game changer on the battlefield," Nicholson, who has since retired from the military, told the House Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday about Russian arms and aid to the Taliban. "For example, the Taliban wanted surface-to-air missiles, the Russians didn't give it to them. So I always concluded that their support to the Taliban was calibrated in some sense."Some pointed out the considerably more extensive U.S. efforts to support the mujahedeen insurgency against the Soviet Union in the 1980s."We did the same," said Marc Polymeropoulos, a former CIA field officer in Afghanistan who retired last year as the agency's acting chief of operations in Europe and Eurasia. "We turned the heat up as the Russians were leaving Afghanistan.""Putin," he said, "is a student of history."As things began turning on the battlefield in recent years, officials described increasing suspicions of a greater Russian role in helping the Taliban. But they often struggled to pin down specifics, other than occasional influxes of new weapons and munitions that could have had several sources. In addition to Pakistan's well-established support to the Taliban, Iran was taking a greater hand in helping the insurgents, and often using similar channels as the Russians, Afghan intelligence officials say.The dots began connecting more clearly during a stretch of alarming violence in northern Afghanistan, when the Taliban twice overran Kunduz city, a provincial capital, in 2015 and 2016, sending the U.S. military scrambling.As Afghan intelligence narrowed in on the ambitious regional Taliban commander behind those assaults, they tracked his travel back and forth across the nearby border with Tajikistan, a Russian intelligence stronghold, according to current and former senior Afghan security officials. Kunduz is also the base of operations for two Afghan businessmen who U.S. intelligence officials say acted as middlemen in the bounty scheme between Russian intelligence officers and Taliban fighters.U.S. officials say they confronted Russia about its aid to the Taliban on several occasions, but their public claims lacked detail, and it never amounted to a major issue. Russian officials said they received no documented evidence.Three decades after the Soviet military withdrawal from Afghanistan, Russia's cultural, economic and personal ties in the country remain deep. When Russia has looked to exert influence, whether benign or otherwise, it has had a host of friends to call on: Soviet-trained generals who led the Afghan forces for years on American pay; businessmen who bragged of friendship with President Vladimir Putin of Russia; politicians who kept homes in Moscow even as they grew rich on U.S. contracts.For much of the first decade of the war, the U.S. did not really have to worry about the deep Russian reach into Afghan society, as Putin's government was aligned with the U.S. mission of defeating al-Qaida and Islamist groups that Moscow also saw as a threat -- including the Taliban.Diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks show genuine attempts by both sides to coordinate efforts in Afghanistan. Russian officials spoke of a "collective fist" in the fight against terrorism, and urged unity "with one voice -- the American voice."But as the war in Afghanistan dragged on, and the two powers took opposing sides in the crises in Syria and Ukraine, the Russians increasingly saw the U.S. mission as failed, and the American presence in the region as a threat.U.S. intelligence officials now date Russia's discreet outreach to the Taliban as beginning about eight years ago -- around the time that Putin, after a four-year hiatus as prime minister, reassumed the presidency with a more confrontational posture with the West.The mistrust soon became intense enough that Russian officials accused the U.S. of playing a hand in the rise of an Islamic State group chapter in Afghanistan around 2015, with many of its earliest fighters being extremist militants from Central Asia who yearned to bring a holy war against Russia.At a meeting of the Russian Security Council in 2013, Putin said his country could no longer stand by in the face of failures by the U.S. and its partners."We need a clear action strategy, which will take into account different possible developments," Putin said at the meeting. "The task is to reliably protect the interests of Russia under any circumstances."Leading the portfolio on the diplomatic front was Zamir Kabulov, a veteran of the Soviet war in Afghanistan and reportedly a former Russian intelligence operative.Kabulov began publicly criticizing the U.S. for weaknesses in the Afghan government and for failing to rein in Islamist militancy there -- and increasingly describing the Afghan Taliban as a national entity that posed no threat beyond the country's borders and could be worked with.Reports increased about Taliban figures making trips to Russia. And just as the U.S. and Taliban were finalizing details of the U.S. withdrawal, Russia brought the same Taliban leaders into Moscow meetings with a large number of Afghan political figures for discussions over the political future of the country.As the U.S. has drawn down its military presence, it has increasingly relied on Afghan partners for intelligence and counterintelligence. What Afghan security officials were seeing in recent years, particularly in the north, was a deeply messy reality.Around the time they began focusing more on Russian activities, the Afghans also unraveled an Iranian scheme of distributing arms to discontented warlords and militia commanders -- the weapons were Russian, and the route was through Tajikistan, officials said. The Iranian scheme was short-lived, one senior Afghan official said, after Iran realized the weapons it was providing were turning up in the saturated black market.The Russians often used the hundreds of millions of dollars in fuel imports for NATO and Afghan forces as a way to inject cash into Afghanistan to ensure influence and keep intelligence assets on their side. One former senior Afghan official said that instead of direct cash transfers, the Russians would mostly arrange for the convoys of oil tankers snaking into Afghanistan to be topped with extra fuel that would be cached for circulation inside the country.Though the countries of Central Asia gained their independence after the Soviet collapse, Russia has never let go of its foothold in the region. In one cable, a Russian diplomat described the borders of countries like Tajikistan, where the Russian air force still has about 7,000 troops, as "an extension of its own border."When the Taliban were in power in Afghanistan in 1990s, Tajikistan was a hub for the resistance commanders who received aid from Russia and Iran. In the 20 years since the U.S. invasion, the country has become a center of criminal traffic and of vice, a kind of adult playground for many of the Afghan elite who frequently travel back and forth to Tajikistan and often have family there.In that mix of spies, money and mafia, the Taliban, too, found a foothold. The insurgents made a point of taking and maintaining control of some of the border crossings from Kunduz province into Tajikistan. From the south of the country all the way to the north, they had border access to evade military pressure, maintain ties with friendly foreigners and keep a channel for the opium trade that partly finances the insurgency.Several Afghan officials, including Asadullah Omarkhel, who was the governor of Kunduz at the time, said they shared with the Americans intelligence that Mullah Abdul Salam, the Taliban commander who led the assaults on Kunduz, repeatedly crossed into Tajikistan for what they suspected were discussions with Russian agents. A Tajik news outlet reported meetings between Russian officials and Taliban commanders at a Russian air base in Tajikistan as early as 2015. And it was these border crossings that the Taliban used to bring weapons in, officials say.Omarkhel said Americans initially were not confident about claims of Taliban ties to Russia, but then they started striking the Taliban bases along the border, including a strike that killed Salam.At Thursday's congressional hearing, Nicholson repeated his accusation of Russia arming the Taliban, noting that even though the aid was not extensive, it still had an effect."In the northern part of Afghanistan, in particular in Kunduz, the Russian assistance did help the Taliban inflict higher casualties on the Afghan security forces and more hardship on the Afghan people," he said.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 07:52:48 -0400
57 injured in fire aboard ship at Naval Base San Diego

