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Bid to defuse tensions as Black Lives Matter protests escalate | World news

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Urgent plans to defuse tensions and address fury over disproportionate police action against black and minority ethnic people are being drawn up by the mayor of London, as Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests are expected in dozens of towns and cities by the weekend.

The initiative from Sadiq Khan to apply pressure on the Metropolitan police, the UK’s largest force, over the use of stop and search, Tasers and other practices comes amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus in crowds, and fears of violence as it emerged that far-right groups were planning counter-demonstrations.

Steps to address anger over systemic racism, brought into sharp focus after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, contrast with UK ministers’ rhetoric and pressure from Tory backbenchers for police and prosecutors to crack down on disorder.

Boris Johnson acknowledged the “incontrovertible, undeniable feeling of injustice” behind the BLM protests, in an article for the black newspaper the Voice, in which he also strongly condemned those who have flouted social distancing to attend them.

He wrote that he would not support such action “for the obvious reason that we risk a new infection at a critical time and just as we have made huge progress”, adding that: “Those who attack public property or the police – who injure the police officers who are trying to keep us all safe – those people will face the full force of the law.”

On Monday, the home secretary, Priti Patel, repeated her condemnation of “vandalism” by “thugs and criminals” following 200 BLM protests over the weekend, during which demonstrators toppled a statue of a 17th-century slave trader in Bristol and daubed graffiti on a statue of Winston Churchill in the capital. She said 137,500 people attended the protests and there were 135 arrests, with 35 police officers injured in London.


‘You will face justice’: Priti Patel condemns minority of ‘thugs’ at UK anti-racism protests – video

Tory backbenchers urged Patel to ensure those who took part in disorder in London at the weekend would “face the full force of the law”. Police union representatives called for an apology for what they said was a failure to protect officers against injury, while senior police chiefs issued a warning to would-be protesters.

“Sadly, there is a small minority of people who want to use these protests as an excuse for violence and disorder. This is unacceptable and will not be tolerated, nor will attacks on police officers, who are there to keep people safe,” said BJ Harrington, a chief constable who is part of the National Police Chiefs’ Council.

Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, said it was “completely wrong” for protesters to pull down a statue of Edward Colston and dump it in the harbour in Bristol – putting him at odds with some MPs on the left of his party – while emphasising the monument should never have been there in the first place.

Khan said the focus should be on rooting out systemic racism, discrimination and inequality from society as he called for “a clear commitment to change”.

Planned protests in UK – map

While the Labour mayor cannot order the Met to curtail stop and search or the use of Tasers, he wields political influence over the force, and the Met’s strategy often influences other forces.

Home Office data shows black people in England and Wales were 9.5 times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched in 2017-18. Met police officers were four times more likely to use force against black people compared with white people, according to Scotland Yard data from 2018. Figures last week revealed officers enforcing the coronavirus lockdown were more than twice as likely to issue fines to black people as to white people.

After discussions with community leaders Khan has asked two of his deputies to take the measures forward. He said: “We must capitalise on this moment of change and that’s why I have now tasked City Hall officials to work on an urgent new action plan to be developed with community groups and the police, but all public bodies need to change.

“The plan will look to improve trust and confidence as well as transparency, and is intended to cover how our communities can better scrutinise policy and tactics that are still a source of concern in 2020.”

In the West Midlands, where BLM protests closed part of the M6 on Sunday night, the police and crime commissioner, David Jamieson, said he would convene a meeting of community leaders on Thursday to hear concerns that would be passed on to police.

A public order policing expert warned of the risk of serious rioting if police were pressured into taking a heavier hand with protesters. Clifford Stott, a professor at Keele University who has advised the Home Office on public order strategy, said: “The potential as we move on is for widespread rioting and what we are trying to avoid at the moment is a major escalation of public discontent, which is quite clearly there given the levels of mobilisation that are going on.

“Those levels of mobilisation are very much about police action towards the black community. If we are to ignite a situation where police action is seen to be acting disproportionately again towards that community we are in very dangerous territory indeed.”

After police stood by and watched the statue toppled in Bristol, the focus will shift on Tuesday to Oxford, where hundreds of students and residents are expected to attend a protest calling for the removal of Oxford University’s statue of the colonialist Cecil Rhodes.

“What happened in Bristol is the catalyst for this protest,” said Femi Nylander, an organiser for Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford. “We’re seeing a global surge against anti-blackness which has allowed us to rejuvenate that debate. It’s what we saw with Colston – it was Black Lives Matter who took down that statue of a slave owner. We’re reaffirming our demands to Oxford that they should themselves take this down as a matter of principle and matter of urgency.”

The campaign group’s demand was backed by the Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran. She said: “The statues of white supremacists and slave merchants should not still be standing in our cities. That’s why the statue of Cecil Rhodes must come down.” The MP for Oxford West and Abingdon said she was not not endorsing vigilante action, but urged Oriel College “to think about what message this statue sends in 2020, and to remove it”. Thames Valley police said they supported the public’s right to peaceful protest.

