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End Sars protests: Growing list of celebrities pledge support for demonstrators

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It comes amid reports that several people have been shot dead or wounded at a protest in Lagos.



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Mysterious Berlin attack targets 70 museum artefacts

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Solid gold coin worth $4m stolen from Berlin museum



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Iceland PM keeps cool as earthquake strikes

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Iceland Prime minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir kept calm under pressure as a 5.5 magnitude earthquake interrupted her live interview with the Washington Post.

The earthquake was centred near Krysuvik, south of the capital Reykjavik. No injuries have been reported.



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More than 100 dead as Vietnam reels from ‘worst floods in decades’

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The death toll from weeks of flooding and landslides in central Vietnam has risen to 111, with 22 people still missing, Reuters reported Wednesday.

“These devastating floods are some of the worst we have seen in decades,” Nguyen Thi Xuan Thu, the president of Vietnam’s Red Cross Society, said in a statement Tuesday.

More than 7,200 hectares of food crops have been submerged and damaged, and more than 691,000 cattle and poultry have been killed or swept away in flood water, according to the state-run Vietnam News Agency (VNA). Sixteen national highways and 161,880 meters of local roads in four provinces have also been damaged.

The country is now bracing for another onslaught from tropical storm Saudel which is heading toward Vietnam after lashing the Philippines, where it caused flooding and forced thousands of residents to evacuate.

October is rainy season in Vietnam, but for weeks the country has been hit by particularly poor weather which has impacted agriculture, irrigation, and transport.

At the start of the month, storms and a cold snap prompted rain and floods in central cities and provinces in Vietnam, according to VNA. More than 250,000 households in six provinces have been “inundated,” since mid-October, and many areas are 2 or 3 meters underwater, VNA reported.

Earlier in the week, rescuers found 14 bodies of 22 soldiers that were missing after a landslide engulfed a military camp, according to VNA.

The region as a whole has suffered particularly heavy rainfall amid the onset of a La Nina weather system, which is characterized by unusually cold temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.

Larger humanitarian crisis

Vietnam’s flooding has left hundreds of thousands in urgent need of emergency shelter, safe drinking water, food, and income support, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

Red Cross disaster teams are working alongside local authorities to provide relief assistance.

“Everywhere we look, homes, roads and infrastructure have been submerged,” Thu said. “We’re doing our best to get immediate relief to people by boat, by air and on land, including food, safe water, tarpaulins and other essentials.”

The Vietnam Fatherland Front Central Committee is giving 20 billion Vietnamese dong ($860,000) to support flood-hit families in five central provinces, VNA reported. The IFRC has released around $325,000 to support the Vietnam Red Cross relief activities.

Dozens killed in floods across Southeast Asia as tropical storm Nangka approaches

According to Thu, the flooding is dealing a “staggering blow to the livelihoods of millions of people already reeling from hardships caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Vietnam largely escaped the kind of onslaught seen in other countries, with authorities reporting 1,141 coronavirus cases and 35 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. However, the tourism-dependent economy has taken a hit — the country, which sealed its borders in March due to the pandemic, is normally visited by millions of international tourists a year.

A double disaster was unfolding as the floods “compound the difficulties caused by Covid-19,” Christopher Rassi, IRFC’s Director of the Office of the Secretary General, said in a statement Tuesday.

“These floods are the last straw and will push millions of people further towards the brink of poverty,” he said.

CNN’s Isaac Yee and Sandi Sidhu contributed reporting in Hong Kong. Reuters also contributed reporting.



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China says environment still grim despite 5 years of progress

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There was still a long way to go, said Zhao Yingmin, the vice-minister of ecology and environment, even though China had met a series of targets on smog, water quality and carbon emissions over the five years from 2016.

“While seeing the improvements … it should be clearly recognized that the quality of the ecological environment remains far from people’s expectations for a better life,” he told reporters in Beijing.

China remains dependent on heavy industry and coal, and the “grim environmental trends” have not fundamentally changed, he added.

Last month, President Xi Jinping set a 2060 deadline to attain “carbon neutrality,” as part of China’s commitments to the Paris climate change accord. It also aims for emissions to peak by 2030.

The announcement was seen as a challenge to the United States, set to withdraw from the Paris deal on Nov. 4. On Monday, the foreign ministry criticized Washington’s record on climate, calling it a consensus-breaker and a troublemaker.

China is drawing up a new five-year plan for 2021-2025, which experts say would require stronger commitment to controlling coal consumption and promoting low-carbon energy to meet the 2060 target of carbon neutrality.

