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  • Curb the Brexit Enthusiasm. The Hurdles Are Still High

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    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Brexit optimism is in the air. The U.K. and the European Union have resumed trade talks after a highly theatrical fallout, promising to ramp up the speed and intensity of negotiations with a view to settling on a draft deal by next month. “An agreement is within reach,” EU negotiator Michel Barnier said last week, boosting the pound to its highest level against the dollar since August. The mood is good, but the reality is complicated. What any agreement will contain is still a bit of a mystery, and that’s largely because the biggest obstacles have yet to be overcome, and they’re very political and very emotional ones. It’s one thing to quibble over how much of a car’s components can be sourced from abroad to count as “European” for tariff purposes; it’s quite another to get both sides to agree on new rules for business subsidies and social and environmental standards after 40 years of free trade. What the Brits see as their sovereign, post-Brexit right — maximum access to EU markets, minimum regulatory oversight — the EU understandably sees as an existential competitive threat. Even economically small issues such as fishing quotas are politically huge for both sides. While concessions are necessary (Reuters reports one on fisheries is looming) they’re hard-won.For a sense of how little progress has been made, look to parliamentary politics. Even as technocrats talk about tariff barriers and quotas, a draft law is working its way through the U.K. parliament that would aim to tear up the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement signed with the EU last year. That bill has prompted a rebuke from the House of Lords and the Scottish Parliament, and triggered a legal challenge from the EU. If it became law, it would likely kill all chances of a trade deal. While dismissed by some as a negotiating tactic, it does seem to chime with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s own personal indecision over what kind of deal, if any, he could sell to his domestic support base.Over in Brussels, the EU’s own parliament is also cracking the whip. In June it adopted a report on Brexit with “strict” demands on a level playing field for regulatory standards and subsidies. It has threatened to reject any treaty that doesn’t respect the last point. “We will not ratify a deal at any cost,” Christophe Hansen, a Christian Democrat from Luxembourg who sits in the same center-right bloc as German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party, tells me. (We don’t even know yet whether all 27 EU members will have to ratify this treaty, too.)The pressure to approve any deal will be immense for both parliaments. Time is running out before the transition period ends on Dec. 31. With so many other priorities piling up, from Covid-19 to more joint borrowing, patience will run out. The EU’s member states are good at nudging their European deputies in certain directions when their interests are at stake.But that’s why the European Parliament is flexing its muscles now, rather than after a draft treaty lands in everyone’s inbox. Its members meet regularly with Barnier and aren’t shy about expressing concerns over their red lines. That includes fishing, with several deputies warning against giving the Brits too many concessions on single-market access to maintain quotas. “The European Parliament is really there at the negotiating table,” according to Valentin Kreilinger of the Jacques Delors Institute, a Paris-based think tank. Given the importance of getting a deal that’s acceptable to both sides — and considering the economic chaos a no-deal Brexit would probably unleash— political buy-in will become crucial as the clock ticks down. In an ideal world, the Brits would back down from using their parliament to overturn previously agreed treaties, while the EU’s parliament would help find acceptable compromises that could be sold to constituents as better than the alternative. Now, that would call for intense negotiations.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Lionel Laurent is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering the European Union and France. He worked previously at Reuters and Forbes.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, 26 Oct 2020 03:15:15 -0400
  • Climate at a crossroads as Trump and Biden point in different directions

