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By Joshua Berlinger, CNN

(CNN) As much of the world struggles to contain new waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, Taiwan just marked its 200th consecutive day without a locally transmitted case of the disease. Taipei's response to the coronavirus pandemic has been one of the world's most effective. The island of 23 million people last reported a locally transmitted case on April 12, which was Easter Sunday. As of Thursday, it had confirmed 553 cases -- only 55 of which were local transmissions. Seven deaths have been recorded.

Easter was an important milestone in the United States because President Donald Trump had said a month earlier he wanted the country "opened up and just raring to go" by the holiday. At that point, 1.7 million people had been infected and 110,000 had been killed by the virus -- globally. On Friday, those figures had passed 45 million cases and more than 1.1 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. more...

By Sharon Braithwaite and Eoin McSweeney, CNN

(CNN) At least 140 migrants have drowned off Senegal in the deadliest shipwreck recorded this year, the United Nations migration agency said in a statement Thursday. The vessel was carrying about 200 people, according to the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) statement. It added that, "according to media sources, the Senegalese and Spanish navies, and fishermen who were nearby rescued 59 people and retrieved the remains of 20 others."

According to the IOM, the boat was bound for Spain's Canary Islands but caught fire a few hours after departing Mbour, a coastal town in western Senegal, before capsizing near Saint-Louis, on the country's northwest coast. "The IOM is deeply saddened by this recent tragedy, which follows four shipwrecks recorded in the Central Mediterranean last week and another in the English Channel," the statement said. The number of migrant boat departures from West Africa to the Canary Islands has more than quadrupled this year to 11,000, according to IOM estimates. more...

Three people were killed at the Notre Dame Basilica.
By Alex Ward

The killing of three people in southern France on Thursday has been deemed a terrorist attack by French officials — and it looks to be related to the country’s ongoing controversy over the public display of cartoons depicting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad and the government’s general approach toward Islam. Around 9 am local time Thursday in Nice, an assailant used a knife to kill three people, two women and a man, at the Notre-Dame Basilica. One of the women died inside the church, as did the man; the second woman “fled to a nearby bar but was mortally wounded,” according to the AP.

Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi told reporters he believes the attack was perpetrated by an Islamist extremist. “He cried ‘Allah Akbar!’ over and over, even after he was injured” by police, Estrosi said. (“Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” is a common expression used by Muslims, especially during prayers.) “The meaning of his gesture left no doubt,” Estrosi added. The suspect is now in custody and has been hospitalized.

Two other incidents occurred on Thursday, the same day some Muslims observe Mawlid, a celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. In Montfavet, also in southern France, a man was shot dead after threatening police with a handgun; in Saudi Arabia, a guard outside the French consulate in Jeddah was stabbed. The guard was hospitalized but his condition remains stable, the French embassy in Riyadh said in a statement, and the suspect has been arrested. more...

CBS News

At least 140 migrants trying to reach Europe drowned off the coast of Senegal when their boat caught fire and capsized, a U.N. agency said on Thursday. It marked the deadliest shipwreck recorded in 2020, and happened along a route where at least 414 people have now died this year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in a news release.

The vessel bound for the Canary Islands reportedly ran into trouble a few hours after leaving the coastal town of Mbour, the IOM said. The boat caught fire and capsized near Saint-Louis, on Senegal's northwest coast. The IOM, citing local media sources, said the Senegalese and Spanish navies as well as fishermen who were nearby were able to rescue 59 people and recover the bodies of 20 others. The remaining passengers were lost and presumed dead. more...

Heard on All Things Considered
Greg Myre

During 26 years at the CIA, Marc Polymeropoulos spent a lot of time in rough places, like war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. But he never suffered any harm until December 2017, when he was sound asleep at a Marriott Hotel in Moscow near the U.S. Embassy. "I was awoken in the middle of the night," recalled Polymeropoulos, 51. "I just had incredible vertigo, dizziness. I wanted to throw up. The room was spinning. I couldn't even stand up without falling down. I had tinnitus ringing in my ears."

He suspected a bad case of food poisoning and carried on with his 10-day trip. The visit included meetings with senior Russian intelligence officials, a common practice despite the long history of tense relations between the two countries and their spy agencies. But a second bout hit a few days later. Polymeropoulos canceled his remaining meetings and felt fortunate to make it back onto a plane to the U.S.

At the time, Polymeropoulos was settling into a new, senior position at CIA headquarters. After many years in the Middle East, he had become the agency's No. 2 official for clandestine operations in Europe, including Russia. But a couple of months after he returned from his Moscow trip, in February 2018, he began suffering crippling migraines that still plague him constantly. "I started this kind of an incredible journey of seeing multiple doctors, multiple MRIs and CT scans and X-rays," said Polymeropoulos, whose story was first reported in GQ magazine. "Ultimately a neurologist diagnosed me with occipital neuralgia." more...

BBC

Russian air strikes in northern Syria have killed more than 50 Turkish-backed militia fighters in the mainly rebel-held province of Idlib, reports say. Many others were wounded in the attack, which marks an escalation of violence in the region. A training base for an Islamist group called Faylaq al-Sham was hit. The assault puts at risk a ceasefire in Idlib, brokered and monitored by Russia and Turkey, which back opposite sides in the war. UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the number of dead at 78.

Some of the wounded were in a serious condition, and the death toll was likely to rise, the Observatory added. It described the attack - in the Harem region north-west of Idlib city - as the deadliest since the ceasefire came into force in March. The truce brought to a halt a Syrian government offensive on the region which had displaced almost a million people, and has largely held since then. When the ceasefire was announced, Turkey said it reserved the right to "retaliate with all its strength" against any attack by forces allied to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. more...

By Jarkko Sipilä

Helsinki, Finland (CNN) The confidential records of thousands of psychotherapy patients in Finland have been hacked and some are now facing the threat of blackmail. Authorities are working to track down those patients who received emails threatening to disclose personal information unless the recipient pays the blackmailer. Some of the records have already leaked online. Finnish police are working with other agencies to investigate the data breach that targeted Vastaamo, the country's largest private psychotherapy center, which treats roughly 40,000 patients across the country. "We are grateful for how various actors in society have helped the police," said Marko Leponen, a detective inspector at Finland's National Bureau of Investigation. "It is particularly great that citizens are urging all not to share this material on social media. Sharing such information fulfills the essential elements of an offence," he added. more...

The hacking group, Energetic Bear, is among Russia’s stealthiest. It appears to be casting a wide net to find useful targets ahead of the election, experts said.
By Nicole Perlroth

Cybersecurity officials watched with growing alarm in September as Russian state hackers started prowling around dozens of American state and local government computer systems just two months before the election. The act itself did not worry them so much — officials anticipated that the Russians who interfered in the 2016 election would be back — but the actor did. The group, known to researchers as “Dragonfly” or “Energetic Bear” for its hackings of the energy sector, was not involved in 2016 election hacking. But it has in the past five years breached the power grid, water treatment facilities and even nuclear power plants, including one in Kansas.

It also hacked into Wi-Fi systems at San Francisco International Airport and at least two other West Coast airports in March in an apparent bid to find one unidentified traveler, a demonstration of the hackers’ power and resolve. September’s intrusions marked the first time that researchers caught the group, a unit of Russia’s Federal Security Service, or F.S.B., targeting states and counties. The timing of the attacks so close to the election and the potential for disruption set off concern inside private security firms, law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

“One possible explanation is that they are calling in the real pros — the A Team — who is used to operating in this really sensitive critical infrastructure where you want to keep quiet until you don’t,” said Suzanne Spaulding, the former under secretary for cybersecurity and critical infrastructure at the Department of Homeland Security. more...

Dimity Hawkins

With a 50th nation ratifying it, the treaty outlawing nuclear weapons for all countries will come into force in 90 days. Nuclear weapons will soon be illegal. Just over 75 years since their devastation was first unleashed on the world, the global community has rallied to bring into force a ban through the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Late on Saturday night in New York, the 50th country – the central American nation of Honduras – ratified the treaty. It will become international law in 90 days.