Zhao did not give detail of the next five-year plan, but said China would step up efforts to control fossil fuel consumption and promote low-carbon technology, while promising greater contributions to tackling climate change.



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EU asks: Is a vegetarian sausage really a sausage?

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A bill that would ban vegetarian items from being called sausages or burgers is set to be voted on.



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This car just smashed through speed records at 316 mph

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SSC North America announced Monday that its Tuatara hypercar reached an average speed of 316.11 miles per hour during two record-breaking dashes outside Las Vegas.

The vehicle, which was tested on a seven-mile stretch of a Nevada highway on Saturday, also reached the highest speed ever achieved on a public road, at 331.15 miles per hour, according to the company. The official top speed of 316 miles per hour is the result of two runs in opposite directions, to account for wind and road variations.

SSC said that two independent witnesses were on site to verify the world records.

The Tuatara, which has butterfly doors and produces 1,750 horsepower from a turbocharged V-8 engine, is the second vehicle built by SSC to earn the title of world’s fastest production car, according to the company. It says the model’s aerodynamic design was inspired by fighter jets, taking more than a decade of research and development.

SSC, which bills itself as “America’s first hypercar company,” was founded in 1998 in Richland, Washington. SSC CEO Jerod Shelby, who is not related to legendary auto designer and racer Carroll Shelby, said the team’s performance exceeded his own expectations, and was especially gratifying after “years of setbacks and challenges.”

The company is currently planning to produce 100 Tuatara hypercars to sell to customers.

SSC isn’t the only company pushing the envelope for production cars.

Just over a year ago, Bugatti was able to get a specially modified Bugatti Chiron to average 304.8 miles per hour during two test runs on a German track.

At the time, the French company said that it was the first production manufacturer to make a car that exceeded 300 miles per hour. (Cars built solely to compete for speed records have gone as fast as over 700 miles per hour.)
In 2017, a Koenigsegg Agera RS averaged 277.87 miles per hour over two runs in Nevada.

SSC believes its car can go even faster.

“There was definitely more in there. And with better conditions, I know we could have gone faster,” driver Oliver Webb said in a statement.

— Peter Valdes-Dapena contributed to this report.



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France teacher attack: Macron urges Russia to boost anti-terror fight

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Published

image copyrightReuters

image captionA silent march was held in honour of Samuel Paty on Tuesday in the Paris suburb where he was killed

French President Emmanuel Macron has urged Russia to boost co-operation in fighting terrorism after the beheading of a teacher by a Russian-born man.

Mr Macron’s comments came in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who described Friday’s attack near Paris as a “barbarous murder”.

Samuel Paty, 47, was killed after showing controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to his pupils.

The attacker was named as Abdullakh Anzorov, an 18-year-old ethnic Chechen.

Anzorov was shot dead by police shortly after the attack close to the teacher’s school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, north-west of the French capital.

image copyrightAFP
image captionSamuel Paty, a well-liked teacher, had been threatened over showing the cartoons

The brutal murder has shocked France.

  • Beheading of teacher deepens divisions in France

On Wednesday evening, Mr Macron will attend an official memorial at the Sorbonne University to award Mr Paty posthumously the Légion d’honneur – France’s highest order of merit.

What did Macron and Putin say?

Mr Macron said he wanted to see a “strengthening of Franco-Russian co-operation in the fight against terrorism and illegal immigration”, the French presidency said.

It provided no further details about Tuesday’s phone call with President Putin.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin published a brief statement quoting Mr Putin as saying that both parties “reaffirmed their mutual interest in intensifying joint efforts in the fight against terrorism and the propagation of extremist ideology”.

What is known about Anzorov?

Anzorov was born in Moscow but had lived in France since 2008. His family is from Russia’s Muslim-majority Chechnya region in the North Caucasus.

He arrived in France with his family as refugees, French media report.

His grandfather and 17-year-old brother have been questioned and released in the aftermath of the attack.

Russia has played down any association with the attacker.

“This crime has no relation to Russia because this person had lived in France for the past 12 years,” Sergei Parinov, a spokesman of the Russian embassy in Paris, told the Tass news agency on Saturday.

Mosque closed amid mass raids

Meanwhile, French media reported that the father of a pupil accused of launching an online campaign against the teacher had sent messages to the killer before the attack.

The father – who has not been named – is accused, along with a preacher described by the media as a radical Islamist, of calling for Mr Paty to be punished by issuing a so-called “fatwa” (considered a legal ruling by Islamic scholars).

media captionFrench minister: Lessons on freedom of expression will continue

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said the two men had been arrested and were being investigated for an “assassination in connection with a terrorist enterprise”.