57 injured in fire aboard ship at Naval Base San DiegoFirefighters were still battling a blaze Monday on a Navy combat ship that injured at least 57 people and sent smoke billowing over San Diego. The fire began Sunday morning aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard, apparently in a vehicle storage area as the ship was in a berth undergoing maintenance, according to Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck. Firefighters attacked the flames inside the ship while firefighting vessels with water cannons directed streams of seawater into the ship and helicopters made water drops.


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 07:46:52 -0400
Romance scam: US woman freed after year as hostage in Nigeria

Romance scam: US woman freed after year as hostage in NigeriaThe 46-year-old woman from Washington DC was held for more than a year and lost $48,000, police say.


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 07:36:56 -0400
Iran says virus death toll tops 13,000

Iran says virus death toll tops 13,000Iran reported on Monday more than 200 new coronavirus fatalities that took the overall toll in the Middle East's deadliest outbreak beyond 13,000. "Unfortunately, in the past 24 hours, we have lost 203 of our compatriots due to the COVID-19 disease," said health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari. Lari said another 2,349 people had tested positive for the virus, raising the overall figure in the country's outbreak to 259,652.


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 07:03:49 -0400
In Egypt, volunteers make meals with love for virus patients

In Egypt, volunteers make meals with love for virus patientsThe effort took off in early June after Basma Mostafa, a 30-year-old journalist, wrote on Facebook that she was thinking of cooking nutritious meals for patients. Today, about 1,500 volunteers take part in the program, and thousands more have asked to join, Mostafa said. After one volunteer wrote, “made with love,” it has become a favorite slogan.


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 07:00:39 -0400
Doctors and nurses to get fast-track entry to UK under new immigration system

Doctors and nurses to get fast-track entry to UK under new immigration systemDoctors and nurses from overseas will be eligible for fast-track entry to the UK and exempt from paying an NHS health surcharge under a new visa scheme set out by the Home Office on Monday. Under the new Health and Care visa, those eligible will also pay less in application fees and will be able to access “dedicated support” in filling out their forms. The exemptions will also apply to their families and dependents, according to the written ministerial statement. The list of professions eligible include doctors, nurses, midwives and social workers, although the document acknowledges that this will be expanded in the near future. However, in a move likely to provoke a backlash among some MPs, Downing Street confirmed that social care workers would not be able to take advantage of the new NHS visa. Speaking to reporters this morning, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We want employers to invest more in training and development for care workers in this country. "On care workers specifically, our independent migration advisers have said that immigration is not the sole answer here, which is why we have provided councils with an additional £1.5 billion of funding for social care in 2021/22, as well as launching a new recruitment campaign." Existing European Union workers in the care sector could apply to stay in the UK through the settlement scheme "and a very large number have done so", he added. The visa will form part of the “Skilled Worker” route in the post-Brexit points-based immigration system, which will require EU and non-EU migrants to gain 70 points to be allowed to come to the UK. Fifty of those points have to be gained by having a job offer from an approved employer, speaking English and from the prospective job being at the skill level of A-level or above. The remaining 20 points can come from a variety of categories, where skills or qualifications can be "traded" for points to meet the required 70. Jobs in key sectors like the NHS and social care, designated by the Government’s Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), will also entitle applicants to a further “tradeable” 20 points.


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 06:11:21 -0400
Russian prosecutors charge three sisters with murdering their abusive father

Russian prosecutors charge three sisters with murdering their abusive fatherIn a 'stunning' reversal in one of the country's most notorious cases, Russian prosecutors have brought charges of premeditated murder against three Moscow teenage sisters for killing their abusive father, their defence team said on Monday. The decision was greeted with shock after the same prosecutor Viktor Grin asked investigators in December to drop the murder charges, arguing that the sisters acted in self-defence. Krestina, Angelina and Maria stabbed their 57-year old father Mikhail Khachaturyan in July 2018 after enduring years of intimidation, beatings and sexual abuse. The sisters’ case became a cause celebre among campaigners against domestic violence, triggering public discussion about family and relationships in modern Russia. “This is a stunning standpoint,” Alexei Parshin, defence lawyer for Angelina Khachaturyan, told the Telegraph, referring to the prosecutors’ decision to back the same indictment they dismissed a few months earlier. “It shows that the state is willing to protect a rapist more than his victims.” The girls were “prepared” for this decision, according to Parshin, who said that as victims of long-lasting abuse they believe that “the hell they’re going through right now is much better than what they were subjected to before.” To Mari Davtyan, who often represents victims of domestic violence in court, the prosecutors’ surprise decision spells a worrying trend of cracking down on human rights that appears to have taken hold after Vladimir Putin won the vote earlier this month to extend his rule. “It’s impossible not to notice what’s been happening on a daily basis since 1 July, 2020,” she said on Facebook, referring to the preceding week of arrests and police raids. “The state has chosen its trend. The Khachaturyan sisters’ case is not an exception.”


