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Iran ambassador to Sanaa is the new ‘Khamenei’ in Yemen: Former Houthi official

Tehran’s new ambassador to Sanaa’s government in Yemen works directly under Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and has a long history of bribing members of the Houthi group giving him leverage to act as a supreme leader in Yemen, a former Houthi politburo official said on Saturday.

Iran has for years backed the Shia Houthi movement in Yemen, supplying them with money and arms. It also champions the Houthis as part of its regional “axis of resistance”, and the movement has adopted elements of Tehran’s revolutionary ideology.

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Ali al-Bukhaiti, an ex-Houthi minister of information currently living in exile in London, detailed how he met the new Iranian ambassador Hassan Eyrlo in Lebanon, and how they traveled from Beirut to Qatar and then to Tehran.

“He arranged for a tour of the Khomeini mausoleum, Khomeini’s house and other places. He also took me to Khamenei’s house where I performed group Friday prayers led by Khamenei himself,” Bukhaiti said in a thread of tweets.

Bukhaiti said that Eyrlo is in charge of the “Yemen file” in Iran and that his code name is “Abu Hassan.”

The former Houthi official said Eyrlo worked directly with Khamenei’s office, and despite being an ambassador, he “had no ties whatsoever to the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was not among its diplomatic ranks.”

Bukhaiti added that Eyrlo was also a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), but he did not know his rank or the positions he held.

“The appointment of Eyrlo as an ambassador to Sanaa’s government run by Houthis has dangerous implications given his relationships with most of the Houthi leaders,” Bukhaiti said.

“He used to host them [Houthi leaders] and give them amounts of money in Beirut and Iran… He has an influence over them given that he saved them from hunger and poverty.”

Bukhaiti also claims that some Houthi members used to get extra allowances from Eyrlo behind the back of Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi. Bukhaiti adds that some members fear they were videotaped receiving those amounts of money.

“His appointment is a smart Iranian move, allowing Tehran to have a strong controlling hand inside Yemen. It’s a hand that gave senior Houthi leaders hundreds of thousands of dollars when they could not find thousands of Yemeni riyals which had little value. It’s a hand that took them to hotels in Tehran and Beirut and onboard Qatar Airways, when all they knew were the mountains, cliffs, and donkeys of Saada,” Bukhaiti said.

Bukhaiti added: “Eyrlo’s appointment as ambassador is just cover for the real role he will play in Yemen. He is, in fact, the vali-ye faqih, the Imam Ali Khamenei in Yemen, and you can picture what a pivotal role he is entrusted with.”

Read more:

Iran posts ambassador in Houthi-held Yemeni capital

Houthis say want to strengthen relations with ally Iran

Yemen’s Houthis making more lethal drones with Iranian components: Report

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Last Update: Saturday, 31 October 2020 KSA 22:59 – GMT 19:59

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Pakistan issues new air travel advisory

Islamabad reduces the number of countries from where passengers will be allowed to enter without a coronavirus test

Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) issued a new travel advisory, under which it has reduced the number of countries from where passengers will be allowed to enter without a coronavirus test.

The latest travel advisory issued on Friday, which will be valid from November 6 till December 31, divides international travellers into two categories, Geo News channel reported.

Passengers under category A will not need a negative Covid-19 test, while those in category B will be required to undergo coronavirus screening 96 hours prior to boarding a flight to Pakistan.

Amid the recent resurgences in several countries, the nations under in category A has been reduced from 30 to 22.

These include Singapore, China, Cuba, Estonia, Japan, Ghana, Norway, Turkey, Vietnam, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, and Sri Lanka.

The new advisory requires airlines to ensure the coronavirus protocols are followed and has made it mandatory for passengers to fill out the health declaration form.

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Coronavirus: Record COVID-19 hospitalizations in 14 European countries, reports AFP

The number of coronavirus related hospitalizations hit record numbers in at least 14 European countries this week, as the second wave of the pandemic hits, according to AFP data compiled from official figures.

The worst-hit countries have been the Czech Republic, with 62 virus-related hospital patients per 100,000 residents, followed by Romania on 57, Belgium on 51 and Poland, 39.

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

The figures are based on hospital figures provided by 35 of the 52 European nations, including most of the EU nations.

In total, 135,000 COVID-19 patients are currently being treated in hospitals throughout those 35 nations, compared to less than 100,000 a week earlier.

The countries with the biggest registered increase were Serbia, with hospitalizations up 97 percent, Belgium up 81 percent, Austria up 69 percent and Italy up 65 percent.

Only Montenegro saw numbers drop, after a previous spike.