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    The two US presidential contenders offer starkly different approaches as the world tries to avoid catastrophic global heatingAmong the myriad reasons world leaders will closely watch the outcome of a fraught US presidential election, the climate crisis looms perhaps largest of all.The international effort to constrain dangerous global heating will hinge, in large part, on which of the dichotomous approaches of Donald Trump or Joe Biden prevails.On 4 November, the day after the election, the US will exit the Paris climate agreement, a global pact that has wobbled but not collapsed from nearly four years of disparagement and disengagement under Trump.Biden has vowed to immediately rejoin the Paris deal. The potential of a second Trump term, however, is foreboding for those whose anxiety has only escalated during the hottest summer ever recorded in the northern hemisphere, with huge wildfires scorching California and swaths of central South America, and extraordinary temperatures baking the Arctic.“It’s a decision of great consequence, to both the US and the world,” said Laurence Tubiana, a French diplomat and key architect of the Paris accords. “The rest of the world is moving to a low-carbon future, but we need to collectively start moving even faster, and the US still has a significant global role to play in marshaling this effort.”Few countries are on track to fulfill commitments made in Paris five years ago to slash their planet-heating emissions and keep the global temperature rise to “well below” 2C of warming beyond the pre-industrial era. The world has already warmed by about 1C since this time, helping set in motion a cascade of heatwaves, fierce storms and flooding around the planet.Progress might have been different had Trump not triggered US withdrawal from the fight in 2017, complaining from the White House’s Rose Garden that the Paris deal “handicaps the United States economy in order to win praise from the very foreign capitals and global activists that have long sought to gain wealth at our country’s expense. They don’t put America first. I do, and I always will.”Tubiana conceded the “Trump administration’s dangerous anti-climate stance has had a negative impact on international climate efforts”, pointing to backsliding by the rightwing governments of Australia and Brazil, which have variously sought to downplay or dismiss the need to cut emissions more rapidly.Scientists say the world needs to halve its greenhouse gas emissions within the coming decade and essentially eliminate them by 2050 to avoid the worst ravages of the climate crisis. The four years that make up the span of the next US presidential term will be a crucial window of time in which emissions will have to be forced sharply downwards by major economies.Trump has shown no inclination to use the US’s hefty influence to aid this effort, instead using a recent UN speech to attack “China’s rampant pollution”, just minutes before the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, used the same forum to announce the world’s largest carbon emitter would peak its emissions before 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2060. There needs to be a “green recovery of the world economy in the post-Covid era”, Xi said in a speech broadly welcomed by environmentalists.To avoid the more dire versions of climate breakdown, the world will need to cut its emissions by about 7% each year this decade – a task that will only be achieved in 2020 due to a paralysis wrought by the pandemic that has shut down restaurants, factories, retailers, offices and other businesses.The prospects of achieving this steep challenge would dim further with another Trump term, with the US and China now openly trading insults over each other’s climate policies. “It would be pretty much game over for the international system if he’s re-elected,” said John Podesta, who advised Barack Obama on climate policy. “China would feel zero pressure to do more and it would dampen ambition around the world. We’d miss the chance to avoid warming at a catastrophic level.”The European Union has attempted to take up some of the climate leadership mantle that was forged for the US by Obama and then dumped under Trump. But diplomats see US engagement as crucial if meaningful progress is made at UN climate talks in Glasgow, shunted to next year due to the pandemic, where countries are due to explain how they are ramping up their climate efforts.“Who wins between Trump and Biden will be hugely significant,” said Peter Betts, a former British government civil servant who acted as chief EU negotiator in the Paris talks. “If it’s Biden, he will convene an international summit to talk about climate, with the subtext that he’s there to talk to China. He will lean on all of the US’s allies around the world – Japan, Australia, Canada - while the EU and UK will raise their ambitions anyway. So a crucial element will be some sort of understanding with China.”A Trump win, conversely, won’t completely sink the global climate effort, Betts said, but will lock in a longer, more damaging and more expensive resolution to the crisis. “If it’s Mr Trump, it’s going to be a harder path,” Betts said. “It’ll be harder for the EU to build momentum and harder to get other countries to do more if the world’s second largest emitter isn’t.”The world will “breathe a sigh of relief” if Biden wins, Podesta said, but the tangible impact will be minor if the former vice-president isn’t able to implement an ambitious $2tn plan to create millions of new jobs in renewable energy and eliminate emissions by 2050. “When Donald Trump thinks about climate change, he thinks ‘hoax’,” Biden has said, referencing the president’s infamous dismissal of climate science. “I think ‘jobs’.”In a US where the green economy employs 10 times as many people as the fossil fuel industry, Tesla’s market value has overtaken ExxonMobil’s and a pandemic-driven downturn has caused mass joblessness, Biden’s agenda polls well. But it would still be blocked if the US Senate is retained by Republicans who are largely opposed to climate action and have accused Democrats, without basis, of attempting to deprive Americans of hamburgers and flights in order to reduce emissions.“The main thing Biden has to do is get the US’s own house in order,” said Podesta. “He would rejoin Paris on day one or day two, but the US wouldn’t have much credibility of he can’t make progress on getting to zero carbon. It’s not just about showing up, it’s about what you do.”A victorious Biden would be warmly welcomed by other national leaders alarmed by the climate crisis, Tubiana said, but not much time would be spent celebrating the US’s return from the wilderness. “There is no turning back, the sun is setting on the fossil fuel industry,” she said. “In a year of undeniable climate impacts, the urgency of keeping warming below 2C has never been more clear.”

    Mon, 26 Oct 2020 02:30:15 -0400
  • Wary of angering public, Iran has few ways to contain virus

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    As coronavirus infections reached new heights in Iran this month, overwhelming its hospitals and driving up its death toll, the country’s health minister gave a rare speech criticizing his own government’s refusal to enforce basic health measures. “We asked for fines to be collected from anyone who doesn’t wear a mask,” Saeed Namaki said last week, referring to the government’s new mandate for Tehran, the capital. Namaki’s speech, lamenting the country’s “great suffering” and “hospitals full of patients,” clearly laid the blame for the virus’ resurgence at the government’s door — a stark contrast to the usual speeches from officials who point the finger at the public’s defiance of restrictions.

    Mon, 26 Oct 2020 02:03:36 -0400
  • Xi's big carbon promise on the table as China's leaders meet

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    China's Communist leadership will discuss Xi Jinping's ambitious carbon neutral pledge in talks that began Monday on the country's economic strategy for the next five years.

    Mon, 26 Oct 2020 02:01:28 -0400
  • Feeding Houston's hungry: 1M pounds of food daily for needy

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    In car lines that can stretch half a mile, (0.8 kilometers), workers who lost jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic and other needy people receive staggering amounts of food distributed by the Houston Food Bank. On some days, the hundreds of sites supplied by the country's largest food bank collectively get 1 million pounds. Among the ranks of recipients is unemployed construction worker Herman Henton, whose wife is a home improvement store worker and now the sole breadwinner for their family of five.

