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« Reply #30 on: Oct 17, 2020, 04:13 AM »

Rickshaw driver's son beats odds to join famed UK ballet school

After just four years’ training in India and some fast crowd-funding, Kamal Singh joins English National Ballet School

Hannah Ellis-Petersen and Lanre Bakare
17 Oct 2020 07.00 BST

Kamal Singh did not even know what ballet was when he turned up nervously at the Imperial Fernando Ballet School, in Delhi, during the summer of 2016. But the 17-year-old, known as Noddy, whose father was a rickshaw driver in the west of the city, had been transfixed by ballet dancers in a Bollywood film, and wanted to try it for himself.

Four years on Singh is now one of the first Indian students to be admitted to the English National Ballet school. He started this week.

The school fees and London living expenses totalling about £20,000 were far beyond the reach of Singh’s family, but a crowdfunding campaign, backed by some of Bollywood’s biggest names, managed to raise all the funds needed in less than two weeks.

“I cannot explain how it feels, it is all my dreams come true” said Singh, 21. “It’s amazing, I’m enjoying every day. “My family do not know much about ballet but they are very happy and very proud that I am at the English National Ballet. I am the first in my family to come to London.”

When Fernando Aguilera, his teacher, mentor and the founder of the school in Delhi where he danced, first encountered Singh, he recalled his astonishment at the boy’s natural gifts.

“I knew immediately he was such a talent,” said Aguilera, who is from Argentina. “He was completely flexible, like a rubber. He had a body that was ready-made for ballet by god – he just needed to be taught how to use it.”

Singh told Aguilera he desperately wanted to carry on with classes but could not afford the 3,500 rupees (£37) fees per month. “In that moment my heart broke into pieces. I told him ‘come back tomorrow. I’m not going to charge you, just come because I want to keep seeing you in class’,” said Aguilera.

After Singh’s second class, Aguilera said he realised the boy had a “true gift, even though he didn’t know it”. He later took Singh on as a full-time student with a scholarship, even paying for his lunch and transport to the school, a two and a half-hour journey from the boy’s home.

Singh had never heard classical music or even a piano before his first lesson, but under Aguilera’s private tuition he learned not only ballet but the basics of reading music, the stories of famous ballet dancers, and all the storylines of the great ballets such as Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, and Giselle. He studied at the school for 10 to 12 hours every day.

Aguilera said: “He was very dedicated, he worked very hard and he wanted to learn. I taught him for four years, and he never asked for a break, he never missed a single day.”

He also made Singh and his family realise that there was a future in ballet. “He made me watch videos of professional ballet dancers and taught me that it can be a career, just like a doctor or an engineer, and he also met my father to explain. After that my father allowed me to study full-time.”

Under Aguilera’s sponsorship Singh went to Russia in 2019 to take part in a prestigious summer ballet course. He had been granted a scholarship to return this year but the Covid-19 pandemic happened and everything was cancelled.

Just as it seemed as if the opportunities were disappearing, an advert on Instagram said that English National Ballet in London was looking for male dancers. So Singh applied.

In September an acceptance email landed in Aguilera’s inbox. “I read this email seven times, I could not believe it,” said Aguilera. “I even translated it into Spanish just to make sure I was reading it right. And then I started crying.”

Singh’s first response was “‘sir I don’t think so, read the letter again”. But the initial celebrations swiftly turned to worry. The fees of £8,000 plus living expenses of £12,000 were unimaginable for Singh’s family. Aguilera, determined for money not to get in the way, was on the brink of taking out a loan to fund his student, when they had an idea to start a crowdfunding page.

Within a week they had raised 1.5m rupees (£16,000); by two weeks more than 1.9m rupees after several Bollywood stars such as Kunal Kapoor caught wind of the campaign, donated and shared the information widely. In the final week of September Singh boarded a flight to London.

Viviana Durante, artistic director of the English National Ballet School, said the year-long programme would provide Singh with “intense training in classical and contemporary techniques”, and he would be taught how to adapt to a dance world drastically altered by Covid-19. “Talk about passion, optimism and education. That’s what you need in these times and the students have it, including Kamal,” she said. He is one of only ten male dancers and ten female dancers who were selected this year.

Having only started training at 17, Singh’s capabilities as classically trained ballet dancer developed relatively late. But Durante said he was in good company. “Rudolf Nureyev started quite late as well. Obviously, if you start earlier you have more time to train. But you do get cases like Kamal where they start late and passion comes through – and his devotion and ability as well.”

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« Reply #31 on: Oct 17, 2020, 04:27 AM »

'On the brink of disaster': Europe's Covid fight takes a turn for the worse

As France imposes curfews, even countries that previously managed well are struggling badly 

Jon Henley in Paris
17 Oct 2020 14.14 BST

“It’s not a word I’ve heard in a long, long time,” an elderly Paris resident said, leaving her apartment in mask and gloves for an early expedition to the shops. “A curfew. That’s for wartime, isn’t it? But in a way I suppose that’s what this is.”

Europe’s second coronavirus wave took a dramatic turn for the worse this week, forcing governments across the continent to make tough choices as more than a dozen countries reported their highest ever number of new infections.

In France, 18 million people in nine big cities risk a fine from Saturday if they are not at home by 9pm. In the Czech Republic, schools have closed and medical students are being enlisted to help doctors. All Dutch bars and restaurants are shut.

Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland are among countries to have broken daily case records, prompting the World Health Organization to call for an “uncompromising” effort to stem the spread.

Unfortunately, that requires making all but impossible compromises.

Most European governments relaxed strict lockdowns over the summer to revive economies shattered by the pandemic’s first wave. The return of normal activity, from packed bars to new academic terms, has fuelled an exponential increase in infections.

With infections across the continent breaking the barrier of 120,000 a day, authorities must tighten restrictions once more to slow the spread of the disease – while doing all they can to avoid destroying already-jeopardised jobs and livelihoods.

They are also facing legal challenges: the Dutch government must work out how it can make masks mandatory while complying with the law, and a Berlin court suspended a city order requiring bars to close at 11pm, for lack of evidence it would prove effective.

In France, which reported more than 30,000 new infections on Thursday, President Emmanuel Macron said a curfew was needed to halt “the parties, the moments of conviviality, the festive evenings … They accelerate the disease. We have to act.”

The government will deploy 12,000 police to enforce it, and spend an extra €1bn (£900m) to help already hard-hit businesses in the entertainment and hospitality sectors. “We cannot live normally while the virus is here,” said the prime minister, Jean Castex.

As in many countries, hospital and particularly intensive care unit capacity is starting to become a serious concern. Aurélien Rousseau, the director of the Paris region’s public health agency, said nearly half of its ICU beds were occupied by Covid patients, with other hospital beds filling rapidly too.

“It’s a kind of rising spring tide that affects everybody, simultaneously,” Rousseau said. “We had a blind spot in our tracking policies, one that’s actually very difficult to track – it’s the private sphere, festive events.”

Alarm bells have begun ringing increasingly loudly in Germany, too, which has one of the strongest coronavirus records in Europe but reported more than 6,600 cases in 24 hours on Thursday – 300 more than its previous high set in late March.

The chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the country’s 16 state governors, who are responsible for imposing and lifting restrictions, agreed to tighten mask-wearing rules, oblige bars to close early and limit gatherings in areas where infection rates are high.

But Merkel reportedly wanted more, arguing Germany’s response in the coming days and weeks would be decisive in determining how well it made it through the crisis, and her chief of staff admitted the measures “probably won’t be enough”.

Italy also reported a record 8,800 new cases on Thursday; Rome has already imposed tough new rules, including an end to parties, amid rumours of a nationwide 10pm curfew. The Campania region has closed its schools, with Milan likely to follow.

Even countries that managed the first wave well are struggling badly. The Czech Republic now has Europe’s highest per capita infection rate, with a high of 9,720 daily infections on Thursday. It is building a virus hospital in Prague’s exhibition centre.

“We have to build extra capacity as soon as possible,” the Czech prime minister, Andrej Babiš, said. “We have no time. The prognosis is not good.”

Poland, too, which was also spared a high death toll this spring, registered a record of nearly 9,000 new cases. It is expanding training for nurses and planning new field hospitals. “We are on the brink of disaster,” the immunologist Paweł Grzesiowski said.

In Belgium, which has Europe’s second-worst infection rate per capita, hospitals have been ordered to reserve a quarter of all their beds for Covid patients. “We can’t see the end of the tunnel,” said Renaud Mazy of the Saint-Luc clinics in Brussels.

And even Sweden, whose anti-lockdown approach was an international outlier, has raised the prospect of tougher restrictions. “Too many are not following the rules,” said the prime minister, Stefan Löfven. “If there is no correction, we will have to tighten up.”

The stakes are certainly high. Bavaria’s outspoken governor, Markus Söder, said bluntly that “Europe’s prosperity is at stake”. But while it warned that without countermeasures daily coronavirus deaths in Europe could reach four or five times their April peak within months, the WHO said there was cause for some optimism.

“The pandemic today is not the pandemic yesterday – not only in terms of its transmission dynamic, but in the ways we are now equipped to face it,” Dr Hans Kluge, the organisation’s regional director for Europe, said on Thursday.

Vastly increased testing capacities meant it was impossible to compare this week’s figures to those of March and April, Kluge noted, while higher transmission among younger, less vulnerable people, plus an improved ability to manage severe cases, meant mortality rates, while rising, were still relatively low.

Europe is recording two to three times more new daily infections compared with April, he said, but five times fewer deaths, while hospital admission numbers are taking two to three times longer to double than during the spring.

According to WHO models, quite simple measures – such as near-100% mask wearing, and strict limits on social gatherings – could save up to 281,000 lives across Europe by 1 February. “These may be pandemic times. But that need not necessarily mean dark times,” Kluge said.


US passes 8m coronavirus cases as death toll approaches 220,000

Trump claims virus will ‘peter out’ in country with most cases and highest death toll

Joan E Greve in Washington and Joanna Walters in New York
17 Oct 2020 20.55 BST

The US passed 8m recorded coronavirus cases on Friday, another unwelcome mark for the country with the most cases and the worst death toll from the global pandemic, approaching 220,000.

Despite there being no sign that the pandemic is under control in the US, on Thursday Donald Trump said that the virus would “peter out”.

Cases are increasing in 32 states, holding steady in 15 and decreasing in just three: Louisiana, Kentucky and Vermont.

According to Johns Hopkins University, by mid-afternoon on Friday the US had confirmed 8,008,402 cases since March. On Thursday, 63,610 new cases were reported, the highest single-day total since mid-August. The US is seeing an average increase of 50,000 cases a day.

At an event in Florida earlier on Friday, Trump insisted: “We are rounding the turn. I say that all the time.”

But experts have warned of increased spread of the virus in the midwest, as the weather gets colder and more Americans gather inside.

Wisconsin has set up emergency overflow hospital facilities and the national guard is helping out at extra testing sites.

“We are in crisis here in Wisconsin,” said Julie Willems Van Dijk, deputy secretary of state health services. “The trajectory does not look good. We need to be prepared for that.”

In Utah, Gary Herbert, the Republican governor, said: “Our hospitals are getting overwhelmed. The dramatic increase in infections has put the integrity of our healthcare system at risk.”

Herbert said the national guard was on standby to build a field hospital in a convention center outside Salt Lake City. On Tuesday, he ordered that masks be worn at all outdoor events.

Hotspots are also springing up in Oklahoma, Wyoming, Missouri, Mississippi and North Dakota.

Missouri reported limited intensive care capacity “in several regions”.

Indiana is facing “critical ICU bed shortages along with personnel shortages”, the state’s chief medical officer, Lindsay Weaver, said. In late September, the Republican governor, Eric Holcomb, lifted most coronavirus restrictions. Now officials are calling for volunteers to plug staffing gaps at some hospitals.

Further south, parts of Texas and New Mexico are in trouble. The border city of El Paso, in west Texas, reported that it was running out of intensive care beds.

New Mexico’s Democratic governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, announced early closing for restaurants and bars, restricted gatherings to no more than five and said: “This is the most serious emergency New Mexico has ever faced.”

In a Friday online conversation between Dr Anthony Fauci and Johns Hopkins University experts, the nation’s top infectious disease public health expert warned Americans eschewing public health advice: “By not wearing a mask and not socially distancing, you’re becoming part of the problem when you should be part of the solution.”