For many across the Pacific region, this is a momentous achievement and one that has been long called for. Over the second half of the 20th century 315 nuclear weapons tests were conducted by so-called “friendly” or colonising forces in the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Australia and Maohi Nui (French Polynesia). The United States, Britain and France used largely colonised lands to test their nuclear weapons, leaving behind not only harmful physical legacies but psychological and political scars as well. Survivors of these tests and their descendants have continued to raise their voices against these weapons. They are vocal resisters and educators, the reluctant but intense knowledge holders of the nuclear reality of our region. more...

by Joshua J. McElwee - People - Vatican

Rome — Analysis of a clip in a new documentary in which Pope Francis expresses support for civil union laws for same-sex couples appears to indicate some of the pontiff's words came from an earlier interview in which he also clearly said he does not approve of gay sexual relationships. The clip in the new film, which is titled "Francesco" and premiered in Rome Oct. 21, seems to have been taken from a previous interview given to a TV journalist in 2019. Although Francis did say in that television interview, as shown in the documentary, that gay people are "children of God" and "have a right to be part of the family," the pope also added:

"That does not mean approving of homosexual acts, not in the least." In the documentary, Francis also suggests that civil union laws may provide a way for countries to protect the legal rights of persons in same-sex relationships. Report of those comments ignited a wave of intense reaction across the U.S., with celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres praising the pope and several bishops issuing statements to tamp down expectations that official church teaching on gay relationships had changed. At least part of the clip in question from the new film appears to be a reusing of material from journalist Valentina Alazraki's interview with Francis for the Mexican TV network Televisa, which aired in May 2019. more...

By Delia Gallagher, CNN

(CNN) Pope Francis has declared support for civil unions for same-sex couples for the first time, according to the Catholic News Agency.
The Pope made the historic remarks in a new documentary film, "Francesco," which was released in Rome on Wednesday. more...

The puny insect can withstand forces 39,000 times its body weight. Scientists just discovered its super-strength secret—which could inspire new materials.

The field of entomology is built on the humble pin: Biologists venture into grasslands and forests, scoop up insects, euthanize them, and pin them onto the trays that make up natural history collections in museums and universities, thus immortalizing the specimens for future scientists to examine. But the diabolical ironclad beetle—its actual name, though it’s more formally known as Phloeodes diabolicus—will suffer no such indignity. Native to the southwestern US, it’s known as a “pin-bender,” an insect so tough that when biologists try to drive a pin through its black, bumpy shell, the puny metal gives way. It’s so tough that entomologists have to drill a hole through it first, then drive the stake through. Which is an extra indignity, come to think of it.

The diabolical ironclad beetle is so tough, in fact, that if you run one over with a car, it just walks away. It can withstand forces 39,000 times its body weight. To actually crush this beetle requires 150 newtons of force, which, if you don’t speak fluent physics, is 7.5 times stronger than the force you can muster squeezing something between your thumb and index finger. For University of California, Irvine, materials scientist David Kisailus, the diabolical ironclad beetle isn’t just a curiosity—it’s inspiration. Kisailus and his colleagues are today publishing a paper in the journal Nature decoding at least part of the mystery of how the beetle can manage such feats of strength. Namely, natural selection has invented an ingenious structure that keeps the insect from flattening, a structure that Kisailus has begun to mine for inspiration to engineer new super-strong materials. “We're pretty stoked, because we think we can go to aircraft, automotive, sporting good industries with this kind of design,” says Kisailus. more...

Silvia Amaro

Sterling jumped more than 0.8% against the U.S. dollar on Wednesday after the EU signaled that a trade deal with the U.K. is still possible. “Despite the difficulties we’ve faced, an agreement is within reach if both sides are willing to work constructively, if both sides are willing to compromise and if we are able to make progress in the next few days on the basis of legal texts and if we are ready over the next few days to resolve the sticking points, the trickiest subjects,” the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier told the European Parliament.

His comment provided traders with some optimism that a trade deal between the U.K. and the EU will be reached even though their negotiations have been stuck over the same three issues for months. On Friday, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson struck a gloomy tone when warning exporters to prepare for a no deal with the EU. A spokesperson for the government went further on the same day saying that European negotiators did not need to travel to London this week if the EU wouldn’t change its approach to the talks. more...

Holly Ellyatt

Despite some tough sanctions and even tougher criticism, Russia has not topped America’s foreign policy priorities under President Donald Trump, who has appeared to have a congenial relationship with his counterpart Vladimir Putin. However, that could all change if Democrat nominee Joe Biden wins the November 3 election, according to experts, who are weighing up the implications of a Biden presidency on U.S.-Russia relations.

At the very least, analysts expect that a victory for Biden would increase tensions between Washington and Moscow, and would raise the probability of new sanctions on Russia. The country is already operating under international sanctions on some key sectors and Russian officials close to Putin, for actions including its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, interference in the U.S. election in 2016 and reported involvement in a nerve agent attack in the U.K. in 2018.

Mutual distrust
Andrius Tursa, central and eastern Europe advisor at Teneo Intelligence, said a win for Biden would improve transatlantic ties between the U.S. and Europe and would see “a renewed U.S. commitment to NATO” that would be welcomed by Europe. However he also said such a result would mean “mostly downsides for Russia,” citing a recent history of mutual distrust and acrimonious relations between the Kremlin and U.S. Democrats. “In general, a potential Biden presidency would be negative for Moscow and likely lead to a further deterioration of bilateral relations, both in terms of rhetoric and substance. The Democratic Party’s candidate has long maintained a tough stance towards President Vladimir Putin’s administration,” Tursa said in a note Friday. more...


Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s historic move from the royal family has turned into international hot gossip and even after seven months, continues to spark speculations and reports. Per this new report by Battle of Brothers author Robert Lacey, the royal family could not handle the two ‘rock stars’ that were able to ‘overshadow both William and Kate’, thus ended up ‘edging him and Meghan out’.

Lacey went on to say that this extreme overshadowing and downright cruelty ended up becoming the catalyst that caused Prince Harry to hoard resentment against the Firm. Resentment that only seemed to increase after Meghan joined the fold and ended up stealing attention away from more senior family members.

Lacey was quoted telling the Daily Mail, “The British royal system can be very cruel, and it's particularly cruel to the spare. Harry came to realize in his teens that he was typecast as the court jester, the number two.” During the course of his interview, the author also admitted that the royal family has had a bad history with royal spares. From the kind of treatment Princess Margaret received, to Prince Andrew and now Prince Harry, “They start off in the public eye as playmates, as co-stars with the heir.” more...

VLADIMIR Putin's Russia is seen as the prime suspect after dozens of US diplomats in Moscow, China and elsewhere fell ill with symptoms consistent with the use of bombardment with microwave radiation.
By Ciaran McGrath

And evidence suggests some sort of sonic weapon could also be responsible for the illness, which has affected than dozens of US officials in several countries. State Department employee Mark Lenzi and his wife suffered lightheadedness, headaches and insomnia, while their children experienced bloody noses, while they were based in Guangzhou in 2018.

Initially he thought it could have been the high levels of pollution in the Chinese city - but he also found himself suffering memory loss, and associated the symptoms with a strange sound which came at night, the New York Times reported. The mysterious illness is strikingly similar to one which afflicted diplomats and spies at the American Embassy in Cuba in 2016 and 2017, which came to be referred to as Havana Syndrome. On that occasion, US President Donald Trump pulled out most staff and issued a travel warning, saying US diplomats had been the victims of "targeted attacks", although Cuba denied any involvement. more...

US indictment of operatives, accused of launching several attacks, gives a detailed account of how they went about their business
Julian Borger in Washington

The Sandworm team of Russian military intelligence, alleged to have unleashed computer chaos against the Kremlin’s enemies around the world, is said to operate out of a blue-tinted glass skyscraper known simply as “the tower”. From that address, 22 Kirova Street in the Moscow suburb of Khimki, the Sandworm hackers, also known more prosaically as the unit 74455 and “the main centre for special technologies”, launched attacks on the Ukrainian power system, Emmanuel Macron’s presidential bid in France in 2017, the South Korean Olympics in 2018 and the UK investigation into the 2018 Russian nerve agent attack in Salisbury.