    Mon, 26 Oct 2020 02:00:03 -0400
  • Palestinian teen dies after West Bank chase by Israeli army

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    Mon, 26 Oct 2020 01:52:36 -0400
  • Trump to escalate campaigning as Biden steps up own travel

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    President Donald Trump plans to intensify an already breakneck travel schedule in the final full week of the presidential campaign, overlooking a surge of coronavirus cases in the U.S. and a fresh outbreak in his own White House. Trump is expected to hit nearly a dozen states in his last-ditch effort to recover ground from Democrat Joe Biden, including Sunday’s trip to Maine and Tuesday’s to Nebraska. Biden, too, plans to pick up his travel schedule, aiming to hit the six battleground states the campaign sees as key to his chances, some with socially distanced in-person events and others with virtual events.

    Mon, 26 Oct 2020 01:34:38 -0400
  • Australia asks Iran about report academic moved from prison

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    Australia is seeking information from Iran on reports that a British Australian academic who was convicted of espionage has been moved to a mystery location, the foreign minister said on Monday. Kylie Moore-Gilbert was a Melbourne University lecturer on Middle Eastern studies when she was arrested in Iran and sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2018. Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Australian Ambassador to Iran Lyndall Sachs had a consular visit with Moore-Gilbert at Qarchak “a short time ago" and Australian officials “are seeking further information” on the reports she had been moved.

    Mon, 26 Oct 2020 01:19:21 -0400
  • Early vote total exceeds 2016; GOP chips at Dems' advantage

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    With eight days before Election Day, more people already have cast ballots in this year's presidential election than voted early or absentee in the 2016 race as the start of in-person early voting in big states led to a surge in turnout in recent days. The opening of early voting locations in Florida, Texas and elsewhere has piled millions of new votes on top of the mail ballots arriving at election offices as voters try to avoid crowded places on Nov. 3 during the coronavirus pandemic. The result is a total of 58.6 million ballots cast so far, more than the 58 million that The Associated Press logged as being cast through the mail or at in-person early voting sites in 2016.

    Mon, 26 Oct 2020 00:43:22 -0400
  • Zeta likely hurricane before hitting Yucatan, heading for US

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    A strengthening Tropical Storm Zeta is expected to become a hurricane Monday as it heads toward the eastern end of Mexico's resort-dotted Yucatan Peninsula and then likely move on for a possible landfall on the central U.S. Gulf Coast at midweek. Zeta, which on Sunday became the earliest ever 27th named storm of the Atlantic season, was centered about 260 miles (420 kilometers) southeast of Cozumel island late Sunday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. It would then head into the Gulf of Mexico and approach the U.S. Gulf Coast by Wednesday, though it could weaken by then, the hurricane center said.

    Mon, 26 Oct 2020 00:21:19 -0400
  • Xi's carbon neutrality vow to reshape China's five-year plan

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    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 23:38:44 -0400
  • Follow in the footsteps of Yu Gong and cross the Taihang mountain in Jiyuan- the 1st Conference of International Hiking across Magnificent Taihang 2020 kicked off on 24 October

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    On October 24, the 1st Conference of International Hiking Across Magnificent Taihang 2020 kicked off in Jiyuan, the south starting point of the Taihang National Park Forest Trail. The event embodied the spirit of the speech delivered by Secretary General Xi Jinping during his visit to Henan and looked to strengthen the "Henan My Hometown" culture and tourism brand. In doing so, it highlighted the ecological environment of the magnificent Taihang mountain and brought the "Yu Gong Removes the Mountains" myth into the new era.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 22:23:00 -0400
  • Politics latest news: Matt Hancock hints at free school meals concession as he admits there is 'question' about best approach

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    Boris Johnson faces Tory revolt over free school meals Coronavirus latest news: Twelve-minute tests available in Boots 'within a fortnight' Brexit talks could see Merkel intervene after France refused fishing compromise MPs resort to office 'speakeasies' after Speaker shuts Commons' bars Nick Timothy: Brexit and Biden demand a bold new British foreign policy Subscribe to The Telegraph The Health Secretary has conceded there is a question about how England's poorest children are fed during school holidays, amid growing speculation that Number 10 is readying a concession. Matt Hancock defended the Government's position on free school meals today, saying "of course" ministers believed that "no child should go hungry", and that he had been inspired by the campaign led by England footballer Marcus Rashford. He told Sky News: "I agree very strongly with the purpose of the campaign... the purpose is that no child should go hungry. The question is how we fulfill that." During an interview with BBC Breakfast he dodged a question about whether central Government would hand local authorities more cash, repeatedly highlighting the £63m councils were given during the summer as being intended for this kind of support. He said it was "absolutely wonderful" that private businesses were supplying meals for children during the half-term break and "brilliant" that councils were coming forward - despite the vast majority of these organisations saying they were doing so because of Government failure. Tory councils including Hillingdon - which is in Boris Johnson's constituency - Medway and Wandsworth are among those stepping into the breach. It comes amid growing anger on the backbenches, with MPs being contacted by outraged constituents. Senior Tories including Bernard Jenkin and Caroline Nokes attacked Number 10's position over the weekend, while Labour has said it will table another motion for Christmas holidays if there is no U-turn.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 21:51:07 -0400
  • Philippines: Typhoon leaves 13 missing, displaces thousands

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    A fast-moving typhoon blew away from the Philippines on Monday after leaving at least 13 people missing, forcing thousands of villagers to flee to safety and flooding rural villages, disaster-response officials said. The 13 people missing from Typhoon Molave included a dozen fishermen who ventured out to sea over the weekend despite a no-sail restriction due to very rough seas. The typhoon was blowing west toward the South China Sea with sustained winds of 125 kilometers (77 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 150 kph (93 mph).

