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English pubs to close early as health officials warn of dire Covid-19 resurgence

British pubs will have to close early and people who fail to obey quarantine rules will face stiff f..

British pubs will have to close early and people who fail to obey quarantine rules will face stiff fines under new lockdown restrictions to curb a surging wave of new coronavirus infections.

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to announce the new measures Tuesday, a day after the UKs chief medical officers raised the nations Covid-19 alert level, saying the virus is in general circulation and spreading fast. Other top medical experts said Britains number of daily new infections — which stood Monday at 4,300 — could rise as high as 50,000 a day in October if immediate action is not taken.

The prime ministers office said starting Thursday, pubs, bars and other hospitality venues will be restricted to table service only and will have to close at 10 p.m.

Johnson is due to update Parliament on the coronavirus situation Tuesday after meetings of his Cabinet and the governments crisis committee, COBRA. He will also make a televised address to the nation about efforts to combat the virus.

The UK has gradually been increasing restrictions as cases rise, with people barred from meeting in large groups. But the measures are far less stringent than a nationwide lockdown imposed in March that saw restrictions on movement and most businesses closed. It was eased starting in June as cases began to fall, but that trend has now been reversed.

On Monday, the chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland raised the virus alert from three to four, the second-highest level, on the advice of the Joint Biosecurity Center. They said cases of Covid-19 were rising “rapidly and probably exponentially”.

UK pubs to close early as health officials warn of dire Covid-19 resurgence

In a live televised briefing, Chief Scientific Officer Patrick Vallance and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said after a slow rise in new infections over the summer, the number of new Covid-19 cases is now doubling every seven days. They said new infections could increase tenfold to almost 50,000 a day next month if nothing is done now.

In other countries, such an increase has soon led to a rise in deaths, Whitty said, adding “we have, in a very bad sense, literally turned a corner” after weeks of rising infections.

Whitty stressed that infection rates are rising among all age groups and infections among the young and healthy will inevitably spread to friends, family and ultimately to the most vulnerable in society.

“This is not someone elses problem,” he said. “This is all of our problem.

To persuade people to stay home if they test positive, the government announced it would pay low-income workers 500 pounds ($639) if they are told to self-isolate for 14 days. It also said those breaking quarantines could face fines up to 10,000 pounds ($12,800).

Britain has Europes highest death toll in the pandemic, with over 41,800 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Experts say all such figures understate the true impact of the pandemic.

The 4,300 new infections reported Monday hit a level not seen since early May. Britains highest daily number of new infections peaked at 6,199 cases on April 5.

While death rates remain relatively low so far, Whitty warned that deaths are likely to rise. The UK reported a seven-day average of 21 deaths a day last week, compared with a peak of 942 deaths on April 10.

These numbers include only deaths that are directly related to Covid-19. The real toll could be much higher if emergency services are overwhelmed by coronavirus cases and the National Health Service has to divert resources from treating other diseases, Whitty said.

But Whitty said new restrictions have to be balanced against the impact on the economy and society, because increased deprivation and mental illness will also lead to deaths.

“If we do too little, this virus will go out of control anRead More – Source

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Pope expresses support for same-sex civil union laws in new documentary

Issued on: 21/10/2020 – 17:54

Pope Francis says in a film released on Wednesday that homosexuals s..

Issued on:

Pope Francis says in a film released on Wednesday that homosexuals should be protected by civil union laws, in some of the clearest language he has used on the rights of gay people.

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"Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it," Pope Francis says in the documentary "Francesco" by Oscar-nominated director Evgeny Afineevsky.

"What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that," he said.

The pope appeared to be referring to when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires and opposed legislation to approve same sex marriages but supported some kind of legal protection for the rights of gay couples.

Papal biographer Austen Ivereigh told Reuters that the pope's comments in the film were some of the clearest language the pontiff has used on the subject since his election in 2013.

The pope, who early in his papacy made the now-famous "Who am I to judge?" remark about homosexuals trying to live a Christian life, spoke in a section of the film about Andrea Rubera, a gay man who with his partner adopted three children.

Rubera says in the film that he went to a morning Mass the pope said in his Vatican residence and gave him a letter explaining his situation.

He told the pope that he and his partner wanted to bring the children up as Catholics in the local parish but did not want to cause any trauma for the children. It was not clear in which country RuberaRead More – Source

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Popping the digital filter bubble

Issued on: 21/10/2020 – 10:36

Ever wondered why 2 people can search for the same thing online and ..

