Six Dead as Tropical Storm Zeta Moves Through Southeastern US

Tropical Storm Zeta left six people dead and a trail of destruction in its wake as it brought high winds and heavy rain from the U.S. Gulf Coast across the mid-Atlantic states.In its latest report, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said Zeta was on the Virginia-North Carolina border with sustained winds of 85 kph (53 mph) and was swiftly moving to the northeast.Zeta made landfall as a powerful Category 2 hurricane in Louisiana on the U.S. Gulf Coast.Will Arute, who lives New Orleans, said it sounded like a bomb went off when part of a large oak snapped outside his home and crashed into his car and a corner of his home, The Associated Press reported.“I did not anticipate this to happen. It was pretty intense along the eye wall when it went through here,” he said.Northern Virginia and Washington were expected to get 2 to 7 centimeters (about 1 to 3 inches) of rain.Earlier, Zeta made a nearly direct hit on the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, but was also felt farther east in Atlanta, Georgia. It was a very strong Category 2 storm with maximum winds of about 175 kph (109 mph).At least six deaths have been attributed to the storm. Four people died in Alabama and Georgia when trees fell on homes, the AP reported. Two of the dead were pinned to their bed when a tree crashed through their home, according to Gwinnett County, Georgia, fire officials.Boat owner Ricky Mitchell, left, surveys damage to his boat that Hurricane Zeta washed up against a home in Lakeshore, Miss., Oct. 29, 2020.In Mississippi, Leslie Richardson, 58, drowned when he was trapped in rising seawater in Biloxi after taking video of the raging storm, Harrison County Coroner Brian Switzer told the AP. And in New Orleans, a 55-year-old man was electrocuted by a downed power line, a Louisiana coroner said.The website PowerOutage.us says the storm left millions without electricity across seven states, including more than 553,000 in Georgia, 414,000 in Alabama, and 444,000 Louisiana.Zeta became the fourth hurricane to hit Louisiana this season and the 11th named storm to hit the U.S. mainland this year. It tied a record set in 2005 as the 27th named storm in a season. The hurricane center says that record may fall in coming days because a weather disturbance in the southern Caribbean has a 60% chance of becoming the 28th named storm of the season.

your ad here

Ukraine’s Zelenskiy Promises Action as Allies Sound Alarm Over Reform Rollback

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy promised swift action on Thursday and warned Ukraine could lose international aid and support after a Constitutional Court this week ruled to abolish some anti-corruption laws. The court said it saw as excessive the punishment set for false information on officials’ asset declarations and struck down some critical powers of the key anti-graft body NAZK, which in turn said the court had destroyed the anti-corruption system. Ukraine’s patchy performance on reforms and tackling entrenched corruption has derailed a $5 billion program agreed in June with the International Monetary Fund at a time its economy is in sharp downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic. FILE – The International Monetary Fund logo is seen in Washington, April 21, 2017.The European Union’s delegation to Kyiv warned that its financial assistance was tied to Ukraine’s performance on corruption. A further deterioration could threaten Ukraine’s prized visa-free access to the EU countries, a member of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee has warned. “We will not have money. We will not have support. Projects on which agreement was reached will be canceled, as well as World Bank support. We will have a big hole in the budget,” Zelenskiy said in a statement. “The recent decisions of the [court] undermine trust in Ukraine, outrage Ukrainians,” he said in a separate post on Twitter, adding that he wanted new legislation introduced as soon as possible to rectify the situation. The United States, Canada, Britain and the European Union have backed Ukraine with aid and sanctions on Russia after the 2014 Maidan street protests that ousted a Kremlin-backed leader but have repeatedly pressed Kyiv to quicken the pace of reforms. “The G-7 ambassadors are alarmed by efforts to undo the anti-corruption reforms that followed the Revolution of Dignity,” a statement said. “Too much progress has been made, Ukraine must not go back to the past.” In a separate statement, the EU said the court decision “calls into question a number of international commitments which Ukraine assumed in relation to its international partners, including the EU.”  
 