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 05:18:55 -0400
China sanctions Cruz, Rubio, Smith, Brownback for criticism

China sanctions Cruz, Rubio, Smith, Brownback for criticismChina said Monday it will impose sanctions on three U.S. lawmakers and one ambassador in response to similar actions taken by the U.S. last week against Chinese officials over alleged human rights abuses against Muslims in the Xinjiang region. U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, Rep. Chris Smith and Ambassador for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback were targeted, as was the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. The four have been critical of the ruling Communist Party’s policies toward minority groups and people of faith.


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 05:11:38 -0400
Russia to push back deadline for $360 bln spending on national projects to 2030
Mon, 13 Jul 2020 04:55:21 -0400
In Moscow’s Afghan Bazaar, Searching for a Bagman Who Pays Bounties for Dead Americans

In Moscow’s Afghan Bazaar, Searching for a Bagman Who Pays Bounties for Dead AmericansMOSCOW—If you ask where to find almost anyone in Moscow’s Afghan community, you’ll be told to come here, to the Hotel Sevastopol. Probably you will be told it has 16 floors, which seems important to the direction givers. Much of the hotel has been turned into a market, a sort of Afghan bazaar where men with tired eyes above their COVID-19 masks crowd into the elevators carrying plastic shopping bags full of fragrant Indian spices, semi-precious stones, and cheap leather goods.Russian neighbors of the Hotel Sevastopol complain bitterly about drugs being sold in the depths of this maze of hallways and rooms converted into tiny shops. Not unlike Afghanistan itself, they say, the market is a complete mess. But the Afghans seem to have enough clout with Moscow’s city government to keep business going. Always, new men are showing up to have a kebab and share the latest news.   Lately, talk turned to a certain Rahmatullah Azizi. He was identified by The New York Times at the beginning of this month as a middleman U.S. and Afghan security services believe paid bounties to the Taliban and criminal gangs in Afghanistan to kill American and other coalition soldiers. A unit of the Russian military intelligence, known as the GRU, allegedly was behind the operation.Both the U.S. and Afghan security services have been investigating the bounty scheme for months, raiding homes and offices and arresting at least a dozen suspects. According to the report, Azizi accumulated considerable wealth, with expensive cars and private bodyguards. A raid on one of his homes in Afghanistan several months ago turned up half a million dollars in cash. But Azizi was believed to have fled to Russia.Here in the Sevastopol Hotel, however, it appears nobody ever heard of Rahmatullah Azizi. He certainly hadn’t shown up here, people said.A tall young Afghan man, who offered just one name, Sam, was selling lapis lazuli necklaces on the 16th floor. “An Azizi worked here before me,” he said. “But he wasn’t Rahmatullah.” Ali, in a small jewelry shop, said his uncle had a pharmacy in Kabul and knew “everybody,” but not Rahmatullah Azizi. He never heard of any such Azizi. The answers kept coming back the same: Essentially, “Rahmatullah who?”The bazaaris might not have met that Azizi, they said, but they knew what the story of this particular business meant: “Another conflict between Russia and the United States on Afghan land would be a catastrophe for our people,” says Sherkhasan Hasan, formerly a practicing physician, who now runs a small business here selling toys.  BLACK TULIPSThe Afghan diaspora in Russia counts about 20,000 in Moscow, and as many as 100,000 around the country. Its leaders, mostly Russian-educated during the decade of Russian occupation and dominance there, play an important role in political negotiations between Moscow and leaders on both sides of the Afghan conflict in which the United States became so deeply embroiled over the last 20 years. Today, Russian attitudes toward Afghanistan are complicated, and even the Kremlin does not articulate any clear strategy. The Soviet war in Afghanistan took the lives of more than 14,000 Soviet soldiers and triggered the fall of the USSR—that is how many in Russia remember this bloody chapter of their country’s modern history. The word Afghanistan is associated with what became known as “Black Tulips,” the Antonov cargo airplanes carrying dead soldiers home. In recent years, there has been a lot of concern about the drug traffic. Afghan opium smuggled across Central Asia makes its way to every Russian region. Thousands of drug addicts die in Russia every year. Stamping out the drug trade, which is partly run through the diaspora, seemed for a time an opening for cooperation between the United States and Russia in Afghanistan. The cooperation ended after the U.S. economic sanctions on Russia were in 2014 following the annexation of Crimea. Russian Bounties for Killing Americans Go Back Five Years, Ex-Taliban ClaimsIn 2008, three of Vladimir Putin’s close allies decided it was time to re-engage on Afghanistan. They were the head of the FSB Federal Security Service, Nikolai Patrushev; the deputy prime minister, Igor Sechin; and director of the drug-control agency, and an old friend of Putin’s from the KGB years, Victor Ivanov.  Ivanov’s aide, Yuriy Krupnov, traveled to Afghanistan in 2008 and 2009  to invite Afghan politicians and Pashto leaders to a high-level  forum in Moscow. “By then Afghanistan was sick of American occupation and remembered Russians fondly as sheravi, which means Soviet people,” Krupnov told The Daily Beast. THE OPENING Patrushev, Sechin, and Ivanov on the Russian side and Afghan Vice President Karim Khalili opened the forum at another Moscow hotel—the upscale President Hotel—in May 2009 to sign some business agreements, appeal to the Russian government for bank credits, restore 142 Soviet-built industrial sites, and announce support for some educational programs. Bridges were being built. At the forum, an old friend of Moscow, the nephew of Afghanistan’s last king, Abdul Ali Seraj, declared, “We don’t want the American model.” In the fractured political landscape of Afghanistan, Moscow realized, Pashto leaders were once again reasserting their influence, and not just as the Taliban. “This is all wrong to say ‘Taliban claims this or that,’” Krupnov said. “There are dozens of various Taliban groups among about 60 tribes, who each have their own ancient culture and history.” Russia planned to work on what it saw as this deeper, older level of Afghan power structures.  