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 21:28:43 -0400
  • RPT-China to set five-year plan for steering economy through choppy waters

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    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 19:00:10 -0400
  • Early vote total exceeds 2016; GOP chips at Dems' advantage

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    With nine days before Election Day, more people already have cast ballots in this year's presidential election than voted early or absentee in the 2016 race as the start of in-person early voting in big states led to a surge in turnout in recent days. The opening of early voting locations in Florida, Texas and elsewhere has piled millions of new votes on top of the mail ballots arriving at election offices as voters try to avoid crowded places on Nov. 3 during the coronavirus pandemic. The result is a total of 58.6 million ballots cast so far, more than the 58 million that The Associated Press logged as being cast through the mail or at in-person early voting sites in 2016.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 18:05:42 -0400
  • Zero Hour Is Coming for Emissions. Believe It

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    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- It’s only natural to be skeptical when a political leader stands up and makes a promise about a target that’s far off, hard to achieve, and lacks a clear pathway.So one reaction to a report that Japan’s new prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, will pledge next week to reduce the country’s net carbon emissions to zero by 2050 might be: Really?After all, public and private Japanese banks are still funding new coal-fired power stations in Vietnam, Indonesia and Bangladesh, exploiting a loophole in Tokyo’s previous promise to reduce financing to such projects — a fact that’s causing some consternation among European investment funds.For all the publicity garnered by South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s Green New Deal and pledge last month of a 2050 net zero target, Korean engineering companies, too, are working with Japanese funders on Vietnam’s Vung Ang 2 coal plant.Chinese President Xi Jinping also garnered plenty of positive headlines last month for promising to bring the world’s largest emitter to net zero status by 2060 — but China still has 250 gigawatts of coal plants under development, more than the total existing fleets in India or the U.S.Doubts are warranted when so many nations are falling far short of their own climate pledges. At the same time, it can be pushed too far. The promises of political leaders have real-world effects that we’re already seeing. On the path to getting the binding and comprehensive emissions policies that the world needs, there will be plenty of partial, vague and unenforceable pledges. Each of them, though, sets a new baseline that will help create the conditions for further, more ambitious policies.Take the broadly accepted target that the world must stabilize atmospheric carbon dioxide at or below 450 parts per million. Until relatively recently, this was generally considered the most radical reasonable option.The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2001 synthesis of scientific research took 450ppm as the lower bound of a range of outcomes stretching up to 750ppm. The influential 2006 U.K. government review of the economics of climate change by Nicholas Stern advised aiming for 500ppm to 550ppm. That ambition was considered bold at the time but is now accepted as grossly inadequate. Similarly, limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius was rarely treated as a serious option until the 2015 Paris Agreement set a target “well below 2 degrees Celsius” at the behest of small island states that risk destruction from higher levels of warming.What target skeptics miss is the feedback relationship between the stated goals of political leaders and the behavior of investors, engineers and lower-level officials whose work will help decarbonize the economy.As should be obvious from the $3.5 billion a year spent on lobbying in the U.S. alone, the decisions of political leaders shape the field of what’s possible for businesses. When a politician embraces a net-zero ambition — and especially when, as in the European Union, those words are enshrined into law — the risks associated with carbon-intensive projects go up, while those associated with low-carbon technologies go down. That's particularly the case when, as we’re seeing, the path starts to be followed by leaders in multiple countries. Lower-carbon approaches then become more viable. That shift in the technological frontier in turn makes it easier for politicians to set still bolder targets, because the political and economic costs of doing so have declined.We’re seeing this sort of virtuous circle playing out. As we’ve written, the best guide to the path of power sector emissions in the 2010s wasn’t the International Energy Agency’s politics-as-usual scenario, but the one where radical action was taken to limit atmospheric carbon to 450ppm. Just over a month ago, I greeted PetroChina Co.’s announcement of a 2050 “near-zero” emissions target by fretting that China may be more addicted to coal than oil. That’s still a reasonable concern, but Xi’s 2060 net zero promise two weeks after that column drastically changes the landscape. Within weeks of that speech, influential Chinese academic research institutes have already released a range of roadmaps that would illustrate how to put those words into action, with coal falling from nearly 70% of primary energy at present to 10% or less in 2050.Any targets laid out by politicians will find themselves up against institutional inertia, unintended consequences and political pushback. That doesn’t make them worthless. Political rhetoric changes reality, and even a cursory examination of recent history shows you how quickly that can happen. Not one question was asked on the subject of climate during the 2016 U.S. presidential debates. This year, it’s been one of the most-discussed topics.Turning round an oil tanker takes time. That doesn't mean it’s impossible. This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.David Fickling is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering commodities, as well as industrial and consumer companies. He has been a reporter for Bloomberg News, Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and the Guardian.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.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 18:00:12 -0400
  • Azerbaijan and Armenia accuse each other of violating new ceasefire