your ad here

The Infodemic: The West Isn’t Waging a ‘War’ Against Russian Vaccine

Fake news about the coronavirus can do real harm. Polygraph.info is spotlighting fact-checks from other reliable sources here​.Daily DebunkClaim: “The West has waged a vaccine war over the COVID-19 Sputnik V vaccine. It is a geopolitical confrontation that really has nothing to do with the vaccine. Clinical trials are ongoing and the results are positive.” — Russian defeners of the country’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccineVerdict: FalseRead the full story at: EUvsDiSiNFOSocial Media DisinfoCirculating on social media: Video filmed at UK hospital claims that COVID-19 is a hoax.Verdict: FalseRead the full story at: Reuters Fact CheckFactual Reads on CoronavirusThe race to make COVID antibody therapies cheaper and more potent
Injections of antibodies might prevent mild COVID-19 from becoming severe, but the treatments are expensive and difficult to make.
— Nature, October 28 

your ad here

UN: 20 Years After Landmark UN Resolution, Women Still Excluded in Peace Processes

Twenty years after a landmark U.N. Security Council resolution seeking to include more women in the prevention and settlement of conflicts, the head of U.N. Women says “exclusion is still the norm.””Evidence shows that peace processes that involve women are key to long-lasting peace, yet women are still systematically excluded, confined to informal processes, or relegated to the role of spectators, while men sit in the rooms that will define their lives and decide their future,” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of U.N. Women, told a Security Council meeting marking the anniversary Thursday.She said in peace negotiations from 1992 to 2019, only 13% of negotiators, 6% of mediators, and 6% of peace agreement signatories were women.”These negotiations are still structured in a way that elevates and empowers the actors that have fueled the violence, rather than empowering the constituencies who make peace,” she said.  Resolution 1325 was adopted unanimously by the Council on Oct. 31, 2000. It stresses the importance of equal participation of women in both the prevention and resolution of conflicts, as well as peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction. The resolution also calls on parties to conflicts to protect women and girls from gender-based violence.”This resolution was born out of the horrors committed against the bodies of women and girls in Bosnia and Rwanda, and the example set by women who fought for representation in Northern Ireland, southern Africa, and Central America,” Mlambo-Ngcuka said. While she commended women and civil society groups for bringing atrocities committed against women and girls from the shadows into the light, she said justice is yet to be won for most victims and impunity continues to be the norm.”We had to wait until last year to see the first ever successful conviction for sexual and gender-based violence at the International Criminal Court,” she noted. FILE – Congolese militia commander Bosco Ntaganda sits in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court during his trial at the Hague, in the Netherlands, July 8, 2019.That case was against Bosco Ntaganda, a warlord from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. He was convicted on 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including rape and sexual slavery, and sentenced to 30 years in prison. There has been notable progress in several countries, where women have made and retained gains. Mlambo-Ngcuka pointed to achievements by women in Afghanistan, Kosovo, the Philippines and Liberia, among other countries.Mlambo-Ngcuka said moving ahead, there must be “a radical shift and tangible results” in the equal and meaningful participation of women in peace processes. She said that neither the United Nations nor its member states should give funding or legitimacy to processes that have only symbolic or superficial female representation. The protection of women’s rights should be another goal going forward, she said. ”In all conversations I have with women’s civil society organizations about women’s rights, they start or finish with concerns about women’s sexual and reproductive rights and widespread violence against women,” Mlambo-Ngcuka said. “For women to play a role in decision-making in society, they need to be able to decide over their own bodies.”She also warned that the coronavirus pandemic has taken a disproportionate toll on the female population. Lockdowns have exposed deep inequalities in education, health systems and economic opportunities for them. Women also make up the majority of front line health care workers globally. ”Yet they are once again under-represented in pandemic decision-making,” she said, noting it is even worse for women in conflict areas.  
 

your ad here

Merkel Defends German Coronavirus Restrictions

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Thursday defended new coronavirus restrictions to lawmakers and lashed out at those who tried to dismiss the infection as harmless as the number of cases hit a new high.
In a speech before the Bundestag – the German parliament – that was interrupted by heckling from right-wing politicians, Merkel said the new measures “are appropriate, necessary and proportionate.” She said, “There is no other milder approach than reducing personal contacts to try and stop the infections chain and to change the course of the infections back to a level where we can handle it.”  
Merkel spoke a day after she and the governors of Germany’s 16 states agreed on far-reaching restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, including the closure of bars and restaurants, limits on social contacts and bans on concerts and other public events.
But, as in most countries around the world, there has been pushback against such restrictions. There have been protests and reports of violence in some areas by those claiming the dangers of the virus have been overstated and restrictions are nothing more than a power grab.
When heckling broke out from populist politicians during Merkel’s speech, Bundestag President Wolfgang Schauble warned there would be consequences for their actions if they did not let the chancellor continue.
Merkel responded by lashing out at those who claim the virus is harmless, saying, “Lies and disinformation, conspiracy theories and hate, damage not only democratic debate but also the fight against the virus.”
She said, “When science has proven something is false then it must be clearly stated. Because our relation to facts and information not only affects democratic debate but human lives.”
Merkel told lawmakers that Germany is in a “dramatic situation” as it goes into winter, which she said would be “four long, difficult months. But it will end.”
Germany’s disease control center said local health authorities reported 16,774 new positive tests in the past day, pushing the country’s total since the start of the outbreak close to half-a-million.
The Robert Koch Institute recorded 89 additional deaths, taking Germany’s toll to 10,272.

