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  • Mauritius oil spill: Locals scramble to contain environmental damage

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    The MV Wakashio, which ran aground on a coral reef on 25 July, is now leaking oil off the island.

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 16:55:22 -0400
  • Niger attack: French aid workers among eight killed by gunmen

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    The attack happened in a region which draws visitors to the last giraffe herds in West Africa.

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 16:54:55 -0400
  • States on hook for billions under Trump's unemployment plan

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    Whether President Donald Trump has the constitutional authority to extend federal unemployment benefits by executive order remains unclear. Equally up in the air is whether states, which are necessary partners in Trump's plan to bypass Congress, will sign on. Trump announced an executive order Saturday that extends additional unemployment payments of $400 a week to help cushion the economic fallout of the pandemic.

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 16:04:04 -0400
  • National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien won’t say if Trump warned Putin to stop election meddling

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    Robert O’Brien said Sunday the Trump administration has “made it very clear” to Russia that it should stop meddling in the upcoming election. O’Brien downplayed intelligence reports last week that detailed Russia’s active and concrete campaign to help Trump, equating it with what intelligence officials call China’s vague “preference” for Democrat Joe Biden. “Whether it’s China, Russia or Iran, we’re not going to put up with it, and there will be severe consequences with any country that attempts to interfere with our free and fair election,” O’Brien said.

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 15:40:23 -0400
  • Israeli jeweler makes $1.5m gold coronavirus mask

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    An Israeli jewelry company is working on what it says will be the world's most expensive coronavirus mask, a gold, diamond-encrusted face covering with a price tag of $1.5 million. The 18-karat white gold mask will be decorated with 3,600 white and black diamonds and fitted with top-rated N99 filters at the request of the buyer, said designer Isaac Levy. The glitzed-up face mask may lend some pizzazz to the protective gear now mandatory in public spaces in many countries.

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 15:34:33 -0400
  • Yemen's rebels say floods, heavy rains left over 130 dead

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    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 15:14:42 -0400
  • National security adviser: 'Almost nothing' left to sanction 'of the Russians'

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    CBS News' Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan repeatedly pushed National Security Adviser on Sunday to say whether President Trump has told Russian President Vladimir Putin "to knock it off" when it comes to U.S. election interference. O'Brien said he doesn't get involved with his boss's conservations with other world leaders, but said the Trump administration remains committed to keeping Moscow out of the picture.Trump, O'Brien said, has been tougher than his predecessors. So much so, he argues, that there's little else Washington can do since they've already "sanctioned the heck out of" individuals, companies, and the government in Russia, kicked Russian spies out of the U.S., and closed down consulates and other diplomatic facilities. "Nevertheless we continue to message the Russians, and President Trump continues to message the Russians: don't get involved our elections," O'Brien said, adding that the warning extends to Beijing and Tehran, as well.> “There’s almost nothing we can sanction left of the Russians,” @robertcobrien says when pressed if @realdonaldtrump ever told Russia's Vladimir Putin to "knock it off" with threats of election interference in 2020 during their last phone call in July pic.twitter.com/KvGtmsrpgo> > — Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) August 9, 2020Brennan, however, pointed out throughout the interview that intelligence reports indicate that the messaging — and the sanctions — don't seem to have gotten through to the Kremlin, as there's still evidence Russia (and China and Iran) is working to undermine the electoral process stateside. Foreign policy experts have also suggested current sanction policy doesn't always prove to be a deterrent, since Moscow views them as permanent and therefore has little incentive to change its behavior purely based on those actions.More stories from theweek.com 5 scathing cartoons about Trump's 'it is what it is' COVID response QAnon goes mainstream 4 surprising reasons scientists think asymptomatic coronavirus cases are so common

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 13:40:00 -0400
  • Lebanon's allies pledge major resources to help rebuild Beirut after deadly blast

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    Countries including Britain pledged to donate "major resources" to help rebuild Beirut after Tuesday's blast, saying any aid will be "directly delivered to the Lebanese population" amid growing anger over government corruption. The push for aid came as Emmanuel Macron, the French president, warned that the future of the nation hung in the balance in the wake of the explosion, which demolished half of its capital city. “The August 4 explosion sounded like a thunderclap. The time for awakening and action has come,” Mr Macron said, opening the international aid summit. Political and economic reforms, he added, would allow “the international community to act effectively alongside Lebanon for reconstruction … It is the future of Lebanon that is at stake.” Britain pledged an extra £20m in aid for the stricken city on top of £5m already promised, via the UN's World Food Programme. Mr Macron reiterated calls for an independent, impartial inquiry into the causes of the disaster, echoed shortly after the conference by Donald Trump, the US president. Mr Trump "urged the Government of Lebanon to conduct a full and transparent investigation, in which the United States stands ready to assist,” the White House said in a statement. However, Michel Aoun, the president of Lebanon, has been quick to quash the prospect of an international investigation, calling it a “waste of time.” Mr Aoun has instead thrown his weight behind a domestic investigation. Rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as well as anti-government protesters, have little faith in the government to conduct its own independent investigations. “There’s no trust. The trust has gone completely between the people and this state,” retired army general Georges Nader, who led a brief civilian takeover of Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday, told the Daily Telegraph. The donation of aid to Lebanon is a highly politicised issue. A commonly repeated refrain from the streets of Beirut, as volunteers stepped in to organise clean up operations, is that money should not go to the government, which they say created the conditions for Tuesday’s blast through corruption and negligence. The explosion was caused when 2,750 tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate ignited after sitting in a warehouse at Beirut’s port, causing massive destruction to swathes of downtown Beirut. “I guarantee you, this aid will not go to corrupt hands,” Mr Macron said to crowds greeting him during a visit to the city on Thursday. Equally, some foreign governments - foremost among them Mr Trump’s administration - are sceptical of writing blank cheques to a government seen to be under the influence of Iran, via its local proxy Hizbollah. As a result, much of the aid pledged at Sunday’s conference is going through third party organisations, both international and local.