Police have raided some 40 homes, following the attack. Sixteen people were taken in custody but six were later released.

On Tuesday, Mr Macron said the Sheikh Yassin Collective – an Islamist group named after the founder of the Palestinian militant group Hamas – would be outlawed for being “directly involved” in the killing.

He said the ban was a way of helping France’s Muslim community, Europe’s largest, from the influence of radicalism.

The government also ordered a mosque to close for sharing videos on Facebook calling for action against Mr Paty and sharing his school’s address in the days before his death.

The Pantin mosque, which has about 1,500 worshippers and is situated just north of Paris, will close for six months on Wednesday. The mosque expressed “regret” over the videos, which it has deleted, and condemned the teacher’s killing.

Why was Samuel Paty targeted?

On Monday, anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-François Ricard said Mr Paty had been the target of threats since he showed the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad during a class about freedom of speech earlier in October.

The history and geography teacher advised Muslim students to leave the room if they thought they might be offended.

Mr Ricard said that the killer had gone to the school on Friday afternoon and asked students to point out the teacher. He then followed Mr Paty as he walked home from work and used a knife to attack him.

The issue is particularly sensitive in France because of the decision by satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo to publish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

A trial is currently under way over the killing of 12 people by Islamist extremists at the magazine’s offices in 2015 following their publication.

media captionRallies in Paris, Toulouse, Lyon and other French cities in support of Samuel Paty

France’s Muslim community comprises about 10% of the population.

Some French Muslims say they are frequent targets of racism and discrimination because of their faith – an issue that has long caused tension in the country.

Related Topics

  • Emmanuel Macron

  • France
  • Paris
  • Vladimir Putin
  • Islamist extremism
  • Freedom of expression
  • Samuel Paty: Beheading of teacher deepens divisions over France’s secular identity



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Long Covid: Who is more likely to get it?

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A study suggests old age increases the risk, as does asthma, excess weight, and being female.



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India’s pollution season could serve a double blow during Covid-19

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Stubble burning, the practice of intentionally setting fire to cultivated fields to prepare the land for its next crop, is one of the chief drivers of India’s so-called annual pollution season, which begins each winter.

It is especially bad in cities like the capital New Delhi, where smog from the burning crop fields, vehicular emissions, power plants, construction sites, and smoke from Diwali firecrackers combine to create a toxic cloud that lingers until spring.

Authorities have been trying for years to combat this serious public health risk — but there’s a new urgency this year, with fears that pollution could compound the danger of Covid-19.

The coronavirus outbreak in India has infected nearly 7.6 million people and killed more than 115,000, according to the country’s Health Ministry. India went into a months-long nationwide total lockdown in an attempt to contain the virus — but with little success. Presently, India has the second highest number of infections globally, after the United States, and the third highest number of deaths.

Experts and politicians now worry that the arrival of pollution season could pose a double threat, putting people at higher risk of severe infection, while increasing the strain on public health services.

“The combination of air pollution along with Covid-19, and especially as this is going to happen during the winter months, is something we need to be really concerned about and take adequate measures, so that we don’t let a huge spike occur in the number of cases,” said Dr. Randeep Guleria, director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

India’s pollution problem

India has long faced this annual pollution problem; 21 of the 30 cities with the worst air pollution in the world are in India, according to IQAir AirVisual’s 2019 World Air Quality Report.

New Delhi has been ranked the most polluted city in the world, and the air quality last year reached levels more than 20 times what the World Health Organization (WHO) considers “safe.”
The danger lies in harmful microscopic particulate matter. Known as PM 2.5, the tiny particles are smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, meaning they can lodge deep into the lungs and pass into other organs and the bloodstream. PM 2.5 can affect lung development in children, cause chronically reduced lung function, and reduce life expectancy, according to the WHO.

New Delhi residents could live an extra 10.2 years if the air was clean enough to meet WHO standards for particulate concentrations, according to the University of Chicago’s Air Quality Life Index.

During the coronavirus lockdown, which began in March, the sky in New Delhi turned blue, and people in the northern Punjab state could clearly see the Himalayan mountain range 100 miles away for the first time in decades.
Data showed that air pollutant levels dropped in the capital as factories shut down and roads emptied.

But the breath of fresh air didn’t last long, with the country reopening by early summer. This Tuesday, New Delhi’s air quality index reached its worst level since February last winter.