your ad here

Typhoon Kills at Least 35, Leaves Dozens Missing in Vietnam

A powerful typhoon in Vietnam has killed at least 35 people and left more than 50 missing, state media reported. At least 1.7 million people were left without power, as the typhoon set off landslides.Officials said Typhoon Molave was the most powerful storm to strike the Southeast Asian country in 20 years. As it made landfall Wednesday, it ravaged a central area of the country that was already reeling from weeks of torrential rains that killed at least 160 people.New Storm Bears Down on Flood-Damaged Central VietnamTwo typhoons this month have already killed 130 and destroyed homes and agricultureHundreds of military personnel with heavy machinery were deployed to remote areas of Quang Nam province, where landslides killed at least 19 people and left 12 others missing.Eight bodies were recovered Thursday morning in the province’s Tra Van village, where a hillside collapsed on houses, according to the Vietnam News Agency. About 45 kilometers away in Tra Leng village, eight more bodies were recovered after another landslide buried a community with several houses where about 45 people lived.Another section of the hillside collapsed into a torrent of mud in the nearby Phuoc Loc district, killing three people.Twelve fishermen were also killed after their boats sank Wednesday, as the typhoon approached with winds of up to 150 kilometers per hour.Officials said the death toll in the country could rise because some regions have been unable to report casualties and details of damage. Officials also said at least 40,000 people were evacuated to emergency shelters and that workplaces and schools were closed to prevent more casualties.

your ad here

Asian Markets Post Another Day of Losses

Asian markets are mostly lower Thursday in the aftermath of Wall Street’s big losses a day earlier, sparked by growing pessimism over the tightening grip of the COVID-19 pandemic.The Nikkei index in Tokyo lost 0.3% in its trading session.  Sydney’s S&P/ASX index closed 1.6% lower.  The KOSPI index in Seoul was down 0.7%, and Taipei’s TSEC index lost 1%.In late afternoon trading, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index is down 0.4% in late afternoon trading, while Mumbai’s Sensex is 0.3% lower.The lone bright spot in the region was Shanghai’s Composite index, which gained 0.1%.In commodities trading, gold is selling at $1,881.40 per ounce, up 0.1%. U.S. crude oil is selling at $37.26 per barrel, down 0.3%, and Brent crude oil is selling at $38.96 per barrel, down 0.4%.All three U.S. indices are trending higher in futures trading, a day after losing an average of 3.5%.

your ad here

France, Germany Impose New Lockdown Measures as COVID-19 Cases Soar

A rising tide of new coronavirus cases has prompted the leaders of France and Germany to impose a new round of lockdowns to stop the spread of the virus.During a televised speech Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a nationwide monthlong lockdown that will take effect Friday. Macron said restaurants, bars, cafes and other nonessential businesses will be closed, while residents will only be allowed to leave their homes for work, shopping and doctor’s appointments.German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a set of similar measures in her own monthlong lockdown order Wednesday after a meeting with leaders of the nation’s 16 federal states. In addition to restaurants and bars, all gyms, theaters and opera houses will be shut down under Merkel’s order, which takes effect Monday, while the majority of businesses, shops and hair salons will be allowed to remain open.Schools in both nations will remain open during their respective lockdowns.The restrictions were announced by Macron and Merkel as both nations struggle with a record number of new COVID-19 cases practically every day — with Germany posting nearly 15,000 new cases Wednesday — creating a situation that has pushed their respective health care systems to their limits.France and Germany are joining several other European nations that have been forced to impose a new set of restrictions to deal with a second and growing wave of the virus as the cold weather season approaches in the Northern Hemisphere.As of early Thursday, there are more than 44.4 million total COVID-19 cases worldwide, including over 1.1 million deaths. India has reached the milestone of over 8 million total novel coronavirus cases, second only to the United States, with 8.8 million total confirmed cases.As the effort to develop a safe and effective vaccine continues, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration says it will ensure that everyone in the United States will be able to be inoculated free of charge.Seema Verma, the head of the federal government’s Medicare and Medicaid health insurance programs, announced Wednesday the agency will cover the cost of any vaccine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.Verma also said that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will cover a larger portion of the cost of any new COVID-19 treatments. Private health plans will also be banned from charging their customers anything for administering the vaccine.

