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Yoshihide Suga named Japan’s prime minister, succeeding Abe



A farmer’s son, Suga has promised to serve the interests of ordinary people

Japan’s Parliament elected Yoshihide Suga as prime minister Wednesday, replacing long-serving leader Shinzo Abe with his right-hand man.

Suga had been chosen as leader of the ruling party on Monday, virtually assuring he would succeed Abe, who resigned earlier in the day because of ill health. Suga, who was chief Cabinet secretary in Abe’s government, is to launch his own Cabinet later Wednesday.

Suga has stressed his background as a farmer’s son and a self-made politician in promising to serve the interests of ordinary people and rural communities.

He has said he will pursue Abe’s unfinished policies, and that his top priorities will be fighting the coronavirus and turning around an economy battered by the pandemic.

Abe said before the change was official that as a lawmaker, he will support Suga’s government and he thanked the people for their understanding and strong support for the upcoming leadership under Suga.

“I devoted my body and soul for the economic recovery and diplomacy to protect Japan’s national interest every single day since we returned to power,” Abe told reporters at the prime minister’s office before heading into his final Cabinet meeting. “During this time, I was able to tackle various challenges together with the people, and I’m proud of myself.”

Suga gained the support of party heavyweights and their followers early in the campaign on expectations he would continue Abe’s line.

Suga has been a loyal supporter of Abe since Abe’s first stint as prime minister from 2006 to 2007. Abe’s tenure ended abruptly because of illness, and Suga helped him return as prime minister in 2012.

Abe, 65, has ulcerative colitis and his current treatment requires IV injections. He said last month his condition has improved but, facing ongoing treatment and physical weakness, he decided to resign.

Suga has praised Abe’s diplomacy and economic policies when asked about what he would like to accomplish as prime minister.

Suga, who does not belong to any wing within the party and opposes factionalism, says he is a reformer who will break down vested interests and rules that hamper reforms. He says he will set up a new government agency to speed up Japan’s lagging digital transformation.

In a reshuffle of the ruling party key posts, however, Suga evenly allocated top posts to key factions, a balancing act seen as a return of favour for their support in the leadership race.

Diplomatic skills unknown

Suga said he will appoint “reform-minded, hard-working people” to the new Cabinet. About half of the members in the Abe Cabinet are expected to be retained or shifted to different ministerial posts.

Media reports say some key ministers, including Finance Minister Taro Aso, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto, and Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, the son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, will stay. Abe’s younger brother, Nobuo Kishi, is reportedly tapped as defense minister, replacing Taro Kono who is expected be shifted to administrative reforms minister.

Compared to his political prowess at home, Suga has hardly travelled overseas and his diplomatic skills are unknown, though he is largely expected to pursue Abe’s priorities.

The new prime minister will inherit a range of challenges, including relations with China, which continues its assertive actions in the contested East China Sea, and what to do with the Tokyo Olympics, which were postponed to next summer due to the coronavirus. And he will have to establish a good relationship with whomever wins the U.S. presidential race.


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Greenland is losing ice faster this century than any previous one in last 12,000 years, says study




Researchers say findings reaffirm need for humans to curb greenhouse gas emissions

Humans have to slow down greenhouse gas emissions if they want to curb Greenland’s ice loss, a new study has found.

The research, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, says the rate of the ice loss in Greenland this century will likely outpace that of any other century over the past 12,000 years.

The largest pre-industrial rates of mass loss — up to 6,000 billion tonnes per century — occurred in the early Holocene epoch, according to the study, and it’s about equivalent to the rate of modern day ice loss this century, which is around 6,100 billion tonnes per century.

The ice loss could result in mass amounts of fresh water pouring into the oceans, which can disrupt sea currents.

Though the Arctic has seen natural dips over the centuries, this ice loss is unusual because it can be attributed largely to human activity, says the lead author of the study, Jason Briner. He’s a professor of geology in the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences.

“The reason for this dramatic ice loss this century is all the warmth in the Arctic, which is warming a lot faster than the globe on average. And that seems to be the case because of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere,” Briner said.

The study was a collaborative effort by climate modellers, ice core scientists, remote sensing experts and paleoclimate researchers at various institutions.

A team of geologists reconstructed the size of the Greenland ice sheet in the past, while another studied the climate history of Greenland, including its temperature and precipitation history. A third team used computers to simulate how the Greenland ice sheet evolves through time.