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Read more:

Coronavirus: Greek PM declares partial COVID-19 lockdown

Coronavirus: France reports 545 COVID-19 deaths in biggest toll since April 20

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Last Update: Saturday, 31 October 2020 KSA 21:53 – GMT 18:53

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Global Village breaks first of 25 Guinness World Records titles as part of Silver Jubilee celebrations

DUBAI, 31st October, 2020 (WAM) — Global Village, the UAE and wider region's leading multicultural family destination for culture, shopping, and entertainment, broke a new Guinness World Records title for the Most videos in a music medley video during last night’s Global Gig, the biggest virtual rock concert in history – and aims to break 24 more to honour the Silver Jubilee anniversary. Rockin'1000, the largest rock band on earth, brought musicians together from the region and around the world to celebrate the Global Village Silver Jubilee season.
Audiences from across the globe, watching live on Global Village’s YouTube channel, joined guests in attendance for this incredible musical spectacular.
In an evening full of surprises, pop group phenomenon Now United wowed Global Village Guests with a live performance of Come Together.
12 members of this talented group have flown in from 12 different countries and performed with their newest member, Nour, from Lebanon. This exciting surprise addition to the evening, underlines the Dubai "open for business" message.
"We are delighted to have broken this, our first Guinness World Records title of the season" said Jaki Ellenby, Executive Director of Marketing and Events, Global Village. "This is only the beginning for us as we embark on a 25-week journey to break 25 records. This year we promised surprises and bringing together guests and partners to break barriers is just one of the ways we are celebrating this milestone season. Our historic opening concert captivated fans from around the world and united people and cultures through music in the spirit of social inclusion. We are thrilled to have been able to celebrate our opening with people from around the globe and are grateful for the many incredible partners that supported us in this endeavor."
Over the years, Global Village has become known for pushing entertainment boundaries by bringing the world to Dubai and the concert was a unique worldwide community event, transcending social differences and geographical borders.
In partnership with Arabian Radio Network, ARN, Emirates and the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, the concert was streamed on Global Village's Main Stage, with the event live-streaming on Global Village’s YouTube channel to allow people from every country and continent to attend the show.
"It was our pleasure to perform together with our members from around the world and we are grateful for this opportunity to be part of the Global Village Silver Jubilee celebrations," said Fabio Zaffagnini, Founder and General Manager, Rockin'1000. "The experience is one that we will never forget and Global Village will always hold a special place in our hearts as we look forward to visiting in person as soon as we can."
Thousands of performers from over 80 countries offered their talent and message of hope to the world in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to leave their mark on an international stage like no other. Looking ahead, Global Village has its sights set on making more history this season as guests are taken on a unique 25-week adventure full of thrills and excitement.

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US Election: Biden looks to restore, expand Obama administration policies

Stop and reverse. Restore and expand. Joe Biden is promising to take the country on a very different path from what it has seen over the past four years under President Donald Trump, on issues ranging from the coronavirus and health care to the environment, education and more.

The Democratic presidential nominee is promising to reverse Trump policy moves on things such as withdrawing the US from the Paris climate agreement and weakening protections against environmental pollution.

While Trump wants to kill the Affordable Care Act, Biden is proposing to expand “Obamacare” by adding a public option to cover more Americans.

Here’s what we know about what a Biden presidency might look like.

Economy, taxes and the debt

Biden argues that the economy cannot fully recover until COVID-19 is contained. For the long-term recovery, the former vice president is pitching sweeping federal action to avoid an extended recession and to address long-standing wealth inequality that disproportionately affects nonwhite Americans.

He would cover the cost of some of his big ticket environmental and health insurance proposals by rolling back much of the 2017 GOP tax overhaul. He wants a corporate income tax rate of 28 percent — lower than before but higher than now — and broad income and payroll tax increases for individuals with more than $400,000 of annual taxable income. All that would generate an estimated $4 trillion or more over 10 years.

Biden also frames immigration as an economic matter. He wants to expand legal immigration slots and offer a citizenship path for about 11 million people who are in the country illegally but who, Biden notes, are already economic contributors as workers and consumers.

An analysis from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates that Biden’s campaign proposals would increase the national debt by about $5.6 trillion over 10 years. The national debt now stands at more than $20 trillion.

Coronavirus pandemic

Biden draws some of his sharpest contrasts with Trump on the pandemic, arguing that the presidency and federal government exist for such crises. Unlike Trump, he doesn’t believe the leading role in the virus response should belong to state governors, with the federal government in support.