your ad here

US Lawmakers Attack Social Media CEOs for Taking Down and Labeling Some Speech

The CEOs of Facebook, Google and Twitter testified before a Senate committee hearing Wednesday, just days before the U.S. election. Tina Trinh reports.
Producer: Matt Dibble

your ad here

2 Sentenced to Death in Deadly 2015 Mali Attacks

A Malian court sentenced to death a suspected jihadist and his co-defendant for killing more than two dozen people in attacks targeting foreigners in 2015.Wednesday’s court ruling against Fawaz Ould Ahmed and his co-defendant Sadou Chaka came after two days of hearings.Ahmed said his militant group, Al-Mourabitoune, carried out the attack at the La Terrasse club, but he expressed no remorse for killing five people in revenge for cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published by France’s Charlie Hebdo magazine.Ahmed also admitted to participating in a raid that killed 17 people at Hotel Byblos in the town of Sevare in August and another that killed 20 people, including 14 foreigners, at the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako in November.Two other Malian nationals were charged in the attacks.Ahmed was reportedly planning other attacks when he was arrested in 2016.

your ad here

The Infodemic: Wearing a Facemask Isn’t Harmful to Health

Fake news about the coronavirus can do real harm. Polygraph.info is spotlighting fact-checks from other reliable sources here​.Daily DebunkClaim: “Posts based on a video by a German neurologist have been shared thousands of times on Facebook making several claims about the alleged dangers of wearing face masks, notably that rebreathing oxygen in the mask leads to neurological damage. According to experts, this is false, since these masks allow fresh air to pass through and oxygen to be inhaled.” — AFP Fact CheckVerdict: FalseRead the full story at: AFP Fact CheckSocial Media DisinfoFootball star Tom Brady. (AP Photo/David Becker)Circulating on social media: “Super Bowl champion Tom Brady told his Instagram followers that suicide accounts for more death than COVID-19.” — PolitifactVerdict: FalseRead the full story at: Politifact Factual Reads on CoronavirusHealth Experts’ Thanksgiving Advice In The Time of COVID-19
While Thanksgiving is still weeks away, people hoping to connect with distant family members are already making anxious plans — and if they aren’t, they should be, public health experts say.
— STAT News, October 16

your ad here

What Is Early Voting?

If everyone showed up to vote on election day, polling places could be overwhelmed. Early voting eases some of the pressure. Here’s how it works.

your ad here

US Fringe Group’s Conspiracy Theories Find Following in Germany

An unexpected consequence of the COVID crisis in Germany has been the rapid increase in followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory. As Jacob Russell reports from Berlin, Germany now has the second largest following outside the United States as more people become skeptical of their government’s good intentions.Camera:  Jacob Russell 
Producer:  Jason Godman 

your ad here

US Citizen Kidnapped at Gunpoint in Southern Niger

Authorities in Niger say an American citizen has been kidnapped from his home at gunpoint and is being held for ransom.Philip Walton was seized Tuesday at his farm in the rural village of Massalata in southern Niger near the border with Nigeria, said Ibrahim Abba Lele, a police official in the nearby town of Birni Konni.  A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said Tuesday it is aware an American citizen has been abducted and is providing support to the person’s family.  No one has claimed responsibility. Niger is part of Africa’s Sahel region, which has been plagued by a growing number of attacks by insurgents linked to both Islamic State and al-Qaida. Six French aid workers and their Niger guide were killed by Islamic extremists back in August while visiting a wildlife park near the capital, Niamey.Walton is now the seventh foreign national being held captive by Islamist insurgents in Niger. 