According to cyber security experts, the same unit was involved in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s election campaign in 2016, disguised as a hacktivist group dubbed Fancy Bear. On Monday, US and UK authorities accused the unit of planning a cyberattack on the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo. They did not just cause confusion and inconvenience. Quite apart from their alleged role in the rise of Donald Trump, they are accused of depriving hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians of light and heat in the middle of winter, and closing down the computer systems of a major Pennsylvania hospital.

Their exploits are a foretaste of unconstrained cyber warfare might look like in the real world. The US indictment of six Sandworm operatives, all GRU military intelligence officers, gives a detailed account of how they went about their business. In preparation for the attack on the Olympics they studied the tactics and style of their North Korean counterparts, the Lazarus group, so they could mimic them and throw suspicion on Pyongyang. more...

Brendan Morrow, The Week

The Department of Justice has announced charges against six Russian intelligence officers in connection with a series of majorly "disruptive and destructive" cyberattacks. The DOJ on Monday said that a federal grand jury had indicted six Russian computer hackers, officers of the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), for their role in a series of "computer intrusions and attacks" conducted from 2015 through 2019 "for the strategic benefit of Russia." This allegedly included malware attacks against Ukraine's electric power grid, as well as efforts to disrupt France's 2017 elections and the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Officials also said the defendants were responsible for "destructive malware attacks that infected computers worldwide" and led to nearly $1 billion in losses. The alleged hackers, The Washington Post notes, are a part of the same intelligence agency previously charged over interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, although the indictment unsealed on Monday didn't include charges related to U.S. election interference. NBC News' Kevin Collier wrote that "naming six officers (allegedly) responsible for election meddling and destruction two weeks before the election seems a pretty clear sign." The Post reports that "officials said the announcement was not timed to the current political schedule," however. more...

*** Is this Trump's America first ***

By EurAsian Times Desk

The world is waking up to a new reality post the devastating pandemic that brought everything to a grinding halt. One of them is the rise of China as the undisputed new economic superpower. According to the IMF’s World Economic Output 2020 released recently, China has now overtaken the US to become the world’s largest economy. Yes, you read that right. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), using the more reliable and now widely accepted yardstick, called the Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), has determined China’s economy at $24.2 trillion compared to America’s $20.8 trillion.

The PPP calculation method used by the IMF enables you to compare how much you can buy for your money in different countries. The economists have traditionally been using MER (market exchange rates) to calculate GDP, which doesn’t reflect the real figures. The MER method is being viewed with extreme suspicion because it underestimates the buying power of the currencies of many countries. As a result, the currencies of many nations are undervalued against the dollar. With PPP adjustment, IMF estimates China’s economic output outmanoeuvring the US’s by a huge margin. IMF is clear in its report, it says the PPP “eliminates differences in price levels between economies” and thus compares national economies in terms of how much each nation can buy with its own currency at the prices items sell for there.

After the IMF, the CIA also decided to switch from MER to PPP in its annual assessment of national economies. The CIA Factbook notes that “the official exchange rate measure of GDP is not an accurate measure of China’s output; GDP at the official exchange rate (MER GDP) substantially understates the actual level of China’s output vis-a-vis the rest of the world; in China’s situation, GDP at purchasing power parity provides the best measure for comparing output across countries.” more...


Matthew S. Schwartz

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has won re-election in a landslide. The win wasn't surprising; Ardern's leadership has helped New Zealand become one of the most successful countries in handling the coronavirus pandemic. Going into the election, polls showed Ardern's Labour Party with a wide lead over the nearest competitor, the conservative National Party. With most of the votes counted, Ardern's liberal Labour Party has won 49%. It's the best showing for the Labour party in at least 50 years. It's also the highest result for any party since the country switched to a proportional representation system in 1996.

The Labour Party was projected to win 64 seats of the 120-member Parliament, giving it the ability to govern without the coalition building that typically characterizes proportional representation. With 27 percent of the vote, the National Party took 35 seats; the libertarian ACT New Zealand and the left-wing Green Party each took 10 seats; and the Maori Party — a center-left party focused on indigenous rights — secured one seat.

It's yet to be seen how forcefully Ardern and her Labour Party will move to enact progressive policies. In her victory speech, Ardern acknowledged that while her party has "a very strong and a very clear mandate," she promised to be a voice for all New Zealanders. more...

ARCHAEOLOGISTS found a stunning "spaceship-like" looking object when searching for shipwrecks in the Baltic Sea.
By Charlie Bradley

The Baltic Sea has become a hotspot for shipwreck discoveries in recent years, with finds of vessels from centuries gone by shedding new light on the world's most famous eras. Vello Mass, a researcher who pinpointed many of these ships, once said the boats languished at the bottom of the sea long before some of the sea's most famous finds. He said: "There are hundreds of Viking ships out there, hundreds of old trading ships, hundreds of warships. "The Baltic's an archaeological paradise." Sweden has become synonymous with such finds, but shipwreck hunters found something very different near the Scandinavian country in 2012. Out searching for shipwrecks at a secret location between Sweden and Finland, the deep-sea salvage company Ocean Explorer captured an incredible image more than 80 metres below the water’s surface. more...

By Eva Tapiero and Martin Goillandeau, CNN

Paris (CNN) A man decapitated a middle school teacher in a suburb of Paris on Friday afternoon and was later shot dead by police, France's anti-terror prosecutor told CNN. The victim's body was found in Éragny-sur-Oise, north-west of the French capital, the prosecutor's office said.
Police have provided few other details about the attacker, the victim or the incident, which is being investigated by a prosecutor from the country's anti-terror unit. more...

By Tom O'Connor

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for an immediate, unconditional renewal of the last nuclear arms treaty between Moscow and Washington, highlighting that his own country has developed new strategic weapons that the United States does not have. Amid an unprecedented spike in COVID-19 cases, the Russian leader met virtually on Friday with members of his security council and placed arms control high on his agenda. After calling first on Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to report on the progress of talks to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) before it expires on February 4, Putin weighed in on the failing non-proliferation pact.

"It would be extremely sad if the treaty ceased to exist altogether and were not replaced by another fundamental document of this kind," he said. He touted the success of the treaty and its 2010 and 1991 predecessors in preventing an all-out arms race between the top two nuclear powers, but also took the opportunity to claim that the Russian arsenal has in some ways surpassed that of the U.S.—something he was willing to address in a new agreement. more...

AFP

The oxygen supply system has failed in a module on the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS) but the crew is in no danger, Russian space agency Roscosmos said Thursday. The oxygen supply system on the Zvezda module on the orbital lab failed late on Wednesday but a second system on the American segment is operating normally, a Roscosmos spokesperson told AFP. "Nothing threatens the security of the crew and the ISS," said the spokesperson, adding this repair work to fix the issue would be carried out on Thursday.

The issue arose after three new crew - two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut - reached the ISS on Wednesday to bring the number of current crew on board to six. The problem is the latest incident on the ISS - whose first module was launched over two decades ago in 1998 - after the crew in August detected an air leak on board. Roscosmos emphasised at the time that the leak was not significant and posed no danger. But part of the problem was detecting precisely where it came from. The crew believe that they have now found the source of of the leak. The Roscosmos spokesperson said that they would receive precise instructions from mission control to carry out future work on the problem. more...

VPN vulnerabilities — the gift that keeps on giving (to attackers).
By Catalin Cimpanu for Zero Day

Almost 800,000 internet-accessible SonicWall VPN appliances will need to be updated and patched for a major new vulnerability that was disclosed on Wednesday. Discovered by the Tripwire VERT security team, CVE-2020-5135 impacts SonicOS, the operating system running on SonicWall Network Security Appliance (NSA) devices. SonicWall NSAs are used as firewalls and SSL VPN portals to filter, control, and allow employees to access internal and private networks.

Tripwire researchers say SonicOS contains a bug in a component that handles custom protocols. The component is exposed on the WAN (public internet) interface, meaning any attacker can exploit it, as long as they're aware of the device's IP address. Tripwire said exploiting the bug is trivial even for unskilled attackers. In its simplest form, the bug can cause a denial of service and crash devices, but "a code execution exploit is likely feasible." more...