Together, the researchers were able to build a unique simulation of the changes to the southwestern sector of the Greenland ice sheet from the beginning of the Holocene epoch thousands of years ago. It also looked forward 80 years to the year 2100.

Briner says while it was mainly agreed that Greenland is entering a time of extreme change and dramatic ice loss, what motivated the study was the lack of historical context.

“Our entire community of ice sheet scientists and paleoclimatologists didn’t have a longer-term context for that rate of ice loss,” Briner said.

The study was largely funded by the US National Science Foundation.

Study consistent with previous findings

While the study’s projections only go to 2100, Briner says all evidence available tells us that unless there’s a concerted effort to suck carbon out of the atmosphere, and humans do better with carbon emissions, there will be “a lot of warming that’s going to take place this century.”

There have been several studies of recent ice loss that line up with the research.

A study published in April 2019 showed that Earth’s glaciers are losing 335 billion tonnes of snow and ice each year and in August 2019, Greenland recorded the most ice melt, about 11.3 billion tonnes, in a single day since recording began in the 1950s.

A more recent study published in late August showed that Greenland lost a record amount of ice during 2019 — the melt was massive enough to cover California in more than 1.25 metres of water.

Briner calls the findings of his team’s study a wake-up call, especially for countries like the United States, where Americans use more energy per person than people in any other nation in the world. 

There is some hope, according to Briner.

He says if humans can achieve net zero carbon by 2100, then the Greenland ice sheet’s rate of mass loss could be “quite low.”

“So our action now is certainly going to affect the rate of ice mass loss from Greenland,” Briner said.

Martin Sharp, a glaciologist who was not a researcher in this study, says while the research adds breadth to the range of possible scenarios, the findings are consistent with similar research. 

Sharp is a professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences University Campus at the University of Alberta. He says whether the world will get to net-zero carbon by the end of the century comes down to politics.

“Do I have any faith that the global leadership will do anything that will lessen the risk of what [the researchers] are proposing? No, I don’t,” Sharp said, adding it’s possible that could change with different leaders.

Sharp says it’s important to focus on the “fundamental point,” which is that a significant amount of warming and sea level rise over the next century can be expected. 

“It would be a good idea to start preparing ourselves for those realities and how they will change the way we have to behave as a society.”


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Kremlin critic Navalny tells magazine ‘Putin was behind the attack’




Russian politician spent 32 days in hospital after poisoning

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is recovering in Germany after being poisoned in Russia by a nerve agent, accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of being behind the attack in comments released Thursday.

Navalny’s supporters have frequently maintained that such an attack could have only been ordered at the top levels, though the Kremlin has steadfastly denied any involvement in it.

Navalny, a politician and corruption investigator who is Putin’s fiercest critic, was flown to Germany two days after falling ill on Aug. 20 on a domestic flight in Russia.

He spent 32 days in the hospital, 24 of them in intensive care, before doctors deemed his condition had improved sufficiently for him to be discharged.

He has posted frequent comments online as his recovery has progressed, but in his first interview since the attack, he told Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine that in his mind, “Putin was behind the attack,” in a German translation of his comments.

“I don’t have any other versions of how the crime was committed,” he said in a brief excerpt of the interview conducted in Berlin on Wednesday and to be released in full online later Thursday.

Navalny spent those two days in a coma in a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk, where Russian doctors said they found no trace of any poisoning, before being transported to Berlin for treatment. German chemical weapons experts determined that he was poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok — findings corroborated by labs in France and Sweden.

The nerve agent used in the attack was the same class of poison that Britain said was used on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England, in 2018. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the poisoning an attempted murder and she and other world leaders have demanded that Russia fully investigate the case.

Russia has bristled at the demands for an investigation, saying that Germany needs to share medical data in the case or compare notes with Russian doctors. Germany has noted that Russian doctors have their own samples from Navalny since he was in their care for 48 hours.

Germany has also enlisted the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for technical assistance. The agency has collected independent samples from Navalny for testing, but results haven’t yet been announced.

German doctors have said Navalny could make a full recovery, though haven’t ruled out the possibility of long-term damage from the nerve agent.