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 13:16:40 -0400
  • DC shooting leaves 1 dead, some 20 injured

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    Christopher Brown, 17, died in the shooting that occurred after midnight in a southeast side neighborhood where people had gathered for music and food, Peter Newsham, the chief of the Metropolitan Police Department, told reporters. “There was some kind of a dispute,” Newsham said. Newsham said a motive for the shooting wasn’t clear.

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 12:19:37 -0400
  • Letter from Africa: 'How I helped put Gambians on Google Maps'

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    A journalist is instrumental in the introduction of an address system which could help save lives.

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 11:30:24 -0400
  • Lebanon priests recount horror as blast rocked church

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    The video shows Father Rabih Thoumy swinging a chain censer sending smoke into the air when abruptly there is a rumble and then a loud bang as the shockwave from Beirut's devastating explosion slams into the church. There were tears and shock.

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 11:22:10 -0400
  • How Kristi Noem, Mount Rushmore and Trump Fueled Speculation About Pence's Job

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    WASHINGTON -- Since the first days after she was elected governor of South Dakota in 2018, Kristi Noem had been working to ensure that President Donald Trump would come to Mount Rushmore for a fireworks-filled July Fourth extravaganza.After all, the president had told her in the Oval Office that he aspired to have his image etched on the monument. And last year, a White House aide reached out to the governor's office with a question, according to a Republican official familiar with the conversation: What's the process to add additional presidents to Mount Rushmore?So last month, when the president arrived in the Black Hills for the star-spangled spectacle he had pined for, Noem made the most of it.Introducing Trump against the floodlit backdrop of his carved predecessors, the governor played to the president's craving for adulation by noting that in just three days more than 125,000 people had signed up for only 7,500 seats; she likened him to Theodore Roosevelt, a leader who "braves the dangers of the arena"; and she mimicked the president's rhetoric by scorning protesters who she said were seeking to discredit the country's founders.In private, the efforts to charm Trump were more pointed, according to a person familiar with the episode: Noem greeted him with a 4-foot replica of Mount Rushmore that included a fifth presidential likeness: his.But less than three weeks later, Noem came to the White House with far less fanfare -- to meet not with Trump, but with Vice President Mike Pence. Word had circulated through the Trump administration that she was ingratiating herself with the president, fueling suspicions that there might have been a discussion about her serving as his running mate in November. Noem assured Pence that she wanted to help the ticket however she could, according to an official present.She never stated it directly, but the vice president found her message clear: She was not after his job.There is no indication Trump wants to replace Pence. Trump last month told Fox News that he's sticking with Pence, whom he called a "friend."Yet with polls showing the president trailing Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, and Republicans at risk of being shut out of power in Congress, a host of party leaders have begun eyeing the future, maneuvering around a mercurial president.Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas was in New Hampshire late last month, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida is angling to take over the Senate Republican campaign arm to cultivate donors, and Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming is defending Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's leading expert on infectious disease, while separating herself from Trump on some national security issues.At the same time, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is attempting to shore up his conservative credentials by pushing a hard line on China, and Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky are attempting to reclaim their standing as fiscal hawks by loudly opposing additional spending on coronavirus relief.Drawing less attention, but working equally hard to burnish her national profile, is Noem. The governor, 48, has installed a TV studio in her state capitol, become a Fox News regular and started taking advice from Trump's former 2016 campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who still has the president's ear.Next month, she'll address a county Republican dinner in Iowa."There seems like there might be some interest on her part -- it certainly gets noticed," Jon Hansen, a Republican state representative in South Dakota, said of Noem's positioning for national office.Her efforts have paid off, as evidenced by the news-driving celebration at Mount Rushmore. Yet Noem's attempts to raise her profile have not been without complications. And they illustrate the risks in political maneuvering with a president who has little restraint when it comes to confidentiality, and a White House that shares his obsession about, and antenna for, palace intrigue.To the surprise of some of her own advisers, Noem flew with Trump to Washington on Air Force One late in the evening after his Mount Rushmore speech. Joined by Lewandowski, she and the president spoke for over an hour privately during the flight -- a fact that Trump and some of his aides soon shared with other Republicans, according to officials familiar with his disclosure.An aide to Noem, Maggie Seidel, said she did not raise the vice presidency with Trump. Lewandowski, who is a paid adviser to the Pence-aligned Great America PAC, also denied that he or the governor ever raised the subject of replacing Pence on the ticket.Lewandowski, in a brief interview, described Noem as a star who "has a huge future in Republican politics."A White House official laughed at the notion that Trump is open to replacing Pence, a move that, among other things, would exude desperation. And regarding the phone call about adding the president's image to Rushmore, the official noted that it is a federal, not state, monument.Still, word of the Air Force One conversation quickly reached White House officials, including those in Pence's office.A short time later, Noem was jetting back to the capital, this time in less grand fashion, after requesting a meeting with Pence.White House aides kept Noem from meeting with Trump again, one person familiar with the planning said. But Pence's office gladly put his session with the governor on his public schedule and the vice president tweeted about it afterward. Noem's aides, hoping to tamp down questions about the second trip, emphasized that she had also met with officials from the Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies while she was in the capital.One official close to the vice president said that Noem did not discuss her Air Force One flight with Pence but used the conversation to say she wanted to help the campaign however she could. The official suggested that the vice president's team has an opportunity for her in mind: helping Pence prepare to debate whichever woman Biden selects as his running mate.Yet one senior Trump adviser has recently lamented to others that Trump could have boosted his reelection campaign had he replaced Pence with a woman, according to people familiar with the conversations. One potential candidate mentioned was Nikki Haley, the former United Nations ambassador who is close to the president's daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.However, Pence has been an unstinting ally of Trump, and the vice president retains a number of allies in the president's orbit."I think we'll win South Dakota either way," Brian Ballard, a lobbyist close to Trump, said.That these kinds of speculative conversations about a different running mate have taken place at all, though, illustrates the depth of frustration in Trump's inner circle over his political fortunes. With early voting starting in less than two months in some states, the president's ineffectual response to the coronavirus has alienated voters and made the election primarily a referendum on him.Speculation has long lingered in Republican circles that Trump could swap out Pence for Haley, partly because of the president's own musings about it.For a time in 2018, Trump queried people about Pence's loyalty. And officials in the administration, including some close to Pence, said they believed that Kushner and Ivanka Trump were angling to replace him with Haley.In his memoir, "The Room Where It Happened," the former national security adviser John Bolton recounts how, flying to Iraq on Christmas night in 2018, the president asked him for his opinion on jettisoning Pence.Noem, the daughter of a rancher who took over her family's property after her father died, has insisted that she has little appetite to return to Washington, where she served as South Dakota's sole House member for eight years before becoming governor."She's focused on being the governor of South Dakota," said Seidel, her senior adviser.The president's transition team contacted her about interviewing for a Cabinet post after the 2016 election, but she was already planning to run for governor then. Some of her allies believe she'd also be open to the interior or agricultural secretary roles in a second Trump term before the 2024 race.Noem's poll numbers have increased after a difficult first year in office. But to some of her aides, Lewandowski, a hard-charging New Englander, has been a disruptive presence in Pierre, South Dakota's small state capital. He appeared as a guest speaker at one luncheon with cabinet officials and pressed the governor's appointees to make a more aggressive case for her, irritating the state officials, according to a person briefed on the events.The governor is now on her third chief of staff because the last one, Joshua Shields, left in part because of the increased role of Lewandowski, according to South Dakota Republicans.Lewandowski has sought opportunities that could benefit both Trump and Noem. He recently discussed with the president's advisers sending Trump to the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, where there would be a big crowd and where the two might have appeared together again; Trump's aides did not want him in the same politically safe state twice in two months.Noem has been a steadfast ally of Trump and has mirrored his handling of the virus.She has pushed for schools to reopen for in-person classes, denounced mask mandates and had South Dakota participate in a study on hydroxychloroquine, the malaria treatment Trump has trumpeted.It was her star turn at Mount Rushmore, though, that has gotten Republicans talking and been a boon to South Dakota tourism, the state's second-largest industry.Recognizing the president's immense interest in the monument, Noem worked with his Interior Department to ensure there would be fireworks for the celebration, a long-standing priority for Trump. There had been no fireworks there for the previous decade because of environmental and fire-risk concerns.In the weeks leading up to the event, Noem went on Laura Ingraham's show on Fox News to make clear she was expecting to "have a large event" for the president and would not require social distancing or masks.Then, as the president sat watching her remarks in a bunting-wrapped box just offstage, she praised America as a place where someone who was "just a farm kid" could become "the first female governor of South Dakota."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 11:09:30 -0400
  • 6 Gulf Arab countries back extending UN arms embargo on Iran