Two months after the forum, in July 2009, President Barack Obama visited Moscow to help launch the so-called reset of the U.S.-Russia relations. In the years to come, Victor Ivanov on the Russian side and Gil Kerlikowske, director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, would lead a joint anti-drug group and organize about 15 joint anti-narcotics operations in Afghanistan. The U.S. national security adviser at the time, Gen. James L. Jones, addressed Nikolay Patrushev, as his “friend and counterpart” in fighting organized crime and terrorism in the country. As a correspondent for Newsweek, I interviewed Ivanov multiple times in 2010 and in 2011. He spoke about the huge volumes of drugs coming into Russia and financing terrorism in the North Caucasus. “A kilo of heroin,” he noted, “is worth $150,000 on the street in Russia and a Kalashnikov costs $1,000 on the Afghan market.”Ivanov traveled to Kabul in 2010. On the plane with some members of the press, Russia’s drug tsar drank Champagne and toasted his return to Afghanistan, two decades after he last was there during the war with Soviet army. Krupnov says he believes that Ivanov’s activity—trips to China, to Afghanistan, and Russian drug-fighting centers in Central America—annoyed Washington. The Obama administration’s special envoy for the region, the late Richard C. Holbrooke, said poppy eradication had alienated poor farmers and was driving people into the hands of the Taliban. “Washington’s special representative to Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, told Viktor Ivanov to keep his hands off Afghanistan during their meeting at the State Department,” Krupnov says, citing that as a turning point in the relationships. Holbrooke died in 2010, and cooperation continued, but without the commitment that existed before. The last joint operation was in 2012, and meetings ended in 2014. ASSASSINS? REALLY?Today Krupnov denies outreach to the Afghans a decade ago was the beginning of an anti-American campaign in the Middle East and South Asia, or that the Kremlin, brushed off so many times, was offended and seeking revenge in some fashion, much less paying Taliban to kill U.S. and coalition soldiers—which is something that many are perfectly willing to do on their own. “It would be ridiculous to imagine that any Russians in Afghanistan—there are about 300 Russian nationals there and thousands of U.S. military and private forces—would hire assassins to kill American soldiers.” (The element of the GRU cited by the Times as instrumental in the alleged bounty operation, Unit 29155, also has been blamed for destabilization operations in Europe and the attempted murder in Britain of former GRU officer Sergei Skripal.)In any case, outreach to the Taliban has continued. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov received a Talib leader, Sher Mohammed Abas, last year along with a group of other Taliban authorities to discuss the joint fight against the Islamic State terror group. The idea that Russia and the United States make a great team against ISIS is one that U.S. President Donald Trump has promoted for years. At the Helsinki summit with Putin in 2018, for instance, Trump noted his appreciation for Russian help against “the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism.”“Both Russia and the United States have suffered horrific terrorist attacks,” Trump said. “We have agreed to maintain open communication between our security agencies to protect our citizens from this global menace.” That was the same summit where Trump said he doubted U.S. intelligence about Russian interference in the 2016 elections that made him president.Meanwhile, the Russian foreign ministry has eagerly pointed out that the Trump White House, too, is questioning intelligence on Russian bounties for the deaths of American soldiers. But the sense Russia is inching back into Afghanistan, again in conflict with the United States, is not lost on those who know this relationship well. “I don’t like the idea of some bearded Taliban leaders, who previously tried to drag us back a thousand years, all of a sudden becoming legitimate,” Hasan said of Russia’s negotiations with the group. “It would be a big mistake to help people who everybody considered terrorists.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 04:52:44 -0400
Israeli police break up anti-Netanyahu protest in Jerusalem

Israeli police break up anti-Netanyahu protest in JerusalemIsraeli police and Jerusalem municipal officials scuffled with protesters demonstrating against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday as officers dismantled tents set up by the demonstrator's outside the premier's residence. The demonstrators have staged a sit-in outside Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem for the past month, calling on him to resign while facing corruption charges.


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 03:51:50 -0400
Families of Italy's virus dead seek answers, solace, justice

Families of Italy's virus dead seek answers, solace, justiceIt started out as way for grief-struck families to mourn their coronavirus dead online: a Facebook group where relatives who were denied a funeral because of Italy’s stringent lockdowns could share photos, memories and sorrow that their loved ones had died all alone. Members of the Noi Denunceremo (We Will Denounce) Facebook group and an affiliated non-profit committee filed some 100 new cases Monday with Bergamo prosecutors investigating the outbreak, on top of 50 complaints lodged last month. Wearing a face mask with the group's logo outside the tribunal Monday, We Will Denounce co-founder Stefano Fusco said the complaints don't accuse anyone specifically of wrongdoing.