Trump has belatedly recommended wearing masks, after months of dismissing and discouraging them and avoiding wearing one himself.

The president caught coronavirus earlier this month and was hospitalised for several days.


Midwives, physios and pharmacists to administer future UK Covid vaccine

Expanded workforce will undergo training programme to immunise as much of population as possible
Ben Quinn

Midwives, physiotherapists, pharmacists, student nurses and doctors are among those who will be authorised to administer a mass Covid-19 vaccine under new laws that have come into force.

They follow a consultation on moves to give emergency approval for a vaccine’s use across the UK and an expanded workforce, which will be trained to give the injections to immunise as much of the population as quickly possible.

The expanded workforce will undergo what the government described as a “robust training programme” after changes to the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 came into force on Friday.

“These legal changes will help us in doing everything we can to make sure we are ready to roll out a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine as soon as it has passed clinical trials and undergone rigorous checks by the regulator,” said the health secretary, Matt Hancock.

A government response following a three-week consultation, which received 191,740 completed responses, gave a commitment to a formal review of the new regulations allowing the use of unlicensed medicines or vaccines within a year of any first use.

A number of amendments to the regulations include one that would extend the current immunity from civil liability to companies producing the vaccine, rather than just healthcare workers and manufacturers. This would protect them from legal liability in civil cases “but does not give them blanket immunity from civil liability,” according to the government.

The government stated that several responses had expressed concerns that the proposals outlined in the consultation document would make vaccines mandatory or push through an untested vaccine.

The proposals “do not create powers to make receiving a Covid-19 vaccine mandatory for the UK population,” said the government response, which added that the proposals “do not create powers to roll out an untested vaccine for the UK population.”

It noted that other respondents had taken the opportunity to express concerns about existing regulations enabling the temporarily authorisation of the supply of an unlicensed vaccine in response to a public health emergency. Any authorisation using the regulations would be short term, kept under review and would automatically cease when the product is granted a full licence.

While health professionals such as physiotherapists and occupational therapists who have not previously been involved in large-scale vaccination programmes are expected to be deployed, Hancock’s department said that decisions would be taken by devolved administrations and authorities around the UK.

“For example, one UK nation might want to train student nurses and doctors to administer Covid-19 vaccines or flu vaccines whereas another UK nation may not choose that route,” the government response added.

Healthcare professionals such as occupational therapists were among those recently asked if they wanted to be involved in the distribution of this year’s winter flu vaccine, in what appeared to be preparations to involve those sectors in the rollout of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Discussions between health authorities and professional medical associations are continuing about who will administer the Covid-19 vaccine, and the creation of a new national protocol will set out who can operate under it and training requirements.

The changes to regulations will bolster existing powers that enable the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), if a vaccine is developed before 2021.

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« Last Edit: Oct 17, 2020, 07:31 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #32 on: Oct 17, 2020, 04:31 AM »

Ardern wins landslide re-election in New Zealand vote

By Praveen Menon

The mandate means Ardern, 40, could form the first single-party government in decades, and face the challenge of delivering on the progressive transformation she promised but failed to deliver in her first term, where Labour shared power with a nationalist party.

“This is a historic shift,” said political commentator Bryce Edwards of Victoria University in Wellington, describing the vote as one of the biggest swings in New Zealand’s electoral history in 80 years.

Labour was on track to win 64 of the 120 seats in the country’s unicameral parliament, the highest by any party since New Zealand adopted a proportional voting system in 1996.

If Labour wins more than half the seats, Ardern could form the first single-party government under the current system.

Ardern came out of her home in Auckland, waved and hugged gathered supporters. Opposition National Party leader Judith Collins said she had called the prime minister to congratulate her for an “outstanding result”.

Labour had 49.0% of the votes, far ahead of National at 27%, the Electoral Commission said, with 77% of ballots counted in an election that was largely a referendum on Ardern’s aggressive handling of COVID-19.

“People were very grateful and very happy with how we’ve handled COVID, they like the shape of the plan that we’ve got going forward from here for the economy,” said Finance Minister Grant Robertson, a top Labour MP.

Geoffrey Miller, analyst at political website Democracy Project, said the victory was “very much a personal triumph for Jacinda Ardern’s ‘superstar’ popularity and brand.”

Of Ardern’s current coalition partners, the nationalist New Zealand First Party had 2.6% and the Green Party 7.6%. If she is unable to form a Labour-only government, she is expected to continue to rely on the minor Greens while jettisoning New Zealand First.

A Labour-Green coalition would be the first fully left-leaning government since the 1970s, a scenario that National’s Collins warned would mean more taxes and an environment hostile to business.
Slideshow ( 2 images )

Ardern has pledged to raise taxes on top earners, while Collins promised short-term tax cuts, but they have otherwise shown few major differences on policy.


The prime minister won global acclaim for her handling of a mass shooting last year by a white supremacist in Christchurch, with her inclusive “be strong, be kind” mantra and swift action to ban guns.

She burnished that reputation this year with a “go hard, go early” approach to the new coronavirus, which has eliminated locally spread COVID-19 in the nation.

The election was delayed by a month after new COVID-19 infections in Auckland, that led to a second lockdown in the country’s largest city.

While known internationally for promoting progressive causes such as woman’s rights and social justice, at home Ardern faced criticism that her government failed on a promise to be transformational.

Life is back to normal in New Zealand, but its borders are still shut, its tourism sector is bleeding and economists predict a lasting recession after the harsh lockdowns.

The economy shrank at an 12.2% annual clip in the second quarter, its steepest drop since the Great Depression. Debt is forecast to rise to 56% of gross domestic product from less than 20% before the pandemic.

New Zealanders also voted on Saturday in referendums to legalise euthanasia and recreational marijuana, with results to be announced on Oct. 30. The latter vote could make New Zealand only the third country in the world to allow the adult use and sale of cannabis nationwide, after Uruguay and Canada.

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« Reply #33 on: Oct 17, 2020, 04:33 AM »

Teacher decapitated in Paris named as Samuel Paty, 47

Terrorism investigation opened after 18-year-old attacker shot dead by police

Kim Willsher in Paris
Sat 17 Oct 2020 10.00 BST

A history teacher decapitated outside his secondary school in a Paris suburb on Friday after he reportedly showed a caricature of the prophet Muhammad to his pupils has been named.

Samuel Paty, 47, who taught history and geography at the school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine , north-west of the French capital, was attacked on Friday evening by an 18-year-old man who was shot dead by police shortly afterwards.

Earlier this month, Paty had reportedly shown a class of teenage pupils a caricature from the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo during a moral and civic education class discussion about freedom of speech, sparking a furious response from a number of parents who had demanded his resignation. Before presenting the caricature, the teacher reportedly invited Muslim students to leave the classroom if they wished.

Afterwards, the father of a 13-year-old girl who did not leave the class posted a video on YouTube claiming the teacher had shown a “photo of a naked man” claiming he was the “Muslim prophet”. The father called on other parents to join him in a collective action against the teacher, whom he described as a “voyou” (thug).

In order to calm the situation, the school organised a meeting between the headteacher, the teacher and an official from the education authority.

The 18-year-old killer, who was born in Moscow and was reported to be from Chechnya, attacked Paty as he left the school, beheading him with a large kitchen cleaver. He then took a photo of his victim and posted it, with a message to French president Emmanuel Macron signed “Abdullah the servant of Allah”, on social media.

Witnesses said the killer shouted “Allahu Akbar”, then ran off chased by police. He was shot dead after refusing to surrender. Officers said they fired at least 10 times after the attacker threatened them.

Macron visited the scene of the attack on Friday evening. “One of our compatriots was assassinated today because he taught pupils freedom of expression, the freedom to believe and not believe,” he said. “This was a cowardly attack on our compatriot. He was the victim of a typical Islamist terrorist attack.”

Nine people were being questioned by police on Saturday, among them members of the attacker’s family, including his grandfather and 17-year-old brother.

The anti-terror prosecutor has opened an investigation into “assassination linked to a terrorist organisation and association with terrorist criminals”.

The education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, is due to meet teacher and parent representatives on Saturday and is expected to release a message of solidarity to all school staff and pupils’ families afterwards. The anti-terrorism prosecutor, Jean-François Ricard, is also expected to make a statement on Saturday.

A court in Paris is currently trying 14 people in connection with the January 2015 killings at Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket Hyper Cacher, and the gunning down of a police officer. Three weeks ago, a man with a knife stabbed two members of a television production company outside the former offices of Charlie Hebdo in response to the newspaper’s decision to republish the controversial caricatures, originally printed in 2015, to mark the opening of the trial.

Staff at Charlie Hebdo released a statement after Friday’s killing expressing their “horror and revulsion”.

On social media, parents paid tribute to the teacher. “RIP Monsieur Paty. He was my son’s teacher last year. He was a man of great humanity,” wrote one.

The hashtag #JeSuisProf (I’m a teacher) was spreading on social media on Saturday. It is reminiscent of #JeSuisCharlie, which emerged as a global wave of support for the journalists and staff of Charlie Hebdo killed in 2015.

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« Reply #34 on: Oct 17, 2020, 04:35 AM »

Leftist versus hardliner in Turkish Cypriot leadership vote


NICOSIA, Cyprus (AFP) — Turkish Cypriots vote on Sunday in a leadership runoff that could decide whether they retain more control over their own affairs or steer even closer to an increasingly domineering Turkey.
Mustafa Akinci

Veteran incumbent Mustafa Akinci, 72, backs the long-held federal framework for a deal with rival Greek Cypriots to reunify ethnically divided Cyprus. He’s also a champion of Turkish Cypriots who oppose Turkey’s complete domination of their affairs.

His hardline challenger Ersin Tatar, 60, advocates fully aligning Turkish Cypriot with Turkish policies, such as pursuing a two-state deal instead of a federation. Here’s a look at what’s at stake: THE PEACE PUZZLE

A 1974 Turkish invasion triggered by a coup aimed at union with Greece split the eastern Mediterranean island along ethnic lines. Nine years later, Turkish Cypriots in the northern third declared independence, but are only recognized by Turkey, which maintains a strong military footprint there.

Since then, the agreed-upon arrangement that would restore Turkish Cypriots to the international fold is a federation of two separately administered zones. But nearly half a century of U.N.-mediated talks to cobble a deal together have stumbled on several core issues.

Those include a demand for Turkey to retain military intervention rights and a permanent troop presence. The majority Greek Cypriots also oppose a Turkish Cypriot demand for equal say at all levels of federal government.

Akinci says that despite the difficulties federation is the only path to peace. But Tatar mirrors Turkey’s view that both sides must look at new options, including a two-state deal. The winner’s first test will be a planned meeting under U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, bringing together the two sides with ‘guarantors' Greece, Turkey and Britain to scope out the chances of resuming peace talks.

But the final say on key issues such as intervention rights rests with Ankara, on which Turkish Cypriots are economically and militarily dependent. THE ENERGY QUESTION Turkey, Greece and Cyprus are heavily at odds over potential offshore gas and oil reserves. With much military muscle flexing, Turkey has laid claim to areas of the sea where Greece and Cyprus’ internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot government say they have exclusive economic rights.

Ankara says it’s got every right to look for energy reserves there and that it's also defending Turkish Cypriots' rights. The standoff has ratcheted up military tensions between Greece and Turkey. A Cyprus peace deal would go a long way towards easing those tensions and enabling maritime border deals that would unlock the eastern Mediterranean’s huge potential as a possible gas exporter to energy-hungry Europe and beyond.

Akinci says peace talks should include negotiations on sharing any future gas proceeds. Tatar takes that a step further by insisting an energy deal should come first. Greek Cypriots say Turkish Cypriots’ share to a potential gas bounty is already guaranteed.

TURKEY’S HAND Last week’s first round of voting took place under the cloud of Turkey’s alleged meddling to rally support around Tatar. In a move that also served notice over who’s pulling the strings in the north, Turkey opened to the public a beach in an uninhabited Famagusta suburb that's remained off-limits and under Turkish military control since its Greek Cypriot residents fled the 1974 invasion.

Many Turkish Cypriots interpreted the move as Ankara trying to boost support for Tatar, while Greek Cypriots were angry at what they saw as a prelude to the Turkish Cypriots taking over the whole suburb in contravention of U.N. resolutions.