By Yuka Obayashi and Kaori Kaneko ,Reuters

TOKYO (Reuters) - Nearly a decade after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan's government has decided to release over one million tonnes of contaminated water into the sea, media reports said on Friday, with a formal announcement expected to be made later this month. The decision is expected to rankle neighbouring countries like South Korea, which has already stepped up radiation tests of food from Japan, and further devastate the fishing industry in Fukushima that has battled against such a move for years.

The disposal of contaminated water at the Fukushima Daiichi plant has been a longstanding problem for Japan as it proceeds with an decades-long decommissioning project. Nearly 1.2 million tonnes of contaminated water are currently stored in huge tanks at the facility. The plant, run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc <9501.T>, suffered multiple nuclear meltdowns after a 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

On Friday, Japan's industry minister Hiroshi Kajiyama said no decision had been made on the disposal of the water yet, but the government aims to make one quickly. "To prevent any delays in the decommissioning process, we need to make a decision quickly," he told a news conference. more...

By Julia Horowitz, CNN Business

London (CNN Business)UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing an expensive choice. The British economy has been pummeled by the pandemic. Now, with talks on a new trade deal with the European Union at risk of collapse, Johnson has to decide: Does he try to find common ground with Europe, or walk away? Britain already faces a tough 2021 as the country battles the twin shocks of coronavirus and Brexit. But failing to secure an agreement with the United Kingdom's biggest export market would amplify the pain.

Walking away empty-handed — which Johnson threatened to do on Friday — would create disruptions to trade when the transition period ends later this year, shaving more than $25 billion off the UK economy in 2021 compared to a scenario where a limited free trade deal is agreed, according to a CNN Business analysis based on forecasts from Citi and the Institute for Fiscal Studies. That would put the country even further behind on its efforts to recover from the historic shock triggered by the pandemic.

"The combination of Covid-19 and the exit from the EU single market makes the UK outlook exceptionally uncertain," Laurence Boone, chief economist at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, said in a report this week. "Actions taken to address the pandemic and decisions made on future trading relationships will have a lasting impact on the United Kingdom's economic trajectory for years to come."more...

UK campaigners fear a future trade deal with the US could impact the quality of imported meat. Photograph: Nati Harnik/AP
Tom Levitt and Lewis Kendall

Pork and poultry with “unacceptable” levels of salmonella and E coli are reaching supermarket shelves in the US, according to the preliminary findings of a study that may confirm the fears of campaigners currently fighting to ensure the UK’s agriculture bill will protect domestic food standards and consumers. The agriculture bill 2019–21 will return to the House of Commons on Monday, and will include an amendment from the House of Lords calling for all food imports to be produced to domestic standards.

Campaigners fear that a failure to protect UK food standards in law means that a future trade deal with the US might allow more cheaply produced meat to flood the UK market. Downing Street has repeatedly refused to agree to any parliamentary restrictions or so-called “red lines” on its negotiating position in US trade talks. Trade secretary Liz Truss has argued that parliament would be able to block a trade deal if a majority of MPs wanted a vote on it, but only after the deal had been already been negotiated and signed. Campaigners may feel their arguments are bolstered by the preliminary findings of a five year study being carried out at George Washington University by Prof Lance Price, which tested meat from US shops and found that about 14% of the poultry samples and 13% of the pork had traces of salmonella. more...

Camila Domonoske

Oil is facing an existential crisis. There has never been so much uncertainty about the future of a commodity that keeps the global economic engine running. And it's not just environmental activists calling for the end of oil: New reports out this week show the battle lines are shaping up within the industry. On one side of the argument are those who call for a swift transition away from oil and for charting a path to a zero-emissions future within a few decades. The influential International Energy Agency global advisory group called for urgent and unprecedented action from governments worldwide to aggressively shift away from oil and gas, keeping the most devastating effects of climate change at bay. "Let's face it: This is a choice," said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol during a news briefing on Tuesday. "A choice for citizens, investors, companies — but most of all for our governments around the world." more...

Sylvia Poggioli

A financial scandal swirling around the Vatican has taken a new twist with the arrest of a woman linked to a cardinal fired by Pope Francis. Italian police arrested Cecilia Marogna in Milan late Tuesday on a warrant from the Vatican City State. A Vatican official told Reuters that Holy See magistrates suspect her of embezzlement and misappropriation of funds, in complicity with others. Before her arrest, Marogna told Italian media she had received half a million euros to run behind-the-scenes diplomacy to assist missionaries in conflict zones in Africa and Asia.

Marogna, 39, is an associate of Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu. Last month, Pope Francis forced Becciu to resign as head of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints and stripped him of his right as a cardinal to vote for a new pope. Francis did not give a reason for Becciu's dismissal. But his firing apparently stemmed from Becciu's activities in his previous post, as the second-ranking official in the Vatican secretariat of state, where he handled the Holy See's investments. Becciu was sacked just as the Italian weekly magazine L'Espresso was about to publish an article alleging Becciu's financial malfeasance. more...

More than 750 people had been evacuated from the area near the town of Swinoujscie where the Tallboy bomb used by Britain's Royal Air Force was found.
By Reuters

WARSAW - The biggest World War Two bomb ever found in Poland exploded under water on Tuesday as navy divers tried to defuse it. More than 750 people had been evacuated from the area near the Piast Canal outside the town of Swinoujscie where the Tallboy bomb used by Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF) was found. It weighed nearly 12,000 lbs, including almost 5,300 lbs of explosive. "The deflagration process turned into detonation. The object can be considered as neutralized, it will not pose any more threat," Second-Lieutenant Grzegorz Lewandowski, the spokesman of the 8th Coastal Defense Flotilla, was quoted as saying by state-run news agency PAP. "All mine divers were outside the danger zone." more...

New research finds corals on vast Australian reef increasingly unable to recover from heat-caused bleaching.

Half the corals on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have died over the past 25 years, scientists said Wednesday, warning that climate change is irreversibly destroying the World Heritage-listed underwater ecosystem. A study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society Journal found an alarming rate of decline across all sizes of corals since the mid-1990s on the vast reef that lies off the country’s northeastern coast.

Larger species, such as branching and table-shaped corals, have been worst affected – almost disappearing from the far northern reaches of the reef, researchers found. “They’re typically depleted by (up to) 80 or 90 percent compared to 25 years ago,” report co-author and James Cook University professor Terry Hughes told the AFP news agency.

“They make the nooks and crannies that fish and other creatures depend on, so losing big three-dimensional corals changes the broader ecosystem.” Aside from its inestimable natural, scientific and environmental value, the 2,300-kilometre-long (1,400-mile-long) reef was worth an estimated $4bn a year in tourism revenue for the Australian economy before the coronavirus pandemic struck. more...

By Tom O'Connor

Taiwan has long looked to the United States for protection from the massive forces of the Chinese mainland 100 miles to the west. Now Taipei is calling for robust defense ties with Washington amid growing concerns of potential conflict as Beijing's warplanes conduct regular fly-by's, threatening reunification by force.

Aircraft of the People's Liberation Army continued to enter Taiwan's declared air defense identification throughout the weekend, even as the self-ruling island celebrated "National Day"—an occasion commemorating the end of the Qing Dynasty and the establishment of the Republic of China, which Taiwan officially calls itself. But as the rival People's Republic of China made its presence known, Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen delivered a military message as well. more...

By Simon Denyer

TOKYO — Four months after Barack Obama took office as U.S. president, North Korea catapulted itself to the top of the diplomatic agenda with its second nuclear test. Now less than a month before the latest U.S. election, North Korea has given whoever wins advance notice: In 2021, it is certain to be back in the headlines, and likely to be a headache. The reason: a massive new intercontinental ballistic paraded through the streets of Pyongyang on Saturday that served as a chilling reminder that North Korea’s nuclear deterrent is a very real threat to the U.S. homeland.

“What I think the North Koreans are saying is that they are committed to spending the money to build systems that can beat our missile defenses,” said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Center for ­Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, Calif. “Maybe a lot of them won’t get through, but some of them will, and, you know, we won’t like that.”

