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Labour councils launch slavery statue review as another is removed | World news

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All statues in Labour councils across England and Wales, and across London, will be examined for links to slavery and plantation owners, their leaders have said, as an east London authority took one down off its plinth on Tuesday evening.

The statue of slave owner Robert Milligan at West India Quay in London’s Docklands was removed using a JCB, after the charity which owns the land where it stood promised to organise its “safe removal” following a petition launched by Ehtasham Haque.

The local council, Tower Hamlets, said it had removed the statue and had “also announced a review into monuments and other sites in our borough to understand how we should represent the more troubling periods in our history”.

Earlier, the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, said the capital’s landmarks – including street names, the names of public buildings and plaques – would be reviewed by a commission to ensure they reflect the capital’s diversity, with a view to removing those with links to slavery after Black Lives Matter protesters tore down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol

In Manchester, the council announced a city-wide review of all the statues in Manchester “to understand their history and context”. Councillor Luthfur Rahman said members of the public would also be asked for suggestions on “missing” statues.

“We also want to take this opportunity to ask the public who is missing – who should be celebrated but is not – with particular thought around representing the proud BAME [black and minority ethnic] history of Manchester and help to reflect the shared story of our diverse and multicultural city,” he said.

Manchester city council is under pressure to remove a statue of Sir Robert Peel in Piccadilly Gardens. Over a thousand people have signed a petition demanding the removal of the memorial to the two-time British prime minister, born in Bury in Greater Manchester, on the grounds that his father was known to be pro-slavery.

Labour councils across England and Wales will begin reviews in their towns and cities too, the Local Government Association’s Labour group said. It will ask council leaders to work with their communities to review “the appropriateness” of monuments and statues in their areas.

Speaking to broadcasters on Tuesday, Khan said he did not condone breaking the law and wanted there to be a proper process for the removal of any statues that do not reflect London’s values.

He would not name which ones should come down, saying it would be a matter for the new commission, but said there were clearly statues commemorating slavers in the capital.

Khan’s new Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm will also consider which legacies should be celebrated before making recommendations about new statues and which could be removed. 

“It is an uncomfortable truth that our nation and city owes a large part of its wealth to its role in the slave trade and while this is reflected in our public realm, the contribution of many of our communities to life in our capital has been wilfully ignored. This cannot continue …

“The Black Lives Matter protests have rightly brought this to the public’s attention, but it’s important that we take the right steps to work together to bring change and ensure that we can all be proud of our public landscape.” 

The commission – which will be co-chaired by Debbie Weekes-Bernard, the deputy mayor for social integration, social mobility and community engagement, and the deputy mayor for culture and creative industries, Justine Simons – will include historians as well as arts, council and community leaders. 

Pressed on Sky News about where to draw the line, given Winston Churchill held some racist views, Khan said the cases of Churchill, Gandhi and Malcolm X showed that many great historical figures were not perfect and history should be taught “warts and all”. But there were clear-cut figures such as those actively involved in the slave trade and ownership who should not be celebrated, the mayor said.

Khan announced the commission as he attempted to defuse tensions in London ahead of more planned anti-racism demonstrations. The London mayor is also pressing the Metropolitan police, the UK’s largest force, over the use of stop and search, stun guns and other practices amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus in crowds, and fears of violence as it emerged that far-right groups were planning counter-demonstrations.

The global Black Lives Matter protests were sparked by the death in the US of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer who held him with a knee on his neck for nine minutes while he protested: “I can’t breathe”.

The UK government has come under fire for its claim that the spreading protests are related to the US rather than prejudice in the UK and denials that Britain is a racist country.

Boris Johnson said on Monday that Floyd’s death had awakened an “incontrovertible, undeniable feeling of injustice” worldwide.  He had previously condemned the “thuggery” by a minority that marred some demonstrations but acknowledged many of the activists’ concerns were “founded on a cold reality”. 

He said leaders “simply can’t ignore” concerns that black, Asian and minority ethnic groups face discrimination in education, employment and the criminal justice system. 

However, the prime minister said those who harmed police or property would face “the full force of the law”. 

Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, has said it was “completely wrong” for protesters to pull down the statue of 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.


Keir Starmer says it was ‘completely wrong’ to topple Edward Colston statue – video

After police stood by and watched the statue being 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.

A symbolic and socially distanced commemoration is planned at the Nelson Mandela statue in Parliament Square in London at 5pm, organised by Stand Up To Racism. 

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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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