Spiegel said Navalny was joking and alert in the interview with them, though his hands shook so much it was difficult for him to drink from a bottle of water. He also reiterated what his team has previously said — that he planned on returning to Russia when he was able.

“My job now is to remain the guy who isn’t scared,” he was quoted as saying. “And I’m not scared.”


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1st in Europe to be devastated by COVID-19, Italy redoubled its efforts, and they’re now paying off




!b kind: post labels: Z-Cbc, News, World, World News, Global News categories: Z-Cbc, News, World, World News, Global News title: 1st in Europe to be devastated by COVID-19, Italy redoubled its efforts, and they’re now paying off

Cases on rise, but much lower than neighbours due to long lockdown, gradual easing

When engineering student Sara Del Giudice returned home to Naples in late August from a short vacation with her boyfriend, instead of embracing her siblings and parents, she shut herself in her room.

“We’re a close family that hugs and kisses all the time, but I had a slight headache, a cough and achiness, and I just thought, better safe than sorry,” said Del Giudice, 23.

Several days later, she and her boyfriend tested positive for COVID-19. Despite both having negative antibody tests before their holiday on the island of Ischia, in the Gulf of Naples, her boyfriend was coming from Sardinia, where clusters of partying young people spread the virus with alacrity.

“Even though I thought was being cautious. I was too casual,” she said. “I should have known better.”

While Del Giudice is one of thousands of young Europeans who caught the novel coronavirus this summer, Italy has been far more successful than its neighbours at keeping them from passing it on.

As daily infections have recently flared as high as 12,000 in Spain and 16,000 in France, those countries have had to renew restrictions and urban lockdowns.

A surge in COVID-19 cases across Europe has prompted many countries to start cracking down again, with restrictions ranging from local lockdowns to limits on social gatherings. More are likely in the days ahead. 2:02

But Italy, the first European country to be devastated by COVID-19 with almost 35,875 deaths, now has among the lowest infection and death rates in Europe. An average of 1,700 people a day tested positive in the past week, up from low hundreds in July, though they’re much lower than in other countries.

Britain registered its biggest jump in daily infection rates on Tuesday, less than a week after Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended the soaring rates compared with those of Italy and Germany by saying people in his country find rules hard to follow because they love freedom more.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella responded, “We Italians also love freedom. But we know how to be serious, too.”

“Italy is doing well because we have implemented very strict rules, and we did so early,” said the country’s deputy health minister, Pierpaolo Sileri. “The situation today is a sum result of the quick and relatively long lockdown but also the gradual easing that allowed us to adjust protocols as we went along.”

Airport gets top marks for hygiene

Unlike many countries, which appear to be taken off guard by flare-ups or second waves, Italy — after the trauma of coffins carried away by military trucks and people dying in hospital without funerals in late winter — got prepared.

From March to mid-August, the country almost doubled the number of ICU beds in hospitals from 5,400 to 10,000, Sileri said. It also increased the number of infectious and respiratory beds by up to eightfold and hired some 20,000 new doctors and nurses.

In late August, when young vacationers like Del Giudice were returning home infected from hot-spot areas such as Greece, Spain and Sardinia, screening was introduced at airports. (This month, Rome’s Fiumicino airport was the first airport in the world to receive a five-star top score by ranking site Skytrax as a result of hygiene and other preventative measures ranging from face-mask enforcement to enhanced terminal airflow and filtering.)

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte used emergency powers to shut down discos and made face masks mandatory, even outdoors, in places where people gather from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Last week, the larger-than-life president of the southern region of Campania, Vincenzo De Luca, went a step further and made masks obligatory outdoors at all times.

De Luca became a social media star for his cartoonish threats toward anyone breaking the rules, promising those planning illegal parties that he would “send in the police accompanied by flamethrowers.” While over the top, he was part of a strong, coherent message from government leaders.

Testing and tracing key to success

Especially important to Italy’s success, experts say, has been its testing and tracing system, where everyone within the social network of an infected person gets tested, whether or not they’ve been exposed, which has uncovered thousands of asymptomatic cases. Most of the testing is carried out through local community health centres with mobile units and home tests.

“Our experience in the first months of the epidemic [has taught us] to take people away from the hospitals for the diagnosis,” said Giuseppe Ippolito, scientific director of the Lazzaro Spallanzani Hospital in Rome. “We need to be vigilant to avoid a future increase.”