Akinci charged that the beach opening showed an unprecedented level of Turkish interference in an election and argued that it would pit Turkish Cypriots against U.N. decisions. THE NUMBERS: In the first round, Ersin Tatar came out on top with 32.35%, and Akinci secured 29.84%. The center-left CTP party of third-place finisher Tufan Erhurman who garnered 21.68%. has thrown its support behind Akinci. But the race could go either way.

Akinci may have CTP backing, but Tatar is courting a significant pool of voters — especially in rural areas — who may not have voted in the first round. Turnout will be a key factor. The first round saw an all-time low voter participation of 55% from a 200,000-strong electorate, and some analysts say a higher turnout might favor Tatar.

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« Reply #35 on: Oct 17, 2020, 04:51 AM »

Trump condemned for QAnon dodge as Biden town hall wins TV ratings battle

    President refused to disavow baseless QAnon conspiracy theory
    TV figures show rival Biden event drew about 1m more viewers

David Smith in Washington
17 Oct 2020 17.58 BST

Joe Biden beat Donald Trump in their TV ratings battle from their duelling town hall events, figures showed Friday, while the president faced condemnation over his failure to disavow the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Biden, the Democratic challenger, attracted almost 1 million more viewers, according to Nielsen, even though Trump’s event was shown on more channels.

The figures from the TV events late on Thursday will probably enrage the ratings-obsessed president, who told aides he hoped to beat Biden and then use the numbers to humiliate him.

Biden’s town hall on ABC averaged 13.9 million viewers, CNN reported, citing Nielsen, while Trump’s audience was about 13 million cross three channels. The president’s responses to questions about QAnon were drawing condemnation on Friday.

QAnon’s followers believe that Trump is trying to save the world from a cabal of satanic paedophiles that includes Democratic politicians and Hollywood celebrities. It has been linked to several violent acts since 2018 including at least one alleged murder.

The US president has praised QAnon adherents including a congressional candidate. At a televised “town hall” on Thursday, he repeatedly claimed to be ignorant of the movement, considered by the FBI as a potential domestic terror threat.

“I know nothing about QAnon,” he told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie in Miami, Florida. ‘I do know they are very much against paedophilia. They fight it very hard. But I know nothing about it … I just don’t know about QAnon.”

Guthrie forcefully interjected: “You do know!”

But Trump said: “I don’t know. No, I don’t know.”

There was a widespread backlash. Ben Collins, a journalist at NBC News, tweeted: “Outside of a straight up endorsement, this is about as about as close to a dream scenario for QAnon followers as is humanly possible.”

The fresh controversy came as millions of people vote early, ahead of the 3 November presidential election, and the coronavirus surges again with 38 states reporting rising cases.

Trump and Biden held simultaneous town halls with voters on rival TV networks in lieu of their second presidential debate, cancelled after the president contracted the coronavirus and refused to debate virtually. Although both candidates are white men in their 70s, it proved to be a split screen for the ages, radically divergent in both style and substance.

Speaking in Philadelphia, Biden offered long, detailed answers and promised to follow the science in combating the pandemic. “The words of a president matter,” he told host George Stephanopoulos on ABC. “No matter whether they’re good, bad or indifferent, they matter. When a president doesn’t wear a mask, or makes fun of folks like me when I was wearing a mask for a long time, then people say it mustn’t be that important.”

The former vice-president conceded mistakes in a 1994 crime law that led to the mass incarceration of African Americans and promised to take a firm position on whether to expand the supreme court, saying people “do have a right to know where I stand. And they will have a right to know where I stand before they vote.”

But the sober policy discussion on ABC was often overshadowed by Trump’s characteristically vague answers to questions that no other American president in modern times would even be asked.

He became visibly agitated when pressed by Guthrie on his views on white supremacy and his retweeting of a conspiracy theory that Osama bin Laden might still be alive. And pushed on whether he owes money to any foreign bank or entity, Trump replied: “I will let you know who – who I owe whatever small amount of money.

“When you look at vast properties like I have – and they’re big and they’re beautiful and they’re well located – when you look at that the amount of money, $400m is a peanut. It’s extremely under-levered. And it’s levered with normal banks – not a big deal.”

Much criticised for his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, Trump claimed: “What we’ve done has been amazing, and we have done an amazing job, and it’s rounding the corner.” But more than 63,500 new cases were reported in the US on Thursday, the highest number since July.

Trump also misrepresented a recent study to make the false claim that 85% of the people that wear masks catch the virus. “That’s what I heard and that’s what I saw.”

Biden holds a commanding lead over Trump in opinion polls and fundraising. Trump’s campaign, along with the Republican National Committee and related groups, raised $247.8m in September, well short of the $383m raised by Biden and the Democratic National Committee in the same period.

Recovered from the virus, Trump has entered a frenzied spell of campaign rallies in critical swing states but continues to show little message discipline. On Thursday he renewed his attacks against Gretchen Whitmer, branding the Democratic Michigan governor a “dictator” even as authorities announced charges against a 14th suspect in a plot to kidnap her.

Whitmer responded on Twitter: “One week after a plot to kidnap and murder me was revealed, the president renewed his attacks. Words matter. I am asking people of goodwill on both sides of the aisle – please, lower the heat of this dangerous rhetoric.”

Democrats are taking nothing for granted, however, following Trump’s stunning upset victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

John Zogby, a Democratic author and pollster, said: “I think Trump is in bad shape. It’s very hard to see a path to victory. But as I say those words. I recall hearing them and maybe even saying them exactly four years ago. I’m not ready to subscribe to the landslide yet.”

Wall Street is preparing for a likely Biden victory, however. Shares of the gun makers Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger have both rallied around 8% since late September. Experts predict a surge of gun sales if Democrats win control of the Senate from Republicans, giving them majorities in both houses of Congress and making it easier to approve gun control legislation.


Trump whines that he may lose 2020 election: ‘Maybe I’ll have to leave the country’

Raw Story

During his campaign rally in Georgia Friday night, President Donald J. Trump threatened to “leave the country” if he should lose the 2020 presidential election to his Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

Raw Story‘s Matthew Chapman reported last week that Trump’s tax records revealed a few giant surprises.

On Saturday, Oct. 10, The New York Times published a detailed report that revealed the extent to which he used his businesses to sell access to wealthy individuals with business before the administration.

“An investigation by The Times found over 200 companies, special-interest groups and foreign governments that patronized Mr. Trump’s properties while reaping benefits from him and his administration. Nearly a quarter of those patrons have not been previously reported,” said the report. “The tax records — along with membership rosters for Mar-a-Lago and the president’s golf club in Bedminster, N.J., as well as other sources — reveal how much money this new line of business was worth.”
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With Trump’s tax evasion in mind, his fleeing the country should he lose the election might not be the wisest move.

Watch the video below.

    “Maybe I’ll have to leave the country. I don’t know.” — Trump on what could happen if he loses to Biden pic.twitter.com/NGrXDwjaSd

    — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 17, 2020


Donald Trump is now openly campaigning against following the science during a pandemic

Raw Story

President Donald Trump on Friday escalated his war on science during a campaign rally in Macon, Georgia.

Trump suggested he would ignore the advice of Dr. Tony Fauci if he were advised to close down America — and bashed Joe Biden for saying he would follow the science.

“But Biden will close your classrooms and you know that,” Trump alleged.

“He actually said the other day he’ll follow science. So that means if Fauci says ‘close up the country,’ he’s gonna close up the country? It’s not going to happen,” Trump said.
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    "He actually said the other day he'll follow science. So that means if Fauci says 'close up the country,' he's gonna close up the country?" — Trump admits his approach to the coronavirus isn't led by science pic.twitter.com/O2pIif2gW2

    — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 17, 2020

    As of October 12, national forecasts predict 3,400 to 7,100 new #COVID19 deaths will be reported during the week ending November 7. These forecasts predict 229,000 to 240,000 total COVID-19 deaths in the United States by November 7. More: https://t.co/Ft6cgmaMPX pic.twitter.com/yvyfpkBtTH

    — CDC (@CDCgov) October 16, 2020


Joy Reid rips the ‘boot-licker’ Republicans who refuse to stand up to Trump as the GOP collapses

Raw Story

The host of “The ReidOut” on MSNBC blasted “boot-licker” Republicans who refuse to stand up to President Donald Trump.

“What we started to see over the last several days, is Republicans waking up as if from a dream and realizing ‘Cr*p, we aligned ousts with a guy who will tank the party,'” Joy Reid explained.

She singled out Ben Sasse (R-NE) for criticizing Trump “behind closed doors where it’s safe and Trump can’t tweet at him.”

She also singled out Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Gov. Ron DiSantis (R-FL).

Watch: https://youtu.be/Z5AdaFJRW5g


Watch ‘super racist’ rant against Kamala Harris by GOP senator at Georgia MAGA rally

Raw Story

Republicans are playing political defense in the once reliably-red state of Georgia.

President Donald Trump is holding a Friday night campaign rally despite the coronavirus pandemic and had Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) warm up the crowd.

Perdue has served alongside Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) in the U.S. Senate for 1,382 days, but pretended to not know how to pronounce her name during his speech.

“Bernie and Elizabeth and Kah-mah-la or Kah-ma-la or Kamamboamamla or however you say it,” is the rough transcript CNN’s Ryan Nobles provided on Twitter.

    Perdue then warned the crowd of a potential liberal take over of government with "Bernie and Elizabeth and Kah-mah-la or Kah-ma-la or Kamamboamamla or however you say it." (Perdue has served with Kamala Harris in the Senate for 3 years)

    — Ryan Nobles (@ryanobles) October 16, 2020

Perdue is being challenged by Democrat Jon Ossoff, whose campaign posted video of the speech to Twitter:

    David Perdue is just gross.

    He mispronounced @KamalaHarris' name just now warming up the stage for @realDonaldTrump to score race-baiting, cheap political cheers. pic.twitter.com/kiLmn8682A

    — Miryam Lipper (@MiryamLipper) October 16, 2020

Purdue was blasted for his remarks:

    Sen. Perdue is the same POS who enlarged his opponent Jon Ossoff's nose in an anti-Semitic campaign ad. Georgia deserves better. https://t.co/yhjz4LnZmq

    — Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) October 16, 2020

    My opponent, GOP Sen. David Perdue of anti-Semitic attack ad infamy, just mocked Sen. Harris' name as "Kamala-mala-mala-whatever" at a Trump rally.

    We are so much better than this. pic.twitter.com/9AvoQK4RdN

    — Jon Ossoff (@ossoff) October 16, 2020

    Kamala's not that hard to pronounce. It's just as easy as Perdue, which is pronounced "racist." https://t.co/UcCMJ19JdC

    — Hari Sevugan (@HariSevugan) October 16, 2020

    Your macaca moment for 2020. This is not going to work out well for Perdue… https://t.co/7xgOeDJCVs

    — Liz Mair (@LizMair) October 16, 2020

    This is a vile, racist act by Senator David Perdue. We must elect @ossoff in #gasen pic.twitter.com/WhoQTO286q

    — Justin Barasky (@JustinBarasky) October 16, 2020

    Sen. David Perdue, Super Racist https://t.co/pi9YxqvLoR

    — john r stanton (@dcbigjohn) October 16, 2020


Trump’s racism revealed in tell-all book by former executive — and it’s hitting before the election

Raw Story

A new book by former Trump Organization executive Barbara A. Res takes a deep look into the unlikely man who would ultimately become President Donald J. Trump. “Tower of Lies: What My 18 Years of Working with Donald Trump Reveals about Him” is due for release Oct. 20, but the Los Angeles Times leaked some tidbits worth noting ahead of schedule.

Res recalled a time nearly 40 years ago during the erection of Trump Tower on New York City’s Fifth Avenue when Trump mulled, “These politicians don’t know anything. Maybe I should run for president. Wouldn’t that be something?”

“The seeds of who he is today were planted back when I worked with him,” Res wrote in her book, “He was able to control others, through lies and exaggeration, with promises of money or jobs, through threats of lawsuits or exposure. He surrounded himself with yes-men, blamed others for his own failures, never took responsibility, and always stole credit. These tactics are still at work, just deployed at the highest levels of the U.S. government, with all the corruption and chaos that necessarily ensue.”
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Res wrote that “bigotry and bias control Donald’s view of the world, even the so-called positive stereotypes, which are just as damaging, like saying the Japanese (whom he seems to despise) are smarter than Americans.”