At Saturday’s military parade, North Korea unveiled a range of modern military equipment that has never been seen before, from small arms to masks designed for chemical warfare, and a new submarine-launched ballistic missile. But the climax was the sight of a new ICBM, carried on an 11-axle vehicle, one of the largest road-mobile liquid-fueled ballistic missiles ever made.

In a speech before the parade, North Korea leader Kim Jong Un said that the country’s military forces were meant as a deterrent and were not aimed “at anyone specific.” But experts said the hardware on display told a different story. “Of course, the target is clearly the United States,” said Lee Ho-ryung, a researcher at the state-run Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul. “There’s no need for North Korea to develop a bigger and stronger ICBM if it’s truly intended for self-defense only.” more...

By Ramy Inocencio

Beijing — China's 56-day coronavirus clean streak has been broken. Six people with symptoms and another six without any have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 in one city, prompting a dramatic response.

All of the cases are linked to a single hospital, the Qingdao Chest Hospital, in the city of Qingdao on China's eastern coast. The city's health commission posted the news to Chinese social media site Weibo, and the hospital, about 250 miles southeast of Beijing, has been closed.

Qingdao is home to about 9 million people, more than New York City and twice as many as Los Angeles, and authorities are now in the process of testing every single one of them. They're determined to finish that process by the end of this week — a remarkable feat, but not unexpected in China. more...

Holly Ellyatt, Katrina Bishop

LONDON — The British government has outlined further restrictive measures for England, including a three-tier system of local lockdowns, as it attempts to curb a rapid increase in coronavirus infections. Speaking to the House of Commons on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he understood the frustration of those who had been “chafing” under the current restrictions. However, he added: “We can’t let the virus rip ... I believe not to act would be unforgivable.”

He outlined a three-tier system of local Covid-19 alert levels — “medium,” “high” and “very high” — which will classify regions based on the severity of their infection rate, with differing levels of restrictions for each level. The prime minster said the “medium” level applied to the majority of England, and encompassed the current restrictions which include banning groups of more than six people meeting up and forcing pubs and restaurants to close at 10 p.m.

The “high” level applied to the areas of England already in local lockdown, where residents are not allowed to mix with other households or meet up unless outside. Local lockdowns are currently in place across much of northern England, and some other areas where infection rates have soared since the national lockdown was lifted in the summer. more...

By Chris Horton

The more China tells the world that Taiwan isn’t a country, the more Beijing’s adversaries are starting to treat it like one. Ahead of Taiwan’s National Day on Saturday, Beijing’s embassy in New Delhi was reported to have issued a letter telling India’s media not to refer to it as a country or to Tsai Ing-wen as its president. Indians responded by helping the hashtag #TaiwanNationalDay go viral while banners with the Taiwanese flag were hung outside the Chinese embassy.

“Hats off to friends from around the world this year, #India in particular, for celebrating #TaiwanNationalDay,” Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu wrote in a Twitter post on Saturday. Instead of marking Taiwan’s independence, a red line that Beijing has warned could trigger an invasion, the day commemorates a 1911 uprising in the central Chinese city of Wuhan against China’s last imperial dynasty. That led to the creation of the Republic of China, which leader Chiang Kai-shek then brought to Taiwan seven decades ago when he fled as the Communist Party took power. more...

By Chris Horton

The more China tells the world that Taiwan isn’t a country, the more Beijing’s adversaries are starting to treat it like one. Ahead of Taiwan’s National Day on Saturday, Beijing’s embassy in New Delhi was reported to have issued a letter telling India’s media not to refer to it as a country or to Tsai Ing-wen as its president. Indians responded by helping the hashtag #TaiwanNationalDay go viral while banners with the Taiwanese flag were hung outside the Chinese embassy.

“Hats off to friends from around the world this year, #India in particular, for celebrating #TaiwanNationalDay,” Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu wrote in a Twitter post on Saturday. Instead of marking Taiwan’s independence, a red line that Beijing has warned could trigger an invasion, the day commemorates a 1911 uprising in the central Chinese city of Wuhan against China’s last imperial dynasty. That led to the creation of the Republic of China, which leader Chiang Kai-shek then brought to Taiwan seven decades ago when he fled Beijing as the Communist Party took power. more...


A recently published study titled In Search for a Planet Better than Earth: Top Contenders for a Superhabitable World has revealed astronomers have identified 24 planets that may not only be habitable for humans, but possibly “even better for life than our Earth.” These planets could support more biodiversity and biomass (aka organisms) than the planet we currently call home and were found by researchers examining Kepler Objects of Interest which tracks potential Exoplanets. The discovery supports the Copernican Principle, “a centuries-old assumption that Earth does not occupy a special place in the universe”—meaning Earth is the only planet we are certain supports life (or life as we know it) but that it surely can’t be the only one. The “favorite” planet orbits a star 3,000 light years away. Leading the research team, scientist Dirk Schulze-Makuch tells VICE, “We are so focused on finding a mirror image of Earth that we may overlook a planet that is even more well-suited for life.” Visit VICE to find out more. more...

By Ben Wieder

Last October, federal prosecutors brought campaign finance charges against two associates of Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who had worked with him to dig up dirt on Joe Biden in Ukraine to benefit President Donald Trump. Those Ukraine efforts contributed to the impeachment charges brought against President Trump in January and put Parnas and Fruman’s messy business history on display.

The two men were accused of using money provided by a then-unnamed Russian businessman for political donations to help their efforts to obtain marijuana licenses. They are scheduled to go to trial next year, along with two co-conspirators. On a pretrial call Thursday, the Russian businessman was identified as Andrei Muraviev by a lawyer for one of Parnas and Fruman’s two alleged co-conspirators, Andrey Kukushkin.

McClatchy was the first to report Muraviev as the likely foreign national last October, days after the charges against Parnas, Fruman and their alleged co-conspirators were unveiled on Oct. 10, 2019. And the Sacramento Bee reported soon after that Kukushkin and Muraviev were partners in multiple Sacramento cannabis businesses with local pot king Garib Karapetyan. more...

By NINIEK KARMINI

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Protests in many Indonesian cities turned violent Thursday as thousands of enraged students and workers criticized a new law they say will cripple labor rights and harm the environment. Clashes between rock-throwing demonstrators and riot police broke out near Jakarta’s presidential palace as police tried to disperse the protesters, including workers and high school and university students. President Joko Widodo is visiting Central Kalimantan province and was not in the palace.

Police fired tear gas at the protesters from several high schools and universities as they tried to approach the palace compound, turning roads into a smoke-filled battleground. The protesters fought back, hurling rocks and bottles. An angry mob burned a traffic police post at an intersection near the palace, while other protesters set fires to tires and fiberglass road barriers. As night fell, some protesters set fire to a subway shelter in downtown Jakarta, causing the area to turn an eerie orange color. Similar clashes occurred in large cities all over the country, including Yogyakarta, Medan, Makassar, Manado and Bandung, the capital of West Java province, where police arrested 209 people during two days of violent protests. Organizers have called for a three-day national strike starting Tuesday demanding that the government revoke the legislation. more...

BBC

New measures to tackle coronavirus are to be announced "in the coming days", a minister says, after the BBC was told pubs and restaurants could be closed in the worst-affected areas of England. There could also be a ban on overnight stays away from home in the locations - which include the North and Midlands. Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said the government was "currently considering what steps to take". A three-tier system for local lockdowns is also likely to be announced.

Under the system, different parts of the country would be placed in different categories - although ministers are still discussing the precise details of the toughest level of restrictions over the next couple of days. A final decision on the time period or extent of potential closures has not yet been made and a formal announcement is not likely to come until Monday, BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said.

It comes as North of England and Midlands MPs have been briefed by health ministers and chief medical officer Chris Whitty about the latest coronavirus data. The number of people in the UK to have tested positive for coronavirus rose by 17,540 - an increase of 3,378 on Wednesday's figures - with a further 77 deaths reported. Some politicians in the North of England and the Midlands have shared their frustration about the plans appearing in newspapers before being announced in Parliament. more...

The Black Lives Matter movement saw shows of solidarity around the world this summer. In Germany, some feel there is a reluctance to acknowledge more local problems.