your ad here

Indonesia’s Pandemic Response: A Law to Create Millions of Jobs

A landmark law passed this month in Indonesia will open the populous, impoverished country to labor-intensive industry like many of its Southeast Asian neighbors despite a hit to worker rights, people on the ground say. The 905-page Omnibus Bill on Job Creation bill will give millions of young people chances to work, including in formal jobs that can be hard to find because older Indonesian laws discouraged foreign investors from setting up factories, analysts believe. Indonesians are struggling to earn income during an unrelenting COVID-19 outbreak that prompted shutdowns from April. The nation with nearly 400,000 infections reported a sharp drop in retail sales from April through August and a fall in exports over the three months ending in September.   “With this new law, it is expected that the investment would come not only to the Indonesian economy, but also come to the labor-intensive part, and by getting more investment in that area it is expected that more jobs will be created, and those jobs are more of the quality jobs, not only informal jobs,” said Yose Rizal Damuri, economics department head with the Center for Strategic and International Studies research organization in Jakarta.   Indonesia’s government and House of Representatives passed the bill ahead of schedule on October 5, the Jakarta Post reported. The bill aims to cut bureaucracy and make it easier for investors to create jobs, said Richard Borsuk, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies adjunct senior fellow in Singapore.Protest against the government’s proposed labor reforms in Sukabumi, West Java, Oct. 7, 2020.President Joko Widodo’s government sees this bill as part of his “legacy” to stimulate the 270 million-person country’s economy, Rizal said. Minerals, oil and farming make up much of Indonesia’s $1 trillion-plus GDP today. “Labor-intensive” industry players find Indonesia too expensive now, Rizal said, explaining why that sub-sector makes up just 2% of the country’s total investment. Foreign manufacturers of garments, shoes and textiles normally pick other low-cost Southeast Asian countries, such as Vietnam, over the past decade because of stiff pro-labor laws, economists say. Foreign investment eventually raises the living standards, as witnessed in China and eventually Vietnam. “It’s probably something that will be a long-term benefit, if this does go through,” said Rajiv Biswas, senior regional economist with IHS Markit, a London-based analysis firm. “It creates a better environment for foreign multinationals to hire, because from the perspective of foreign multinationals, it’s very restrictive labor laws there,” Biswas said. “They’re worried about hiring because it’s very hard to reduce the workforce later on.”   Foreign investors will consider the law a “step in the right” direction for making Indonesia friendlier, forecast Song Seng Wun, an economist in the private banking unit of Malaysian bank CIMB.“This Omnibus Bill is part of something that Jokowi [was] looking to see how they can help sort of improve the investment landscape to make it a little bit more attractive in Indonesia, just to make sure Indonesia doesn’t get pushed down the investible list of countries,” Song said, using the Indonesian president’s nickname. But the law sparked staunch opposition. Some governors have asked Widodo to revoke the law and other people protested in the streets over three days, sometimes violently, Borsuk’s study says. The law effectively eliminates the power of labor unions, said Paramita Supamijoto, an international relations lecturer at Bina Nusantara University in greater Jakarta. The October bill would roll back legal support for fair wages, safe working conditions and excessive overtime, U.S.-headquartered human rights advocacy group Amnesty International said in a statement in August. It called the bill’s preparation process “opaque.”   Severance pay for laid-off workers will also slip, Damuri said. For workers, the law means that “whatever you do, your life will be determined by your employers,” Supamijoto said.But the law could stoke enough investment to stop people from migrating overseas in search of work, she said. “Under our current president’s administration, they prefer to invite the investors rather than sending workers abroad, so it’s better to invite you to come here to spend money, to invest your money, then to help us to build the infrastructure,” she said. 

your ad here

Asian Markets Mixed Wednesday   

Asian markets are mixed Wednesday as concerns grow among investors over a new surge of coronavirus cases across Europe and the United States.   Japan’s benchmark Nikkei index closed 0.2% lower.  In Australia, the S&P/ASX index finished 0.1% higher. The KOSPI index in South Korea rose 0.6%, while Taiwan’s TSEC index dropped 0.6% In late afternoon trading, the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong is down 0.1%, Shanghai’s Composite index is up 0.4%, and Mumbai’s Sensex is down one percent. In commodities trading, gold is selling at $1,908.40 an ounce, down 0.1%. U.S. crude oil is selling at $38.55 per barrel, down 2.5%, and Brent crude is selling at $40.35 per barrel, down 2%.   All three U.S. indices are trending negatively in futures trading.   

your ad here