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Palestinians Protest as Israeli Bulldozers Clear Land | World News



By Ali Sawafta and Nidal al-Mughrabi

QUSRA, West Bank (Reuters) – Palestinians have launched protests in the occupied West Bank after Israeli bulldozers began clearing land in what villagers fear is an attempt to confiscate it for future Jewish settlements.

Scuffles intensified this week as Israeli voters voted in an election, with Palestininans saying settlers had been emboldened by U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan and Israeli election rhetoric about annexing settlements.

Villagers from nearby Qusra challenged troops guarding Israeli bulldozers as they worked in a field close to Migdalim settlement in the northern West Bank.

In another nearby village, Beita, residents protested over several days, planting a Palestinian flag and erecting a tent on the hilltop of al-Arma to defend it against settlers from Itamar settlement, near the city of Nablus. Some demonstrators hurled rocks at Israeli troops.

“I came here because this is my land, and I want to die on my land but they are not letting me come near it,” said Joudat Odeh, from Qusra.

“They are happy at the victory of Netanyahu,” said Odeh, 70. “They are coming to control this land and we are helpless.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party leads the vote count after Monday’s election, but with 99% of votes counted on Wednesday he was still short of securing enough seats for a governing coalition.

Victory would pave the way for Netanyahu to make good on his pledge to annex settlements in the West Bank under Trump’s peace plan.

Palestinians have rejected the proposal, saying it would kill their dream of establishing a viable state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, territory Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

More than 400,000 Israeli settlers now live among about 3 million Palestinians in the West Bank, with a further 200,000 settlers in East Jerusalem. Palestinians and much of the world view the settlements as illegal under international law, a position Israel and the United States dispute.

An Israeli military statement said that on March 1 Israelis were carrying out “agricultural work” near Migdalim when around 30 Palestinians “came to the area, hurled rocks and came into physical confrontation with the Israelis. Military forces came to the area and dispersed the crowd.”

Soon afterwards, the statement said, 120 Palestinians gathered nearby in what it termed a “riot.” It said its troops were confronted with burning tyres and “large amounts of rocks” and “responded with riot dispersal means.”

Qusra protesters said Israel had stopped Palestinians using or farming the lands in question since the 1990s, and now they feared settlers would seize them for their own use.

“I am afraid that in a few days Netanyahu may come to lay the cornerstone of a new settlement,” said Mohammad Shokri, 80, from Qusra.

“He gave them a promise he would increase settlement. They want to take over all the mountains and to leave nothing for the Arabs”.

(Reporting by Ali Sawafta, Writing by Nidal Almughrabi; Editing by Stephen Farrell and Timothy Heritage)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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Coronavirus strain from Spain accounts for most UK cases – study | World news




A study suggesting a coronavirus variant originating in Spain now accounts for most UK cases has highlighted the weakness of the government’s travel policies over the summer, experts have said.

New research from scientists in Switzerland, which is yet to be peer-reviewed, has revealed that a new variant of the coronavirus, known as 20A.EU1, appears to have cropped up in Spain over the summer and has since spread to multiple European countries, including the UK.

“In Wales and Scotland the variant was at 80% in mid-September, whereas frequencies in Switzerland and England were around 50% at that time,” the authors said.

The variant first appeared in the UK in the middle of July when quarantine-free travel to Spain was allowed for England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. However, the new variant of the virus is now common in countries across Europe, meaning travellers to and from many countries could since have brought it back to the UK.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Dr Emma Hodcroft, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Basel and lead author of the study, stressed there was no sign as yet that the strain was more dangerous that other variants, or that it would hamper the development of a vaccine. “It’s not very different from the variants that circulated in spring,” she said.

Earlier this year experts and members of the public alike raised a number of concerns around international travel, with reports of crowding at airports, a lack of quarantine information, and few checks on test-and-trace forms.

Prof Devi Sridhar, the chair of global public health at Edinburgh University, said there were flaws in the UK government’s approach to travel over the summer. “Numbers were really low and that was our chance to keep them low,” she said. “The virus moves when people move.”

Sridhar said there were two approaches to managing the virus when it came to travel: either keeping borders largely open, as occurred in the UK, but adopting harsh restrictions to try to combat community transmission; or having very tight border controls, as has been the case in Taiwan and New Zealand, but few restrictions on everyday life.

“I feel like in Europe we want it all, we want to be able to go on holiday, we want to have bars open, pubs open, clubs open – but with such an infectious virus and [the] associated hospitalisation rate, it is pretty much an impossible ask,” said Sridhar.

