EU Urges Action to Avoid Coronavirus Surge

European Union health officials urged members Thursday to “act decisively” to put in place and utilize measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus and a potential surge in cases like the one earlier this year that prompted widespread lockdowns.“We are at a decisive moment. All member states must be ready to roll out control measures, immediately and at the right time, at the very first sign of potential new outbreaks,” said Stella Kyriakides, commissioner for health and food safety. She added, “This might be our last chance to prevent a repeat of last spring.”More than 3 million cases have been reported across the EU and Britain since the pandemic began, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.Kyriakides noted some EU countries are experiencing higher numbers of new infections than they had in March at the peak of the outbreak in the region, saying, “It is abundantly clear that this crisis is not behind us.”France’s health ministry reported Thursday the number of people hospitalized in intensive care units due to the coronavirus surpassed 1,000 for the first time since early June.A woman is tested for COVID-19 at a mobile testing center in Marseille, France, Sept. 24, 2020.In the Netherlands, health officials said Thursday the number of new infections rose to 2,544, a record high for a single day.Poland’s health ministry also reported a record daily rise in cases and attributed the trend to people making more contact with others after restrictions were lifted.Sweden, which opted not to put in place many of the stricter coronavirus lockdown measures seen elsewhere in Europe, is experiencing a situation Prime Minister Stefan Lofven called worrying.”The caution that existed in the spring has more and more been replaced by hugs, parties, bus trips in rush hour traffic, and an everyday life that, for many, seems to return to normal,” Lofven told reporters.He said people will be glad about the right steps they take now and suffer later for what is done wrong.Lofven urged people to follow social distancing guidelines and hygiene measures, and said, if necessary, the government would introduce new measures to stop the spread of the virus.A similar message about the need for continued vigilance and good practices came Thursday from Indonesia’s COVID-19 task force as that country saw another record increase in new cases. COVID-19 is the illness caused by the coronavirus.Workers lower a coffin containing the body of a suspected COVID-19 victim into a grave during a burial at the special section of Pondok Ranggon cemetery during coronavirus outbreak, in Jakarta, Indonesia, Sept. 24, 2020.”Over time, we’ve seen that the people have lowered their guards,” task force spokesman Wiku Adisasmito told reporters. “It’s almost like they don’t have empathy even when they see every day so many new victims.”The governor of the capital, Jakarta, extended coronavirus restrictions there until October 11 in order to help hospitals cope with demand.In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Thursday that the country is returning to a full lockdown, effective Friday, and lasting for two weeks as its infection rate spirals out of control.Schools, entertainment venues and most businesses will be closed, while restaurants will be limited to delivering food. Residents will be required to stay within 500 to 1,000 meters of their homes, except for work and shopping for food and medicine, while outdoor gatherings will be strictly limited to 20 people. 

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Sir Harold Evans, Crusading Publisher and Author, Dies at 92