When Trump saw a Black worker on a construction site, he yelled at Res to “get him off there right now … and don’t ever let that happen again. I don’t want people to think that Trump Tower is being built by Black people.”

Res recalled Trump berating her for their guests. “Barbara, I don’t want Black kids sitting in the lobby where people come to buy million-dollar apartments!”

Res said that Trump hired a German residential manager because he believed his heritage made him “especially clean and orderly,” and said on another occasion that he “can’t stand” the working people who make up his political base.

It’s not the first book to be written about Trump’s candidacy and presidency and certainly won’t be his last. In addition to Res’ printed account, Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen has vocalized his discontent with the president, as have Trump’s his former national security adviser John Bolton, his own estranged niece, Mary Trump,and veteran journalist Bob Woodward.

Res offered that if Trump changed in any way since she worked with him, “He’s only become more himself. He is Trump raised to the nth degree, but Trump nonetheless. Donald Squared, I call him.” She later wrote, “It’s not hard to look at the trajectory of his entire life and spot an unmistakable pattern: The bigger he got as a name, the smaller he got as a person.”


Joe Biden calls Trump silence on white supremacists ‘stunning’

on October 17, 2020
By Agence France-Presse
Joe Biden delivers a Los Vegas rally speech wearing aviator glasses and a COVID-19 mask (screengrab)

Joe Biden on Friday described President Donald Trump’s reluctance to denounce white supremacists as “stunning” in a hard-hitting speech in battleground Michigan with 18 days to go until the election.

Standing by the side of the Democratic presidential candidate as he spoke was Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a fierce Trump critic who was recently found to be the target of a well-planned kidnapping plot by a heavily armed right-wing militia.

“Make no mistake, that’s who they are, domestic terrorists,” Biden told a group of some 20 guests and reporters in the town of Southfield.

“It was the sort of behavior you might expect from ISIS. It should shock the conscience of every American. Every American, and the failure to condemn these folks is stunning,” said Biden.

In a tweet on October 8 as the plot was made public, Trump expressed no sympathy for the governor.

“Rather than say thank you, she calls me a White Supremacist,” Trump complained.

“I do not tolerate ANY extreme violence,” he insisted.

Trump also infuriated many Americans during the first debate with Biden on September 29 when he declined to denounce white supremacist groups and instead, speaking out to the right wing nationalist group called the Proud Boys, said “stand back and stand by.”

The group celebrated its mention by the president by adopting those words as part of a new logo.

Two days later, under pressure to explain himself, Trump said he did in fact condemn all white supremacists.


Joe Biden blasts CBS reporter for asking about NY Post report on Hunter Biden

Raw Story

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Friday night was asked about the highly controversial report by the NY Post on his son Hunter.

The report has been criticized as likely originating from a Russian disinformation campaign seeking to re-elect Trump.

“Mr. Biden, what is your response to the NY Post story about your son?” CBS News reporter Bo Erickson asked.

“I know you’d ask it. I have no response, it’s another smear campaign, right up your alley, those are the questions you always ask.”
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    I asked Joe Biden: What is your response to the NYPost story about your son, sir?

    He called it a “smear campaign” and then went after me. “I know you’d ask it. I have no response, it’s another smear campaign, right up your alley, those are the questions you always ask.” pic.twitter.com/Eo6VD4TqxD

    — Bo Erickson CBS (@BoKnowsNews) October 17, 2020


Republican secretary of state blows off Trump’s claims of voter mail fraud

Raw Story
By Tom Boggioni

Appearing in CNN with host John King the Republican secretary of state for the state of Washington laughed at comments Donald Trump made during his Thursday night town hall where he predicted widespread voter fraud due to mail-in voting, saying she had no worries about it at all.

Speaking with host King, Secretary of State Kim Wyman was pressed to describe any problems she sees coming in November’s election.

“Kim Wyman thank you for your time again,” King began. “You’re the expert since you’ve been at it for so long in Washington. I was reading the transcript of an interview you did, you can handle this but what strikes you as the vitriol. You’re a Republican, but the nation’s top Republican is saying fraud, rigged, saying things that are frankly wrong, correct?”

“That’s correct. and every time President Trump takes a swing at absentee ballots or vote-by-mail ballots it undermines confidence,” she replied. “So officials have more to do to make sure their voters know that their vote is protected, their vote is going to be counted accurately and we’re going to count for every vote we receive.”

‘The numbers the president was using with Savannah Guthrie were wrong, but there are cases where people are finding ballots discarded or in wrong locations. are other secretaries of state reaching out to you to how to handle it?” King asked. “Are you concerned so far? Do you think these are routine hiccups?”

“We’ve been working with secretaries of state and election officials from across the country for the last seven, eight months,” she explained. “10 percent rolls population moves every year so we’re trying to keep up our voter roles to make sure we have the most accurate address, get the ballot to the voter on the first try and the right ballot to the voter. But people move, and in an apartment or condominium we’ll have opportunities for people to receive someone else’s ballot that’s why we have security measures in place to make sure only the voter it was issued to gets to cast that ballot.”

‘Your state is a high participation state anyway, a civic tradition and all that,” King continued. “I look at the primary turnout, number one and now the early questions: you have huge lines in many places with early voting. Based on those and based on your experience, what does it tell you about the interest in this election?”

“It’s exactly what we expected,” she replied. “We see very high turnout. I’m excited because I think what we’re going to see here in Washington is close to 90 percent turnout of our registered voters. As an election official, it makes you excited and we have to work really hard to make sure we get through all the volume.”

Watch: https://youtu.be/QoUqBBSsRSk

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« Reply #36 on: Oct 17, 2020, 06:24 AM »

Trump’s reign of corruption has left the federal government in ruins

on October 17, 2020
By Lucian K. Truscott IV, Salon
- Commentary

Who remembers Tom Price? Gee, you might say, that name sounds familiar … he had something to do with the Trump administration, didn’t he?

You’re right! He was one of those guys who resigned from a cabinet position because he was abusing something … let me see … think I’ve got it … he was the one who took all those flights on private jets, something like a million dollars worth of flights, including on military aircraft during trips to Europe and Africa with his wife. He refunded $51,887 to the federal government, which he said accounted for the cost of his seat on private charter flights he took before he resigned from Trump’s cabinet. But that was just the cost of his seat. The total amount spent to fly old Tom Price around the world on private jets was more than $400,000 in taxpayer dollars.

What cabinet position did he hold that made it necessary for so many trips on chartered private jets and other business aircraft? What was he doing that was so important that he was flying back and forth to Europe and Africa and making trips to Aspen and Salt Lake City and Nashville, and basically jetting all over the place on the taxpayers’ dime and staying in first-class hotels and eating out at expensive restaurants and taking his wife along with him a lot of the time? Oh, I remember! He was the secretary of Health and Human Services. He was the dude who resigned after only 231 days in office, the shortest term ever served by an HHS secretary. Price had been a right-wing congressman from Georgia who during his term in the House voted multiple times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, supported a Republican plan to privatize Medicare, voted to defund Planned Parenthood and sponsored the “Right to Life Act,” which would have defined life as beginning at conception and banned all abortions and many forms of contraception.

Busy, busy man, old Tom, with all those flights around the world and fighting to repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood and banning abortion. Took up a lot of his time. In fact, it took up the time he could have spent studying the plan to contain pandemics which was left for him at the Department of Health and Human Services by the Obama administration. But old Tom Price didn’t study that plan, did he? No, he shelved the Obama pandemic plan, where it stayed as his successor, Alex Azar, was appointed. So it was Azar who was running HHS when COVID hit in February of this year, and it was Azar who left the pandemic plan on the shelf and was first put in charge of the pandemic task force at the White House, until Vice President Pence took over that job. It was Azar who appointed Brian Harrison, a 37-year-old former labradoodle breeder with zero education and zero background in public health as the department’s top man in charge of organizing the HHS response to the COVID crisis. Now he has overseen the appointment of two more nonentities with no background in public health or epidemiology to keep Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Robert Redfield “in line,” and to control messaging on the coronavirus pandemic coming out of the department. Oh, I almost forgot: Azar also supports ending the Affordable Care Act and defunding Planned Parenthood and banning abortion and every other whacked-out right wing idea that ever came down the pike.

Are you beginning to get the picture here? Health and Human Services is just one Trump cabinet department that has been led by not one, but two half-wit hacks and undercut by the White House from Day One. Both HHS and CDC have been hollowed out and weakened under the control of the Trump White House while some 220,000 Americans have lost their lives and 8 million more have been infected by the COVID virus.

Trump’s ravaging of the rest of the government has followed the same script. Remember Scott Pruitt, Trump’s first administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency? He lasted just about a year before he resigned under the cloud of investigations by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, the Government Accountability Office, the EPA inspector general and 11 other federal agencies and congressional committees. Pruitt was another Trumpazoid incompetent who flew around on chartered jets and used EPA employees to reserve tables for dinner at exclusive Washington restaurants. He set the EPA on a course to undo nearly every Obama administration environmental accomplishment. He fired all the scientists on the Board of Scientific Counselors and replaced them with representatives of industries regulated by the EPA.

When he left the agency in disgrace, Pruitt was replaced by his deputy, Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, who proceeded apace to continue the fine legacy left to him by his predecessor. Wheeler has weakened regulations on coal fired electrical plants and declined to raise standards for “fine soot pollution” under a mandated review. In the midst of the COVID pandemic, Wheeler’s EPA announced that it would not enforce regulations for “routine compliance monitoring [of pollution], integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training and reporting or certification obligations.” In other words, polluting industries, here’s your get-out-of-jail-free COVID card, courtesy of your friendly EPA.

Donald Trump’s pillaging of the rest of the federal government is equally astonishing. He’s gone through cabinet secretaries like they were an order of Big Macs. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson? Gone early on, replaced by Mike Pompeo. Attorney General Jeff Sessions? Out the door in disgrace. In his place, the odious Bill Barr (after a brief appearance by the totally incompetent Matt Whitaker). Secretary of Energy Rick Perry? Bye-bye in a blink. Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta? Resigned in disgrace for his connection to a kid-gloves plea arrangement with famed pedophile and presidential friend Jeffrey Epstein. Secretary of Defense James Mattis? Resigned in protest against Trump’s haphazard misuse of U.S. military forces. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke? Resigned rather than face federal investigation for using his office for personal gain. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats? Ousted in a Trumpian power play to politicize the intelligence community.

Trump has proceeded to appoint acting secretaries to replace expired acting secretaries. Recently, one of his attempts to get around the rules hit a wall when a federal judge in Montana ordered the removal of the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management, William Perry Pendley, who he found had been serving illegally for 400 days without Senate confirmation. Pendley has been an advocate of selling federal lands to the states or private citizens.

There is more, much, much more, but you get the picture. The damage Trump will be leaving to Joe Biden is incalculable. The death toll caused by his mismanagement of the COVID crisis and the numbers of infections increase by the thousands seemingly every day. The only good thing about a hollowed-out federal government will be the thousands of appointments Biden will be able to make upon taking office, and the dozens of executive orders he’ll be able to sign reversing Trump’s giveaways to polluters, drug companies and corrupt corporations.

All we’ve got to do is get out and vote to make that happen.

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« Reply #37 on: Oct 19, 2020, 03:01 AM »

This might be one of the biggest breakthroughs of the coronavirus pandemic

By Chris Smith

    Researchers have devised a coronavirus score based on blood test results for two molecules that can predict severe COVID-19 cases.
    The scientists explain that a more informed prognosis would allow them to adapt treatments accordingly and potentially save far more lives.
    The Dublin-Boston score is a ratio between two cytokines, IL-6 and IL-10. Each 1-point increase of the score has been associated with an increased likelihood of severe COVID-19.

Fall brought a resurgence of the coronavirus in the northern hemisphere, the so-called second COVID-19 wave that health experts anticipated. It’s not just that colder weather and lower humidity favor the spread of a virus that still quite resilient during the summer months. The virus is also taking advantage of people who are either have covid fatigue or who still deny the virus exists. Many people still think they’re safe just because they do not suffer from other medical conditions or are relatively young. While COVID-19 generally kills older people and those with preexisting conditions, there are plenty of exceptions to those rules. There’s no way to tell how your COVID-19 experience will be if you catch it. And while doctors have made significant progress when it comes to saving lives and reducing the death toll, many people still succumb to COVID-19 complications on a daily basis.