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 03:01:53 -0400
Millennials and boomers: Pandemic pain, by the generation

Millennials and boomers: Pandemic pain, by the generationFor baby boomers, named for the post-World War II surge of births, that means those who are retired or are nearing retirement are seeing their 401(k) accounts and IRAs looking unreliable while their health is at high risk. Millennials, who became young adults in this century, are getting socked again just as they were beginning to recover after what a Census researcher found were the Great Recession's hardest hits to jobs and pay. “The long-lasting effects of the Great Recession on millennials, that was kind of scarring,” said Gray Kimbrough, a millennial and an economist at American University in Washington.


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 02:55:34 -0400
Iran’s Hard-Liners Give President Rouhani a Hard Time
Mon, 13 Jul 2020 02:29:43 -0400
Accusations of serial assault spark new #MeToo wave in Egypt

Accusations of serial assault spark new #MeToo wave in EgyptTheir accounts are similar. The girls and women describe meeting the young man — a former student at Egypt's most elite university — in person and online, followed by deceit, then escalating sexual harassment, assault, blackmail or rape. It's resulted in a new #MeToo firestorm on social media, and the arrest of the suspect last week from his home in a gated community outside Cairo.


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 02:29:08 -0400
Russian constitution change ends hopes for same-sex marriage

Russian constitution change ends hopes for same-sex marriageAt the Lagutenko wedding in 2017, the couple exchanged vows, rings and kisses in front of friends and relatives, then took a traditional drive in a limousine, stopping at landmarks for photos. If Irina and Anastasia Lagutenko had any hopes they could someday officially be married in their homeland, the possibility vanished on July 1 when voters approved a package of constitutional amendments, one of them stipulating that marriage is only between a man and a woman. Unlike many LGBT people in Russia who keep low profiles because of pervasive enmity against nontraditional sexuality, they live openly as a same-sex couple with a 21-month-old boy, named Dorian, who was born to Irina.


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 02:00:14 -0400
Sabotage in Iran Is Preferable to a Deal With Iran

Sabotage in Iran Is Preferable to a Deal With Iran(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Whoever wins the U.S. presidency in November, there is a good chance he will try to negotiate a stronger nuclear deal with Iran in 2021. But events of the last few weeks show that there are better ways to frustrate the regime’s nuclear ambitions.Both President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, favor talking with Iran. “I would rejoin the agreement and use our renewed commitment to diplomacy to work with our allies to strengthen and extend it,” Biden told the New York Times last winter. Trump, meanwhile, was on Twitter last month urging Iran to “make the Big deal.”The logic of a deal goes like this: Except for war, the only sustainable way to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons is to reach an agreement with its leaders. That has been the basic assumption underlying U.S. nuclear policy on Iran for the last 20 years. With the right mix of carrots and sticks, the thinking goes, Iran will negotiate away a potential nuclear weapon.But a nuclear deal with Iran would have to rely on a partnership with a regime that oppresses its citizens, preys on its neighbors, supports terrorism on three continents and has shown contempt for international law. And the alternative to a deal is not necessarily a costly and dangerous war. The West can delay and foil Iran’s nuclear ambitions by other means.Since late June, explosions have rocked at least three Iranian military facilities. The latest appears to have targeted an underground research facility for chemical weapons. Earlier this month, a building at Iran’s Natanz centrifuge site burst into flames.Much remains unknown about this latest spate of explosions. A relatively new group calling itself “Homeland Panthers” has claimed credit for the attack on Natanz. Iranian officials have blamed it on Israel. David Albright, the former nuclear inspector and founder of the Institute for Science and International Security, told me his organization — which has studied satellite imagery of the facility before and after the explosion — cannot rule out that it was an accident. But “it looks more like a deliberate act,” he said.There are several good reasons to think all of this was an act of Israeli sabotage. To start, the Israelis have done this kind of thing before. In the early 2010s, Israel’s Mossad conducted a series of assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists. Before that, Israel and the U.S. cooperated on a cyberattack on Natanz that sped up its centrifuges, causing them to break down.More recently, Israeli spies broke into a Tehran warehouse and stole a technical archive of Iran’s nuclear program, demonstrating that they have “human networks that have penetrated Iran’s security structure,” said David Wurmser, a national security expert who most recently worked as an adviser to the National Security Council.Whoever is responsible for the attack — and to be clear, the Iranians say they are prepared to retaliate against Israel, though they have yet to do so — the damage at Natanz alone has significantly set back Iran’s nuclear program. The facility there was an assembly center for more advanced and efficient centrifuges, which Iran was allowed to produce under the flawed 2015 deal. “This was a crown jewel of their program,” Albright said.And the damage may be to more than just the centrifuges — it could also destabilize the Iranian regime itself. “The more Iran’s government looks impotent, and the impression is left the Israelis are everywhere, the more high-level Iranian officials will calibrate their survival by cooperating with Americans or Israelis, which itself creates an intelligence bonanza,” Wurmser said.The attacks could also undermine the regime’s legitimacy among the Iranian public more generally. Sabotage of this sort shows that Iran’s leaders are not nearly as powerful and all-knowing as they say.At the very least, the fact that someone was able to explode a “crown jewel” of Iran’s nuclear program should make clear that the civilized world can delay Iran’s nuclear ambitions without conferring legitimacy to the regime.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Eli Lake is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering national security and foreign policy. He was the senior national security correspondent for the Daily Beast and covered national security and intelligence for the Washington Times, the New York Sun and UPI.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 01:04:18 -0400
Detained Chinese professor who criticised Chinese President Xi Jinping is freed