By Valeriya Safronova

BERLIN — In June, when Jelisa Delfeld joined a Telegram channel to help organize a silent demonstration against racism in Stuttgart, Germany, she was one of fewer than two dozen members. The next day, that number grew to 100, and the following, about 1,000 people had joined the channel where the protest was being planned.

“When the video of George Floyd being killed came out, it was also shocking in Germany,” said Ms. Delfeld, 24. “Even though it happened in the U.S., it’s a Black man, and we’re Black. If there’s pain in our community, you can feel that pain everywhere.”

Over five days of Zoom meetings, calls and texts, this group of young strangers, most of whom had little experience in activism, organized a demonstration that brought between 7,000 and 10,000 people into the streets of Stuttgart, a city of roughly 620,000, on June 6. more...

By Elinda Labrapoulou, CNN

Athens, Greece (CNN) The leaders of Greece's neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn were found guilty Wednesday of forming and running a criminal organization under the cloak of a political party, in a landmark decision hailed as a victory for democracy and human rights. Following a marathon trial lasting five-and-a-half years, an Athens court deemed that crimes by Golden Dawn members including murder, attempted murder, assault and possession of weapons were not the actions of individuals operating on their own initiative. Instead they were directly planned and ordered by a party leadership that employed violence to eradicate perceived enemies.

Eighteen former party lawmakers, including leader Nikos Michaloliakos, a holocaust denier who founded Golden Dawn in the 1980s as a neo-Nazi organization, were among those found guilty on Wednesday. Individual sentences are to be announced in the coming days. Protesters and police clashed outside the court, as thousands of anti-fascist demonstrators gathered in central Athens. Greek police said that they dispersed a gathering of at least 20,000 people, but that minutes after the verdict was announced officers were attacked with stones and Molotov cocktails by a smaller group of around 600 people. more...

By Matt Williams

On Tuesday, Sept. 29th, the Russian State Space Corporation (Roscosmos) announced that astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) had found the source of a suspected leak. The crew of Expedition 63 – NASA astronaut and Commander Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner – had been searching for this leak since August, and determined that it was “beyond expected levels.”

Roscosmos also said in a statement that “it was established that the spot is located in the Zvezda (star) service module, which contains scientific equipment.” They also emphasized that the leak “is not dangerous for the life and health of the ISS crew and does not prevent the ISS continuing manned flight.” Nevertheless, the amount of atmosphere lost may require additional oxygen to be pumped into the station.

The leak was isolated overnight on Monday (Sept. 28th) thanks to the efforts of the crew and analyses conducted by mission control teams on the ground. It began with leak checks that were conducted in the US segment of the station, which included the US, European and Japanese modules. Commander Cassidy, Ivanishin, and Vagner were then instructed to move into the Russian segment to collect data from various locations. more...

BBC

The opposition in Kyrgyzstan has reportedly seized power after violent protests against what it says was a rigged parliamentary election on Sunday. Sadyr Japarov was appointed acting prime minister, hours after protesters freed him from jail. President Sooronbai Jeenbekov has hinted that he is ready to stand down. He told the BBC he was "ready to give the responsibility to strong leaders", but refused to say who he had in mind.

Protesters gathered on Monday in anger over alleged vote-rigging. Some then overran government buildings and stormed parliament. By Tuesday morning, a number of high-profile political detainees had also been released, including Mr Japarov, who had been serving an 11-year sentence for kidnapping a regional governor during an opposition protest seven years ago. Former president Almazbek Atambayev, who was serving an 11-year sentence for corruption, was also released. more...

Elliot Smith

LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted Tuesday that his bout of Covid-19 has not robbed him of his mojo, while outlining new spending pledges aimed at restoring the economy to a stronger position than prior to the pandemic. Speaking to the Conservative Party annual conference, Johnson used his own experience with the virus to illustrate his intentions for the economy.

“I have to admit the reason I had such a nasty experience with the disease is that although I was superficially in the peak of health when I caught it, I had a very common underlying condition — my friends, I was too fat,” Johnson said, explaining that he had since lost 26 pounds and maintained a healthier lifestyle. He suggested that going into lockdown, the U.K. economy was “on the face of it in pretty good shape” but had some “chronic underlying problems,” including a skills deficit, lack of affordable housing and “inadequate” transport infrastructure. more...

Injured surfers and large number of dead sea creatures reported in Kamchatka region
Agence France-Presse

Water pollution in Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula that caused sea creatures to wash up dead on beaches has prompted fears that rocket fuel stored in the region’s military testing grounds may have leaked. The pollution came to light late last month after surfers reported stinging eyes and said the water had changed colour and developed an odour. Officials later confirmed the surfers had sustained mild burns to their corneas. Then locals reported seeing large numbers of dead marine species including seals, octopuses and sea urchins washed up on a black-sand beach popular with tourists.

The regional governor, Vladimir Solodov, said on Monday the sea off the remote Kamchatka peninsula may have been contaminated with toxic chemicals. Greenpeace, which has been assessing the area, warned of an “ecological disaster”. Officials said tests showed above-permitted levels of phenol and petroleum products. Experts were investigating whether this was linked to spills of toxic substances, Solodov said. He added that divers had confirmed the deaths of sea creatures and pollution appeared to be spread over a wide area. more...

By SYLVIE CORBET

PARIS (AP) — French authorities placed the Paris region on maximum virus alert on Monday, banning festive gatherings and requiring all bars to close but allowing restaurants to remain open, as numbers of infections increased rapidly. Paris police prefect Didier Lallement announced the new restrictions would apply at least for the next two weeks.

“We are continuously adapting to the reality of the virus. We are taking measures to slow down (its spread),” he said. French authorities consider bars to be major infection hot spots because patrons don’t respect social distancing rules as much as they do at restaurants. Starting on Tuesday, bars will be closed in Paris and its suburbs. Student parties and all other festive and family events in establishments open to the public will be banned. more...

by: Associated Press, Marissa Wenzke

As violence continues and tensions rise in the separatist territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Artsakh, Armenian Americans in Los Angeles continued to demonstrate Sunday. People carried Armenian flags as they walked onto the 170 Freeway in North Hollywood — blocking both lanes of traffic in a plea for a stop to the bloodshed in the region. Demonstrators in L.A. have decried the escalating violence as a massacre against Armenians and are calling for some sort of international intervention or U.S. recognition.

Many have called out a lack of media coverage on the conflict with marches through Hollywood over the weekend. Demonstrators stopped outside the CNN and KTLA buildings along Sunset Boulevard Saturday and Sunday night. Some raised Armenian flags and chanted “CNN tell the truth.” The Los Angeles area is home to more Armenians than any other place aside from the country. “Azerbaijan and Turkey has started a completely unprovoked war… This is, again, a genocide because when you have civilians involved, when you have human life, when they are not fighters and they are not soldiers, you are discussing a massacre,” Natalie Samargian, one protester, told KTLA on Saturday night. more...

AFP

Interpol has issued a "red notice" to arrest the fugitive Thai heir to the Red Bull billions for his role in a fatal hit-and-run, police said Sunday. The move by the international police organisation is the latest in the years-long saga surrounding Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya who crashed his Ferrari in 2012, killing a police officer.The charges against Vorayuth, who is the grandson of Red Bull's co-founder, were dropped in July -- sparking public outrage from Thais who saw it as an example of impunity enjoyed by the kingdom's elite. It spurred probes by various government agencies, including the Attorney General's Office which last month announced fresh charges against Vorayuth of reckless driving causing death and cocaine use. more...

By Jennifer Hauser, CNN

(CNN) The president of the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region warned citizens in large cities of Azerbaijan Sunday to leave to avoid "inevitable loss" after he said Azerbaijan targeted civilians in the region's main city of Stepanakert the last couple of days. Nagorno-Karabakh leader Arayik Harutyunyan said on Twitter that "mil objects in large cities of Azerbaijan are the target of the Defense Army of #Artsakh. Calling on Azerbaijani population to leave these cities to avoid inevitable loss." Artsakh is the Armenian name of Nagorno Karabakh. But Harutyunyan later tweeted that firing had "stopped." more...