She said the seeding of infections by travellers not only kicked off the epidemic in the UK, but that reseeding by such means was likely to be a recurrent problem. “The biggest mistake actually that the world did early on was not to use travel restrictions more to control the spread – the countries that did have done better,” she said.

Prof John Edmunds of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said the crucial issue at present was that there could be close to 100,000 new coronavirus infections every day in the UK – something he said was far more concerning than the number of cases imported from abroad.

Dr Michael Head, a senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, said: “The UK, along with some European countries, have been very much reactive in the Covid-19 response rather than proactive. This has included reactive approaches around international travel, only implementing recommendations for quarantine of returning travellers when rates are high, rather than beforehand.”

And the outlook remains concerning. “With a poor quality test-and-trace system in place, low compliance from those in isolation, and low levels of trust in the government, the UK is poorly placed heading into the winter,” he said.

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Coronavirus live news: Europe leaders told to ‘act urgently’; US nears 9m cases | World news






The British government will close the furlough scheme this weekend, with redundancies rising at the fastest rate on record and the second wave of Covid-19 pushing Britain’s economy to the brink of a double-dip recession, according to a Guardian analysis.

As the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, prepares to end the multibillion-pound coronavirus job retention scheme and launch a less generous replacement programme, early warning indicators show business activity faltering as local lockdowns take effect. The number of people losing their jobs is rising much faster than during the 2008 financial crisis, while the economic fightback from the March lockdown is gradually fading:

Record 17m guns bought this year in the US

Americans have bought nearly 17m guns so far in 2020, more than in any other single year, according to estimates from a firearms analytics company.

Gun sales across the United States first jumped in the spring, driven by fears about the coronavirus pandemic, and spiked even higher in the summer, during massive racial justice protests across the country, prompted by police killings of black Americans.

Helen Sullivan

A record 17 million guns bought this year in the US

15,000 Americans have been killed by other people

20,000 have killed themselves

October 30, 2020

“By August, we had exceeded last year’s total. By September, we exceeded the highest total ever,” said Jurgen Brauer, the chief economist of Small Arms Analytics, which produces widely-cited estimates of US gun sales.

The estimated number of guns sold in the US through the end of September 2020 is “not only more than last year, it’s more than any full year in the last 20 years we have records for”, Brauer said:

First US vaccine doses could be available to some Americans in late December – Dr Fauci

Australian active cases lowest in four months

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New Zealand votes to legalize euthanasia but not marijuana | World News




WELLINGTON, New Zealand – New Zealanders voted to legalize euthanasia in a binding referendum, but preliminary results released Friday showed they likely would not legalize marijuana.

With about 83% of votes counted, New Zealanders emphatically endorsed the euthanasia measure with 65% voting in favour and 34% voting against.

The “No” vote on marijuana was much closer, with 53% voting against legalizing the drug for recreational use and 46% voting in favour. That left open a slight chance the measure could still pass once all special votes were counted next week, although it would require a huge swing.

In past elections, special votes — which include those cast by overseas voters — have tended to be more liberal than general votes, giving proponents of marijuana legalization some hope the measure could still pass.

Proponents of marijuana legalization were frustrated that popular Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wouldn’t reveal how she intended to vote ahead the Oct. 17 ballot, saying she wanted to leave the decision to New Zealanders. Ardern said Friday after the results were released that she had voted in favour of both referendums.

Conservative lawmaker Nick Smith, from the opposition National Party, welcomed the preliminary marijuana result.

“This is a victory for common sense. Research shows cannabis causes mental health problems, reduced motivation and educational achievement, and increased road and workplace deaths,” he said. “New Zealanders have rightly concluded that legalizing recreational cannabis would normalize it, make it more available, increase its use and cause more harm.”

But liberal lawmaker Chlöe Swarbrick, from the Green Party, said they had long assumed the vote would be close and they needed to wait until the specials were counted.

“We have said from the outset that this would always come down to voter turnout. We’ve had record numbers of special votes, so I remain optimistic,” she said. “New Zealand has had a really mature and ever-evolving conversation about drug laws in this country and we’ve come really far in the last three years.”

The euthanasia measure, which would also allow assisted suicide and takes effect in November 2021, would apply to adults who have terminal illnesses, are likely to die within six months, and are enduring “unbearable” suffering. Other countries that allow some form of euthanasia include The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Canada, Belgium and Colombia.

The marijuana measure would allow people to buy up to 14 grams (0.5 ounce) a day and grow two plants. It was a non-binding vote, so if voters approved it, legislation would have to be passed to implement it. Ardern had promised to respect the outcome and bring forward the legislation, if it was necessary.

Other countries that have legalized or decriminalized recreational marijuana include Canada, South Africa, Uruguay, Georgia plus a number of U.S. states.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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