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    Azerbaijan's defence ministry said on Monday that Armenian forces violated a ceasefire agreed on Sunday and shelled villages in Terter and Lachin regions. Nagorno-Karabakh defence ministry said it was "misinformation" and said that Azeri forces had launched a missile attack on Armenian military positions on the north-eastern side on the line of contact. Armenia and Azerbaijan had again agreed to respect a "humanitarian ceasefire" that was supposed to come into effect on Monday, the US State Department announced, after previous attempts to stem the bloodshed in the disputed region failed. World leaders have been scrambling for weeks to broker a truce, with Russian President Vladimir Putin estimating that close to 5,000 people have been killed so far in weeks of fighting over the mountainous province. Both an initial ceasefire negotiated by France and a second brokered by Russia have already broken down. The latest truce was supposed take effect at 8:00 am local time (04H00 GMT) on Monday, according to a joint statement from the US State Department and the so-called "Minsk" group attempting to bring a negotiated end to the conflict. Azerbaijan on Sunday welcomed the agreement in a statement from its ambassador to the US, Elin Suleymanov, while pointing the finger of blame at Armenia.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 17:47:04 -0400
  • FBI investigating fire set in Boston ballot drop box

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    A fire was set Sunday in a Boston ballot drop box holding more than 120 ballots in what Massachusetts election officials said appears to have been a “deliberate attack,” now under investigation by the FBI. The fire that was set around 4 a.m. in a ballot drop box outside the Boston Public Library downtown, Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin's office said.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 16:47:58 -0400
  • Brexit talks could see Merkel intervene after France refused fishing compromise

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    Brexit talks face a roadblock this week after France refused to compromise on fishing, with Government sources hoping Angela Merkel will intervene to break the impasse. Sources close to the negotiations said that Emmanuel Macron was refusing to soften his stance and had adopted an “egregious” position on the issue. The UK has proposed adopting a similar arrangement to Norway, whereby fishing quotas would be agreed annually in shared fishing zones. However, sources said that Brussels negotiators, under pressure from France, have “not moved at all” leading to fresh deadlock. The Government hopes the German Chancellor will manage to persuade the French President to budge. A Whitehall source said: “We are relatively optimistic but that doesn’t mean it won’t end in tears. Fisheries is the biggest thing. We are hoping Merkel can unlock Macron on fisheries.”

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 15:45:49 -0400
  • Californians see power shutoffs as winds, fire danger rise

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    Hundreds of thousands of Californians lost power as utilities sought to prevent the chance of their equipment sparking wildfires and the fire-weary state braced for a new bout of dry, windy weather. More than 1 million people were expected be in the dark Monday during what officials have said could be the strongest wind event in California this year. It's the fifth time this year that Pacific Gas & Electric, the nation's largest utility, has cut power to customers in a bid to reduce the risk that downed or fouled power lines or other equipment could ignite a blaze during bone-dry weather conditions and gusty winds.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 15:08:53 -0400
  • Israel to begin human trials of coronavirus vaccine

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    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 15:01:54 -0400
  • UN: 11 migrants drown off Libya; third shipwreck in week

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    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 14:31:00 -0400
  • Tory MPs want a pandemic equivalent of the European Research Group

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    Tory MPs are moving to set up the coronavirus equivalent of the European Research Group (ERG) if the Government fails to come up with a “plan B” to tackle the pandemic. Steve Baker, a former chair of the ERG, which led the Brexit backbench rebellions, is being urged by as many as 90 Tory MPs to adopt the same approach to put the case for an alternative strategy to perpetual lockdowns. It is understood there are businesses and groups outside Parliament willing to fund a “proper operation” to act as a counterweight to the scientific and medical advisers seen as holding sway over large sections of the Government. Prime Minister Boris Johnson (below), defended his coronavirus strategy last week:

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 13:46:33 -0400
  • Health experts question Pence campaigning as essential work

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    Health policy specialists questioned White House officials' claim that federal rules on essential workers allow Vice President Mike Pence to continue to campaign and not quarantine himself after being exposed to the coronavirus. Campaigning is not an official duty that might fall under the guidelines meant to ensure that police, first responders and key transportation and food workers can still perform jobs that cannot be done remotely, the health experts said. A Pence aide said Sunday that the vice president would continue to work and travel, including for campaigning, after his chief of staff and some other close contacts tested positive.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 13:33:34 -0400
  • Sudan says it will discuss trade, migration with Israel

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    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 13:27:38 -0400
  • Black D.C. archbishop's rise marks a historic moment

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    Washington D.C. Archbishop Wilton Gregory is set to become the first Black U.S. prelate to assume the rank of cardinal in the Catholic Church, a historic appointment that comes months after nationwide demonstrations against racial injustice. Gregory’s ascension, announced on Sunday by Pope Francis alongside 12 other newly named cardinals, elevates a leader who has drawn praise for his handling of the sexual abuse scandal that has roiled the church. The 72-year-old Gregory, ordained in his native Chicago in 1973, took over leadership of the capital’s archdiocese last year after serving as archbishop of Atlanta since 2005.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 12:54:22 -0400
  • AP PHOTOS: New virus curfew brings silence to Milan streets