Sir Harold Evans, the charismatic publisher, author and muckraker who was a bold-faced name for decades for exposing wrongdoing in 1960s London to publishing such 1990s best-sellers as “Primary Colors,” has died, his wife said Thursday. He was 92.
His wife, fellow author-publisher Tina Brown, said he died Wednesday in New York of congestive heart failure.  
A vision of British erudition and sass, Evans was a high-profile go-getter, starting in the 1960s as an editor of the Northern Echo and the Sunday Times of London and continuing into the 1990s as president of Random House. Married since 1981 to Brown, their union was a paradigm of media clout and A-list access.  
A defender of literature and print journalism well into the digital age, Evans was one of the all-time newspaper editors, startling British society with revelations of espionage, corporate wrongdoing and government scandal. In the U.S., he published such attention-getters as the mysterious political novel “Primary Colors” and memoirs by such unlikely authors as Manuel Noriega and Marlon Brando.  
He was knighted by his native Britain in 2004 for his contributions to journalism.  
He held his own, and more, with the world’s elite, but was mindful of his working class background: a locomotive driver’s son, born in Lancashire, English, on June 28, 1928. As a teen, he was evacuated to Wales during World War II. After serving in the Royal Air Force, he studied politics and economics at Durham University and received a master’s in foreign policy.
His drive to report and expose dated back to his teens, when he discovered that newspapers had wildly romanticized the Battle of Dunkirk between German and British soldiers.
 “A newspaper is an argument on the way to a deadline,” he once wrote. He was just 16 when he got his first journalism job, at a local newspaper in Lancashire, and after graduating from college he became an assistant editor at the Manchester Evening News. In his early 30s, he was hired to edit the Daily Echo and began attracting national attention with crusades such as government funding for cancer smear tests for women.
He had yet to turn 40 when he became editor of the Sunday Times, where he reigned and rebelled for 14 years until he was pushed out by a new boss, Rupert Murdoch. Notable stories included publishing the diaries of former Labour Minister Richard Crossman; taking on the manufacturers of the drug Thalidomide, which caused birth defects in children; and revealing that Britain’s Kim Philby was a Soviet spy.
“There have been many times when I have found that what was presented as truth did not square with what I discovered as a reporter, or later as an editor, learned from good shoe-leather reporters,” he observed in “My Paper Chase,” published in 2009. “We all understand in an age of terrorism that refraining from exposing a lie may be necessary for the protection of innocents. But ‘national interest’ is an elastic concept that if stretched can snap with a sting.”
Meanwhile, the then-married Evans became infatuated with an irreverent blonde just out of Oxford, Tina Brown, and soon began a long-distance correspondence — he in London, she in New York — that grew intimate enough for Evans to “fall in love by post.” They were married in East Hampton, New York, in 1981. The Washington Post’s Ben Bradlee was best man, Nora Ephron was among the guests.  
With Brown, Evans had two children, adding to the two children he had with his first wife.
Their garden apartment on Manhattan’s exclusive Sutton Place became a mini-media dynasty: He the champion of justice, rogues and belles lettres, she the award-winning provocateur and chronicler of the famous — as head of Tatler in England, then Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, and as author of a best-selling book about Princess Diana.
Evans emigrated to the U.S. in 1984, initially serving as editorial director of U.S. News & World Report, and was hired six years later by Random House. He published William Styron’s best-selling account of his near-suicidal depression, “Darkness Visible,” and winked at Washington with “Primary Colors,” a roman a clef about then-candidate Bill Clinton that was published anonymously and set off a capitol guessing game, ended when The Washington Post unmasked magazine correspondent Joe Klein.
Evans had a friendly synergist at The New Yorker, where Brown serialized works by Monica Crowley, Edward Jay Epstein and other Random House authors. A special beneficiary was Jeffrey Toobin, a court reporter for The New Yorker who received a Random House deal for a book on the O.J. Simpson trial that was duly excerpted in Brown’s magazine.  
Evans took on memoirs by the respected — Colin Powell — as well as the disgraced: Clinton advisor and alleged call girl client Dick Morris. He visited Noriega’s jail cell in pursuit of a memoir by the deposed Panamanian dictator. In 1994, he risked $40,000 for a book by a community organizer and law school graduate, a bargain for what became former President Barack Obama’s “Dreams from My Father.”
Evan’s more notable follies included a disparaged, Random House-generated list of the 100 greatest novels of the 20th century, for which judges acknowledged they had no ideal how the books were ranked, and Brando’s “Songs My Mother Taught Me.”  
As Evans recalled in “My Paper Chase,” he met with Brando in California, first for dinner at a restaurant where the ever-suspicious actor accused Evans of working for the CIA. Then they were back at Brando’s Beverly Hills mansion, where Brando advocated for Native Americans and intimated that he had sex with Jacqueline Kennedy at the White House.
After a follow-up meeting the next afternoon — they played chess, Brando recited Shakespeare — the actor signed on, wrote what Evans found a “highly readable” memoir. He then subverted it by kissing CNN’s Larry King on the lips, “stopping the book dead in its tracks,” Evans recalled.
Evans left Random House in 1997 to take over as editorial director and vice president of Morton B. Zuckerman’s many publications, including U.S. News & World Report and The Atlantic, but stepped down in 2000 to devote more time to speeches and books.  
More recently, he served as a contributing editor to U.S. News and editor at large for the magazine The Week. In 2011, he became an editor-at-large for Reuters. His guidebook for writers, “Do I Make Myself Clear?”, was published in 2017.
“I wrote the book because I thought I had to speak up for clarity,” he told The Daily Beast at the time. “When I go into a cafe in the morning for breakfast and I’m reading the paper, I’m editing. I can’t help it. I can’t stop. I still go through the paper and mark it up as I read. It’s a compulsion, actually.”