He said such measures at schools as the widespread testing of teachers, daily temperature checks and mask-wearing by students while not at their desks are already showing signs of being effective.

And when backlogs and bureaucracy get in the way, creative solutions are often found.

When it became clear that single desks on wheels, ordered by the government, were not going to arrive in time for the start of the school year, teachers and students at the Alfonso Casanova Technical School in Naples pulled together in late summer and fashioned single desks out of the student tables.

At Alfonso Casanova Technical School, students and teachers fashion new single desks out of tables to allow for physical distancing in the classroom. 0:48

There is still room for improvement in the country: Only six million of Italy’s almost 60 million inhabitants have downloaded its contact-tracing app Immuni, launched at the start of the summer.

“People were worried about privacy, which badly affected adherence,” Sileri said. “But if more Italians downloaded it, it would resolve our contact-tracing problem.”

He said test results need to be faster as winter approaches and colds and the flu season pick up. Right now, those who have been in close contact with an infected person must self-isolate for 14 days, but Sileri said he’d like that reduced to one week if they test negative.

Italy requires second negative test 

The government will also consider eliminating the now-required second negative test before infected people can leave quarantine, he said, although it will depend on the results of research.

Sara Del Giudice said she wishes she could have done without the required second negative result. She ended up having to spend more than 30 days in quarantine, the hardest experience of her life.

“I thought it would be like the first lockdown, but they were night and day,” she said. “The first lockdown with my family was fine, we almost enjoyed it. The second one on my own, where I couldn’t see or touch anyone for a month, was brutal.”

Yet Giuseppe Ippolito sees some of the changes brought by the coronavirus as positive.

“We will have less respiratory infections this winter,” he said, as a result of Italy’s widespread adherence to mask-wearing and physical distancing. “We have a new appreciation for human relations. This is all a real added value for the future.”

Ippolito said the country’s experience with COVID-19 has also provided a pleasantly surprising re-evaluation of Italians’ reputation for being, shall we say, culturally challenged when it comes to following rules.

“We are world leaders in food and wine. We have a wonderful sea and historical sites,” he said, adding that with the country’s newly discovered ability to follow strict protocols, “we can add another star in our carnet.”


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James Comey defends Russia investigation, shares concerns about Trump, Barr




Republicans seize on surveillance warrant errors, which Comey calls a ‘slice’ of the overall probe

Former FBI Director James Comey on Wednesday defended the bureau’s probe of links between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign against attacks by Republican senators over the secret monitoring of a former campaign aide, and expressed puzzlement over certain statements made by the president and U.S. Attorney General William Barr.

The Senate judiciary committee hearing produced no new disclosures about the FBI investigation, and Democrats accused majority Republicans of politicizing the issue while failing to examine alleged Russian interference in this year’s presidential election.

Senate Republicans say the FBI probe of Trump’s campaign, later handed off to special counsel Robert Mueller, was intended to undermine Trump’s candidacy and presidency, and the panel has been examining the roots of the investigation, known as “Crossfire Hurricane.”

A Justice Department inspector general report did not find evidence of partisan bias and concluded that the investigation was opened for a legitimate reason, but Republican lawmakers have seized on those errors to cast broader doubt on the Russia investigation overall.

Committee chair Sen. Lindsey Graham and other Republicans sought to pin some responsibility on Comey for the errors found in FBI applications for secret court warrants to monitor the communications of Carter Page, who briefly served as a 2016 Trump campaign advisor.

“To me this is a stunning failure of the system to work,” said Graham, a staunch Trump supporter, who took Comey to task for being “completely clueless” about mistakes made in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants.

Comey said he accepted responsibility for certifying those warrants given what he said was sloppiness, but it said was one aspect of entire body of investigative work.

“The overall investigation was very important,” said Comey. “The Page slice of it? Much less so.”

Comey said the FISA problems were likely the problem of a process that had grown too diffuse, with information falling through the crack and communication gaps resulting.

Flynn being treated differently: Comey

He defended the FBI’s decision to launch the counterintelligence investigation into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. Among other reasons, he noted that former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was working with a man that U.S. officials deemed a Russian intelligence agent, as detailed in a recent Republican-led Senate report.

Comey expressed concern that Barr — who has taken criticism from Democrats and Mueller himself for his comments downplaying the special counsel’s findings — has questioned the predicate of investigating the ties between Russia and Trump associates.