Detained Chinese professor who criticised Chinese President Xi Jinping is freedA Chinese academic who penned an essay blaming the coronavirus pandemic on President Xi Jinping's authoritarianism and censorship has been released after nearly a week in detention, his friends have told AFP. Xu Zhangrun, a law professor at Beijing's prestigious Tsinghua University, was taken from his home in the capital by a group of more than 20 people on July 6, according to associates. He returned home on Sunday and was well, two friends confirmed to AFP on Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity. In an essay published on overseas websites, Xu had written that the leadership system under Xi - China's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong - was "destroying the structure of governance". He said the lack of openness contributed to the outbreak of the coronavirus, which first appeared in China late last year and eventually spread globally after Communist Party officials tried to suppress initial news of the contagion. It was not immediately clear whether he would face further repercussions. Beijing police did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 00:44:07 -0400
Politics latest news: We are not 'slamming the gates' in points-based immigration system, Boris Johnson says - watch live

Politics latest news: We are not 'slamming the gates' in points-based immigration system, Boris Johnson says - watch liveCoronavirus latest news: Boris Johnson to decide on compulsory face masks in shops 'in next few days' Doctors and nurses to get fast-track entry to UK under new immigration system Tim Stanley: Face masks don't build confidence, they destroy it Local lockdowns running at a hundred per week, Matt Hancock reveals Passport warning as transition period ends Subscribe to The Telegraph, free for one month The UK's new points-based immigration is not about "slamming the gates" shut, Boris Johnson has said, promising there will be enough recruits for the social care sector. Speaking as the Government unveiled the details of the country's post-Brexit system, the Prime Minister said the UK will have a "humane and sensible" immigration system despite "taking back control" after Brexit. Asked if he thinks there will be enough people coming in to work in the social care system, the Prime Minister told reporters: "I do... We're seeing huge numbers of people registering for their right to remain and that's great so we have a big, big stock of workers who are helping out in this country who have come from abroad." Mr Johnson added: "Although of course we are going to be taking back control and we are controlling our immigration system we're not going to be simply slamming the gates and stopping anybody anywhere coming into this country." His comments come amid confusion over whether social care workers will be given a special route to working the UK as part of a new NHS visa. The points-based system announced today gives eligible frontline workers receive fast-track entry with reduced application fees. In a written ministerial statement, Priti Patel said: "We will be introducing a new-fast track health and care visa. This will make it easier and quicker for talented global health professionals to work in our brilliant NHS and in eligible occupations in the social care sector. " However, Number 10 has since said that social care workers will not be included. Read more below.


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 00:32:45 -0400
Ready or not: Election costs soar in prep for virus voting

Ready or not: Election costs soar in prep for virus voting“Election officials don’t have nearly the resources to make the preparations and changes they need to make to run an election in a pandemic,” said Wendy Weiser, head of the Brennan Center for Justice's democracy program. “I’m prepared not only to look at more money for the states to use as they see fit for elections this year but also to even consider whatever kind of matching requirement we have,” said Roy Blunt, R-Mo., chairman of the Senate panel with responsibility for the issue.


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 00:06:11 -0400
Activists seek to decriminalize 'magic' mushrooms in DC

Activists seek to decriminalize 'magic' mushrooms in DCThe posters started blanketing light posts just a few weeks after the city entered what would be a monthslong stay-at-home order. Vividly colored and bearing a three-headed mushroom, they asked Washingtonians to “reform laws for plant and fungi medicines” by making natural psychedelics “the lowest level police enforcement priority.” It was the start of an underdog campaign that just managed a truly improbable political feat: a successful grassroots petition drive conducted entirely under pandemic lockdown conditions.


Mon, 13 Jul 2020 00:02:23 -0400
Judge blocks federal executions; administration appeals

Judge blocks federal executions; administration appealsA U.S. district judge on Monday ordered a new delay in federal executions, hours before the first lethal injection was scheduled to be carried out at a federal prison in Indiana. The Trump administration immediately appealed to a higher court, asking that the executions move forward. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan said there are still legal issues to resolve and that “the public is not served by short-circuiting legitimate judicial process."


Sun, 12 Jul 2020 19:49:43 -0400
Coronavirus: South Africa bans alcohol sales again to combat Covid-19

Coronavirus: South Africa bans alcohol sales again to combat Covid-19It is one of several restrictions introduced by President Ramaphosa amid rising infection rates.


Sun, 12 Jul 2020 18:00:17 -0400
China Is Winning the Trillion-Dollar 5G War
Sun, 12 Jul 2020 17:42:20 -0400
'Let's get going': UK tells businesses to prepare for Brexit crunch

'Let's get going': UK tells businesses to prepare for Brexit crunchBritain is urging businesses and individuals to prepare for the Dec. 31 end of the Brexit transition period with an information campaign titled: "The UK's new start: let's get going." Britain left the European Union on Jan. 31, three and a half years after a referendum, but a transition period has delayed any major change in the relationship. Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said on Sunday progress was being made in talks but there were still divisions.


Sun, 12 Jul 2020 17:30:00 -0400
'Let's get going': UK tells businesses to prepare for Brexit crunch
Sun, 12 Jul 2020 14:44:55 -0400
'Against the refugees': Aid groups condemn U.N. decision to limit Syrian aid crossings

'Against the refugees': Aid groups condemn U.N. decision to limit Syrian aid crossingsThe United Nations Security Council on Saturday adopted a resolution that leaves only one of two border crossings open for aid deliveries from Turkey into Syria. “The veto is against us,” Mustafa Alkaser told NBC News from a refugee camp in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. “It’s against the refugees, against the free Syrians who once stood up against Bashar al-Assad and demanded their freedom and dignity," he said Sunday in a telephone interview.


