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Spain to extend lockdown to June 6 despite outcry from protesters and right-wing opposition

Issued on: 21/05/2020 – 05:23Modified: 21/05/2020 – 05:23

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanche..

Issued on: Modified:

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez won parliamentary backing to extend the lockdown for another two weeks Wednesday, despite opposition from his rightwing opponents and protests against his minority coalition government.

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It was the fifth time the state of emergency has been renewed, meaning the restrictions will remain in force until June 6 in a measure passed by 177 votes in favour, 162 against and 11 abstentions.

The measure has allowed the government to impose a strict lockdown on Spain's nearly 47 million population, significantly limiting the freedom of movement to fight the epidemic which has now claimed 27,888 lives.

But the government's management of the crisis has drawn a barrage of criticism from righwing parties who have denounced its "brutal confinement", while several hundred protesters have hit the streets demanding "freedom" and Sanchez's resignation.

"It's the Spanish people who have stopped the virus together… nobody has the right to squander what we've achieved during these long weeks of confinement," Sanchez told lawmakers.

The street protests have been backed by the far-right Vox and the main rightwing opposition People's Party (PP), whose leader Pablo Casado didn't mince his words in the pre-vote debate.

"You are the epitome of chaos and the worst thing is that you are unable to protect the Spanish people without resorting to this brutal confinement," he said.

But the government says the March 14 state of emergency has allowed it to battle the epidemic and dramatically reduce the daily death toll which by Wednesday had fallen to 95 — a far cry from the 950 registered on April 2.

But Sanchez said the fight wasn't over aRead More – Source

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Vatican cardinal embroiled in real estate scandal resigns unexpectedly

Issued on: 25/09/2020 – 02:49

A powerful Vatican cardinal caught up in a real estate scandal resig..

Issued on: 25/09/2020 – 02:49

A powerful Vatican cardinal caught up in a real estate scandal resigned suddenly on Thursday and gave up his right to take part in an eventual conclave to elect a pope, in one of the most mysterious episodes to hit the Holy See in years.

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A brief statement, issued unusually in the evening, said that Pope Francis had accepted the resignation of Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, head of the department that decides who will be the saints of the Roman Catholic Church.

But perhaps more significantly, the statement said the Becciu, 72, had "given up the rights associated with being a cardinal".

The one-line statement gave no details but the most important right of Roman Catholic cardinals under 80, as is Becciu, is to take part in a conclave to elect a new pope after the current pope dies or resigns.

The relinquishing of that right indicated that the reason for Becciu's resignation was particularly serious.

The last cardinal to give up that right was Cardinal Keith O'Brien of Scotland, who resigned over a sex scandal in 2013.

Becciu was until 2018 deputy secretary of state, one of the most powerful positions in the Vatican.

During his tenure in that office the Vatican became embroiled in a controversial deal in which the Secretariat of State used Church money to purchase a luxury building in London as an investment.

That investigation led to the suspension last year of five Vatican employees, the resignation of theRead More – Source

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Kremlin critic Navalnys apartment seized while he was in coma, aide says

Issued on: 24/09/2020 – 21:55

Russian authorities seized Alexei Navalnys Moscow apartment while th..

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Russian authorities seized Alexei Navalnys Moscow apartment while the opposition leader was still in a coma, Navalnys spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said Thursday and linked the move to a tycoon with ties to the Kremlin.

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Navalny, the most prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was discharged this week from a Berlin hospital where he was treated for what German authorities determined was nerve agent poisoning.

The 44-year-old collapsed on a domestic flight in Russia on Aug. 20 and spent nearly three weeks in a coma. Russian bailiffs announced seizing his share in a Moscow apartment a week after he fell ill on Aug. 27, Yarmysh said in a video statement released Thursday. “It means the apartment cant be sold, gifted, or mortgaged. Thats when Alexeis bank accounts were frozen, too,” Navalnys spokeswoman said.

According to Yarmysh, the seizure was connected to a court ruling in favor of a school catering company reportedly linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a tycoon with ties to Russias president that earned him the nickname “Putins chef.”

Prigozhin was among a dozen Russians indicted in 2018 by a U.S. grand jury in the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, alleging he funded internet trolls involved in interfering with the U.S. presidential election in 2016.

Last year, a Moscow court ordered Navalny and his associates to pay 88 million rubles ($1.1 million) in damages to a company reportedly linked to Prigozhin after they accused the company — and him — of allegedly supplying contaminated food to Moscow kindergartens and sparking an outbreak of dysentery among dozens of children.

Prigozhins spokespeople denieRead More – Source

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Helsinki: Coronavirus-sniffing Dogs Could Provide Safer Travel

Helsinki Airport is getting creative when it comes to operating safely in the age of COVID-19. Begin..

Helsinki Airport is getting creative when it comes to operating safely in the age of COVID-19. Beginning this week, travelers arriving at Finland’s busiest international airport will have the opportunity to take a voluntary coronavirus test that takes 10 seconds and is entirely painless — but it’s not the test that is unusual, rather, it’s who is conducting it.

The new state-funded pilot program uses coronavirus-sniffing canines to detect the presence of the virus within 10 seconds with shocking accuracy. Preliminary results from the trial show that the dogs, who have been used previously to detect illnesses such as cancer and malaria, were able to identify the virus with nearly 100% accuracy.

Sniffer dog Miina, being trained to detect the coronavirus from the arriving passengers samples, works in Helsinki Airport in…

FILE – Sniffer dog Miina, being trained to detect the coronavirus from the arriving passengers’ samples, works in Helsinki Airport in Vantaa, Finland, Sept. 15, 2020.

Many of the dogs were able to detect the coronavirus long before a patient developed symptoms, something even laboratory tests fail to do.

After passengers arrive at Helsinki from abroad and have collected their luggage, they are invited to wipe their necks with a cloth to collect sweat samples that are then placed into an intake box. In a separate booth, a dog handler places the box alongside several cans containing various scents and the canine goes to work.

Researchers have yet to identify what it is exactly the dogs sniff when they detect the virus, but a preliminary study published in June found there was “very high evidence” that the sweat odors of a COVID-19-positive person were different from those who do not have the virus. This is key, as dogs are able to detect the difference thanks to their sharp sense of smell.

If the dog flags the sample as positive, the passenger is directed to the airport’s health center for a free PCR virus test.

While there have been instances that an animal contracts the coronavirus, dogs do not seem to be easily infected. There is no evidence that dogs can pass the virus on to people or other animals.

Sniffer dogs Valo (L) and E.T., who are trained to detect the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from the arriving passengers…

Sniffer dogs Valo, left, and E.T., who are trained to detect the coronavirus disease from the arriving passengers’ samples, sit next to their trainers at Helsinki Airport in Vantaa, Finland, Sept. 22, 2020.

Scientists in other countries, such as France, Germany and Britain, are engaging in similar research, but Finland is the first country in Europe to put dogs to work to sniff out the coronavirus.

Finnish researchers say that if the pilot program proves to be effective, dogs could be used to quickly and efficiently screen visitors in spaces such as retirement homes or hospitals to help avoid unnecessary quarantines for health care workers.

Representatives from the University of Helsinki, who are conducting the trial, said Finland would need between 700 and 1,000 specially trained coronavirus-sniffing dogs in order to cover schools, malls and retirement homes. For broader coverage, even more trained animals— and their trainers— would be required.

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