“The notion that the attorney general believes that was an illegitimate endeavour to investigate mystifies me,” he said.

Comey also questioned the decision of Barr’s Justice Department to seek a dismissal of charges against Michael Flynn, despite the fact that Trump’s former national security adviser pleaded guilty on two occasions to lying to the FBI before changing his legal team and withdrawing his plea.

A judge is considering the Justice Department’s request and heard on Tuesday that Flynn’s attorney discussed the case with Trump, a breach of norms.

“It’s deeply concerning because this guy is getting treated in a way that nobody’s been treated before,” Comey said of the Flynn case.

Comey was fired by Trump in May 2017. Republicans have joined Trump in heaping scorn on Comey, but Democrats haven’t embraced him either, angered by his public statements made during the Hillary Clinton email case that they believe contributed to her loss. The saga of the FBI’s role in the 2016 election is the subject of this week’s Showtime miniseries, The Comey Rule.

Writer and director Billy Ray has a new two-part miniseries adapted from the memoir of former FBI director James Comey. It’s called The Comey Rule and the Washington Post described it as “replaying a nightmare while we’re still having it.” Less than two months away from the 2020 U.S. election, Ray joined Tom Power to talk about the making of the miniseries, which debuts on Showtime on Sept. 27. 16:20

Comey, in questioning from Democrats over a recent report from the New York Times over the state of Trump’s finances, said significant debt could lead to foreign entities having leverage over the president.

Comey said Trump hasn’t assuaged those concerns.

“I don’t know whether the Russians have something over President Trump, but it’s difficult to explain his conduct, his statements in any other way. Especially his refusal to criticize Vladimir Putin, even in public.

Former FBI director James Comey reflects on the decision to reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. 1:29

Democrats lamented the backward-looking nature of the hearing on Wednesday, seeking to make the case that the Russia investigation was valid and that the committee’s time could be better spent on other matters.

“Most people think we should be talking about other things, except maybe President Trump,” said Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, while Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont described the hearing as a “political errand” for the president.

Newly released intelligence questioned

For their part, several Republicans cited the case of a former FBI lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, who pleaded guilty in August to doctoring a CIA email submitted with an application so that it said that Page was not an agency source, when in fact, he was.

“I know nothing about Mr. Clinesmith other than what I’ve read,” Comey said.

Republicans also seized on information that national intelligence director John Ratcliffe, a former Texas congressman and Trump loyalist, just declassified even though he said he does not know if it is true. In a letter to Graham, Ratcliffe said that in late July 2016, U.S. intelligence agencies obtained “insight” into Russian spycraft alleging that Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, had “approved a campaign plan to stir up a scandal against” Trump.

But Ratcliffe added that American intelligence agencies do “not know the accuracy of this allegation or the extent to which the Russian intelligence analysis may reflect exaggeration or fabrication.”

Comey said the information did not “ring any bells” with him from his time leading the FBI.

“I’ve read Mr. Ratcliffe’s letter, which frankly I have trouble understanding,” he said.

The Mueller investigation found that Russia sought to interfere in the 2016 election to boost Trump’s candidacy but did not establish a criminal conspiracy despite Trump team contacts with assorted Russian invidivuals.

Mueller examined multiple episodes in which Trump sought to stymie the Russia investigation. In his lone appearance giving testimony on Capitol Hill, Mueller said he believed there was enough evidence to charge Trump with obstruction had he not been president.

The Senate panel led by Graham has already heard from Rod Rosenstein and Sally Yates, both former deputy attorneys general, and has scheduled testimony next week from ex-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who led the agency for a time after Trump fired Comey.


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Canadian security firm Garda goes hostile in $5.2B bid for British company G4S




Company approached G4S board privately a few weeks ago but was rebuffed

Garda World Security Corp. is making a hostile play for G4S after the British security company spurred its $5.2 billion US offer two weeks ago.

The Montreal-based company appealed directly to G4S shareholders by criticizing the firm’s directors and accusing them of acting in a “cavalier manner” by rejecting several approaches in recent months.

GardaWorld founder, president and CEO Stephane Cretier says that G4S faces profound difficulties and needs an owner and operator that understands the industry and has a well-defined plan.

The reputation of the GS4 has been damaged in recent years, especially for the lack of agents during the 2012 London Olympics to assure security.