A team of doctors has devised a first of its kind COVID-19 severity score to predict the severity of the illness in individuals. Knowing in advance that a patient’s condition is about to worsen might be the kind of valuable information that can save lives. Doctors would be forewarned and could take appropriate measures in the early stages of the illness to attempt to stop the onset of complications before they arrive.

If the Dublin-Boston score proves that it can indeed save more COVID-19 patients, it might be one of the biggest breakthroughs of the coronavirus pandemic so far. It also might become just as popular as other medical scores you might be familiar with: the Apgar score that doctors use to assess the condition of newborn babies quickly. As a parent or doctor, you always want that score to be a perfect 10, which is an indication the baby does not need any sort of emergency attention after birth.

The Dublin-Boston score is named after the two hospitals that contributed to the research, RCSI, Harvard University, Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Their study was published in The Lancet’s EBioMedicine (via ScieTechDaily).

This new prognostic score is calculated using a ratio between two markers of inflammation: interleukin-6 (IL-6) and interleukin-10 (IL-10). IL-6 is a pro-inflammatory marker and IL-10 is anti-inflammatory. The score attempts to determine cytokine fluctuations — and the term “cytokine” has been made quite popular during the pandemic. It’s the so-called “cytokine storms” that can kill patients, sending the immune response into overdrive so it attacks both infected cells and healthy tissue. “Using inflammatory cytokine balance as a means to project outcome makes mechanistic sense,” the researchers explain. “Both IL-6 and IL-10 are inextricably linked to cell metabolism, which in turn is influenced by factors such as infection, severe inflammation, hypoxia, and obesity, all of which are encountered in patients with COVID-19 who require hospitalization.”

“Both the Dublin-Boston score and the 4-day change in IL-6:IL-10 ratio significantly outperformed IL-6 alone in predicting clinical outcome at day 7,” the paper reads. A study from April indicated that raised troponin and IL-6 levels are associated with a poor COVID-19 prognosis.

The levels of IL-6 and IL-10 markers change in severe COVID-19 cases. The researchers came up with the ratio between them as well as a point system. Each 1-point increase is means that a more severe outcome is 5.6 times more likely. The higher the score, the worse the prognosis.

The scientists selected 80 patients for the study, and their treating physicians were blind to the levels of IL-6 and IL-10 or the Dublin-Boston score while attending them. This way, they wouldn’t adapt the therapies based on those measurements.

“The Dublin-Boston score is easily calculated and can be applied to all hospitalized Covid-19 patients,” RCSI Professor of Medicine Gerry McElvaney told SciTechDaily. “More informed prognosis could help determine when to escalate or de-escalate care, a key component of the efficient allocation of resources during the current pandemic. The score may also have a role in evaluating whether new therapies designed to decrease inflammation in Covid-19 actually provide benefit.”

As with other COVID-19 studies, more research might be required to verify whether the Dublin-Boston score can save lives. For example, the researchers also warn of the risks involved in attempting to correct the value of the ratio with treatment. “While the Dublin-Boston score and changes in the IL-6:IL-10 ratio both predict clinical outcome and give an insight into the pathogenesis of COVID-19 inflammation, we emphasize that these data alone do not support attempts to manipulate the ratio directly as a therapeutic target. Although IL-6 may contribute to organ injury and death in sepsis syndromes, it is also required for innate immunity and microbial clearance. Imprecise inhibition of the pro-inflammatory effects may therefore represent a double-edged sword.”

Whether or not it works, researchers will not stop looking for markers that might allow them to predict severe COVID-19 complications. Other ideas already exist, including a common blood test that might predict the severity of the illness.

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« Reply #38 on: Oct 19, 2020, 03:04 AM »

Big Oil's answer to melting Arctic: cooling the ground so it can keep drilling

Technology is keeping patches of Alaska permafrost frozen to preserve energy infrastructure even as indigenous residents’ world is transformed by the climate crisis

Nat Herz
Mon 19 Oct 2020 08.00 BST

It wanted to pump 160,000 more barrels of oil each day from a new project on Alaska’s North Slope. But the fossil fuels it and others produce are leading to global heating, and the Arctic is melting. The firm’s drilling infrastructure could be at risk atop thawing and unstable permafrost.

A recent environmental review of the project describes the company’s solution: cooling devices that will chill the ground beneath its structures, insulating them from the effects of the climate crisis.

The oil development that is fueling climate change continues to expand in the far north, with companies moving into new areas even as they are paying for special measures to protect equipment from the dangers of thawing permafrost and increasing rainfall – both expected outcomes as Arctic temperatures rise three times as fast as those elsewhere.

Countries from Norway to Russia are advancing new Arctic oil developments. But under Donald Trump’s administration, Alaska has emerged as a hotbed of Arctic oil extraction, with big projects moving forward and millions of acres proposed to be opened to leasing.

The administration recently finalized its plan to open a piece of the Arctic national wildlife refuge to the oil industry. And drilling is expanding at an Indiana-sized region next door: the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, which, despite its name, also contains treasured subsistence areas for locals.

Critics of Arctic oil expansion argue that while companies can use technology to temporarily and locally dampen climate disruptions, the region’s indigenous residents cannot. And even some who support oil development in the region argue that the Trump administration’s plans go too far.

At the start of Trump’s term, the mayor of the oil-rich North Slope borough, an Iñupiaq whale hunter named Harry Brower Jr, endorsed the federal government’s plans to push development forward in the Arctic refuge and in the petroleum reserve.

Taxes on infrastructure at the huge Prudhoe Bay oilfield help generate nearly $400m a year for the 10,000-person borough, which is almost all of its revenue.

Three years after Brower’s endorsement, the administration released a rewritten management plan that would vastly expand the share of the petroleum reserve open to oil companies: four-fifths of the area would be available, up from roughly half now.

But the proposal also would allow oil and gas leasing at Teshekpuk Lake, which Brower had asked the Trump administration to keep off-limits. The lake, in tandem with nearby wetlands, is considered one of the most important animal habitats in the entire Arctic, and the region’s indigenous residents harvest its abundant fish and wildlife.

“It’s like God’s country,” said George Ahmaogak Sr, a former mayor of the North Slope borough, who has built three subsistence fishing cabins not far from the lake. “I’ve lived there, I’ve seen it and I subsisted on it, and it’s beautiful – resources are bountiful there.”

The lake hosts birds that come from all seven continents. Molting geese, unable to fly, try to avoid predators by forming rafts in the middle of lakes, sometimes by the thousands. And hundreds, even thousands, of migrating caribou travel along Teshekpuk Lake’s shore.

“I’m not an environmentalist or anything like that – I’ve been pro-development all these years,” Ahmaogak said. “But Teshekpuk is a concern of mine, and I wanted to see it protected.”

The North Slope is already warming at disconcerting speed. Utqiagvik, the region’s hub town, is one of the fastest-warming communities in the nation, with its five record warmest winters all coming since 2014.

Amid record high temperatures and record low sea ice last year, crews in Utqiagvik had to wait weeks longer than usual for the arrival of the bowhead whales that they hunt – and which make up a substantial portion of North Slope residents’ diets.

Amid that rapid change, the oil industry is enjoying a renaissance in the region, in part thanks to technologies enabling infrastructure to withstand climatic shifts. Such technology is decades old, but veterans of the oil industry say that demand for it is becoming more ubiquitous and intense as the Arctic heats up.

One Alaska company, BeadedStream, sells equipment that measures and transmits tundra temperature data, so that the oil industry can know as soon as it is frozen solid enough to transport equipment, according to National Public Radio. Another firm, Arctic Foundations, is doing increasingly brisk business selling thermosiphons – the tubes that pull heat out of the ground to keep permafrost from thawing underneath oil infrastructure.

ConocoPhillips plans to make use of these devices at its massive Willow project in the National Petroleum Reserve, and it’s also building taller bridges and wider culverts to accommodate larger spring floods.

The backers of another new project, meanwhile, see opportunity in the thaw. The melting of Arctic sea ice removes an obstacle from shipping liquefied natural gas off Alaska’s North Slope, according to the Anchorage-based company, Qilak LNG.

“Our reliability quotient goes up,” said Mead Treadwell, the Republican businessman and former Alaska lieutenant governor who has helping to spearhead the project. “Climate change, the changing composition of sea ice, has made this more economic.”

At Teshekpuk Lake, the Trump administration says it can protect the region’s caribou, birds and fish with tight restrictions and time frames for drilling and development. No infrastructure would be allowed on or next to the lake itself; companies would have to drill horizontally to access it.

That’s not enough for conservation groups, which sued to block the rewritten plan in August.

“Out of all the places in the world, the Arctic is changing the fastest,” said Natalie Dawson, the head of the Audubon Society’s Alaska branch. “So, we might want to give ourselves a little bit of room to figure out what we want to protect.”

Qaiyaan Harcharek, a 38-year-old Iñupiaq hunter, fisherman and trapper, said he is disgusted by the Teshekpuk proposal. He called the area a “guaranteed food source” that his ancestors turned to in times of starvation.

Opening Teshekpuk, Harcharek said, is “absolutely reckless and dangerous”.

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« Reply #39 on: Oct 19, 2020, 03:07 AM »

Why there is hope that the world's coral reefs can be saved

From coral farming to 3D printing, scientists are using novel methods to save a vital part of our ecosystem

Gaia Vince
19 Oct 2020 12.05 BST

For most of us, the colourful, otherworldly marinescapes of coral reefs are as remote as the alien landscapes of the moon. We rarely, if ever, experience these underwater wonderlands for ourselves – we are, after all, air-breathing, terrestrial creatures mostly cocooned in cities. It is easy, therefore, not to notice the perilous state they’re in: we’ve lost 50% of coral reefs in the past 20 years; more than 90% are expected to die by 2050 according to a presentation at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in San Diego, California earlier this year. As the oceans heat further and turn more acidic, owing to rising carbon dioxide emissions, coral reefs are tipped to become the world’s first ecosystems to become extinct because of us.

Just because we don’t see them doesn’t mean we won’t miss them. For, as we are belatedly discovering, the nice, dry human world that we’ve made for ourselves is dependent on the planet’s natural systems and coral reefs are no exception. They protect our coastlands from erosion, they are the nurseries for the fish we eat and they harbour the plankton that produce the oxygen we breathe. Globally, coral reefs support a quarter of all marine life and the livelihoods of a billion people.

Coral reefs are ancient and highly adaptable – they first emerged nearly 500 million years ago; those corals went extinct, and the corals that we have now first appeared 240 million years ago. The difference now is the extreme pace of change. Coral is slow growing and a reef takes about 10 years to recover fully after a single bleaching event. By 2049, we are expecting annual bleaching events in the tropics, pushing reefs beyond recovery. It’s a grim prospect and one of the reasons that in 2015 the world’s nations pledged to limit global warming to 1.5C above preindustrial levels, a temperature that would enable coral reefs to survive. It remains far from clear whether we will meet this goal.

However, while we still have reefs, we still have hope. Some will do better than others – some already are – and scientists are trying to work out why in a bid to build resilience elsewhere. As with climate change, human activity is implicated. For instance, studies show that reefs are more likely to recover from a heating event if they are protected from other stresses, such as overfishing, pollution from agriculture and boat damage.

With the future of the world’s ecological and human systems now so deeply interconnected, a new movement in reef conservation is putting social systems at its heart and explicitly building resilience into human and ecological systems in tandem. In other words, protecting nature means protecting people. The Coral Reef Alliance, for instance, is working with reef-dependent fishing communities in Honduras. Overfishing hits reefs in a number of ways, including by removing herbivores, such as parrotfish, whose grazing constrains coral-damaging algae. The non-governmental organisation helps with boat purchases for reef patrols, providing salaried key positions on the ground and helping diversify income streams so people are less reliant on exploiting vulnerable ecosystems.

“They’re not alternative livelihoods, because nobody’s going to fully give up fishing. But can we provide them with alternatives for when there’s a fisheries closure to protect the reef, so they can still provide food and an income for their families,” says Madhavi Colton, the director of the Coral Reef Alliance. “We’re building resilience in the human community and that translates to resilience in the coral reef community as well.”

The organisation uses economic indicators as well as data collected by scientists in the community, which is then presented back to the community. “So they’ve been able to see that the fish stocks are increasing because of their actions,” Colton says.