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    After 11 p.m., Milan is a ghost town. Milan, Italy's business hub and the capital of the wealthy Lombardy region, has seen the sharpest rise in infections as the coronavirus once again is spreading out of control. In its latest update, the Health Ministry reported Saturday that more than 1,127 COVID-19 patients were in ICUs across Italy, including 213 in Lombardy.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 11:21:03 -0400
  • Foreign students show less zeal for US since Trump took over

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    On a recruiting trip to India’s tech hub of Bangalore, Alan Cramb, the president of a reputable Chicago university, answered questions not just about dorms or tuition but also American work visas. The session with parents fell in the chaotic first months of Donald Trump’s presidency. After an inaugural address proclaiming “America first,” two travel bans, a suspended refugee program and hints at restricting skilled worker visas widely used by Indians, parents doubted their children’s futures in the U.S.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 11:13:16 -0400
  • UK military seizes tanker that reported violent stowaways

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    The U.K. military seized control of an oil tanker that dropped anchor in the English Channel after reporting Sunday it had seven stowaways on board who had become violent. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel authorized the action in response to a police request, the British Ministry of Defense said.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 11:05:05 -0400
  • For transgender activists, election stokes hopes and fears

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    “The stakes are extremely high,” said Shannon Minter, a transgender attorney with the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “It seems clear that President Trump intends to use the full power of the presidency and the executive branch to inflict maximum damage on the transgender community.”

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 10:02:09 -0400
  • Minority communities question election-year push by EPA

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    Theresa Landrum lives in southwest Detroit, where residents complain frequently about dirty air. Landrum, a Black retiree from General Motors and a longtime anti-pollution activist, wasn't impressed when Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew Wheeler recently pledged $200,000 to promote “community health initiatives” in her section of the city during his blitz of visits to battleground states in the presidential election campaign. Under President Donald Trump, the EPA has slashed support for some some programs and regulatory protections benefiting disadvantaged communities.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 09:59:34 -0400
  • British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert detained in Iran moved out of desert prison

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    Kylie Moore-Gilbert, the British-Australian academic who has been detained in Iran for the past two years, has been moved from the notorious desert prison of Qarchak to an unknown location. Her move was first reported by the Iranian Association of Human Rights Activists, who said that she was moved, along with all of her belongings, on Saturday. A source close to the case confirmed the move, but did not know any further details. There has been no official word from the Iranian government. Dr Moore-Gilbert, a lecturer in Islamic Studies, was arrested for espionage after attending a conference in Qom in 2018. She was charged in a secret trial and given 10 years imprisonment. Both Dr Moore-Gilbert and the Australian government reject the charges, which they say are politically motivated. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards claim that someone she interviewed for a research project flagged her as suspicious so they stopped her from returning to Melbourne. Qarchak prison, in the desert on the eastern outskirts of Tehran, has a reputation for being the most dangerous of the country’s women’s prisons. Dr Moore-Gilbert had been moved from Evin prison in Tehran to Qarchak in August, which activists at the time believed to be a “punishment”. It was not immediately clear where Dr Moore-Gilbert has been taken. Just 11 days prior to her movement she had been transferred to Ward Eight (formerly known as the Mothers’ Ward) of Qarchak, alongside at least 15 other political prisoners. While those campaigning for her release see her move as a sign of hope, not knowing where the mystery location she has been sent to or the reason behind the move, gives little to base it on.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 09:43:51 -0400
  • Nigeria protests: Police chief deploys 'all resources' amid street violence

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    The shooting of unarmed protesters this week sparked the worst street violence in two decades.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 09:43:46 -0400
  • Black contractor braves threats in removing Richmond statues

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    Devon Henry paced in nervous anticipation, because this was a project like nothing he’d ever done. An accomplished Black businessman, Henry took on a job the city says others were unwilling to do: lead contractor for the now-completed removal of 14 pieces of Confederate statuary that dotted Virginia’s capital city. “You did it, man,” said Rodney Henry.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 09:07:08 -0400
  • Tear gas fired as thousands mark one year of Iraq protests

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    Thousands of people took to Iraq’s streets on Sunday to mark one year since mass anti-government demonstrations swept the country, with police firing tear gas in central Baghdad to stop protesters from crossing strategic bridges and both sides reporting injuries. Protesters marched in the capital and several southern cities — including Najaf, Nasiriyah and Basra — to renew demands for an end to corruption by Iraq's political establishment. When dozens of protesters attempted to scale cement barriers on Jumhuriya and Sinak bridges, security forces fired tear gas to disperse the crowds.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 08:21:42 -0400
  • Israeli government approves Bahrain normalization deal

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    The Israeli Cabinet approved the normalization deal with the Arab Gulf state of Bahrain on Sunday, a week after the two countries agreed to establish formal diplomatic ties. The deal next requires ratification by the Knesset, Israel’s 120-seat parliament. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the government ministers green-lit “preparation of peaceful, diplomatic and friendly relations between the state of Israel and the Kingdom of Bahrain.”