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    A six-nation bloc of Gulf Arab nations torn apart by internal strife endorsed on Sunday an extension of a United Nations arms embargo on Iran, just two months before it is set to expire. The Gulf Cooperation Council said it sent a letter to the U.N. Security Council backing an extension of an arms embargo that's kept Iran from purchasing foreign-made weapons like fighter jets, tanks and warships. The GCC — comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — alleged Iran had "not ceased or desisted from armed interventions in neighboring countries, directly and through organizations and movements armed and trained by Iran.”

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 09:43:09 -0400
  • Puerto Rico halts primary voting in centers lacking ballots

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    Puerto Rico on Sunday was forced to partially suspend voting for primaries marred by a lack of ballots as officials called on the president of the U.S. territory’s elections commission to resign. Meanwhile, Vázquez called the situation “a disaster” and demanded the resignation of the president of the elections commission. “They made the people of Puerto Rico, not the candidates, believe that they were prepared,” she said.

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 09:35:08 -0400
  • 5.1-magnitude quake hits North Carolina, causes minor damage

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    The most powerful earthquake to hit North Carolina in more than 100 years shook much of the state early Sunday, rattling homes, businesses and residents. The National Weather Service in Greenville said the 5.1-magnitude temblor struck at 8:07 a.m., following a much smaller quake several hours earlier. There were no reports of serious injuries, but some minor structural damage was reported in Sparta, as well as cracks in roads.

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 09:15:43 -0400
  • Chad inquiry finds 44 prisoners died in hot, overcrowded cell

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    Prosecutors in Chad had suggested 44 prisoners killed themselves, but a new report says otherwise.

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 09:06:09 -0400
  • No parties, no trips: Colleges set COVID-19 rules for fall

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    As they struggle to salvage some semblance of a campus experience this fall, U.S. colleges are requiring promises from students to help contain the coronavirus — no keg parties, no long road trips and no outside guests on campus. Administrators warn that failure to wear masks, practice social distancing and avoid mass gatherings could bring serious consequences, including getting booted from school. Critics question whether it's realistic to demand that college students not act like typical college students.

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 08:59:46 -0400
  • The Latest: Another Lebanon Cabinet member resigns

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    Lebanon’s environment minister has resigned. Kattar Demianos is the second Cabinet member to step down amid anger in the country following the blast that ripped across the capital of Beirut. People in Lebanon have blamed the explosion on negligence and mismanagement.