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Protests Erupt in Belarus Following Secret Lukashenko Swearing-In Ceremony

Thousands of Belarusians staged mass demonstrations Wednesday night to denounce the secret inauguration of President Alexander Lukashenko.Security forces in the capital, Minsk, turned water cannons on protesters and dragged scores of them away after news broke on state Belta news agency that the 66-year-old Lukashenko was sworn in for his sixth term, defying mass demonstrations demanding an end to his 26-year rule in the wake of controversial elections last month.   Lukashenko insists he won the August 9 election in a landslide — garnering 80% of all ballots — despite widespread claims at home and abroad the vote was heavily rigged to keep him in power.    “We didn’t simply choose a president. We defended our values, our peaceful life, our sovereignty, and our independence,” said Lukashenko in addressing a grim audience of several hundred officials bussed in for the occasion.   “I cannot, I have no right to abandon Belarusians.”    Yet for all Lukashenko’s insistence on a mandate, there were few signs of celebration.   Authorities shut down Minsk for Lukashenko’s motorcade in advance of the event, which was not broadcast on state television.  Neither were foreign dignitaries — including representatives from Russia, Lukashenko’s closest ally —  on hand.  In an interview with VOA’s Igor Tsikhanenka, U.S. Senator Jack Reed, a member of the Senate Armed Services committee, said the clandestine ceremony is another indication that Lukashenko has lost the support of the Belarusian people.  “The Belarusian people have really demonstrated great courage and great commitment,” Reed said. “They’ve been undaunted by terror, by oppression, assaulted by the police forces. And they keep coming back. And they really recognize that Lukashenko must go and they’re doing all they can peacefully to get him to go.”  Within hours, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya — Lukashenko’s main rival in the election — issued her own statement rejecting the event as a “farce.”     “Today, hidden from the people, Lukashenko tried to carry out his own inauguration,” said Tikhanovskaya, calling him neither the “legal nor legitimate head of Belarus.”  “I — Svetlana Tikhanovskaya — am the sole leader who was elected by the Belarusian people. And our goal is now to build a new Belarus together.”  Tikhanovskaya has said she would call for free and fair elections once Lukashenko had been removed from power.  Several European nations — including Germany, Denmark, and the Baltic nations — announced they would no longer recognize Lukashenko’s government.   “The fact that this ceremony took place secretly and without the participation of society — is very telling,” said Steffen Seibert, the German government’s official spokesperson in a statement first reported by the Interfax news agency.   “After that, Lukashenko can no longer count on any democratic legitimacy,“ added Seibert.  The sentiment was echoed by the European Union Thursday, which dismissed the event as a “so-called inauguration” in  a written statement from Brussels.“This ‘inauguration’ directly contradicts the will of large parts of the Belarusian population, as expressed in numerous, unprecedented and peaceful protests since the elections, and serves to only further deepen the political crisis in Belarus.”The EU has called for sanctions against those responsible for vote manipulating and subsequent violence against peaceful protesters.   Russia — which has been Lukashenko’s main backer amid the political turmoil — made no formal statements but has previously said it recognizes Lukashenko as the legitimate leader of the country for now.   For six consecutive weeks, hundreds of thousands have rallied to demand Lukashenko’s resignation over what they argue was a deeply flawed election.   Key candidates were arrested ahead of the vote — including Tikhanovskaya’s husband — which prompted her surrogate candidacy.    A woman holding a dog talks to Belarusian law enforcement officers during an opposition protest against the inauguration of President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk, Belarus, Sept. 23, 2020.Public anger has also stewed over a crackdown in the wake of the vote that has seen more than 7,500 arrests and police violence against protesters.    Hundreds have emerged from police custody with searing bruises and tales of torture at the hands of Lukashenko’s security agents.   Lukashenko’s response has been to target any remaining leaders of the opposition in recent weeks.  He has also labeled the democratic uprising a western-backed plot aimed at expanding NATO’s presence eastward in a bid to secure Russian backing.    In a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Russian resort city of Sochi earlier this month, Putin offered a degree of support to his beleaguered Belarusian counterpart — including $1.5 billion in loans and the presence of Russian paratroopers. 