Reuters

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel's defence minister accused Turkey on Sunday of destabilising the region and working against peacemaking efforts, and called for international pressure to bring about a change in the NATO power's conduct. Israel generally shies from public censure of Turkey, with which it maintains trade and diplomatic relations despite the pro-Palestinian stance of Ankara's government for more than a decade.

Briefing Gulf Arab reporters as a follow-up to Israel's founding of ties with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Defence Minister Benny Gantz described Turkey and Iran as "denying promotion of peace and supporting regional aggression". Iran - Israel's chief enemy - and Turkey have criticised the U.S.-brokered Sept. 15 normalisation deal between Israel and the Gulf powers, seeing a betrayal of the Palestinian cause.

Citing Turkey's actions in northern Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as its Libya intervention and contacts with Palestinian Hamas militants, Gantz said: "All of this pushes away from stability". "Definitely the question of Turkey is a very complicated one, because Turkey is part of NATO," Gantz told the Zoom conference, which was organised by The Arab Council for Regional Integration, a group that encourages Israeli-Arab outreach. more...

Sanda Dia’s death after an initiation ritual was regarded as a tragic accident. Newly released videos and photos have made it a symbol of growing intolerance.

By Matt Apuzzo and Steven Erlanger

GHENT, Belgium — Sanda Dia saw a fraternity as a doorway into a different life. The son of an immigrant factory worker, he was an ambitious 20-year-old Black student at one of Belgium’s most prestigious universities. The fraternity, Reuzegom, was home to the scions of Antwerp’s white elites. Access to that rarefied world, he decided, was worth enduring the fraternity’s notoriously vicious hazing ritual. He did not survive it.

After being forced alongside two other pledges to drink alcohol excessively, chug fish oil until he vomited, swallow live goldfish and stand outside in an ice-filled trench, Mr. Dia died in December 2018 of multiple organ failure. His death was seen as a tragic accident, an example of hazing gone wrong. In recent weeks, however, an even uglier story has emerged. Fraternity members had used a racial slur as they ordered Mr. Dia to clean up after a party. A photo surfaced purporting to show a fraternity member wearing Ku Klux Klan robes. A fraternity speech referenced “our good German friend, Hitler.” A video showed them singing a racist song. more...

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis said on Sunday that the COVID-19 pandemic was the latest crisis to prove that market forces alone and “trickle-down” economic policies had failed to produce the social benefits their proponents claim. In an encyclical on the theme of human fraternity, Francis also said private property cannot be considered an absolute right in all cases where some lived extravagantly while others had nothing. Called “Fratelli Tutti” (Brothers All), the encyclical’s title prompted criticism for not using inclusive language after it was announced last month.

In Italian, Fratelli means brothers but it is also used to mean brothers and sisters. The Vatican said it was taken from the “Admonitions”, or guidelines, written by St Francis of Assisi in the 13th century to his followers and could not be changed. The pope says in the first line of the 86-page encyclical that St. Francis had “addressed his brothers and sisters” that way. In the document, he uses the term “men and women” 15 times and speaks several times about defending the rights and dignity of women. Encyclicals are the most authoritative form of papal writing but they are not infallible. more...

BBC

A Russian news editor has died after setting herself on fire in front of an interior ministry office in the city of Nizhniy Novgorod. Irina Slavina earlier wrote on Facebook: "I ask you to blame the Russian Federation for my death." Authorities confirmed her body had been found with severe burns. Slavina said on Thursday police had searched her flat looking for materials related to the pro-democracy group Open Russia. Computers and data were seized.

Footage has emerged apparently showing the moment she set herself on fire on a bench in Gorky Street, where the interior ministry in Nizhny Novgorod is situated. In the video, a man is seen running to a woman to help extinguish the flames. She repeatedly pushes him back as he tries to use his coat to stop the fire, before she eventually falls to the ground. Russia's Investigative Committee confirmed that Irina Slavina, who leaves behind a husband and daughter, had died but denied any connection to a search of the journalist's flat.

Who was Slavina?
Irina Slavina was editor-in-chief of the small Koza Press news website. Its motto is "news and analytics" and "no censorship". Its website went down on Friday, as news of her death was confirmed. She was one of seven people in Nizhny Novgorod whose homes were searched on Thursday, apparently as part of an inquiry into Open Russia. Last year, she was fined for "disrespecting authorities" in one of her articles. more...

Lucian Kim at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C.

As world powers call for peace and the warring parties pledge to fulfill "historic" missions, ordinary people are suffering the most as fighting flared this week in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region on Russia's southern border. The territory, located in Azerbaijan, is claimed by both Armenians and Azerbaijanis. "As the recent escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict worsens, civilians are bearing the brunt of the surge in violence," the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement Friday. "Civilian deaths and injuries, including of children, have been reported on both sides of the line of contact, and in Armenia," the ICRC said. It cited reports of hundreds of homes, schools and hospitals destroyed by heavy artillery.

Fighting broke out on Sunday in a conflict that dates back to the dying days of the Soviet Union three decades ago. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan were Soviet republics, but as the Soviet Union broke apart in the early 1990s, the ethnic Armenian majority of Nagorno-Karabakh demanded unification with Armenia. After Azerbaijan declared independence from Moscow, the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh seceded, setting off a bloody war. When a shaky cease-fire took hold in 1994, Armenians were in control of Nagorno-Karabakh and adjoining Azerbaijani territory. Russia, France and the United States took the lead in trying to broker a lasting peace, to no avail. Armenia and Azerbaijan blame each other for the renewed violence. more...

Family of Dalit teen who died after gang rape accuse police of cremating her body without their presence or consent.
By Hanan Zaffar

The family members of a Dalit (formerly known as “untouchable”) girl in India who died after she was gang raped have accused the authorities of forcefully cremating her body in the middle of the night without their consent. The 19-year-old from a village in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras district, 200km (124 miles) from the Indian capital New Delhi, was raped in a field near her house on September 14 by four suspects belonging to upper castes in the Hindu religion’s hierarchy. Officials said she suffered paralysis due to severe injuries to her spinal cord and died two weeks later in a New Delhi hospital on September 29, triggering nationwide outrage, protests and the detention of opposition leaders.

The teenager’s body was cremated in an open field in Hathras around 3am on Wednesday (21:30 GMT on Tuesday) in the presence of nearly two dozen police and other officials. But the teenager’s family members alleged the cremation was carried out against their wishes, with neither of her parents present. “We told the administration we want to cremate her in the morning as per Hindu rituals, but they did not listen to us. They locked us inside our home and burned her body,” the girl’s brother told Al Jazeera. more...

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN

London (CNN) US President Donald Trump is not the only leader on the world stage to have contracted coronavirus. His positive test, announced in the early hours of Friday, puts him in the company of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro and Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. Of those, Johnson fell the most gravely ill after he tested positive for the virus at the end of March. He spent a week in hospital, with three nights in intensive care and, on being discharged admitted "things could have gone either way" for him. Even after leaving the hospital, he had to spend time recuperating at his official country residence, Chequers.

Johnson's illness, at the height of Britain's first wave of infections, complicated the government's response, not least because the virus spread through the government's ranks in Westminster.  Trump and his wife Melania, who has also tested positive for the virus, may be asymptomatic or have only mild symptoms, as was the case with Britain's health minister Matt Hancock. At 74 years old and overweight, Trump -- who has spent months playing down the severity of the pandemic as US deaths have surpassed 207,000 -- falls into the highest risk category for serious complications from the disease. But the first lady, age 50, is likely to be at a lower risk of serious illness. more...

BBC

Margaret Ferrier has been suspended from the SNP and faces calls to resign after taking a train from London to Scotland knowing that she had tested positive for Covid-19. But who is Margaret Ferrier? The 60-year-old first became an MP in 2015 in the SNP landslide that saw the party take 56 of the 59 seats in Scotland. Ms Ferrier, who won Rutherglen and Hamilton West, pulled off one of the biggest shocks on a night full of surprises. Her victory overturned a Labour majority of 21,002 - one of the largest in the UK - and she ended up the winner by 9,975 votes.

Margaret Ferrier was 54 when she was chosen to be the SNP candidate and had only joined the party four years earlier. Soon after becoming an MP she told the Rutherglen Reformer she could not remember a time when she did not support an independent Scotland. Even as a member of the Labour Party in her youth, she felt the country should go it alone, she said. Born in the south of Glasgow she lived for almost two years of her childhood in Spain. She told the Reformer she had early memories of correcting people in Spain when they called her English. more...