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 08:15:53 -0400
  • Despite Trump, Election-Security Effort Is Robust

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    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 08:00:16 -0400
  • Malaysia's king rejects PM's proposal to declare emergency

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    Malaysia's king on Sunday rejected a proposal by embattled Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to declare a state of emergency to fight a new outbreak of the coronavirus. The plan by Muhyiddin, which involves suspending Parliament, has sparked national outrage, with critics slamming the move as an undemocratic means for him to hang on to power amid challenges to his leadership. The palace said in a statement that Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah “is of the opinion that there is currently no need for His Majesty to declare a state of emergency in this country or any part of Malaysia."

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 07:54:50 -0400
  • Pope names 13 new cardinals, including 1st Black US prelate

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    Pope Francis on Sunday named 13 new cardinals, including Washington D.C. Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who would become the first Black U.S. prelate to earn the coveted red hat. In a surprise announcement from his studio window to faithful standing below in St. Peter’s Square, Francis said the churchmen would be elevated to a cardinal’s rank in a ceremony on Nov. 28. Francis asked for prayers so the new cardinals “may help me in my ministry as bishop of Rome for the good of all God's faithful holy people.”

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 07:31:21 -0400
  • Iraqis rally to revive year-old revolt against the system

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    Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets Sunday on the first anniversary of a revolt against a political system failing to deliver basic services and against the growing influence of pro-Iran militias.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 07:18:46 -0400
  • Seychelles election: Wavel Ramkalawan in landmark win

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    The opposition wins the presidency for the first time since independence from the UK.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 07:12:12 -0400
  • At least 14 civilians killed by booby traps in Egypt’s Sinai

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    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 07:01:06 -0400
  • Thai protesters rally ahead of parliamentary debate

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    Thousands of pro-democracy protesters gathered in Thailand's capital again on Sunday, seeking to keep up pressure on the government a day before a special session of Parliament that was called to try to ease political tensions. The rally took place at the busy Rajprasong intersection, in the heart of Bangkok's shopping district. Few protesters turned out in the first hour of the rally, but their numbers later swelled to several thousand, who listened to rude denunciations of the government in chants, speeches and even songs.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 06:23:35 -0400
  • Putin's troubles

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    Holed up in his mansion, Russia's authoritarian leader is facing serious challenges both at home and abroad. Here's everything you need to know: Why is Putin in trouble? Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed to have achieved his wildest dream in the 2016 U.S. election, when the Russia-friendly Donald Trump narrowly won the presidency while benefiting from a concerted Kremlin campaign to hack and release Democratic emails and sow disinformation. Similar Russian interference helped bolster nationalist parties in Europe, including those that supported Britain's exit from the EU. While the former KGB agent succeeded in weakening Western democracies and dividing NATO, Russia itself has not materially benefited from his interference in other countries' politics. U.S. sanctions damaged the Russian economy and badly hurt the oligarchs on whom Putin depends. Over the past six months, plunging oil prices and coronavirus shutdowns have deepened the damage, leaving the Russian economy crippled. At home, a botched attempt on dissident Alexei Navalny's life has galvanized the opposition, while abroad, unrest in former Soviet countries — which Moscow considers its sphere of influence — is mounting.What unrest? Moscow is worried about the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the ethnic-Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. Russia has sizable minorities of both Armenians and Azerbaijanis, as well as a mutual defense pact with Armenia, while Turkey is openly supporting Azerbaijan. Putin has called for a cease-fire but has refused to get involved. In Kyrgyzstan, anti-government protesters last week toppled the pro-Russian president, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, just two weeks after Putin, in a rare in-person meeting, promised to "do everything to support you as head of state." Most threatening is the uprising in Belarus, a country that Russia is bound to in a nominal federal union. Putin's support for longtime President Alexander Lukashenko, accused of rigging his re-election, has alienated many Belarusians. Huge weekly protests against Lukashenko show no sign of letting up, and Putin's nightmare is that the protests could embolden his own opponents.Who are Putin's opponents? In June, Russia changed its constitution to allow Putin, who has governed since 1999, the ability to run for two more terms — effectively making him a czar and abandoning all pretense of democracy. That amendment, Tatiana Stanovaya told Foreign Policy, signals a new era in Putin's rule that is "much more conservative, less tolerant, more repressive." The following month, Sergei Furgal, the popular governor of the far-eastern region of Khabarovsk, was arrested on politically motivated charges, and the region erupted in weeks of protest. Days later, Navalny released an investigative report on his blog detailing the corruption and vast wealth of Putin's envoy to the far-east regions, Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Trutnev, further inflaming anti-Kremlin sentiment there. That may have been the impetus for Putin to attempt to kill Navalny. On Aug. 20, the activist was poisoned with an even deadlier strain of the banned nerve agent Novichok that almost killed double agent Sergei Skripal in London in 2018.Why go after Navalny? Russia has long been "a country where members of the opposition die violently," says Sam Greene, the director of the Russia Institute at King's College London. Navalny has been a particularly irritating and dangerous opponent. His popular blog and YouTube videos, slickly produced and wryly comical, have exposed in startling detail how top Kremlin officials, including Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, amassed vast wealth through corrupt dealings. Lately he has begun organizing strategies for "smart voting," helping the opposition solidify around whichever candidate has the best chance against the Kremlin. His poisoning brought more EU sanctions, further hurting the economy.How badly off is Russia's economy? Western sanctions have erased more than 6 percent of Russian GDP since the 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. This year alone, the ruble has lost 20 percent of its value. Russia is largely dependent on oil and gas sales, and the plunge in global oil prices — exacerbated by a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia — has cost it tens of billions in revenue. The pandemic is delivering another major blow. Putin lifted the country's shutdown in May, and the virus has spread rapidly, giving Russia the fourth-highest total of infections in the world. Poverty and hunger are widespread. "There is mounting internal discontent, to say the least, over the economy," economist Igor Nikolayev told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. "I have the feeling that this is going to make authorities increasingly nervous, and the risk of a domestic crackdown is becoming greater."What about the U.S. election? U.S. intelligence warns that Putin is again interfering on the side of Trump, using "a range of measures" to spread disinformation about Joe Biden and his son Hunter and to undermine confidence in the validity of the vote. Yet given the Democrat's lead in the polls, Moscow is also preparing for a Biden win. State TV openly mocks Trump as Putin's poodle, while Putin himself has begun extending overtures to Biden, praising him for supporting an extension of the New START arms treaty. That is "a very serious element," said Putin, "of our potential collaboration in the future."The pandemic in Russia Infections are soaring in Russia, which now has more than 1.4 million cases and is adding some 15,000 a day. Officially, the death toll is 24,000 people, likely a severe undercount. Yet limits on gatherings are few, and schools have reopened. Masks and gloves are required on the Moscow subway, but shops and restaurants are open almost as usual, with workplaces instructed to require just 30 percent of employees to work remotely. Having failed to contain the virus, Russia is pinning its hopes on vaccines. It has already approved two different vaccines for large-scale trials and is using them before the trials have ended. Putin, meanwhile, is taking no chances. He has sequestered himself at his palatial mansion outside of Moscow and sees only visitors who have quarantined for at least two weeks. Even then, the Kremlin has said, everyone who is granted an audience with Putin must first pass through a "disinfection tunnel" that sprays visitors with a fine mist of chemicals.This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.More stories from theweek.com Trump loses on the merits Who won the final 2020 debate? Call it a draw. Get ready for Trump TV, America