Issued on: 21/10/2020 – 10:36

Ever wondered why 2 people can search for the same thing online and get 2 totally different results? The answer is online echo chambers and digital filter bubbles – social media and search engines that skew our access to information and algorithms that artificially promote content they think should suit us. Those invisible chains shrink our freedom to learn and be confronted with new ideas. Want to break free? France 24 can help you pop the filter bubbles around you!

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Social networks have revolutionised how we access information. In France, over a quarter of people get their news from social networks – second only to television. And for young people, the change is even more drastic: 47% of the under-35s say their primary source of information is social media (Ifop, 2019). And we’re not just passive consumers of information online now – everyone can also generate content, leading to a vast quantity of news and views online.

Sifting through that ever-growing mountain of information forces search engines and social media to use algorithms – to sort the wheat they think will interest us, from the chaff they assume won’t. For Jérôme Duberry of the University of Geneva, it’s a simple calculation: “if a web-user has a given profile, then they will be fed information of a certain type”. Posts that seem to appear at random on our Twitter or Facebook timelines are in fact carefully chosen according to what the platform already knows about us – interests, friends, “likes”. Highlighting content that is tailored specifically to our interests filters out topics from outside our comfort zone – reinforcing our beliefs.

Online rights are human rights

But social networks are only one aspect of the digital echo chambers. Search engines are also key – once again due to their reliance on algorithms. Google’s search results are generated from our own online history, mixed with that of thousands of other users. The goal for the search engine is to maximise user engagement by finding results that are most likely to prompt interest (and sales) from the user – and so generate advertising revenue.

For Jérôme Duberry, those gatekeepers limit our access to knowledge: “it’s as if there was someone standing in front of the university library, who asks you a bunch of questions about who you are, and only then gives you access to a limited number of books. And you never get the chance to see all the books on offer, and you never know the criteria for those limits.”

The consequences of these so-called Filter Bubbles are far-reaching. For Tristan Mendès France, specialist in Digital Cultures at the University of Paris, “being informed via social networks means an internet user is in a closed-circuit of information”.

Blinkered online views, democratic bad news

For many academics, those echo chambers could threaten the health of our democracies, suggesting the algorithms could contribute to the polarisation of society. By limiting our access to views similar to our own and excluding contradictory opinions, our beliefs may be reinforced – but at the expense of a diversity of opinions.

And that could undermine the very basis of our democracies. For Jerôme Duberry, the Filter Bubbles “could lead to us questioning the value of a vote. Today, we lend a great deal of importance to the vote, which is the extension of a person’s opinion. But that individual’s opinion is targeted by interest groups using an impressive array of techniques.”

That isn’t the only distortion that algorithms have created. They have also allowed more radical views to predominate. Youtube’s algorithm is blind to the actual content of a video – its choice of what will be most visible is made according to which videos are viewed all the way to the end. But for Tristan Mendès France, “it is generally the most activist or militant internet users that view videos all the way through”. That provokes “extra-visibility” for otherwise marginal content – at the expense of more nuanced or balanced views, or indeed verified information.

Escaping the echo chamber

So what happens to the spirit of debate in a world where your online habits reinforce your beliefs? Is the echo chamber a philosophical prison? And how easy is it to get back out into the fresh air of contradictory views?

In the US, the movement opposing algRead More – Source

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‘Well, this is Iceland’: Earthquake interrupts Prime Minister’s interview

Katrin Jakobsdottir was discussing the impact of the pandemic on tourism with the Washington Post wh..

Katrin Jakobsdottir was discussing the impact of the pandemic on tourism with the Washington Post when her house started to shake, visibly startling the Icelandic leader."Oh my god, there's an earthquake," she said with a gasp. "Sorry, there was an earthquake right now. Wow."But Jakobsdottir quickly pivoted back to the matter at hand, laughing: "Well this is Iceland" and continuing her response to the question."Yes I'm perfectly fine, the house is still strong, so no worries," she later added.Jakobsdottir, 44, has been Iceland's Prime Minister since 2017.The 5.6 magnitude earthquake struck on Tuesday afternoon 10 kilometers southwest of Hafnarfjordur, a coastal town near the capital of Reykjavík, according to the United States Geological Survey, which measures quakes worldwide.The tremble led to reports of damage around the capital. Earthquakes are common in Iceland, which boats a sweeping landscape dotted with dozens of volcanoes. Jakobsdottir isn't the first world leader to be interrupted by a quake this year; in May, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was discussing lifting coronavirus restrictions

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