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Release of Disney’s ‘Black Widow’ Delayed Again

Fans disappointed once by the delayed release of superhero movie Black Widow are now disappointed twice after The Walt Disney Co. again pushed back the opening on Wednesday.Starring Scarlett Johansson, the spy thriller was scheduled to debut on November 6 and was among the last movies expected to open in 2020. But as movie theaters remain closed in many areas because of the pandemic, fans will now have to wait until May 7, 2021, according to Disney.Fans who were anticipating the latest annual Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster had mixed reactions to the Black Widow delay.’Money hungry’Some, like Twitter user @KpHeaney, applauded the move, tweeting that “this is the right decision” because “there are certain films which cry to out to be seen on big screen. This is one of them.”Others saw Disney making a money play. “You would think with all what’s happening they’d help the people out [and] let us stream the movies but they’re money hungry, they keep on delaying movies,” tweeted @RyanH1904.A number of highly anticipated movies have been delayed in part, according to FILE – Concessions workers stock bins with popcorn and other treats as an AMC theater opens for some of the first showings since it shut down at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Aug. 20, 2020, in West Homestead, Pa.Elsewhere in the U.S., AMC Entertainment and Cineworld Plc’s Regal Cinemas have reopened but “haven’t seen huge business,” according to Variety.Because the Marvel movie universe is interconnected, delaying Black Widow meant pushing back release dates for other Marvel offerings such as Eternals and Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.Eternals is now scheduled to open on November 5, 2021, rather than February 12, 2021; Shang Chi is moving from May 7, 2021, to July 9, 2021.Accent on safetyEternals star Kumail Nanjiani tweeted, “There’s a pandemic. Nothing is more important than health & lives. I can’t tell [people] to go to a movie theater until I feel safe going to one.”Beyond the Marvel franchise, the pandemic is also delaying West Side Story, Steven Spielberg’s first foray into movie musicals. Originally scheduled to open on December 18, 2020, it will now be a holiday season release on December 10, 2021.In the meantime, film lovers can look forward to the animated Pixar movie Soul that Disney still plans to release in theaters on November 20. The Empty Man, a horror release from the former 20th Century Fox, is moving up from December to October 23.
 

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World Becoming Less Accepting of Migrants, Poll Finds

As the European Union introduces a new migration and asylum plan after a blaze at an overcrowded camp in Greece left thousands without shelter, a FILE – Venezuelan migrants on their way to Peru sleep along the Pan-American Highway between Tulcan and Ibarra in Ecuador, after entering the country from Colombia, Aug. 22, 2018.”Many of the countries leading the global downturn have been on the receiving end of the mass exodus of Venezuelans fleeing the humanitarian crisis in their country,” the report shows. Biggest shiftThe most significant change came from Ecuador, Peru and Colombia, which have absorbed millions of Venezuelans since 2015. “Initially, many of the migrants and refugees were welcomed in these countries, but public sentiment started to turn against them as their economies, and their health, education and social assistance programs buckled under the strain,” according to the report.FILE – Volunteers carry donated items towards a group of undocumented migrants looking for work as day laborers alongside a hardware store in San Diego, California, Feb. 4, 2017.Ray added that despite the Trump administration’s efforts to curb immigration, the U.S., which ranked sixth overall in the index, has generally positive attitudes toward newcomers. “Despite the fact that immigration is such a hot topic in the U.S., Americans are mostly very accepting of migrants,” she said. Experts note that, around the world, greater acceptance is often displayed by younger generations and people with advanced levels of education. 
 

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Britain Imposes Pub Curfew as Coronavirus Cases Soar

Britain became the latest European country to impose restrictions on socializing Wednesday following a sharp rise in coronavirus transmission rates. The number of new cases is roughly doubling every week – and the Chief Medical Officer has warned of 50,000 new infections daily if the pattern continues. Britain has suffered the highest number of coronavirus deaths in Europe, with over 41,000 fatalities. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

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Belgium Eases COVID-19 Restrictions Despite Surging Cases