A key test was this from March to April, when their lagoons off the island of Roatan were protected with a one-month closure. “This year, with Covid-19, we weren’t sure if the community was going to want to do that. But because they’ve seen such dramatic increases in biomass after closures in past years, they decided to,” Colton says. “We’re building community support for regulations by showing how they benefit the community.”

The organisation is also reforesting inland to reduce sediment flows and has built a wastewater treatment facility. Colton says: “We estimate we’ve prevented around 28.5m gallons of sewage from being directly discharged on to the reef. And as a result of that facility, the public beach in West End was given a flag for safe swimming by US standards.”

The hope is that by building resilience, coral reefs and the communities that depend on them will be able to adapt and survive if the climate stabilises. And, if the worst happens, it should help people adjust to living with an extinct reef. Unesco is piloting a similar community-focused initiative called Resilient Reefs, after finding that 21 of its 29 World Heritage-listed coral reef sites were already degraded.

Meanwhile, in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which has lost half of its corals in the past five years, an innovative project is putting the tourism industry, which is 90% reliant on the reef, at the heart not just of reef protection, but of actively healing the reef on which it depends. David Suggett, associate professor at the University of Technology Sydney, says: “We’re trying to build a more sustainable and resilient reef economy, by equipping workers with the skills and tools to propagate corals from the good parts of the reef to help rebuild the poor parts of the reef, so that the ecosystem they rely on for their livelihoods is retained.”

Suggett’s coral nurture programme, which has been running for four years, relies on coral gardening, which was first developed in the Caribbean after disease nearly wiped out the only three species of native Acropora (hard, branching) corals there. That laborious process involved gluing fragments of living coral from healthy parts of the reef on to dead coral skeletons or artificial reef structures. The idea is to hasten a natural process whereby coral fragments or polyps are carried on currents and fix themselves on a reef, repopulating it. The expense and time-consuming nature of such projects means they’ve been largely dismissed, but the method has proved worth the efforts in the Caribbean: this year, Acropora saved from the brink of extinction actually began natural spawning.

Now, Suggett’s team have designed a coral clip that’s safer than glue – and much faster to apply. “Tour operators can clip several hundred coral fragments on to the reef in each dive – each takes seconds – and within one to two months, the coral naturally glues itself on to the reef and starts growing. The clip just degrades over time.”

    Coral reefs support a quarter of all marine life and the livelihoods of a billion people

The scale of the operation has meant the team have had to create nurseries to supply a stock of corals, by propagating parent lines. They also use “coral IVF”, collecting eggs and sperm and fertilising them away from predators until they grow into baby corals that can be injected back on to the reef in a controlled manner. Suggett explains: “So you bypass that really early stage where everything’s really susceptible to getting eaten.”

The project gives tour operators resilience, enabling them to be much more adaptive in the face of change, he adds. “This year, during Covid-19 when tourism shut down overnight, the tour operators who were equipped with the new tools and workflows for coral gardening were able to repurpose their businesses and ride out the downturn, while others closed.”

Just as diversification builds resilience for livelihoods, so it is essential for reef ecosystems, and reef networks connected by ocean currents, to allow migrating larvae move and adapt. Malin Pinsky, associate professor at Rutgers University, New Jersey, who led one recent study, says: “We found that a diversity of reef types provides the variety that evolution depends on. We need to conserve hot sites, which are important sources of heat-tolerant corals, as well as colder sites that can become important future habitats.”

He adds that corals are already migrating in the directions of the poles, showing up in Japan, in places that used to be covered in kelp, and in southern Australia, “which is another sign of hope”.

In the face of profound global change, it’s not enough to simply protect reefs from stress: active intervention and adaptation is required, from coral gardening to physically removing coral predators, such as crown-of-thorns starfish. Others want to intervene further by selectively implanting heat-tolerant varieties, including lab-grown polyps, or even using Crispr, a rapid gene-editing technology, to produce genetically engineered versions. In 2019, researchers described 23 different ways to improve the resilience and persistence of coral reefs.

“It took several years for us to get a permit to experimentally move heat-tolerant corals from hot mangrove lagoons out to the reefs, a journey that polyps could make naturally,” says Suggett. “So it will take some time before corals are allowed to be introduced from elsewhere.”

Those experiments showed that heat-adapted corals can thrive in new environments and could be an important source of reef regeneration.

One place to look would be the Gulf of Aqaba in the northern Red Sea. Due to a quirk of geology, the corals there have evolved adapted to harsh hot conditions, with the result that they are not simply heat-tolerant, they thrive better as the water heats, growing faster. Karine Kleinhaus, an associate professor at Stony Brook University, New York, says: “Most corals struggle to survive temperatures just 1C above the summer maximum, but Aqaba corals are super-thermally resilient, even in acidic waters, and cope with temperatures 6C – even 7C – hotter.”

She believes these corals represent a precious and unique population – they could be the last coral reefs standing at the end of the century. And yet they are currently poorly protected, threatened by pollution and rampant coastal development, which compromises their resilience.

What coral reefs are experiencing right now amounts to a massive evolutionary selection pressure, something that Michael Webster, a research scientist at New York University who, unusually, is confident they’ll get through. He says: “Take the northern Great Barrier Reef, with three years of back-to-back bleaching. In some places, 70% of the coral was lost. What that means is 30% of the coral survived, perhaps because it is more tolerant. Those are the corals that produce the next generation, which inherits some of those traits,” he says. Indeed, one study showed that coral that survived bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef in 2016 had twice the average heat tolerance the following year. Separate lab research reveals that corals can pass on their adaptive strategies to their offspring.

Timing is everything, though. When coral dies or is destroyed, the reef shrinks,a problem exacerbated by current sea level rise, making it harder for new corals to grow because their habitat is depth-specific. And when you lose a coral reef, you are losing the entire ecosystem, not simply a few species of coral. It means we need to ask hard questions about what we value in our reefs and what we are trying to protect in terms of functionality.

    Implanting coral is the opposite of traditional conservation and comes with risks

Implanting thermal extremophiles, such as corals from Aqaba, could speed up the evolutionary process of heat adaptation, but means dramatically changing the ecosystem – the opposite of traditional conservation – and comes with risks. Artificial – even 3D printed – reefs can provide structure and researchers are even experimenting with artificial reef noise. Using underwater loudspeakers to play the sounds of a healthy reef in degraded areas has been shown to attract fish populations back to the area, helping to kickstart recovery of the ecosystem.

“For evolution to occur quickly usually requires a lot of death: that is the natural selection signal. Right now, we’re in the ugly beginning of that process,” Webster says. “I believe a lot of corals are going to get through this bottleneck, they’re not going to go extinct, they’re going to figure out a way to pace with climate change, so long as we give them some room.”

In other words, it will depend on good reef management and whether humanity can get a handle on climate change. Given the scale of bleaching globally, it’s a brave prediction – let’s hope he’s right.
Why are coral reefs so threatened by the climate crisis?

Coral reefs are facing an unprecedented threat from global carbon dioxide emissions, chiefly because of hotter oceans and acidification as the atmospheric gas dissolves into seawater.

Coral exists in a mutually beneficial relationship with zooxanthellae algae, which live inside the coral’s polyps. The algae use the coral’s waste products and provide the nutrients to feed them both through photosynthesis. Higher sea temperatures force the coral to expel the colourful algae and, if this process is prolonged, the coral starves.

During a coral bleaching event, reefs lose so much zooxanthellae that they become white and experience massive die-offs. Ocean acidification exacerbates the problem, eroding the reef, forcing corals to expend more energy building their calcium carbonate skeletons and slowing down their growth rate.

The average global temperature is already 1C hotter than in preindustrial times. In addition, climate change is intensifying periodic weather phenomena, such as El Niño warming events, increasing the temperatures reefs experience and reducing the recovery interval between bleaching events. Climate models predict that global heating will continue over the coming century because our carbon emissions are expected to continue rising. Some 75% of tropical reefs were hit by bleaching during a global ocean heatwave between 2014 and 2017. Half of tropical coral reefs have been lost during the past three decades and even if temperatures were kept no higher than 1.5C, between 70% and 90% of reefs would be lost by the end of the century.

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« Reply #40 on: Oct 19, 2020, 03:09 AM »

Alaska's new climate threat: tsunamis linked to melting permafrost

Scientists are warning of a link between rapid warming and landslides that could threaten towns and tourist attractions

Erin McKittrick
19 Oct 2020 08.00 BST

In Alaska and other high, cold places around the world, new research shows that mountains are collapsing as the permafrost that holds them together melts, threatening tsunamis if they fall into the sea.

Scientists are warning that populated areas and major tourist attractions are at risk.

One area of concern is a slope of the Barry Arm fjord in Alaska that overlooks a popular cruise ship route.

The Barry Arm slide began creeping early last century, sped up a decade ago, and was discovered this year using satellite photos. If it lets loose, the wave could hit any ships in the area and reach hundreds of meters up nearby mountains, swamping the popular tourist destination and crashing as high as 10 meters over the town of Whittier. Earlier this year, 14 geologists warned that a major slide was “possible” within a year, and “likely” within 20 years.

In 2015, a similar landslide, on a slope that had also crept for decades, created a tsunami that sheared off forests 193 meters up the slopes of Alaska’s Taan Fiord.

“When the climate changes,” said geologist Bretwood Higman, who has worked on Taan Fiord and Barry Arm, “the landscape takes time to adjust. If a glacier retreats really quickly it can catch the surrounding slopes by surprise – they might fail catastrophically instead of gradually adjusting.”

After examining 30 years of satellite photos, for instance, geologist Erin Bessette-Kirton has found that landslides in Alaska’s St Elias mountains and Glacier Bay correspond with the warmest years.
The great thaw: global heating upends life on Arctic permafrost – photo essay

Warming clearly leads to slides, but knowing just when those slides will release is a much harder problem. “We don’t have a good handle on the mechanism,” Bessette-Kirkton said. “We have correlations, but we don’t know the driving force. What conditions the landslide, and what triggers it?”

Adding to the problem, global heating has opened up water for landslides to fall in. A recent paper by Dan Shugar, a geomorphologist at the University of Calgary, shows that as glaciers have shrunk, glacial lakes have grown, ballooning 50% in both number and size in 18 years. In the ocean, fjords lengthen as ice retreats. Slopes that used to hang over ice now hang over water.

Over the past century, 10 of the 14 tallest tsunamis recorded happened in glaciated mountain areas. In 1958, a landslide into Alaska’s Lituya Bay created a 524-meter wave – the tallest ever recorded. In Alaska’s 1964 earthquake, most deaths were from tsunamis set off by underwater landslides.

To deal with the hazard, experts hope to predict when a slope is more likely to fail by installing sensors on the most dangerous slopes to measure the barely perceptible acceleration of creeping that may presage a slide.

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« Reply #41 on: Oct 19, 2020, 03:13 AM »

Black Lives Matter's Alicia Garza: ‘Leadership today doesn't look like Martin Luther King’

In seven years, BLM has gone from hashtag to global rallying cry. So why has the co-founder stepped away from the movement she helped create?
Arwa Mahdawi
19 Oct 2020 10.00 BST

Alicia Garza is not synonymous with Black Lives Matter, the movement she helped create, and that’s very deliberate. The 39-year-old organiser is not interested in being the face of things; she’s interested in change. “We are often taught that, like a stork, some leader swoops from the sky to save us,” she tells me over Zoom from her home in Oakland, California. That sort of mythologising, she says, “obscures the average person’s role in creating change”.

Garza is also scornful of fame for fame’s sake and of celebrity activists. The number of people who want to be online influencers rather than do the work of offline organising – knocking on doors, finding common ground, building alliances – depresses her. “Our aspiration should not be to have a million followers on Twitter,” she says. “We shouldn’t be focused on building a brand but building a base, and building the kind of movement that can succeed.”

That doesn’t mean Garza doesn’t care about her image: for our interview, she has sneakily avoided having her webcam switched on, but only because she’s “doing a [skincare] face mask before your shoot today, so I didn’t want to scare you”. While Garza is ferociously smart, laser-focused on “pushing our political system to move from symbol to substance”, she also has a lighter side. She laughs often, draws you in; her passion is infectious.