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 08:58:55 -0400
  • Ohio governor's conflicting COVID-19 tests raise backlash

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    The Ohio governor's positive, then negative, tests for COVID-19 have provided fuel for skeptics of government pandemic mandates and critics of his often-aggressive policies. “I'm sure the internet is lighting up with ‘Well, you can't believe any test,' ” Mike DeWine said in a WCOL radio interview Friday, after a whirlwind of events the day before when the initial positive showing forced the Republican to scrub a planned meeting with President Donald Trump. Instead of seeing Trump at the Cleveland airport, DeWine returned to this state capital for new testing with his wife, Fran, through Ohio State University's medical center They then went to their southwestern Ohio farm in Cedarville, where DeWine said he planned to quarantine for 14 days.

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 08:13:36 -0400
  • Amid pandemic, future of many Catholic schools is in doubt

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    As the new academic year arrives, school systems across the United States are struggling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. Roman Catholic educators have an extra challenge — trying to forestall a relentless wave of closures of their schools that has no end in sight. Already this year, financial and enrollment problems aggravated by the pandemic have forced the permanent closure of more than 140 Catholic schools nationwide, according to officials who oversee Catholic education in the country.

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 08:05:05 -0400
  • Beirut explosion bares pitfalls of sending aid to Lebanon

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    Hospitals and schools, then shattered and bent water pipes, then the crater that once was Lebanon’s port. The rebuilding needs of Lebanon are immense, but so is the question of how to ensure the millions of dollars promised in international aid is not diverted in a country notorious for missing money, invisible infrastructure projects and its refusal to open the books. Sunday’s international donor teleconference raised a total of 252.7 million euro ($298 million) in emergency aid, organizers said.

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 07:41:07 -0400
  • Report: 9 killed in car crash in Egypt’s Nile Delta

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    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 07:25:01 -0400
  • Azar leads highest-level US delegation to Taiwan in decades

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    U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar arrived in Taiwan on Sunday in the highest-level visit by an American Cabinet official since the break in formal diplomatic relations between Washington and Taipei in 1979. Beijing has already protested Azar’s visit as a betrayal of U.S. commitments not to have official contact with the island. China claims Taiwan as its own territory, to be brought under its control by military force if necessary.

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 06:37:43 -0400
  • Armenia Has Some of the World's Most Enchanting Monasteries