A double threat during Covid-19

Residents and medical workers are now bracing for the double public health threat.

“With the Covid pandemic prevailing worldwide and pollution level spiking simultaneously, there is definitely an increased risk of higher numbers and severity of Covid-19 infection increasing,” said Dr. Suranjit Chatterjee, Senior Consultant of Internal Medicine in Delhi’s Indraprastha Apollo Hospital.

New Delhi is only beginning to enter pollution season, with more crop burning and the Diwali festivities ahead in the coming months. Meanwhile, though Covid-19 infections in India are slowly on the decline, there are still anywhere from 45,000 to 70,000 new cases a day — and global health officials are warning that winter could bring another wave.

“Because of the cold air, the virus can survive in the environment for a much longer time and therefore, be more infectious,” said AIIMS’ Guleria. There are other factors that raise the danger of infection, he said — when it’s cold, people stay indoors more often and keep their windows closed, which creates poor ventilation.

Farmers conducting stubble burning in a paddy field in Amritsar, India, on October 18.
A study released this spring by Harvard University examined more than 3,000 counties across the United States, and found that higher levels of air pollution were linked to higher death rates from Covid-19.

“Many of the pre-existing conditions that increase the risk of death in those with Covid-19 are the same diseases that are affected by long-term exposure to air pollution,” said the study.

Chatterjee warned of this link as well — air pollution can inflame or damage your cells, causing heart disease, stroke, asthma, diabetes and other comorbidities that can make increase the risk of death in Covid-19 patients, he said.

However, it’s not just people with pre-existing conditions at risk, he added — because air pollution in general damages your immune system, “even normal people (in India) are more predisposed to infections in the setting of higher pollution.”

There is one ray of hope: citizens may be better prepared this winter since they’re already wearing masks and taking precautions, which could better protect them from both pollution and Covid-19.

Covid-19 patients inside an isolation ward in India on October 1.

But India’s public health infrastructure, already fragile and strained, might not be able to handle the weight of two severe respiratory threats, especially in populous cities like Delhi and Mumbai.

“The last three years, we did not have enough beds in our ICUs or there weren’t enough ventilators in Delhi’s hospitals because of air pollution crisis in the month of November,” said Vimlendu Jha, an environmental and social activist based in Delhi.

“So, imagine a hospital that anyway is struggling right now because of Covid. Plus the patients, the new patients, elderly and children who are going to (hospital) because of respiratory issues or new cases of pneumonia because of air pollution. It’s going to be a huge, huge crisis,” he added.

What authorities are doing

Officials are now scrambling to respond to both dangers; in Delhi, Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal has announced a “battle against pollution.”

“Especially this year with corona, for our children, for our families, we have to reduce pollution,” he said on October 5. “(The) lungs are the most affected by corona, so pollution can be life-taking in such a disease.”

As part of the anti-pollution campaign, Delhi authorities have set up a “war room” to monitor pollution control measures. They also launched a mobile app for citizens to register complaints, measures to reduce construction dust, and a ban on diesel generator sets.

Traffic on a road in New Delhi on October 18, as the city reports high levels of air pollution.

The Delhi government has also allocated 200 million rupees (about $2.73 million) to build two smog towers, which act as giant air purifiers. The two towers won’t be completed for another 10 months — but if they prove successful, the city could build several more, said Kejriwal.

China also installed a smog tower in its capital Beijing in 2018, that sucks in polluted air and filters it clean. But Kejriwal said the Delhi towers would use a different technology than the Beijing towers, and that these would be the first of their kind.

National leaders also announced new anti-pollution measures in October, like closing several power plants and banning the use of furnace oil in certain industries.

But some experts and activists are skeptical these will create the lasting change needed to fix India’s pollution crisis.

Indian farmers burn straw stubble on the outskirts of Amritsar on October 17.

“Every year, we look at these short-term, stop-gap, band-aid solutions to really mitigate a crisis which is so huge,” said Jha, the activist. Instead, he said, authorities need to make changes on a much bigger scale — considering the ways that cities are urbanizing, the types of energy we consume and produce, and the specific industries that are responsible for the highest amount of pollution.

“Is cleaning our environment possible? Yes, it is possible but for that you need to really look at a different kind of a start,” he added.

“We cannot be doing business as usual and expect things to get better because if our tree transplantation policy, our construction policy, our public transport policy, our energy regime — if all of that remains the same and we expect the air to get better, things aren’t going to happen.”

CNN’s Helen Regan and Meenketan Jha contributed to this report.



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