Through its subsidiary Fleming Capital Securities, GardaWorld offered 190 pence for each share of the British company. On the London Stock Exchange, G4S shares gained 5.9 per cent at 200.30 pence in Wednesday trading.

GardaWorld unveiled the terms of its proposal on Sept. 14 in an attempt to force the hand of the British company, which has described the move as “highly opportunistic.”


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Ukraine police investigating death of U.S. Embassy employee




The unidentified woman was found unconscious near railway tracks in a Kyiv park and later died in hospital

Ukrainian authorities are investigating the death of an employee of the U.S. embassy in Kyiv who was found by railway tracks in a park on Wednesday, and are searching for a man suspected of assaulting her.

Police said the woman was found unconscious with a head injury by a passerby outside the city centre. She was wearing running gear and headphones. The woman was taken to hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries.

Police are looking for a dark-haired man between the ages of 30 to 40, dressed in dark shorts and a T-shirt. They have opened a murder investigation, but have not yet ruled out that the woman’s death was accidental.

“The unconscious woman was admitted to a hospital where she subsequently died. During the examination of the victim’s belongings, an identity card of an employee of the U.S. Embassy in her name was found,” the police said on Facebook.

The U.S. embassy was not immediately available for comment. The Ukrainian foreign ministry had no immediate comment.

“May be a crime,” Interior Ministry spokesperson Artem Shevchenko tweeted in English. “But may be an accident too. Body was found on railway in earphones during the jogging.”


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Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga can be sent to UN tribunal, French court rules




Kabuga was arrested in Paris in May, ending two-decade manhunt

Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga can be handed over to a United Nations tribunal in Tanzania, France’s top civil court ruled on Wednesday, dismissing his lawyers’ arguments that he is too frail to be extradited.

UN prosecutors accuse the former tea and coffee tycoon of bankrolling and importing huge numbers of machetes for ethnic Hutu militias who killed hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda during a 100-day period in 1994.

Kabuga’s arrest in Paris in May ended a manhunt lasting more than two decades. He has denounced the charges, including genocide and incitement to commit genocide, as “lies.”

His lawyers said that at 87 he was too frail to be transferred abroad, especially during a dangerous coronavirus pandemic. The French courts list his age as 84.

Kabuga’s legal team also argued that French law violated the constitution by failing to allow for a thorough examination of international arrest warrants.

In a statement, France’s Cour de Cassation said it “considers that the investigating chamber was able to consider correctly that there was no legal or medical obstacle to the execution of the arrest warrant transfer order to the United Nations detention centre in Arusha, Tanzania.”

France has one month to carry out the ruling, an official in the French judiciary said.

Until his arrest, Kabuga had been the most high-profile fugitive still sought by the UN tribunal in Arusha formerly known as the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The ICTR was closed in 2015, but a successor body still operates in Tanzania and in the Netherlands.

Sources at the tribunal said whether Kabuga was sent first to The Hague or to Arusha would depend in part on the pandemic.

Tanzania’s president has said the COVID-19 outbreak is over and almost all restrictions have been lifted. The country has reported just 21 deaths, substantially lower than its neighbours, but has been criticized by the World Health Organization (WHO) for not sharing enough data.

The Hague is an infection hot spot where more restrictions were imposed this week.


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NYC voters receive absentee ballots with wrong address, names on return envelopes




Unclear how many people received the wrong envelope

Mail-in voting has gotten off to a rocky start in New York City, where election officials sent out a large number of absentee ballots with the wrong names and addresses on the return envelopes.

The faulty ballots were sent to an unknown number of voters in Brooklyn, N.Y., and could result in ballots being voided if voters sign their own name on return envelopes bearing different names. More than 140,000 ballots have already been sent out so far across the borough, and it is unclear how many people got the wrong envelopes.

The New York City Board of Elections blamed the problem on the Rochester, N.Y.-based vendor hired to print and mail the ballots for voters in Brooklyn and Queens.

The faulty ballots are limited to just “one print run” sent to Brooklyn voters, the board’s director Michael Ryan said at a Tuesday board meeting. He didn’t say how many ballots were printed in that run, but said the vendor said the error “has been caught and corrected moving forward.”

All voters potentially impacted by the error will receive new reprinted ballots and envelopes before the Nov. 3 election from the vendor — which will cover the cost, Ryan said.