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    By now you’ve no doubt found a coping mechanism for COVID angst—maybe you fold down into child’s pose, zone out with some deep inhales, or simply pour yourself a stiff drink. Me, I like to close my eyes and conjure up one of the most peaceful places I know: Geghard monastery, in the mountains of Armenia. Some days I can almost taste the air inside, cool and pure and sweet with frankincense. Around me, candles flicker in the dimness against rough-hewn walls blackened by smoke and time. Ethereal harmonies spiral up to the soaring cupola, from which a skylight casts a beam of light that warms my forehead if I stand just so. I’m not religious, but in Armenia’s monasteries, I found a glimmer of divine serenity that followed me home.You’re never far from a church in Armenia, a deeply Christian country bordered by Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Iran. Today more than 90 percent of Armenia’s citizens—and millions of diaspora Armenians abroad—belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church, an ancient Oriental Orthodox institution that shares similarities with Coptic, Syrian, Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Indian Churches. In fact, Armenia was the first nation to make Christianity its official region, in 301 AD, some 80 years before the Roman Empire did the same. That head start is one reason the country’s most breathtaking Christian sites are also some of the world’s oldest—take, for example, Echmiadzin Cathedral, said to be the first cathedral on earth, completed (in its first iteration) in 304 AD. But you don’t have to know this history—much less follow the Gospel—to be blown away by the buildings themselves, and to find rejuvenating quietude within their walls. Crowned by conical domes that pierce through clouds and tower over forests and meadows, Armenian churches are dramatic, and drool-emoji photogenic, especially viewed from afar. Get closer, and you might spot zoomorphic carvings of suns or grapevines or (long-extinct) Persian lions, holdover motifs from Armenian Zoroastrianism. Step inside, and hypnotically interlaced stone crosses, faded frescoes of wide-eyed saints, and secret nooks and passageways will jump-start your imagination and make you want to go exploring like a kid in a haunted house. A word of advice to first-time visitors to Armenia: Lest monastery fatigue set in, limit yourself to two or three churches a day. Skip the umpteen-stop package itineraries. Roads in Armenia are notoriously curvy, tours long and information-packed, and monasteries filled with curiosities that merit your slow, clear-eyed attention. There may be more churches in Armenia than there are seeds in a pomegranate, but these seven monastic sites—ranging from tiny chapels to grand ecclesiastical complexes—are especially pilgrimage-worthy.  Khor VirapPlastered on t-shirts, printed on postcards, and painted wistfully on walls of Armenian restaurants from Los Angeles to Tbilisi to Paris, Khor Virap is one of the most celebrated symbols of Armenia. When it comes into view, you’ll understand why: The monastery appears to float above a parched plain that stretches to the foot of Mount Ararat, the snow-capped dormant volcano where Noah’s ark supposedly came to rest. It’s all phenomenally scenic, especially on windy winter mornings when the air is at its clearest. Though remnants remain of the original 7th-century chapel, the current structure, with one lone spire, dates to the 1600s. Inside, take the wobbly steel ladder down into the pit where Armenia’s chief evangelizer, Gregory the Illuminator, is said to have been jailed for 12 years by the pagan King Tiridates III. Etchmiadzin Cathedral Etchmiadzin is to Armenian Apostolic Christians what St. Peter’s Basilica is to Catholics and the Western Wall is to Jews: a place of unparalleled religious significance. Called Mayr Tachar (“Mother Church”) by Armenians, it is the seat of the catholicos, the Armenian equivalent of the pope. Its 65-foot-high cupola, ornate bell towers, and central nave blanketed in florid Persianate frescoes make it one of the grandest religious sites in the Caucasus. The site was previously a pagan altar to the fire god Vahagn, so when Gregory the Illuminator built the cathedral, it symbolized the nation’s embrace of Christianity over paganism. Tip: Luckily for travelers crunched for time, Echmiadzin is a 30-minute drive from the capital city of Yerevan, but before striking out, contact Armenia’s Tourist Committee to ensure the interior isn’t closed due to ongoing construction. Tatev To Armenian art scholars, Tatev Monastery is synonymous with medieval manuscript production, its prestigious specimens once shipped as far afield as Crimea and Italy. But today the complex is better known for its Wings of Tatev cable car, the “world’s longest reversible aerial tramway,” according to Guinness World Records, which swoops a whopping 5,800 meters up to the 9th-century mountaintop monastery over a clover-green gully. GarniWhat is a Parthenon-like Greco-Roman temple doing in the backwoods of Armenia? No one is quite sure, but theories abound: Some scholars believe Garni is a shrine to the Zoroastrian sun god Mihr, while others have posited that it’s the tomb of a Romanized Armenian king or even of the Roman emperor Trajan himself. Though not a church per se, the site holds major spiritual importance for thousands of Armenian Neopagans (newfound adherents to Armenia’s pre-Christian rites) who gather there for ceremonial dances, nature worship rituals, and—until a law forbade it a few years ago—animal sacrifice. Note the smattering of gray slabs interspersed with the lighter stone of the colonnade—these were incorporated in the temple’s reconstruction 1975 for easy differentiation from the original building materials.   GeghardGeghard is arguably the crown jewel of medieval Armenian architecture, its chapels hewn into a cliffside set among steep, scrubby peaks. Khachkars, uniquely Armenian “cross stones” bearing mesmerizing carvings of crosses, suns, and other religious and nature motifs, are strewn throughout the complex; you’ll find yourself stopping to simply stare at them as you would a trippy psychedelic animation. As you walk the grounds, ducking into the various churches, chapels, and old priests’ quarters cut into the rock, make a point to seek out Proshyan Dynasty’s zhamatun, or tomb. The doorway to this room is crowned with a primitive pagan relief of two lions with dragon tails flanking a ram’s head. What’s going on is anyone’s guess—so linger for a few minutes and let your imagination run wild. Tip: Combine a visit to Geghard with Garni, a 15-minute drive away. NoravankOne of the most splendid church façades in all of the Caucasus can be found at Noravank, a monastery and one-time residence of the Orbelian Dynasty. Momik is the mastermind builder behind the cantilevered stairs (an astonishing architectural feat for the 13th century) that trace up the front entrance; he also carved the lace-like khachkars still standing at the site.  See if you can spot the tympanum bearing an uncannily East Asian-looking representation of God; legend has it that invading Mongols spared Noravank because they saw themselves reflected in that image. Indeed, in both architecture and in manuscripts, Armenians would often depict their subjects with the features of the enemy du jour in hopes that their work would not be destroyed.  Sevanavank Lake Sevan sprawls 1,900 square miles and covers nearly one sixth of Armenia’s surface area. It’s beloved by Armenians for its tranquil beaches and sweet, rosy-fleshed trout, but to visitors, the lake’s main attraction is the 9th-century Sevanavank monastery. It takes a wheezy hundred-step climb to reach the small yet charming church, but the panoramic lake and mountain views from an altitude of 6,200 feet are well worth the sweat stains. Among the twenty-some khachkars spread around the grounds is a unique example bearing a depiction of Jesus on the cross, one of only three such cross stones known to exist. Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 06:28:18 -0400
  • World donors demand change before money to rebuild Beirut

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    World leaders and international organizations pledged nearly $300 million in emergency humanitarian aid to Beirut in the wake of the devastating explosion, but warned on Sunday that no money for rebuilding the capital will be made available until Lebanese authorities commit themselves to the political and economic reforms demanded by the people. Over 30 participants to the international conference offered help for a “credible and independent” investigation into the Aug. 4 Beirut explosion, another key demand of the Lebanese crowds who took to the streets Saturday and Sunday.

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 06:23:24 -0400
  • Morocco's carriage horses suffer as COVID-19 bars tourists

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    Abdenabi Nouidi sold his favorite horse for $150 to help feed the others on the team that pulls tourists in carriages through the buzzing streets of Marrakech. The prospect of starvation looms for carriage horses and other animals normally used in Morocco’s tourist mecca. The Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad, or SPANA, says hundreds of Morocco's carriage horses and donkeys are threatened amid the collapsing tourism industry.

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 06:15:09 -0400
  • South Korea’s Old Torture Factory Is Making Nice With Kim Jong Un