Belgium’s prime minister announced Wednesday she was lifting the nation’s mandatory outdoor mask requirement and easing other COVID-19-related restrictions, despite recent surges in new virus cases in the nation. At a news conference Wednesday, Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes told reporters that beginning October 1, Belgians no longer will be required to wear a mask outdoors, except in crowded places where social distancing cannot be practiced. Wilmes said wearing a mask has become part of people’s daily lives and remains a very important part of fighting the spread of COVID-19.Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes, wearing a protective mask, prepares to address a press conference, in Brussels, Sept. 23, 2020.But, she said, “We have to acknowledge that it is useless to impose it everywhere, every time.”  Belgium’s mask requirement had been among the strictest in the world.  Masks will still have to be worn in shops and theaters, and on public transit and crowded streets. The prime minister also announced that people who have had contact with an infected person would only have to quarantine for seven days, down from 14.  She said under those circumstances, people must still get tested immediately.  “If the test is positive, then you have COVID-19. Isolation continues,” she said. “If the test is negative, then as soon as your clinical situation allows it, you can stop isolating.” Public events can still be attended by 200 people indoors and 400 outside. Belgians will still be able to see up to five people without social distancing, although that could be cut to one, depending on the health situation. The easing of restrictions comes as other European nations such as Britain, France and Spain are seeing COVID-19 surges and are imposing new restrictions. Belgium, a country of about 11.5 million people, recorded an average of 1,374 new infections per day over the past week. In early July, there were about 80 a day. Its COVID-19 death total of 9,955 is one the world’s highest per capita. 
 

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Brussels Unveils New Migrant Plan

Five years after Europe’s migrant crisis, the European Union is unveiling a long-awaited migration plan Wednesday that stresses mandatory burden sharing — but also sending illegal migrants back to their home countries.The new so-called migration and asylum pact is the latest effort by the EU’s executive arm to create a comprehensive plan for managing migration — and to get all 27 member states behind it.Backed by Germany, the bloc’s most powerful member and the EU’s current rotating president, it includes mandatory rules for sharing the migration burden, whether that means hosting asylum seekers or sponsoring returns of failed applicants.It also aims to strengthen control of Europe’s external borders, with new plans to screen all migrants and fast track those unlikely to get asylum, crack down on human trafficking— and increasing support for countries of origin and transit to give people reasons to stay home.European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the plan strikes a fair balance between responsibility and solidarity among member states.“It is not a question of whether member states should support with solidarity and contributions but how they should support,” said von der Leyen.European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gives a statement at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Sept. 23, 2020.The commission’s plan needs to be approved by the 27 member states, and some European leaders were sounding concerns before its details were even announced.Migration is a deeply divisive issue in the EU. Countries on the front lines of the migrant influx, like Greece, Spain and Italy, want much more burden sharing and other support. Others, like Hungary and Austria, object to taking in new migrants.Backdropping the commission’s pact was the recent fire at Europe’s largest migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. While Germany has agreed to welcome more than 1,500 of the migrants, other countries are taking in far fewer, or none.Marie De Somer heads the migration program at the Brussels-based European Policy Centre research group.“The fire in Lesbos was horrible, but one thing that it did do is to showcase to the wider public the urgency and importance of coming to a European solution,” she said.Migrants flee from the Moria refugee camp during a second fire, on the northeastern Aegean island of Lesbos, Greece, Sept. 9, 2020.Even though Europe’s migration influx has dropped sizably from the million-plus arrivals in 2015 to just 140,000 last year, seven European countries, including EU members Hungary and Croatia, top a new Gallup poll as the world’s least accepting countries for migrants.Analyst Stefan Lehne of Carnegie Europe says, migration promises to be a longstanding issue for Europe.“The question is how to replace illegal migration — getting into boats and crossing the Mediterranean — by more legal forms of migration. I think this is probably one of the biggest challenges Europe will face in the next 20 to 30 years. There is no silver bullet,” said Lehne.The European Commission says it will unveil proposals on legal migration next year, as well as on Europe’s open border Schengen system. 