Sun, 12 Jul 2020 14:42:46 -0400
Appeals court: 1st federal execution in 17 years can proceed

Appeals court: 1st federal execution in 17 years can proceedA federal appeals court ruled Sunday that the first federal execution in nearly two decades may proceed as scheduled on Monday. The ruling from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturns a lower court order that had put the execution of 47-year-old Daniel Lewis Lee on hold. Lee, of Yukon, Oklahoma, had been scheduled to die by lethal injection on Monday at a federal prison in Indiana.


Sun, 12 Jul 2020 14:18:14 -0400
Britons whose passports expire in next year should apply for new one now to prepare for post-Brexit travel

Britons whose passports expire in next year should apply for new one now to prepare for post-Brexit travelMillions of Britons whose passports are due to expire in the next year are being urged to apply for a new one now, as part of a stepping up of efforts to prepare for the end of the Brexit transition period. Holidaymakers travelling to popular European destinations from Jan 1 will be required to have six months validity on their travel documents, which is likely to cause a stampede of renewals at UK passport offices. It’s estimated that some five million UK citizens have passports which are valid for less than a year, meaning they should act now in order to travel in the new year. Those who do not renew in time will “not be able to travel to most EU countries” as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. It comes as the Government today (Mon) launches a new £93 million public information campaign “The UK’s new start: let’s get going” to help Britons prepare for life outside the EU. Adverts will be launched across television, radio and online, with key information also relayed by text message. One such change means that those planning to go abroad with pets in January will need to act by September to ensure they are able travel.


Sun, 12 Jul 2020 14:14:58 -0400
21 injured in fire aboard ship at Naval Base San Diego

21 injured in fire aboard ship at Naval Base San DiegoTwenty-one people suffered minor injuries in an explosion and fire Sunday on board a ship at Naval Base San Diego, military officials said. The blaze was reported shortly before 9 a.m. on USS Bonhomme Richard, said Mike Raney, a spokesman for Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3, told the San Diego Union-Tribune that the Navy thinks the fire began somewhere in a lower cargo hold where marine equipment and vehicles are stored.


Sun, 12 Jul 2020 13:56:39 -0400
Protests in Israel and record death toll in Iran as coronavirus cases surge across Middle East

Protests in Israel and record death toll in Iran as coronavirus cases surge across Middle EastBenjamin Netanyahu has promised to provide financial support for Israelis who lost their livelihoods due to lockdown after more 80,000 people protested his government's economic response to the coronavirus over the weekend. Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Tel Aviv on Saturday to voice their frustration with Mr Netanyahu, who won praise for his early response to the outbreak but has come under criticism amid a severe fresh outbreak in cases. Mr Netanyahu did not acknowledge the Tel Aviv protest ahead of his weekly cabinet meeting, but promised that financial help was on the way, starting with cash handouts of up to 7,500 shekels (£1,700) to the self-employed. "This support, this grant, is not dependent on legislation and we have instructed that it be put into effect today. The button will be pressed and the money will reach accounts in the coming days," he said. Unemployment surged to a record 20 per cent in Israel after the economy was shut down to help tackle the coronavirus, while some business owners complained they did not receive enough financial support from the government and as a result could still go bankrupt. According to Israeli media reports, at least six per cent of the Israeli population has caught coronavirus but the true proportion could be much higher. The infection rate currently stands at around 1,000 cases per day, far higher than the previous peak of 700 in March. Israeli officials are said to be considering a second lockdown if the number of daily cases exceeds 2,000 this week. It came as coronavirus infections surged across the Middle East and the economic damage caused by the pandemic began to become clear. Iraq, Lebanon and Iran are also struggling with severe economic crises and record infection rates, with Iran reporting 221 deaths in just 24 hours, marking a new record death roll.


Sun, 12 Jul 2020 13:39:40 -0400
Mali opposition rejects President Keïta's concessions amid unrest

Mali opposition rejects President Keïta's concessions amid unrestOpposition leaders reject President Keïta's "nonsense" concessions as political unrest grows.


Sun, 12 Jul 2020 13:39:18 -0400
Michael Gove rules out compulsory masks in shops - but Downing Street says policy could still change

Michael Gove rules out compulsory masks in shops - but Downing Street says policy could still changeFace masks should not be made mandatory in shops, Michael Gove has said, despite Downing Street’s insistence the policy is still under review and could be introduced. Mr Gove warned against introducing a “binary divide” by making masks obligatory in public, stressing that face masks are “significantly less important outdoors...than indoors”. People should be allowed to use their own judgement to decide whether a mask is appropriate in different situations, he said, warning that some people could think they are invincible while wearing a mask. “I think people are intelligent, I think people can understand that this is a novel virus with specific challenges,” he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme. “I think it’s quite right to treat people with the respect that their intelligence and judgment deserves.” “It mustn’t be the case that anyone thinks that wearing a face mask would make you invulnerable.” Mr Gove said the masks should be worn out of consideration for others, even if they are not made mandatory. But Downing Street said the option to make masks compulsory was still on the table, suggesting the Prime Minister may think it will soon become necessary to force people to wear them. The risk of transmission of the virus indoors is reduced between people who are wearing face coverings, evidence suggests. “It is something which is under review and if the decision to make it mandatory is taken that will be announced in due course,” a No10 source said. Speaking in a Facebook video on Friday, Boris Johnson suggested the Government had plans to increase the proportion of people wearing masks in public. "We are looking at ways of making sure that people really do have face coverings in shops,” he said. “The balance of scientific opinion seems to have shifted more in favour of them than it was, and we're very keen to follow that". "We need to be stricter in insisting that people wear face coverings in confined spaces where they are meeting people they don't usually meet.” Face coverings have been compulsory in shops in Scotland since July 10. The masks are also compulsory on trains, buses and the London Underground, but the British Transport Police said it preferred to enforce the rules by “engaging with the public and explain the reasons why the protections are necessary and a lawful requirement”. Fines have been issued to repeat offenders and some arrests have been made, a spokeswoman said. The Labour Party signalled its support for masks to become compulsory in shops, but not in bars and restaurants, which it said would be impractical. Lucy Powell, a shadow business minister, accused the Government of “showing a bit of leg” by suggesting it would enforce face mask guidelines, but not announcing any change of policy. "We do need to get a lot more confidence back in the system and if the mandatory wearing of face masks in shops will help to do that then we absolutely support it,” she said. "We think the Government - instead of just showing a bit of leg occasionally on these things by briefing newspapers or saying things that are not clear guidance in press conferences as the Prime Minister did on Friday - [should] get some clarity. "That's really something that would get confidence back into the system and get people feeling that they can go to the shops, they can go to restaurants and go to bars." On Saturday, Mr Johnson was pictured wearing a mask during a visit to a pub and barber in his constituency. The Prime Minister chose to wear a light blue cloth mask that matched his party’s branding. It was the first time Mr Johnson has been photographed wearing a mask, following concern that Government ministers were discouraging mask usage by not wearing them in public. Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, was criticised for not wearing one while serving food at Wagamama in a photo opportunity following last week’s budget announcement, while Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, did not cover his face while being photographed at a Brewdog pub. Donald Trump, the US President, was pictured in a face mask on an official visit for the first time over the weekend, while Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has been seen wearing a Government-branded face covering.