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    The old Korean Central Intelligence Agency, a fearsome tool of terror for bygone South Korean dictators, has now lost the right to spy on politicians and torture foes of the regime. Instead the agency, renamed the National Intelligence Service years ago, is morphing into an instrument for North-South Korean reconciliation.Nothing shows the changing role of the NIS more sharply than the appointment by South Korea’s liberal President Moon Jae-in of an old-time leftist politico as NIS director. Imprisoned in 2006 for agreeing to send North Korea $500 million to bring about the first North-South Korean summit in June 2000— between then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korea’s Kim Jong Il,  father of current ruler Kim Jong Un—the 78-year-old Park Jie-won hopes to use the agency to get back in the good graces of the North Koreans. Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s Kid Sister, is ‘Feared,’ ‘Respected’ Inside North KoreaWhy Is Trump Letting Moon Jae-in Hand South Korea to Kim Jong Un?The NIS may still engage in routine intelligence-gathering, but Park, who was Kim Dae-jung’s closest aide, envisions the agency pursuing “peace, cooperation and unification” of the two Koreas. As for his signature on an old document promising payoffs to North Korea, he called it “fake,” a forgery. The controversy over the signature revived memories of the scandal in which Park was alleged to have signed an “agreement on economic cooperation” with North Korea before the June 2000 summit. The document states the payoffs came to $3 billion, including another $2.5 billion in long-term aid and investment, all to get Kim Jong Il to agree to host Kim Dae-jung in Pyongyang. Several months later, “DJ,” as he was widely known, won the Nobel Peace Prize for which he had been lobbying for years.Park might say he knew nothing, but he was sentenced in 2006 to three years in prison for arranging payoffs that critics say aided and abetted North Korea’s rise as a nuclear power. Some have claimed the final total sent to North Korea amounted to far more. In any event North Korea conducted its first underground nuclear test in 2006 and has staged five more since then, most recently in September 2017.Interestingly, Park had served only eight months in prison before he was freed by Kim Dae-jung’s equally liberal successor, Roh Moo-hyun, on the advice of his chief of staff Moon Jae-in—yes, the same Moon who, as president, has shown his full faith in Park by naming him NIS director.All of which means “the NIS has lost power,” said Kim Ki-sam, a one-time NIS official who defected to the U.S. after publicly exposing transfers of huge sums to North Korea before the June 2000 summit.  “Now the agency is numb. It can do nothing.” Many experienced NIS people have been transferred to new positions or forced to resign, and anyone looking into political figures suspected of spying for North Korea risks criminal charges for interfering in domestic politics.The transition of the NIS comes as President Moon looks for renewed dialogue with North Korea in the aftermath of Pyongyang blowing up a North-South liaison office last month, which was built at South Korean expense inside North Korea. Since then, Moon has ordered North Korean defectors to stop launching balloons laden with propaganda leaflets over North Korea. Leafleteers say they want to make North Koreans aware of the cruelty of Kim Jong Un’s regime, including the assassination in 2017 of his half-brother, shown in one leaflet sprawled over a chair in the airport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, dying from a VX agent smeared on his face. The crackdown on the leafleteers marked a major concession to North Korean pressure. “While previous progressive governments ignored human rights activism in South Korea,” said Victor Cha, professor at Georgetown and author of books and studies on North Korea, “this government is actually rolling it back.”Also important, U.S. and South Korean military exercises set for this month are largely digital, no troops playing war games for real, but North Korea still rebukes Moon’s government for any move contrary to its interests. Last week, the North Korean state media attacked the South for revealing its “evil intentions” in a deal with the U.S. to use solid-state fuel in spy satellites—and also to propel missiles targeting North Korea.  The deal revises an accord first signed with the U.S. in 1979 under which South Korean missiles, propelled by liquid fuel, were limited to a range of 800 kilometers, 500 miles, enough to hit anywhere in North Korea. The South, arguing that solid fuel is needed to put a satellite into orbit, aspires to “complete missile sovereignty” in the face of American concerns about an arms race in Asia.As if to make the switch from the bad old days of KCIA terrorism totally clear, the Moon government is coming up with a new name for the NIS—“External Security and Intelligence Service,” for instance, would make clear it’s no longer probing into domestic politics. The impact has been to severely rein in the agency, which for years had the sweeping power of the American FBI and CIA combined while investigating and prosecuting suspects, including political protesters and critics.By removing the agency’s once dreaded authority to investigate espionage at home, the fear is it will also have little power to look into whatever North Korea is doing. No other agency has the same power as did the KCIA and then the NIS, and no other branch of government is likely to replace it except possibly the National Police Agency, which runs all the police in the country.That’s to ensure that zealous NIS agents won’t abuse their power to go after foes as they did most infamously in the era of military rule under General Park Chung-hee, who rose to power in a coup in May 1961 and ruled until his assassination by his intelligence chief 18 years and five months  later. Chun Doo-hwan, the general who seized power after Park’s death, was equally harsh until a protester was tortured to death in the KCIA interrogation center. In the uproar, mass protests forced him in 1987 to accept a democracy constitution calling for presidential elections every five years. “It certainly looks as if there is a serious effort under way to change the way the NIS operates internally,” said Evans Revere, a former senior U.S. diplomat with years of experience on Korea issues. “A major concern will be the effort to restrict the NIS from investigating domestic espionage cases.” The NIS, he said, “is very well equipped to conduct such investigations, and this story raises questions about whether another government agency will be as effective in doing so.” Just to show how complete is the shift in the NIS role, the building in central Seoul where interrogators tortured thousands of dissidents is now open for tours.  Visitors can gaze into the sealed chambers where those suspected of working against the rule of Park or Chun were often subjected to simple water torture in which they were unable to breathe. Other forms of torture ranged from beatings of “suspects” contorted into weird positions to the propeller trick in which a victim was strung up on the blades of an overhead fan and spun around wildly. Sleep deprivation was routine for prisoners consigned to small cells with tiny slits for fresh air from which they could not see outside. “The ruling party’s intention is to use their political majority to right what they see as past wrongs and advance a progressive justice reform agenda by shifting legal powers away from traditionally conservative institutions,” said Leif-Eric Easley, professor at Ewha University in Seoul. “Renaming the NIS is more than symbolic. It is about circumscribing the agency’s ability to collect intelligence.” Park Jie-won’s background “suggests the administration’s priority is deal-making with North Korea,”said Easley. Amid “growing regional threats and intensifying foreign influence operations, it is important not to hollow out or politicize national intelligence capabilities.” One fear is that new constraints on the NIS will undermine long ties with U.S. intelligence agencies. Considering Park’s “close relationship with the North, the U.S. intelligence community will likely be wary of providing certain intelligence to the NIS out of concern it may be shared with Pyongyang,” said David Maxwell, a retired army officer who served five tours in South Korea in the special forces. “Intelligence liaison will not stop, but it will be executed with great caution, which will undermine the decades of trust.”Park’s appointment also deepens internal divisions in South Korea. “For the first time in the country's history, a felony convict is chief of the nation's spy agency,” said a long-time South Korean political analyst who asked that his name not be used.  “Appointing an ex-convict for a major government post is breathtaking.” Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 04:53:19 -0400
  • Masks in class? Many questions as Germans go back to school