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Pope Calls on World Leaders to Remember All Segments of Society Fighting COVID-19

Pope Francis once again used his weekly general audience Wednesday at the Vatican to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and urged the world’s leaders to remember all segments of society as they fight the coronavirus and work to rebuild world economies. Speaking before a limited group of masked faithful in a Vatican courtyard, Francis said everyone has something to contribute as the world attempts to emerge from this crisis But, he said, society’s leaders must respect and promote “the intermediate or lower levels” of society.    People attend Pope Francis’ weekly general audience at the San Damaso courtyard, at the Vatican, Sept. 23, 2020.He added that multinationals and pharmaceutical companies do not have all the answers.  “The largest financial companies are listened to rather than the people or the ones who really move the economy,” Pope Francis said Wednesday. “Multinational companies are listened to more than social movements. Putting it in everyday language, they listen more to the powerful than to the weak.” The pope called for an inclusive rethink of the economic, social and political structures of the global economy that he says have showed weakness during the health crisis. Francis has long insisted on the need to involve society’s most marginal groups — the indigenous, the poor and the elderly — in making decisions about their own future. “Let’s think about the cure for the virus; the large pharmaceutical companies are listened to more than the health care workers employed on the front lines in hospitals or in refugee camps. This is not a good path,” said Pope Francis.The pope next week is expected to release an encyclical on fraternity and solidarity in the post-COVID world. 
 

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Navalny Discharged from Hospital; Doctors Say ‘Complete Recovery’ Possible

Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny has been discharged from the Berlin hospital where he was being treated for what Germany has said is a case of poisoning with a nerve agent from the Soviet-era Novichok group.The 44-year-old posted on social media a picture of himself sitting on a park bench in the German capital after being released, adding that while he still doesn’t have full use of his left hand, he has started learning how to regain his balance by standing on one leg.Navalny fell violently ill aboard a Moscow-bound flight on August 20 originating in the Siberian city of Tomsk, where he was carrying out his latest investigation into state corruption. Days later, he was airlifted to Berlin for treatment.“The first time they put me in front of a mirror after 24 days in intensive care (of which 16 were in a coma), a character from the movie ‘The Lord of the Rings’ looked back at me and I can tell you, it was not an elf at all,” Navalny said in the post.“I was terribly upset: I thought that I would never be discharged. But the doctors continued to do their miracle,” he added.Navalny said he will continue to do physiotherapy, while doctors from the Charite hospital in Berlin said in a statement on September 23 that based on his “progress and current condition,” physicians believe that a “complete recovery is possible.””However, it remains too early to gauge the potential long-term effects of his severe poisoning,” the statement cautioned.German authorities have said tests in Germany, France, and Sweden have determined Navalny was poisoned with a chemical agent from the Novichok group.French President Emmanuel Macron on September 22 demanded a “swift and flawless” explanation from Moscow for the poisoning during his speech to the 75th-annual United Nations General Assembly.Several other countries in the West have also demanded an explanation from Russia, but Moscow has declined to open an investigation so far, saying it has yet to see evidence of a crime.The Kremlin, which also has denied any involvement in the attack, said on September 23 that the anti-corruption crusader “is free” to return to Russia whenever he pleases.Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also addressed a recent article in the French newspaper Le Monde, saying the report that President Vladimir Putin told his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, in a recent conversation that perhaps Navalny had poisoned himself had many inaccuracies.He did, however, confirm that the Navalny case was discussed between the two leaders.Navalny was medically airlifted to Germany at the request of his wife following a medical tussle with Russian doctors who said he was too sick to travel.He emerged earlier this month from a medically induced coma as his condition slowly improved.German doctors say the military-grade nerve agent Novichok was found both inside his body and on his skin.Navalny said in a post on his website on September 21 that the 30-day deadline for Russian police to conduct their “pre-investigative check” into what he called his attempted murder by poisoning has expired. He demanded that the Russian side return articles of clothing taken when he was hospitalized there.Experts say the clothes he had on could help any investigation into the poisoning.Russian officials have questioned German officials’ findings and their statements since Navalny arrived there for treatment.Russian police must either launch an investigation or close a case within 30 days of a pre-investigative check.However, police in Omsk have said they are continuing their investigation.Navalny’s team has said a water bottle removed from his hotel room in the city of Tomsk after he fell ill had been taken to Germany and found to contain traces of the nerve agent.Peskov has said suggestions that Navalny ingested the nerve agent via a water bottle in Siberia are “absurd.”In a statement issued via his Instagram account on September 19, Navalny called his road to recovery “a clear path now, albeit long.”Navalny was attacked with a green dye by unknown assailants in Russia in 2017, leaving him with permanent damage to his vision.Two years later, he suddenly fell ill while in Russian detention with what Russian doctors said was a severe allergic reaction but which he and his team insisted was an intentional poisoning. That case still has not been solved. 