An empty plinth in Bristol after the statue of Edward Colston was thrown in the harbour



An empty plinth in Bristol after the statue of Edward Colston was thrown in the harbour. Photograph: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

As well as the action in Bristol, tens of thousands of people attended protests across the UK on Sunday. In London, where an estimated 10,000 demonstrated outside the US embassy, protesters were criticised for spraying the word “racist” on a Churchill statue.

One protester, 17-year-old Edan from north London, said she was energised by the protests and hoped to see more. “I thought the protest was amazing. I went both on Saturday and Sunday. It was incredible to see so many people calling for justice, but it’s been disappointing to see politicians focus on violence. 

“The way the right has reacted to the protest has been ridiculous, especially their defence of these racist statues and the policing. They are proof of how much these protests are needed in the first place.”

New BLM protests and coordinated actions are planned for at least 25 cities across the UK this week, with concerns voiced by the anti-racism campaign group Hope not Hate that football fans who have previously clashed with anti-fascist campaigners are planning to travel to London on Saturday to confront demonstrators.

Organised by the Democratic Football Lads Alliance, a network that emerged after the 2017 terrorist attacks, supporters from areas including Sunderland, Yorkshire, the West Midlands and East Anglia intend to surround and protect war memorials and other statues in central London. Football fans were urged on by the former leader of the English Defence League, Tommy Robinson (whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon), who released a video angrily denouncing the defacement of the Churchill statue.

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Coronavirus: What’s happening around the world on Sunday

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The latest:

  • Brazil’s coronavirus death toll surpasses 100,000.
  • India records nearly 64,000 new cases in the past 24 hours.
  • More than 2,700 active cases in Australia’s Victoria state have no known source.
  • U.K. records more than 1,000 new infections for 1st time since late June.

The United States has now recorded more than five million cases of COVID-19, with more than 162,000 deaths, since identifying its first confirmed case of the new respiratory illness in January, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Health officials believe the actual number is perhaps 10 times higher, or closer to 50 million, given testing limitations and the fact that as many as 40 per cent of all those who are infected have no symptoms.

New cases of infection in the U.S. caused by the novel coronavirus run at about 54,000 a day — and while that’s down from a peak of well over 70,000 last month, cases are rising in nearly 20 states.

Figures compiled this week show that five states — California, Texas, Florida, New York and Georgia — account for more than 40 per cent of infections.

A sign urging people to practice social distancing is seen outside a bar during the 80th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, S.D., on Sunday. (Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)

On Saturday, U.S. President Donald Trump signed executive actions bypassing Congress to defer payroll taxes for some Americans and extend unemployment benefits after talks on a new coronavirus rescue package collapsed.

Trump accused Democrats of loading up their rescue bill with priorities unrelated to the coronavirus. “We’ve had it,” he said Saturday at a news conference at his country club in Bedminster, N.J.

Trump said the payroll tax cut would apply to those earning less than $100,000 a year. Extra aid for the unemployed will total $400 a week, a cut from the $600 that just expired.

He also signed a memorandum holding off student loan payments and an executive order extending the freeze on evictions.

What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada

As of 5 p.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had 119,451 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 103,728 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,017.

Ontario reported its sixth-straight day of fewer than 100 new cases of COVID-19. There were 70 new cases of the novel coronavirus Saturday and one virus-related death.

In Quebec, the government plans to have students return to classrooms at the end of the month, but some parents want schools to offer an option for online learning.

People wearing face masks attend a mass remember the victims of the explosion in Beirut on Sunday in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba reported 35 new cases on Sunday, bringing the total number of active cases in the province to 182 — the highest since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Meanwhile, Saskatchewan reported 15 new cases, Newfoundland and Labrador saw no new cases over the weekend, and Nova Scotia hasn’t seen a new case in a week. Both N.L. and N.S. have one active case each.

Here’s what’s happening around the world

According to Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases tops 19.7 million and more than 728,000 people have died. The United States has had the most cases, with more than 5 million, followed by Brazil with more than 3 million and India with more than 2.1 million.

In Europe, Greek authorities have announced a record daily number of 203 new coronavirus cases. Beginning Monday and ending Aug. 31, everyone must wear a mask in all retail places, as well as all modes of transport other than private cars, the government has decided. People attending church must also do so, though priests are not required to wear masks in church.

Britain recorded more than 1,000 new coronavirus infections in a day for the first time since late June. Britain has seen a gradual rise in coronavirus infections since it began lifting lockdown restrictions in mid-June. The government has put the next stage of reopening, which had been due to take effect Aug. 1, on hold for at least two weeks.

A cyclist carrying an ad displaying advice on how to slow the spread COVID-19 rides through the streets of Halifax, U.K., on Sunday. (Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images)

In Asia-Pacific, the premier of Australia’s Victoria state said more than 2,700 active cases have no known source and remain the primary concern of health authorities. Premier Daniel Andrews said confirmed cases also include almost 1,000 health-care workers. The city of Melbourne has been under tough restrictions since a week ago, including an overnight curfew and mandatory wearing of masks, but officials won’t see the results of their efforts for another one to two weeks.