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    Masks during class, masks only in the halls, no masks at all. As Germany’s 16 states start sending millions of children back to school in the middle of the global coronavirus pandemic, the country’s famous sense of “Ordnung,” or order, has given way to uncertainty, with a hodgepodge of regional regulations that officials acknowledge may or may not work. “There can’t, and never will be 100% certainty,” said Torsten Kuehne, the official in charge of schools in Pankow, Berlin’s most populous district where 45,000 students go back to school Monday.

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 03:46:31 -0400
  • Nagasaki marks 75 years since atomic bombing

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    The Japanese city of Nagasaki on Sunday commemorated the 75th anniversary of its destruction by a US atomic bomb, with its mayor and the head of the United Nations warning against a nuclear arms race. Nagasaki was flattened in an atomic inferno three days after Hiroshima -- twin nuclear attacks that rang in the nuclear age and gave Japan the bleak distinction of being the only country to be struck by atomic weapons. Survivors, their relatives and a handful of foreign dignitaries attended a remembrance ceremony in Nagasaki where they called for world peace.

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 03:45:28 -0400
  • France's Macron to host donor conference for blast-stricken Lebanon

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    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 03:38:27 -0400
  • Police, protesters clash after Belarus presidential vote

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    Belarus police and protesters clashed in the capital and the city of Brest Sunday night after a presidential election in which the country's longtime leader sought a sixth term despite rising discontent with his authoritarian rule and his cavalier dismissal of the coronavirus pandemic. Tensions have been rising for weeks ahead of Sunday's vote in the ex-Soviet nation, which pitted President Alexander Lukashenko, who has held an iron grip on Belarus since 1994, against four others. The campaign has generated the country's biggest opposition protests in years.

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 02:50:43 -0400
  • Afghan council frees Taliban prisoners to set up peace talks

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    A traditional Afghan council concluded Sunday with hundreds of delegates agreeing to free 400 Taliban members, paving the way for an early start to negotiations between Afghanistan's warring sides. No date has been set for the release, but negotiations between Kabul’s political leadership and the Taliban are expected to begin as early as next week, and will most likely be held in the Mideast state of Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office. At the time of its signing it was touted as Afghanistan’s best chance at ending decades of war.

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 02:40:51 -0400
  • US response to the virus is met with incredulity abroad

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    The United States’ failure to contain the spread of the coronavirus has been met with astonishment and alarm in Europe, as the world’s most powerful country edges closer to a global record of 5 million confirmed infections. Perhaps nowhere outside the U.S. is America’s bungled virus response viewed with more consternation than in Italy, which was ground zero of Europe's epidemic. “Don’t they care about their health?” a mask-clad Patrizia Antonini asked about people in the United States as she walked with friends along the banks of Lake Bracciano, north of Rome.

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 02:33:16 -0400
  • Riot declared as fire burns in Portland police union offices

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    A fire inside a police union building led authorities in Portland, Oregon, to declare a riot and force protesters away from the offices as violent demonstrations continue in the city that had hoped for calm after federal agents withdrew more than a week ago. Three officers were hurt, including two who were taken to a hospital, during efforts to clear a crowd of several hundred people outside the Portland Police Association building late Saturday, police said in a statement. The two hospitalized officers have since been released.

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 01:00:15 -0400
  • Rajapaksa sworn in as PM in Sri Lanka, cementing family rule

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    Sri Lanka’s former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was sworn in as the prime minister for the fourth time Sunday after his party secured a landslide victory in parliamentary elections that cemented his family's hold on power. Rajapaksa took oath before his younger brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, at a prominent Buddhist temple on the outskirts of the capital Colombo. Mahinda Rajapaksa served as the island nation’s president from 2005 to 2015 and is highly popular among the ethnic majority Sinhalese for ending the country’s 25-year civil war against Tamil rebels in 2009.

    Sun, 09 Aug 2020 00:21:31 -0400
  • Nagasaki urges nuke ban on 75th anniversary of US A-bombing

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    The Japanese city of Nagasaki on Sunday marked its 75th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing, with the mayor and dwindling survivors urging world leaders including their own to do more for a nuclear weapons ban. At 11:02 a.m., the moment the B-29 bomber Bockscar dropped a 4.5-ton (10,000-pound) plutonium bomb dubbed “Fat Man,” Nagasaki survivors and other participants stood in a minute of silence to honor more than 70,000 dead. The Aug. 9, 1945, bombing came three days after the United States dropped its first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the world’s first ever nuclear attack that killed 140,000.

    Sat, 08 Aug 2020 22:03:46 -0400
  • Kim Jong-un sends aid to North Korean border city in lockdown

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    North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered the distribution of aid to the border city of Kaesong after the area was locked down last month to fight the coronavirus, state media said on Sunday. Authorities raised the state of emergency to the maximum level for the city in July, saying they had discovered the country's first suspected virus case. A train carrying goods arrived in the "totally blocked" city of Kaesong on Friday, the official KCNA news agency reported. "The Supreme Leader has made sure that emergency measures were taken for supplying food and medicines right after the city was totally blocked and this time he saw to it that lots of rice and subsidy were sent to the city," it said. Mr Kim had been concerned "day and night" about people in Kaesong as they continue their "campaign for checking the spread of the malignant virus", the report added. Last month, Pyongyang said a defector who had left for South Korea three years ago returned on July 19 by "illegally crossing" the heavily fortified border dividing the two countries. The man showed symptoms of coronavirus and was put under "strict quarantine", authorities said, but the North has yet to confirm whether he tested positive. If confirmed, it would be the first officially recognised case of Covid-19 in North Korea, where medical infrastructure is seen as woefully inadequate to deal with any epidemic. The nuclear-armed North closed its borders in late January as the virus spread in neighbouring China. It imposed tough restrictions that put thousands of people into isolation, but analysts say the country is unlikely to have avoided the contagion.