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Dirty Money, Criminal Cash: Bank Leaks Reveal Vast Scale of Global Fraud

Leaked documents allege that some of the world’s biggest banks have allowed $2 trillion  worth of suspicious or fraudulent activity to take place – including money laundering for criminal gangs and terrorists. The so-called “FinCEN files” consist of more than two thousand Suspicious Activity Reports or SARs sent by banks to the U.S. Treasury, alerting the authorities to possible criminal activity, from 1999 and 2017. The files were leaked to Buzzfeed and shared with a network of journalists. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

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Italy’s Coalition Government Fends off Salvini

Italy’s fragile coalition government breathed a collective sigh of relief Tuesday after voters denied the country’s populist leader Matteo Salvini the major electoral breakthrough he was seeking in hotly contested regional elections.  The center-left Democratic Party, PD, managed a comfortable victory in Tuscany, a region the left has ruled without interruption since regional governments were first elected in 1970, frustrating Salvini in taking the biggest prize in the elections for the governments of seven regions and a thousand towns and cities the length and breadth of Italy.Tuscany is the buckle of the left’s so-called “red belt” and was targeted by Salvini’s populist Lega party. Salvini himself campaigned tirelessly in Tuscany in the run-up to the polls, predicting his party could win the wealthy region behind his handpicked candidate for the governorship, the telegenic 33-year-old Susanna Ceccardi, a former mayor.With the regional counts still to be finalized Tuesday, the Democrats looked sure to hold three regions it ruled before. Along with Tuscany, incumbent PD governors were on course to win re-election in the southern regions of Campania and Apulia.  The leaders of the key government parties of Prime Minister’s Giuseppe Conte’s coalition government, which is made up of the Democratic Party and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, M5S, along with some other smaller groups, were quick to celebrate Tuesday.Democratic Party leader Nicola Zingaretti talks to the media during a press conference, in Rome, Sept. 21, 2020.PD leader Nicola Zingaretti said, “We are very satisfied.” He said the result would facilitate further reforms and cooperation within the government.And Luigi Di Maio, Italy’s foreign minister and a prominent member of M5S, said at a press conference: “Those that tried to transform this referendum into a vote against the government received a boomerang.” Eugenio Giani, the PD’s gubernatorial candidates in Tuscany, hailed his win an “extraordinary victory.”But for all of the center-left’s jubilation, the PD lost a fourth region, Marche, where the far-right Brothers of Italy, part of a Lega-led center-right alliance, won the vote. And the contest in Apulia in the heel of Italy was close. The Lega-led center-right alliance held easily the three regions it was defending, including Veneto in the northeast, where incumbent Luca Zaia secured election as governor for the third time with an emphatically large majority. The size of his victory — he won 75% of the vote, largely due commentators say to his handling of the coronavirus pandemic — has prompted speculation that he might seek to challenge Salvini in the future for the leadership of the Lega. Zaia denies he has any plans to do so.Jacopo Morrone, a Lega lawmaker, claimed the results overall are a victory for the populists, saying it was always going to be difficult to win Tuscany or Apulia “but to put them [the PD] in difficulty is a good result.”The fact, though, that the Lega-led center-right opposition failed to land a knockout blow in the regional elections by winning the prize of Tuscany is being widely seen by analysts as strengthening Prime Minister Conte’s shaky coalition government — at least in the short term.Longer term, this week’s regional elections have confirmed that the Lega has managed to maintain a shift in the regional power balance further to the right nationally. Fourteen of the country’s 20  regions now are ruled by the Lega or its allies. A 15th could be added to the Lega tally. The votes of elections this week in the French-speaking Val d’Aosta, a tiny region in the north-east, remain to be counted, but exit polls suggest Lega-allies are likely to win there.Pollster Lorenzo Pregliasco told reporters that this week’s regional elections should be considered a tie. “The PD had done a lot of expectation management, so that [the results] seem almost a victory, even if it is more of a draw,” he said. Other analysts say Salvini made a PR mistake with his pre-election forecasts that Lega would manage a victory in Tuscany.

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