    The evolution of Black Lives Matter, Garza says, has been 'deeply humbling, and super weird to watch'

The origin story of Black Lives Matter is one of collective, collaborative action rather than individual glory. After George Zimmerman was acquitted of fatally shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in 2013, Garza wrote a Facebook post she called “a love letter to Black people”. Her friend Patrisse Cullors shared the post with the hashtag BlackLivesMatter. Another friend, Opal Tometi, designed the blacklivesmatter.com website and social media platforms, using the signature black and yellow colour palette. Seven years later, that rallying cry has changed our lexicon and landscape. Black Lives Matter has been chanted by millions of protesters around the world. It has been painted in giant letters on a road leading to the White House, and posted on windows in primary schools in Northamptonshire.

The evolution of Black Lives Matter, Garza says, has been “deeply humbling, and super weird to watch”. Particularly considering she was repeatedly told, by everyone from pundits to peers, that the name sounded too threatening. “People said we should call it All Lives Matter or Black Lives Matter Too, if we wanted to get more people involved. There have been so many full-circle moments.”

Four years ago, nobody talked explicitly about Black Lives Matter during the Democratic National Convention, for example. But, Garza says, you couldn’t get through five minutes of this year’s without the movement being namechecked. What’s more, it’s being talked about with “more substance than we’ve seen before”. In the early days, many of the solutions being discussed in relation to the movement were “relatively symbolic measures, like mandating that the police wear body cameras, requiring implicit bias training and setting up police reform taskforces”. Now, however, there are serious discussions about defunding the police; about “whether or not policing keeps us safe. And that is a huge, huge change.” Those conversations aren’t just happening in the US, either; they’re happening around the world.

Garza attributes the movement’s global spread to two catalysts: Donald Trump and his overtly racist administration; and Covid-19, which meant people were more likely to be at home and glued to their screens when George Floyd was killed on camera. “Black Lives Matter is now in the muscle memory of many of us,” Garza says. “And it was triggered by watching a man murdered by a police officer, who stared into the camera as he did it.”

Garza has distilled the lessons she has learned from Black Lives Matter, and a decade of community organising, into her first book, The Purpose Of Power: How To Build Movements For The 21st Century. While the subtitle makes it sound like a how-to manual, one of its key lessons is that there is no quick and easy way to build a movement. As she writes, you don’t just add “water, oil and milk to a premixed batter; after 30 minutes in the oven, a movement is baked.” Building movements, she stresses, means building alliances.

Garza’s book starts with a history of one of the most successful movements of recent times: rightwing conservatism in the US. One reason the right has been so powerful, she argues, is that it has been very effective at building “networks and alliances and coalitions that all agree on the purpose of power – which is for them to keep it”. The right are very good at bringing different groups together around a shared vision, and have been “building power for the last three decades”, Garza says, entrenching their agenda and values in the US. You can see it in the way conservatives have strategically, often surreptitiously, used the media to advance their ideology. Take Sinclair, for example, which late-night TV host John Oliver once called “maybe the most influential media company you never heard of”. Owned by a fervent Trump supporter, it’s the largest operator of local television stations in the US and has compelled its news anchors to parrot Trump talking points.

In particular, Garza says, the right has perpetuated the idea that success is purely a matter of personal responsibility. The message to poor people has been that it’s their laziness holding them back; the message to black people, that systemic racism doesn’t exist – the problem is their life choices. Worse, “the narrative of personal responsibility for systemic failures has often been used by Black leaders to secure their seat at the table,” Garza writes. That includes Barack Obama who, she notes, carefully avoided criticising law enforcement when Zimmerman was acquitted after the Martin shooting: “He acknowledged that there is a long history of racial disparities in our criminal justice system while making sure to state that you can’t blame the system.” In adopting these “rightwing talking points”, she says, he capitulated to the same people who had called him and Michelle Obama “Muslim socialists”.

Obama isn’t the only liberal hero Garza takes to task. Her book also analyses the way in which Bill Clinton ushered in legislation such as the 1994 federal crime bill, which greatly exacerbated mass incarceration. And she is unsparing about the racism of Hillary Clinton’s presidential primary campaign against Obama in 2008, citing an occasion when a photograph of Obama in traditional Somali dress was leaked to the media. (The Clinton campaign denied responsibility, but a Clinton supporter then went on MSNBC and said Obama shouldn’t be ashamed of being seen in “his native clothing”.)

It is unusual to see a nuanced critique of Clinton and Obama, I say. Does Garza think liberals idolise certain politicians, treating them like celebrities rather than public servants? Absolutely, she says: “Our political system functions around personalities rather than policies, symbol over substance.”

One example of that interplay, she says, can be seen in the case of Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed in her home in Kentucky earlier this year. The day before our conversation, a grand jury has brought no direct charges against the police for killing Taylor, sparking widespread anger.

For Garza, there is an irony in the announcement. “The attorney general of Kentucky, Daniel Cameron, is a Black Republican, and lots of people would say it’s good that we have a Black person in this role, right? That’s the symbol. But in Cameron’s press conference, about not holding any of these officers accountable for her murder, he upheld and espoused racist ideas and policies. He announced that he was going to start a commission studying how they execute search warrants in Kentucky. So the symbol of a Black man in a position of power is not enough.” What’s needed is people in power who will create substantive and systemic change for black people.

There is also a big difference between popularity and power, Garza says. DeRay Mckesson, who has amassed more than a million Twitter followers after gaining prominence as a community journalist during the 2014 Ferguson unrest, is a case in point. Mckesson is probably the leading example of the celebrity activist phenomenon Garza decries, and her book uses his 2016 failed bid to be mayor of Baltimore as a cautionary tale about the limits of online fame. Despite his celebrity friends and high profile – Beyoncé follows him on Twitter, and Rashida Jones donated to his campaign – Mckesson won only around 2% of the vote in his home town. Garza’s message is that you can’t just tweet your way to political power; you’ve got to put in the work.

Mckesson’s high profile means he is often (wrongly) credited with launching Black Lives Matter, and with the work Garza and her co-founders started. It’s a mistake, she notes, that he often doesn’t seem overly eager to correct. She is not, I want to emphasise, being petty here. I get the impression she’s far too much of a pragmatist for that. “This is bigger than DeRay,” she tells me. “It’s a question of how we see leadership and who we think deserves it.” The people who we think deserve to be elevated tend to be men; meanwhile, black women’s labour is often overlooked and erased.

“Why,” she asks, with a touch of frustration, “are we holding on to a trope about leadership that is older than me? People are still looking for the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr when, actually, leadership of movements today looks more like Lena Waithe and Laverne Cox.” Cox is the first openly transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy award in an acting category, for Orange Is The New Black; Waithe, a queer black writer, actor and producer, won an Emmy for the Netflix show Master Of None. “The things that make us different, those are our superpowers,” Waithe said in her acceptance speech.


Garza knows a thing or two about being different. She grew up Alicia Schwartz, raised by her black mother and Jewish stepfather in Marin County, a predominantly white San Francisco suburb. She describes herself as queer. “Maybe it’s an outdated ass word,” she laughs, but adds that it’s a useful umbrella term for “being more fluid in who I’m attracted to and who I build intimate relationships with.” Garza is married to Malachi Garza, a trans man and activist, whom she met in 2003.

Difference, she notes, can be a source of strength and power; it can give you a vantage point with “potentially more range and insight”. Yet the NGOs for which she worked after graduating from the University of California, San Diego seemed to have little room for difference: while the staff were mainly people of colour, those running the show were white. She moved into more grassroots organising, fighting for affordable housing in San Francisco’s black communities by building neighbourhood coalitions. This work, she says, changed the way she thought about politics. It was where she began to understand that winning is about more than being right; it’s about inviting people to be part of a change they may not have known they needed.

Black Lives Matter has certainly mobilised people; but its move into the mainstream hasn’t been without its issues. Garza accepts that the phrase has become a generic term that gets attached to anything related to police violence or black people. The decentralised nature of the organisation has contributed to the confusion.

Mistakes were also made as Black Lives Matter grew. It’s hard to build a plane while you’re flying it, Garza notes, and the organisation missed opportunities, such as developing clear demands to take on the 2016 campaign trail. Following eight years of a black president who hadn’t brought as much hope and change as he’d promised, many within the network were disillusioned with electoral politics and focused on direct action instead.

So Garza has taken the insight she has gained from Black Lives Matter and channelled it into a new organisation called Black Futures Lab, which she launched in 2017. Protesting can only get you so far; now Garza wants politicians to feel as accountable to black people as they do to corporations. “Our work is purely focused on making sure that Black people are powerful in politics, so that we can be powerful in every aspect of our lives,” she explains.

Obviously “Black voters are not a monolith”, Garza says, so one of the first challenges has been to create a consistent and coherent agenda for a diversity of experiences. In 2018, Black Futures Lab initiated what Garza calls “the largest survey of Black people in America in 15 years”; the resulting data went into developing the Black Agenda, a policy platform reflecting “the most common concerns within Black communities across the political spectrum”. One policy point, for example, is raising the minimum wage to $15, a move 85% of respondents to the Black Census supported. Other demands include creating more opportunity for home ownership and limiting police presence in schools, to “dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline”.

Now that a policy platform has been developed, Garza is building support for it ahead of this year’s presidential election. “We’ve had 60,000 Black voters pledging to support the Black Agenda. What [these voters] are saying is that they will be using the agenda as they make decisions about who to vote for.”

The Black Futures Lab occupies much of Garza’s time now; she hasn’t been involved in the day-to-day of Black Lives Matter for a few years. It might seem odd to step away from a movement just as it goes mainstream, but Garza isn’t someone who wants to bask in her past achievements; it frustrates her how many times she’s been asked the same questions about Black Lives Matter. She’s focused on changing the future rather than rehashing the past.

That said, she hasn’t completely cut herself off. “Oh my God, of course,” she says when I ask if she still hangs out with her co-founders. The three were recently in Los Angeles together for the Time 100: Most Influential People of 2020 photoshoot, she says warmly, and remain “very much in touch”.

Garza has had her camera off throughout our conversation; she isn’t still wearing that face mask, I ask? We’ve been talking for an hour and I’m not sure how long you can leave those things on. “I slipped it off,” she reassures me. “Now my face is nice and soft, and I’m gathering my things for the shoot. We’ve got to head over there in two minutes.”

Before I let her go, I ask if she is anxious about the forthcoming election. Of course, she replies. But the way she handles that is by “making sure I’m doing everything in my power” to get the country back on track. There was a time when she was a cynic and thought the US was beyond saving, but over the last 10 years she has become profoundly hopeful. Now is the time to fight and to engage. Voting, she says, can also be a movement.

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« Reply #42 on: Oct 19, 2020, 03:31 AM »

Global Covid report: Paris under curfew as Europe battles soaring caseload

Nine French cities now under month-long curfew; European cases rise 44% in a week; resistance to lockdowns in UK   

Guardian staff and agencies
19 Oct 2020 04.43 BST

Millions of Europeans faced tough new coronavirus restrictions as governments stepped up efforts to slow the surge in infections, after the World Health Organization reported a “very concerning” 44% rise in European cases over one week.

From Saturday evening, Paris and several other French cities go under a night-time curfew that will last at least a month. England is banning mixed household gatherings in the capital and other areas, and Italy’s most populous region is limiting bar openings and suspending sports events.

The need for action in France was underlined as the country reported another record for new cases, with more than 32,000 registered in 24 hours.

Global cases of the disease, which has killed more than 1.1 million people around the world, have been soaring beyond levels seen in the first wave earlier this year, when many countries resorted to national lockdowns to get control of the crisis.

As well as the death toll, the pandemic has wrought social and economic havoc across the world.

The United States, which has suffered the worst toll with more than 218,000 fatalities, on Friday revealed a record deficit of $3.1tn in the fiscal year ended September 30.

It also announced that the number of cases there had passed 8 million, while global daily infections also hit a new record.

In a bid to stem the worrying rise in infections and in the hope of heading off a return to full lockdowns, many governments have tightened measures to control the spread of the pandemic – even if some dissenters are fighting back in the courts.

About 20 million people in the Paris region and eight other French cities were facing a 9pm-6am curfew from Saturday after cases surged in what has once again become one of Europe’s major hotspots.

Many restaurant owners are unhappy at the hit their businesses will take.

“Closing at 9pm will have no effect (on the epidemic),” said Gerard, the manager of a Toulouse restaurant. “They’re not attacking it in the right way.”

Britain is the hardest-hit country in Europe, with over 43,000 deaths from almost 700,000 cases.

But as the government there ramped up restrictions, banning indoor meetings between members of different households in London and several other English cities, there was growing criticism from some quarters.