Sun, 12 Jul 2020 13:26:06 -0400
Maryland governor says GOP needs 'bigger tent' after Trump

Maryland governor says GOP needs 'bigger tent' after TrumpA Republican governor rumored to be eyeing a run for the White House in 2024 said Sunday that the GOP needs to be a “bigger tent party" after President Donald Trump leaves office. Maryland's Larry Hogan, who has been known to break with Trump, told NBC's “Meet the Press" that he doesn't “know what the future holds in November." “But I know that the Republican Party is going to be looking at what happens after President Trump and whether that’s in four months or four years,” Hogan said.


Sun, 12 Jul 2020 13:03:19 -0400
Bavarian governor emerges as the front-runner to succeed Merkel as Chancellor in Germany

Bavarian governor emerges as the front-runner to succeed Merkel as Chancellor in GermanyA German politician until recently seen as a rank outsider to replace Angela Merkel as Chancellor is suddenly the frontrunner, according to a series of opinion polls. Markus Söder, state leader in Bavaria, is seen by the public as the best candidate for the job, with 64 percent of voters saying he is suited to the role, ahead of Social Democrat Olaf Scholz on 48 percent. Meanwhile a separate poll released over the weekend found that in a head-to-head against Mr Scholz or popular Green leader Robert Habeck, Mr Söder would come out on top. The other two leading conservative contenders, Friedrich Merz and Armin Laschet, both members of Ms Merkel’s CDU, would lose to left-wing opposition in next year’s election, the poll found. Mr Söder, leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to the CDU, has been sending out mixed messages for weeks. While sticking to an insistence that his “place is always in Bavaria”, he has said that the next Chancellor “needs to have proved himself during the pandemic.” Mr Merz has had no official role during the crisis, while Mr Laschet is widely regarded to have botched the pandemic response in his state, North Rhine-Westphalia. The only conservative other than Mr Söder to have come out of the crisis well, Health Minister Jens Spahn, is supporting Mr Laschet’s candidacy. Despite Bavaria's prominence as the wealthiest federal state, a Bavarian has never held power in Berlin. Bavarian candidates have only run for the Chancellery twice - in 1980 and 2002 - but on both occasions young CDU leaders gave way in the belief that they faced likely defeat to a sitting Social Democrat Chancellor. In 1980 Chancellor Helmut Schmidt was able to defeat Franz Josef Strauß when Helmut Kohl sat out the race, and in 2002 Gerhard Schröder won against Edmund Stoiber, with a young Ms Merkel choosing not to run. The circumstances in 2021 would be markedly different. The next candidate would take over from a popular Chancellor, with the party on close to 40 percent approval, far ahead of the Greens on 20 percent and the Social Democrats in the doldrums on 16 percent. Reputedly fiercely ambitious, the 53-year-old Mr Söder manoeuvred himself to power in Bavaria in the wake of the refugee crisis by lambasting Berlin for failing to stem the number of refugees crossing the border. While previously a polarising figure with a low national approval rating, his handling of the corona epidemic has seemed decisive. He was the first state leader who announced a comprehensive lockdown, pushing the rest of the country to follow suit. He has also made national headlines by offering a coronavirus test to any Bavarian who wishes to have one, a break from the national policy of targeted testing. With the Chancellery there for the taking, CDU politicians have failed to impress. Mr Merz, a business friendly candidate who left frontline politics at the start of the century, has struggled for attention during the pandemic. Mr Laschet, whose state has faced repeated local outbreaks, is seen as having pushed too aggressively for an end to the lockdown. END


Sun, 12 Jul 2020 12:24:09 -0400
Iran's Khamenei urges fight against 'tragic' virus resurgence

Iran's Khamenei urges fight against 'tragic' virus resurgenceIran's supreme leader Sunday called the resurgence of the novel coronavirus in the country "truly tragic" and urged all citizens to help stem what has been the region's deadliest outbreak. "Let everyone play their part in the best way to break the chain of transmission in the short term and save the country," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a video conference with lawmakers, according to his office. Iran has been struggling to contain the outbreak since announcing its first cases in February, and has reported more than 12,800 deaths since then.


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