    Sat, 08 Aug 2020 22:02:15 -0400
  • Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine again tests negative for coronavirus

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    The fourth COVID-19 test result for Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine came back negative Saturday after he received conflicting positive and negative results two days before, ahead of a scheduled meeting with President Trump. The governor and first lady, Fran DeWine, were tested at Ohio State University “out of an abundance of caution” following a rollercoaster day Thursday that began with DeWine receiving a positive test result followed by two negatives.

    Sat, 08 Aug 2020 15:56:13 -0400
  • Global Ethylene Carbonate Industry

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    Sat, 08 Aug 2020 15:27:00 -0400
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    Sat, 08 Aug 2020 15:07:00 -0400
  • Italy approves outpatient use for abortion pill

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    Sat, 08 Aug 2020 15:00:55 -0400
  • Protesters decry government's anti-LGBT attitudes in Poland

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    Demonstrators turned out in Warsaw and other Polish cities Saturday to protest anti-LGBT attitudes promoted by the government as well as the detention of pro-LGBT protesters. “You will not lock all of us up!” people chanted at a protest in Warsaw that drew thousands of mostly young people. The protests came a day after LGBT rights supporters in Warsaw scuffled with police who arrested a transgender activist, Malgorzata Szutowicz, known best as “Margot.”

    Sat, 08 Aug 2020 14:49:58 -0400
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    Sat, 08 Aug 2020 14:47:00 -0400
  • Thousands throng central Jerusalem in anti-Netanyahu protest

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    Thousands of demonstrators thronged the streets near the official residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in central Jerusalem on Saturday night, in a renewed show of strength as weeks of protests against the Israeli leader showed no signs of slowing. Throughout the summer, thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets to call on Netanyahu to resign, protesting his handling of the country’s coronavirus crisis and saying he should not remain in office while on trial for corruption charges. Self-employed workers whose businesses have been hurt by the economic crisis also joined Saturday's march.

    Sat, 08 Aug 2020 14:42:08 -0400
  • Bikers descend on Sturgis rally with few signs of pandemic

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    The coronavirus may be changing the world, but there aren't many signs of the pandemic at the massive annual motorcycle rally being held this week at a small city along Interstate 90 in western South Dakota. The scene Saturday at the 80th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was familiar to veterans of the event, with throngs of maskless bikers packing the streets. Motorcyclist Kevin Lunsmann, 63, rode more than 600 miles (965 kilometers) to the rally from Big Lake, Minnesota, with several friends.

    Sat, 08 Aug 2020 14:37:04 -0400
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    Sat, 08 Aug 2020 13:07:00 -0400
  • Knives are out for a Withdrawal Agreement MPs fear is not worth the paper it's written on

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    He may have succeeded in ditching the Irish backstop and getting his Withdrawal Agreement through Parliament against all the odds. But as Boris Johnson prepares to redraw the Brexit battlelines with the EU as negotiations resume later this month, he once again faces the prospect of a backbench rebellion over the deal he struck with Brussels last October. Although senior Brexiteers endorsed the treaty when faced with a remainer rebellion that threatened to reverse the referendum result, there is mounting disquiet among leave MPs that the agreement still isn’t worth the paper it is written on. As with Theresa May’s original deal, Tory members of the European Research Group (ERG) who universally endorsed the Prime Minister’s replacement plan in January are now voicing serious concerns about its similarities to its predecessor. Former Conservative party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who is leading the charge, insists the creation of a border in the Irish Sea with customs and regulatory checks on goods crossing from Britain to Northern Ireland remains a major bone of contention. “This sense of semi-detachment from the EU remains unacceptable to many,” he told The Telegraph. There are also concerns over ongoing powers for the European Court of Justice over the UK, special legal privileges for EU citizens living in Britain and the threat that the UK could be forced to participate in ambitious EU defence and security arrangements. The EU is also challenging the right of the UK to take back control of its fishing waters after Brexit - not to mention the reported £160 billion cost of the UK apparently remaining on the hook for the bloc’s ongoing liabilities.

    Sat, 08 Aug 2020 12:41:40 -0400
  • Brazil makes grim milestone -- 100,000 deaths from COVID-19

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    Brazil surpassed a grim milestone of 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 on Saturday night, and five months after the first reported case the country has not shown signs of crushing the disease. The Health Ministry said there had been a total of 3,012,412 confirmed infections with the new coronavirus — death and infection tolls second only to the United States. In a tribute to COVID-19 victims Saturday morning, the non-governmental group Rio de Paz placed crosses on the sand on the famed Copacabana beach and released 1,000 red balloons into the sky.

    Sat, 08 Aug 2020 12:38:03 -0400
  • At his New Jersey golf club, Trump finds supportive audience

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    They hustled down the stairs, the rain dabbing their polo shirts and golf attire, as they dashed inside the clubhouse, drinks in their hands and masks missing from their faces. It was an unexpected perk of their country club membership: being the audience for President Donald Trump’s hurriedly announced news conference Friday evening at his course in Bedminster, New Jersey. As if it were a political rally, the well-heeled crowd offered cheers and jeers as the president delivered broadsides against his political foes.

    Sat, 08 Aug 2020 12:17:04 -0400
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    Sat, 08 Aug 2020 11:27:00 -0400
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