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Ricin: Letter containing poison addressed to Trump at White House



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The letter was intercepted by law enforcement before it reached the White House, officials said

A package containing ricin poison that was addressed to US President Donald Trump has been intercepted before it reached the White House, officials told US media.

The letter was discovered at a screening facility for White House mail earlier this week, the officials said.

They said a substance found inside the envelope was identified as ricin, a poison found naturally in castor beans.

The Trump administration is yet to comment on the reports.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Secret Service are investigating where the package came from and whether others have been sent through the US postal system.

“At this time, there is no known threat to public safety,” the FBI told CNN in a statement on Saturday.

One official told the New York Times that investigators believe the package was sent from Canada. Reports say the presence of ricin was confirmed after tests by the FBI.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said on Saturday it was working with the FBI to investigate the “suspicious letter sent to the White House”.

Ricin is produced by processing castor beans. It is a lethal substance that, if swallowed, inhaled or injected, can cause nausea, vomiting, internal bleeding and ultimately organ failure.

No known antidote exists for ricin. If a person is exposed to ricin, death can take place within 36 to 72 hours, depending on the dose received, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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Castor seeds, which are used to make the deadly ricin poison

The CDC said the poison – which has been used in terror plots – can be manufactured into a weapon in the form of a powder, mist or pellet.

The White House and other federal buildings have been the target of ricin packages in the past.

In 2014, a Mississippi man was sentenced to 25 years in prison for sending letters dusted with ricin to former President Barack Obama and other officials.

Four years later, in 2018, a former Navy veteran was charged with sending toxic letters to the Pentagon and White House.

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Nottingham braced to head into tier 3 coronavirus measures | World news




Nottingham is braced to head into England’s strictest lockdown measures as hospitals in the city postponed non-urgent surgery and appointments amid a surge in coronavirus patients.

A meeting to talk about the conditions of the city’s move to tier 3 was due to take place between the government and Nottingham’s city and county council leaders on Thursday afternoon, almost a week after a previously planned discussion was scrapped. However there was anger over the “insulting” decision to exclude local MPs from discussions.

The city, which has the second-highest rate of coronavirus in the country, is expected to be moved to tier 3 alongside the Nottinghamshire boroughs of Broxtowe, Gedling and Rushcliffe.

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, announced earlier on Thursday that hundreds of thousands of people in Stoke-on-Trent, Coventry and Slough would move into tier 2 from Saturday following surges in Covid-19 rates.

The move will bring the total number of people living in areas under high and very high Covid restrictions to 29 million, equating to 38.6% of the population living under tier 2 conditions and 13% under tier 3 by the weekend.

On Thursday night, Tracy Taylor, chief executive of Nottingham University Hospitals NHS trust, said in a statement: “We have made the difficult decision to postpone some of our non-urgent surgery and appointments until 6 November 2020 following a dramatic increase in the number of patients with Covid-19 in our hospital. Over the last few days we have exceeded 200 patients with the virus in the hospital, and every day this is increasing by nearly another full ward of people.

“Some of these patients, 16 at the time of writing, are sadly very unwell and receiving treatment by our critical care staff. Some more have also died with the virus in the last few days. This surge is now at levels similar to April and is combining with our normal winter emergency pressures. Unfortunately, this means that we’ve had to make this difficult decision to pause some of the treatment we offer.”

Earlier on Thursday, the Nottingham city council leader, David Mellen, and the Nottinghamshire county council leader, Kay Cutts, confirmed that they had received invitations to attend an “introductory meeting”, which is understood to have been scheduled for 4.30pm with the housing minister, Christopher Pincher.

A previously arranged meeting between the health minister, Nadine Dorries, and Nottingham city MPs was cancelled at short notice last Friday, and leaders in the area said conversations with the government about moving the area to the very high Covid alert level had not taken place since, despite Boris Johnson claiming on Tuesday that they were ongoing.

Nadia Whittome, the Labour MP for Nottingham East, said MPs had not been invited to take part in the discussion on Thursday. “It’s just so insulting. We’ve got constituents who are rightly concerned about their livelihoods and the spread of the virus,” she said.

“We’ve been standing up in the Commons at every opportunity asking the government what financial help is going to be provided, when we’ll have details of going into tier 3, asking them why there have been these delays, and we just get stonewalled.”