The Indian Medical Association said 196 doctors have died of COVID-19 so far and, in an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requested adequate care for physicians and their families. The Health Ministry on Sunday recorded nearly 64,000 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours for a total of 2,153,010. At least 628,747 patients are still undergoing treatment. India also recorded 861 fatalities, driving the death toll to 43,379.

A health worker wearing personal protective equipment performs a COVID-19 test on a person in New Delhi on Sunday. (Money Sharma/AFP via Getty Images)

In the Americas, Brazil has surpassed a grim milestone — 100,000 deaths from COVID-19. And five months after the first reported case, the country is showing no signs of crushing the disease.

The country of 210 million people has been reporting an average of more than 1,000 daily deaths from the pandemic since late May, and 905 were recorded in the latest 24-hour period to put Brazil above 100,000. The Health Ministry also said there have been a total of 3,012,412 confirmed infections. The totals are second only to the United States. And experts believe both numbers are severe undercounts due to insufficient testing.

The Archbishop of the City of Rio de Janeiro Dom Orani Joao Tempesta wearing a mask during a mass to honour victims COVID-19 at the Christ the Redeemer statue on Sunday. (Andre Coelho/Getty Images)

In Africa, South Africa’s number of confirmed coronavirus deaths has surpassed 10,000. The Health Department said the country with the world’s fifth-largest caseload now has 553,188 cases and 10,210 deaths.

South Africa makes up more than half the infections on the African continent, where the total number of cases this past week surpassed one million. Experts say the actual number of cases is several times that amount, given the shortage of testing materials and people can have the virus without symptoms.



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Virtual Preparation Allows Miss Nicaragua Amid Pandemic | World News

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MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — For four months, everything was virtual: the modeling and speech classes, the make-up courses and the emotional support session via videoconference. And when eight contestants vying to be Miss Nicaragua did finally start in-person practices, they did so with masks covering their faces.

“We managed to organize the event under the pandemic with masks, social distancing and little money, (but) with talent and creativity,” said Karen Celebertti, who has been running the pageant for two decades in Nicaragua.

On Saturday night, 23-year-old Ana Marcelo, an agroindustrial engineer from Estelí, was crowned Miss Nicaragua in front of a limited audience (two people per contestant spaced safely) plus a production crew of 85. The masks were off the contestants, but the judges wore them and were spaced at a safe distance.

There were portable handwashing stations and doctors taking temperatures.

Celebertti, herself a former local beauty queen, said they had to “reinvent” themselves to pull it off. The novel coronavirus arrived in March just days after they had selected the contestants. It was delayed from May to August to develop protocols that would allow them to compete safely.

“We had trials and classes through Zoom, supervised by me from home,” Celebertti said. “The girls had a speech coach, an image consultant and stylists online who taught them how to do their hair and put on makeup alone. There was no other option.”

In July, they had their first in-person practices, walks down the runway wearing masks. “Each session was supervised by doctors and no one got infected,” she said.

Unlike the massive religious and sporting events allowed and even promoted by the government during the pandemic, the pageant decided to do without the usual boisterous audience cheering their support for the women.

“Some criticized me for doing this event, but we were very careful to be able to do it,” Celebertti said. “The truth is that the people need to see some good news, be entertained.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Lebanon information minister quits in first cabinet resignation | Beirut explosion

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Lebanon’s information minister, Manal Abdel Samad, has quit in the first government resignation since an explosion in the port of Beirut killed more than 150 people and destroyed swathes of the capital.

“After the enormous Beirut catastrophe, I announce my resignation from government,” she said on Sunday in a statement , apologising to the Lebanese public for failing them.

The head of Lebanon’s Maronite church called on the entire government to step down over the explosion, widely seen as proof of the rot at the core of the state.

Lebanese protesters enraged by the blast vowed to rally again after a night of street clashes in which they stormed several ministries.

The Maronite patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi joined the chorus of people pressing the prime minister Hassan Diab’s cabinet to step down over the explosion which he said could be “described as a crime against humanity”.

“It is not enough for a lawmaker to resign here, or a minister to resign there,” Rai said in a Sunday sermon. “It is necessary, out of sensitivity to the feelings of the Lebanese and the immense responsibility required, for the entire government to resign, because it is incapable of moving the country forward.”

The Lebanese Maronite patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi
The Lebanese Maronite patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi asked the cabinet to step down. Photograph: Reuters

He echoed calls by Diab for early parliamentary polls – a long-standing demand of a protest movement that began in October, asking for the removal of a political class deemed inept and corrupt. At least six lawmakers have quit since the explosion.

The Maronite patriarch also joined world leaders, international organisations and the Lebanese public in pressing for an international inquiry into the explosion, which, authorities say, was triggered by a fire in a port warehouse where a huge shipment of hazardous ammonium nitrate had languished for years.

The Lebanese president, Michel Aoun, rejected calls on Friday for an international investigation which, he said, would “dilute the truth”.

Under pressure from the public and foreign partners who are exasperated by the Lebanese leadership’s inability to enact reforms, Diab’s government is looking increasingly unstable.

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