He said the move will “make certain that absolutely no disenfranchisement occurs in the borough of Brooklyn.”

It’s a mess. It’s an absolute mess.– Brooklyn resident Marla Garfield

But it’s unclear exactly how the city will handle voters who had already mailed their completed ballot back in the provided envelopes.

Ryan said elections workers will reach out to voters by social media and, if available, by telephone and email addresses. And he said the board will ensure all received ballots are “appropriately processed” and tallied votes are “properly credited” to voters.

“It is essential that confidence be established on this process and that we make certain we have all the voters who potentially have a problem have a full and fair opportunity to remedy that problem,” Ryan said.

Meanwhile, the city elections board was also dealing with confusion regarding another printing anomaly on absentee ballots.

Absentee ballots in the city are sent out with a heading: Official Absentee / Military Ballot. This year, the slash between “absentee” and “military” was left out, leading some voters to believe they had mistakenly been mailed a ballot for use only by members of the military.

The board tweeted that the ballot was still good for use by any registered voter.

Not ‘smooth, stable, secure’

The city’s Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said the city’s board of elections has again failed to ensure a “smooth, stable, secure election” and called for an investigation and possibly replacement of the vendor. 

Marla Garfield, a 46-year-old editor who lives in Park Slope in Brooklyn, said she received a ballot envelope with another person’s name and a ballot labelled “Absentee Military.”

Garfield said she’s “furious” about the errors, is voting in-person instead. She said she’s worried the confusion will fuel distrust in mail-in-voting and opposition from Republicans over November election results.

“It’s a mess. It’s an absolute mess,” she said.

In Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay section, 28-year-old Victoria Edel, said her family of four was excited to open up their ballots to vote by mail. They had requested them online Aug. 22.

Then, they discovered she had received her younger brother’s ballot envelope. Her younger brother had her mother’s. Her mother had the envelope of a woman who appears to live nearby. She said she’s worried about people who don’t watch the news and perhaps are still sending back ballots in wrong envelopes.

“It feels like it’s really easy for a lot of people to be disenfranchised this way,” Edel said. She’s hopeful she’ll get her correct envelope eventually.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, more than 400,000 New York City residents voted by absentee ballot, a figure that was 10 times the number of absentee ballots cast in the 2016 primary. 

Extension granted for counting absentee ballots 

Meanwhile in Wisconsin, a federal appeals court upheld a six-day extension on Tuesday for counting absentee ballots for the presidential election, handing Democrats a victory in their fight to deliver the key battleground state for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in November.

The decision, if stands, means that ballots postmarked on or before Nov. 3 will be counted as long as they are received by Nov. 9. That could mean the winner in Wisconsin won’t be known for days after the polls close.

Republicans are likely to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The decision came just two days after the appeals court put the lower court’s ruling granting the extension on hold. The appeals court vacated that ruling, saying Republicans who sued did not have standing. The court gave Republicans one week to argue why the case should not be dismissed.

The Republican National Committee, the state Republican Party and Wisconsin Republican legislators argued against the deadline extension.

Absentee ballots are normally due in local clerks’ offices by 8 p.m. on election day to count, but the Democratic National Committee, the state Democratic Party and allied groups, including the League of Women Voters, sued to extend the deadline after the April presidential primary saw long lines, fewer polling places, a shortage of workers and thousands of ballots mailed days after the election.

U.S. District Judge William Conley ruled Sept. 21 that ballots that arrive up to six days after election day will count as long as they’re postmarked by election day.

State election officials anticipate as many as two million people will cast absentee ballots to avoid catching the coronavirus at the polls. That would be three times more absentee ballots than any other previous election and could overwhelm both election officials and the postal service, Conley wrote. 

As of Tuesday, more nearly 1.2 million absentee ballots had been required and more than 308,000 had been returned. Republicans argued on appeal that the current absentee voting rules be left in place, saying people have plenty of time to obtain and return their ballots.

Conley also extended the state’s deadline for registering by mail or electronically by seven days, from Oct. 14 to Oct. 21 and declared that poll workers can work in any county, not just where they live. Clerks have reported fears of the virus caused shortages of poll workers in both Wisconsin’s spring presidential primary and state primary in August. Loosening the residency requirements could make it easier to fill slots.


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