Under the new measures, about 28 million people – half of England’s population – are now subject to tight social restrictions.

Some officials in north-west England have objected to their cities being placed on the highest level of a new three-tier alert system.

The prime minister, Boris Johnson, has acknowledged that local restriction policies cannot be “pain free”.

But the hope is that these measures will be enough to head off another full lockdown.

Northern Ireland meanwhile shut down pubs and restaurants on Friday for a month and extended the school holidays.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel urged citizens to stay at home whenever possible after 7,830 cases emerged over 24 hours.

“What will determine winter and our Christmas will be decided in the weeks ahead,” she said in her weekly podcast address.

But on Friday, a Berlin court overturned an order for restaurants and bars to close early, the latest legal setback for efforts by Germany’s national and local governments to restrict coronavirus transmission.

In Italy, the wealthy northern region of Lombardy, worst hit by the first wave of the virus in February, has ordered all bars to shut at midnight.

Slovakia announced Saturday it would test everyone over 10 for the virus, as infections surged there.

“Testing will be free of charge,” prime minister Igor Matoviche told reporters in the country of 5.4 million people, without specifying whether it will be mandatory or voluntary.

Poland, the Czech Republic and Belgium have all announced daily record caseloads.

In the Czech Republic, the government has asked the army to set up a field hospital of 500 beds outside Prague.

Belgium will impose its own curfew, from midnight until 5am, from Monday, and will also shut cafes and restaurants for four weeks.

And Poland has closed schools and colleges in major cities while restaurants will have to close from 9pm.

In other developments:

    Austria, Slovenia and Hungary have all announced a surge in cases – in Slovenia, the compulsory wearing of masks in outdoor public spaces came into effect Saturday.

    The death toll in Iran has crossed the 30,000 mark, the health ministry announced Saturday.

    Israel is preparing to ease some lockdown restrictions from Sunday in the first phase of scaling back measures imposed last month.

    Saudi Arabia allowed its citizens and residents inside the kingdom to perform prayers in one of the most holy religious sites in Islam, Al-Haram mosque in Mecca, for the first time in seven months, state television reported early on Sunday.

    New Zealand, which has twice eliminated the virus, reported its first local case for 22 days.

    The French Collectivity of Wallis and Futuna in the South Pacific recorded its first case for the entire pandemic.

With Agence France-Presse

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« Reply #43 on: Oct 19, 2020, 03:34 AM »

Revealed: chaining, beatings and torture inside Sudan's Islamic schools

Two-year BBC News Arabic investigation uncovers horrific conditions, with boys as young as five facing violence and sexual abuse

Fateh Al-Rahman Al-Hamdani
Mon 19 Oct 2020 07.15 BST

An April evening in the suburbs of Khartoum. After months of undercover work, I had learned to time my visits to khalwas, Sudan’s Islamic schools, to coincide with evening prayers. I entered while the sheikhs (teachers) and 50-odd boys dressed in their white djellabas were busy praying. As they knelt, I heard the clanking of chains on the boys’ shackled legs. I sat down behind them and started filming, secretly.

I began investigating after allegations emerged of abuse inside some of these schools: children kept in chains, beaten and sexually abused. Khalwas have existed in Sudan for centuries. There are more than 30,000 of them across the country where children are taught to memorise the Qur’an. They are run by sheikhs who usually provide food, drink and shelter, free of charge. As a result, poor families often send their children to khalwas instead of public schools.

I had been working as a journalist in Sudan for five years, but this was the first time an assignment really felt personal. I was taught at a khalwa: a place where I would try to get through each day without being beaten.

In 2018, I began what would become a two-year investigation with BBC News Arabic and take me to 23 khalwas across Sudan. Before proper undercover equipment from the BBC arrived, I taped my phone inside a notebook, to secretly film.

Despite having gone to a khalwa myself, I was shocked by what I found. I saw children – some as young as five – beaten and shackled like animals. One boy with deep, raw wounds around his ankles told me: “We can be in groups of six or seven all chained together, and they [the sheikhs] make us run around in circles. Whenever one of us falls over we have to get up again because they keep whipping us … They say that this is good for us.”

One of the worst experiences I had was in 2018 at Ahmed Hanafy, a well-respected khalwa in Darfur. In a study room, under a hot corrugated iron roof, a small boy was held down and whipped more than 30 times by a teacher. The only sound in the room was the lashing of the whip and the boy’s anguished cries. I wanted to grab the whip and hit the sheikh, but I knew I couldn’t. When I later contacted the school, the sheikh confirmed they do beat children but denied this incident ever took place.

Another disturbing case was that of two 14-year-old boys, Mohamed Nader and Ismail. When I visited them in hospital they were lying on their stomachs, unconscious, their backs stripped of flesh. They were beaten and tortured so badly they nearly died.

“They kept them in a room for five days without food or water,” Mohamed Nader’s father, Nader, told me.

“They rubbed tar all over their bodies. [Mohamed Nader] has been so badly beaten you can even see his spine.”

I had filmed inside the same khalwa where this had happened, al-Khulafaa al-Rashideen, run by a man called Sheikh Hussein. The conditions there were the worst I had seen. Most of the boys were shackled and teachers hovered over them with whips in case they made any mistakes. One student pointed out a room with barred windows, which he described as a prison. It was the room in which Ismail and Mohamed Nader had been kept.

I kept in regular contact with the boys. Several months after the attack, as we played on a PlayStation together, Mohamed Nader began to tell me what happened when he was caught trying to escape with Ismail.

“They tied me up and laid me on my stomach before whipping me”, he said. The beatings went on for days. “A lot of people came to beat us while the rest of the khalwa was asleep. After that, I don’t know what happened, I woke up in the hospital.”

The police charged two teachers with assault, who were later released on bail. The khalwa remained open.

As he stared at the screen, Mohamed Nader said: “There is rape in the khalwa. They would call you for it, in a macho way.” He said the smaller or weaker boys were abused by older students.

Mohamed Nader and Ismail were not sexually assaulted, but several other people also told me that rape happened in the khalwa under the management of Sheikh Hussein.

When I returned to the khalwa to talk to him, Sheikh Hussein admitted that it was wrong to imprison children, but maintained that shackling was “packed with benefits” and that “most khalwas use chaining, not just me”. He told me he had stopped using chains and that “the prison” was now a storeroom. When I asked about allegations of sexual abuse he became angry, categorically denying these claims and accusing me of attacking the Qu’ran.

The sheikh died in a car accident earlier this year.

The new transitional government is now conducting a survey of all khalwas in Sudan. The minister of religious affairs, Nasreddine Mufreh, said they would be reformed. There should be “no beating, torture, violation of human rights or children’s rights whatsoever” inside khalwas.

When I told him about the abuse I had seen, he replied: “The old regime didn’t have laws regulating khalwas. I can’t solve a problem caused by 30 years of the old regime overnight.”

With the influence that sheikhs hold, it’s rare for families to seek justice. However, Mohamed Nader’s parents have decided to press charges. Although the public prosecutor’s office is obliged to look into all cases of violence against children, Mohamed Nader’s parents have had to hire a lawyer to fight their case.

On the way into court his mother, Fatima, said the 2018 revolution had made her more optimistic: “In the past, we had no rights but now it’s different. With the new government, we will get our rights, God willing.”

After several hours inside she emerged disappointed. One of the defendants had failed to turn up and the hearing was postponed. The teachers accused of beating the boys still haven’t entered a plea. The khalwa is now run by Sheikh Hussein’s brother who told me that under his management the beating of children would not be tolerated.

Mohamed Nader and Ismail are on a slow road to physical recovery. But thousands of other children across Sudan are still at risk.

Additional reporting from Jess Kelly

• The Schools that Chain Boys will air on BBC News Arabic TV on Monday 19 October at 18:30 GMT and can be watched on BBC News Arabic’s YouTube channel

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« Reply #44 on: Oct 19, 2020, 03:37 AM »

Thousands rally across France in tribute to murdered schoolteacher

Nation mourns Samuel Paty, who was beheaded in a terrorist attack on Friday

Jon Henley in Paris
19 Oct 2020 17.04 BST

Tens of thousands of people have rallied in solidarity, in dozens of towns and cities across France, after a secondary schoolteacher was beheaded in an attack that has shocked a country already shaken by terrorist atrocities.

Demonstrators gathered on Sunday in cities including Paris, Lyon, Toulouse, Strasbourg, Nantes, Marseille, Lille and Bordeaux in support of free speech and in tribute to Samuel Paty, who was killed outside his school on Friday after discussing caricatures of the prophet Muhammad with his class.

Leading politicians, civil rights associations and teachers’ unions rallied on the Place de la République in Paris holding placards proclaiming “Je suis Samuel”, an echo of the “Je suis Charlie” slogan following the 2015 attack in which Islamist gunmen killed 12 people at the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Others held placards aloft declaring “No to totalitarianism of thought”, “I am a teacher” and “Schools in mourning”. Between bursts of applause, others chanted “Freedom of expression, freedom to teach” or sang La Marseillaise.

“We are the result of our history: these values of liberty, secularism and democracy cannot remain just words,” one demonstrator in Paris told French television. “We have to keep them alive, and being here helps do that.”

Many teachers said the killing came amid a climate of growing suspicion and criticism of teachers, with parents particularly willing to intervene. “We have to be allowed to do our jobs,” one teacher told Le Monde. “It cannot be allowed come to this – that I now know I might end up being killed for teaching,” said another.

Before the rallies, the education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer called on “everyone to support our teachers”, saying “solidarity and unity” was vital. State interior secretary, Marlène Schiappa, said she was attending the Paris rally “for teachers, secularism and freedom of expression, and against Islamism”.

Kamel Kabtane, rector of the Lyon mosque and a senior Muslim figure, said Paty had merely been “doing his job” and was “respectful” in doing so. “These terrorists are not religious but are using religion to take power,” Kabtane told Agence France-Presse.

A national tribute will be organised for Wednesday, the Élysée Palace announced. The prime minister, Jean Castex, who attended the Paris rally along with opposition leaders and the city’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo, said the government was working on a strategy to better protect teachers from similar threats.

“I want teachers to know that, after this ignoble act, the whole country is behind them,” Castex said. “This tragedy affects each and every one of us because, through this teacher, it is the republic that was attacked.”

The 47-year-old history and geography teacher was repeatedly attacked with a 30cm butcher’s knife outside the Bois-d’Aulne secondary school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, about 20 miles north-west of Paris, by an 18-year-old assailant.

Named as Abdullakh Anzorov, the attacker was shot dead by police soon afterwards when he fired at officers and tried to stab them as they closed in on him. He was born in Moscow of Chechen parents, authorities said, and had arrived in France aged six where he had been granted refugee status along with his family.

Anzorov lived in Évreux, about 60 miles from Conflans, had not attended the school and, while he had a record for vandalism and fights as a child, had no known radical or Islamist affiliations, French media reported.

A Twitter account under the name Abdoulakh A belonging to the suspect posted a photo of the decapitated head from the attacker’s mobile phone minutes after the attack, along with the message: “I have executed one of the dogs from hell who dared to put Muhammad down.”

Earlier this month, as part of a class discussion on freedom of expression and alongside cartoons and caricatures of different subjects, Paty showed his pupils two of the caricatures of the prophet Muhammad published by Charlie Hebdo.

According to parents and teachers, the teacher had given Muslim children in his class the option to leave the classroom or turn away before he showed the two cartoons, saying that he did not want their feelings hurt.

France’s antiterror prosecutor, Jean-François Ricard, said on Saturday that the teacher had been the target of multiple online threats for showing the cartoons to his class. Depictions of the prophet are widely regarded as taboo in Islam.

The father of one girl at the school had launched an online appeal for a “mobilisation” against the teacher, demanding he was fired. He also named Paty and gave the school’s address in a social media post days before the attack.

A known Islamist militant accompanied some parents to the school to argue their case, and helped file a formal police complaint. The schoolgirl’s father and the Islamist leader, along with four members of Anzorov’s family, are among 11 people arrested, including one person detained on Sunday.

Friday’s attack was the second of its kind since a trial started last month over the Charlie Hebdo massacre. The magazine republished the cartoons in the run-up to the trial, and last month a young Pakistani man wounded two people with a meat cleaver outside the magazine’s former office.

Watch: https://youtu.be/6lmX9lfjRME

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