Lilian Greenwood, Labour MP for Nottingham South, described the decision as “disrespectful”. She added: “I find it baffling that they want to keep MPs out of these discussions. Obviously, we will want to have details of what their plan is, what they think it will achieve, how long they think we would need to be in tier 3, and what the criteria is for coming out.”

Nottingham’s coronavirus rate is second only to Knowsley in England, with 639.5 cases per 100,000 people in the week to 16 October. Although an initial surge in infections in the city was concentrated in areas surrounding its two university campuses, cases are now falling in the city and rising in all but one of the county’s boroughs.

Both Mellen and Whittome suggested that delays to more stringent measures had contributed to the spilling over of cases into non-student areas. In Gedling, Broxtowe and Rushcliffe, the rate of infection has risen to more than 300 cases per 100,000 people.

Although it is not yet known when an announcement of the new restrictions could be made, Mellen said on Wednesday it had been suggested by government officials that they were unlikely to be imposed on the affected areas of Nottingham until Monday at the earliest.

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Coronavirus live news: France extends night-time curfew to cover 46 million people; new cases record in Italy | World news




Germany has issued travel warnings for popular ski regions in Austria, Italy and Switzerland, scrambling to contain the spread of the coronavirus as new infection numbers rose above 10,000 a day for the first time.

While infection rates in Germany are lower than in much of Europe, they have been accelerating, and the daily number of confirmed cases rose by 11,287 to 392,049. The death toll stands at 9,905.

“The situation has become very serious overall,” Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases, said. “We still have a chance to slow the spread of the pandemic.” But he said people must stick to the rules and that Germany must prepare for an uncontrolled spread of the virus.

On Wednesday, the German health minister, Jens Spahn, became the latest prominent politician to test positive for the virus. His spokesman said he had symptoms of a cold but no fever. Government sources said he was fit for work.

Berlin issued new travel warnings for Switzerland, Ireland, Poland, most of Austria and some Italian regions including the popular skiing region of South Tyrol. The UK (not including the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and the overseas territories) is also seen as a high-risk area.

Under the warnings, which take effect from Saturday, travellers returning to Germany must quarantine for 10 days. Quarantine can be lifted early if a test taken after five days comes back negative.

The move could significantly impact the Alpine countries’ ski season, especially Austria, which reported a record 2,435 new daily infections on Thursday and is a popular destination for Germans.

However, there was positive news for Spain’s Canary Islands as the RKI removed it from its risk list, lifting hopes there for German tourists over Christmas and new year.

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Vatican, China Extend Bishop Agreement Over US Opposition | World News




By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican and China extended a controversial accord on bishop nominations Thursday over strong opposition from the White House and conservative Catholics.

The Holy See and Beijing government jointly announced a two-year extension to the 2018 agreement, which expired Thursday. The Vatican defended the extension by saying the agreement was purely ecclesiastic and pastoral in nature, and not political.

The agreement, which hasn’t ever been published, envisages a process of dialogue in selecting bishops. The Vatican signed it in 2018 in hopes it would help unite China’s Catholics, who for seven decades have been split between those belonging to an official, state-sanctioned church and an underground church loyal to Rome.

The Vatican has defended the 2018 accord against criticism that Pope Francis sold out the underground faithful, saying the deal was necessary to prevent an even worse schism in the Chinese church after Beijing named bishops without the pope’s consent.

The question of bishop nominations has long vexed Vatican-China relations, with the Holy See insisting on the pope’s divine right to name the successors of the apostles and Beijing considering such nominations foreign infringement on its sovereignty.

In a statement, the Chinese government said Beijing and the Vatican decided to extend the agreement “after friendly consultations.”

“The two sides will maintain close communication and consultations and continue to promote the process of improving relations,” the statement said.

The Holy See for its part, issued a similarly terse statement, written in Italian, English and Chinese.

“The Holy See considers the initial application of the agreement – which is of great ecclesial and pastoral value – to have been positive, thanks to good communication and cooperation between the parties on the matters agreed upon, and intends to pursue an open and constructive dialogue for the benefit of the life of the Catholic Church and the good of Chinese people,” it said.

The Vatican has been vigorously defending the agreement in recent weeks after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo publicly criticized it and urged the Holy See not to extend it.

During a tense visit to the Vatican last month and in an essay penned before the trip, Pompeo made clear U.S. objections to the accord and urged the Vatican to join the U.S. in instead denouncing China’s crackdown on religious and ethnic minorities, Catholics among them.

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

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