John Fritze USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump has tested positive for the coronavirus, a stunning development that came hours after he confirmed one of his longest-serving aides with whom he had recently traveled also received a positive test result. The revelation had implications for the president's health, the administration's response to the pandemic and also the Nov. 3 election, during which Trump has leaned on states to reopen and has claimed that the nation is "turning the corner" on the virus.

"Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19," Trump tweeted early Friday morning. "We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!" Former White House doctor Ronny Jackson told Fox News early Friday morning that Trump was asymptomatic and predicted the president would "weather this storm." "I will bet you that he does not develop symptoms, that he moves on and this does not become a big deal," Jackson said.

The president has often claimed the U.S. has the pandemic "under control," but his own positive test result – assuming it is accurate – is certain to raise questions about the reopening of schools and businesses when the virus could not be contained within the White House, arguably the most secure facility in the world. more...

Another extreme test of general relativity, another win for Einstein.
Jackson Ryan

You'd be crazy to bet against Albert Einstein and his theory of general relativity. Formulated over 100 years ago, it reasons that gravity is the warping of space and time. Since Einstein conceived the theory, test after test -- of eclipses and gravitational waves, for instance -- has supported it. But if you need any more convincing that Einstein was on the money, researchers with the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration have just revealed more evidence that his theory stands up, even under some of the most extreme conditions in the universe.

In a study, published in the journal Physical Review Letters on Thursday, researchers from the EHT collaboration analyzed the images of the supermassive black hole that lies at the heart of the Messier 87 galaxy to put Einstein's theory to the test again. That black hole, M87*, is the same black hole researchers used to create the first-ever image of a black hole by the EHT team in 2019.

"This is really just the beginning," said Lia Medeiros, an astrophysicist at the Institute for Advanced Study and co-author on the study, in a press release. "We have now shown that it is possible to use an image of a black hole to test the theory of gravity," more...

By Francesco Guarascio, Huw Jones

BRUSSELS/LONDON (Reuters) - The European Union is ready for every type of Brexit, including granting no further EU access to Britain’s financial sector, the bloc’s candidate for financial services chief said in a document seen by Reuters. After Dec. 31, when a transition deal ahead of a full-blown Brexit ends, financial services companies in Britain will have to access the EU via its “equivalence” system. The EU has already granted temporary access to UK clearing houses from January under this regulatory regime.

Mairead McGuinness, the EU’s financial services commissioner designate, said from January there would be significant changes in financial services between Britain and the EU, regardless of whether UK-EU talks that continue this week reach on a free trade agreement. “As tensions in the overall EU-UK negotiations have increased, we continue to prepare for all possible scenarios, including a no further equivalences scenario,” McGuinness said in written answers to EU lawmakers ahead of her confirmation hearing in the European Parliament on Friday. more...

By Joby Warrick and Simon Denyer

In a secret letter to President Trump in December 2018, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un likened the two leaders’ budding friendship to a Hollywood romance. Future meetings with “Your Excellency,” Kim wrote to Trump, would be “reminiscent of a scene from a fantasy film.” Yet even as he penned the words, Kim was busy creating an illusion of a different kind. At six of the country’s missile bases, trucks hauled rock from underground construction sites as workers dug a maze of new tunnels and bunkers, allowing North Korea to move weapons around like peas in a shell game. Southeast of the capital, meanwhile, new buildings sprouted across an industrial complex that was processing uranium for as many as 15 new bombs, according to current and former U.S. and South Korean officials, as well as a report by a United Nations panel of experts. more...

Part of the problem lies with Pompeo’s decision to act as a Trump campaign surrogate in his official capacity.
By Alex Ward

When President Donald Trump’s top diplomat can’t get a meeting with God’s ambassador, you know something is wrong. While on a weeklong trip to Europe, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo planned to sit down with Pope Francis during a visit to the Vatican. But the Catholic leader refused the photo ops and handshakes with America’s top diplomat out of one major concern: That he’d be a pawn in Trump’s reelection efforts.

“Yes, that is precisely why the pope will not meet American secretary of state Mike Pompeo,” Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican’s secretary for relations with states, told Italian news agency Ansa on Wednesday. That’s jarring, especially since the men met in person last October to discuss promoting religious freedom, even amid impeachment hearings in Washington. More...


Two fifths of the world's plants are at risk of extinction, up from an estimated fifth in 2016, according to Kew Gardens. In total, 140,000, or 39.4 per cent, of plants are threatened, up from an earlier estimate of 21 per cent from four years ago, the organisation says. Kew's annual State of the World’s Plants and Fungi report brings together expertise of 210 scientists from 42 countries to classify species at risk of extinction, including 723 plants we use for medicine. More...

Holly Ellyatt

Chancellor Angela Merkel has vowed to avoid another full national lockdown as coronavirus infections begin to spike again in Germany. Like its European neighbors, Germany has not been spared a second wave of the virus after the region’s economies reopened during the summer. Although, so far it has not seen a surge in cases like France, Spain and the U.K. For instance, while the U.K. reported 7,143 new cases and 71 deaths from the virus Tuesday, Germany’s public health body reported 2,089 new cases and 11 fatalities.

Germany did not fare as badly in the first outbreak of the coronavirus compared to its neighbors, managing to limit deaths (there are still under 10,000 — far lower than the U.K. Italy, France and Spain). But officials are not complacent about a second wave of cases. “We want to act regionally, specifically and purposefully, rather than shutting down the whole country again — this must be prevented at all costs,” Merkel told a news conference Tuesday having met with regional leaders, Deutsche Welle reported. More...


The United States has held off on joining the United Kingdom and Canada in imposing sanctions against Belarus, as European Union states try to overcome an internal dispute on how to carry out the penalties. Speaking on condition of anonymity, three sources on Wednesday told Reuters News Agency that Washington refrained from going ahead with the sanctions because it believed the EU might achieve consensus at the European Council meeting, which starts on Thursday.

Gitanas Nauseda, the president of Lithuania, where Belarus’s main opposition leader is in exile, said he expected that the meeting “will be the tipping point for the decision on sanctions against Belarus authorities.” The EU promised in August to impose sanctions on Belarus for alleged fraud in its August 9 election and for human rights abuses since, but Cyprus, one of its smallest members, has proved an obstacle.

Cyprus has maintained it will not agree to the Belarusian sanctions unless the EU also puts sanctions on Turkey because of a separate dispute about Turkish drilling for oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean. More...

By Reuters Staff

BERLIN, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny told a German magazine that Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind what Germany has said was poisoning and stressed that he was not afraid. More...

BBC

Mr Johnson told MPs "strong local action" was needed in response to "a serious and growing" virus resurgence. Labour's Sir Keir Starmer asked how people could be expected to understand and follow rules when the PM himself had failed to make them clear. Mr Johnson said he had "cleared up" a mistaken comment he made on rules for the North East "as fast as I could". Speaking at Prime Minister's Questions, Sir Keir asked how the government planned to move towns and cities out of local restrictions, as some people in places such as Bradford had not seen their families for "months". Mr Johnson said "nobody wants to impose restrictions of this kind" but that "frankly, when you have the virus going up in the way that it is now in some parts of the country, you have to take strong local action". More...

Sam Meredith

LONDON — European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday said it had sent a letter of formal notice to the U.K. over its plan to override the Brexit divorce deal, marking the first step in legal proceedings. It comes after U.K. lawmakers approved Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s controversial Internal Market Bill earlier this week, despite some ministers admitting the legislation could lead to the country breaching international law.

The U.K. has said the proposed legislation, which now requires the approval of the House of Lords, will protect the integrity of the U.K. The bill would allow ministers to unilaterally amend elements of the country’s Withdrawal Agreement with the EU. It has amplified divisions between the U.K. and Europe, threatening to scupper trade talks during the post-Brexit transition period. “If adopted as is, it will be in full contradiction to the protocol of Ireland-Northern Ireland,” Von der Leyen said in a televised statement. More...


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