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 05:55:02 -0400
  • Egyptians vote in second day of parliamentary elections

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    Egyptians on Sunday trickled into polling stations on the second day of voting for the country’s parliamentary election, amid a slight uptick in daily recorded coronavirus cases. The vote is likely to produce a toothless House of Representatives packed with supporters of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi that further rubber-stamps his policies, leaving the former military general with almost unchecked powers. A trickle of voters wearing face masks were seen in five polling stations visited by The Associated Press in the city of Giza, part of the Greater Cairo area and home to the famed Great Pyramids, with turnout relatively higher than Saturday’s vote.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 05:20:00 -0400
  • Lithuania holds parliamentary vote as pandemic hits jobs

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    Lithuanians voted Sunday in a parliamentary runoff where the winner will have to tackle a growing health crisis and high unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic. In Sunday's second round, 68 of the 141 seats in Lithuania’s legislative assembly, the Seimas, are up for grabs. The other seats were allotted after the first round, which saw the conservative Homeland Union party winning 23 seats, or 24.8% of the vote, while the ruling Farmers and Greens party only grabbed 16 seats, or 17.5%.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 04:56:58 -0400
  • Afghanistan claims killing an al-Qaida leader wanted by FBI

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    Afghanistan claimed Sunday it killed a top al-Qaida propagandist on an FBI most-wanted list during an operation in the country's east, showing the militant group's continued presence there as U.S. forces work to withdraw from America's longest-running war amid continued bloodshed. The reported death of Husam Abd al-Rauf, also known by the nom de guerre Abu Muhsin al-Masri, follows weeks of violence, including a suicide bombing by the Islamic State group Saturday at an education center near Kabul that killed 24 people. Meanwhile, the Afghan government continues to fight Taliban militants even as peace talks in Qatar between the two sides take place for the first time.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 03:37:28 -0400
  • Ukraine's local elections test leader and his young party

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    Ukrainians were voting Sunday in local elections that are considered a test for President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a former comedian who took office last year vowing to bring peace, uproot endemic corruption and shore up a worsening economy. Zelenskiy was elected president by a landslide in April 2019 after campaigning on promises to end fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists in the country's east. Despite his lack of prior political experience, he quickly cemented his grip on power by calling a parliamentary election that resulted in his party winning a strong majority.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 03:23:58 -0400
  • India's festive season spawns fears of renewed virus surge

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    Just weeks after India fully opened up from a harsh lockdown and began to modestly turn a corner by cutting new coronavirus infections by near half, a Hindu festival season is raising fears that a fresh surge could spoil the hard-won gains. “I’d be very worried about what we are going to see in India,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health and a leading infectious disease expert. The festivals draw tens and thousands of people, packed together shoulder-to-shoulder in temples, shopping districts and family gatherings, leading to concerns among health experts who warn of a whole new cascade of infections, further testing and straining India’s battered health care system.

    Sun, 25 Oct 2020 03:19:25 -0400
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