Biden endorses generous federal spending to help businesses and individuals, along with state and local governments, deal with the financial cliffs of the pandemic slowdown. He’s promised aggressive use of the Defense Production Act, the wartime law a president can use to direct manufacture of critical supplies. Trump has used that law on such things as ventilator production.

Read more: Coronavirus: Biden pledges free COVID vaccine for ‘everyone’ in US if elected

Biden promises to elevate the government’s scientists and physicians to communicate a consistent message to the public, and he would have the United States rejoin the World Health Organization.

He has promised to use his transition period before taking office to convene meetings with every governor and ask those leaders to impose what would be a nationwide mask mandate because the federal government doesn’t have that power. Biden says he would go around holdouts by securing such rules from county and local officials — though enforcement of all such orders may be questionable.

Health care

The health care law known as “Obamacare” was a hallmark of the Obama administration, and Biden wants to build on that to provide coverage for all. He would create a “Medicare-like public option” to compete alongside private insurance markets for working-age Americans, while increasing premium subsidies that many people already use. Solid middle-class households would have access to subsidized health insurance.

Biden estimates his plan would cost about $750 billion over 10 years. That positions Biden between Trump, who wants to scrap the 2010 health law, and progressives who want a government-run system to replace private insurance altogether. Biden sees his approach as the next step toward universal coverage and one he could get through Congress.

The Supreme Court, which now has a solid conservative majority, is scheduled to hear a case challenging the law soon after Tuesday’s election. If Biden wins, he would have to deal with the fallout from that eventual decision.

On prescription drugs, Biden supports legislation allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for government programs as well as private payers. He would prohibit drug companies from raising prices faster than inflation for people covered by Medicare and other federal programs. He would also limit the initial prices for “specialty drugs” to treat serious illnesses, using what other countries pay as a yardstick.

Biden would put a limit on annual out-of-pocket drug costs for Medicare enrollees, a change that Trump sought but was unable to get through Congress. Also similar to Trump, Biden would allow importation of prescription drugs, subject to safety checks.

Immigration

Biden has called Trump’s actions on immigration an “unrelenting assault” on American values and says he would “undo the damage” while continuing to maintain border enforcement.

Biden says he would immediately reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which allowed people brought to the US illegally as children to remain as legal residents, and end the restrictions on asylum imposed by Trump.

He also said he would end the Trump administration’s “public charge rule,” which would deny visas or permanent residency to people who use public services such as Medicaid, food stamps or housing vouchers. Biden would support a 100-day freeze on all deportations while his administration studied ways to roll back Trump policies.

But Biden would eventually restore an Obama-era policy of prioritizing the removal of immigrants who have come to the US illegally and who have been convicted of crimes or pose a national security threat, as opposed to all immigrants who have come to the country illegally — Trump’s approach. Biden has said he would halt all funding for construction of new walls along the US-Mexico border.

Read more: US elections: Joe Biden vows to include Muslim-Americans in his administration

Foreign policy and national security

Biden supports a strategy of fighting extremist militants abroad with US special forces and airstrikes instead of planeloads of US troops.

He wants to see the US close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. He has backed some US military interventions, including the 2003 invasion of Iraq that he now says was a mistake, but he leans toward diplomacy and trying to achieve solutions through alliances and global institutions.

He is a strong supporter of NATO. He warns that Moscow is chipping away at the foundation of Western democracy by trying to weaken NATO, divide the European Union and undermine the US electoral system. He also alleges that Russia is using Western financial institutions to launder billions of dollars to use to influence politicians.

Biden calls for increasing the Navy’s presence in the Asia-Pacific and strengthening alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia and Indonesia. He joins Trump in wanting to end the wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, but thinks the US should keep a small force in place to counter terrorism.

He says Trump’s decisions to exit bilateral and international treaties such as the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate accord have led other nations to doubt Washington’s word. Biden wants to invite all democratic nations to a summit to discuss how to fight corruption, thwart authoritarianism and support human rights.

Biden, who claims “ironclad” support for Israel, wants to curb annexation and has backed a two-state solution in the long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. He says he would keep the US Embassy in Jerusalem after Trump moved it from Tel Aviv.

Biden criticizes Trump’s diplomacy with Kim Jong Un, saying Trump’s one-on-one diplomacy gave legitimacy to the North Korea leader and has not convinced Kim that he should give up his nuclear weapons.

Read more: Joe Biden and Barack Obama are two branches of the same tree

Environment

Biden is proposing a $2 trillion push to slow global warming by throttling back the burning of fossil fuels, aiming to make the nation’s power plants, vehicles, mass transport systems and buildings more fuel efficient and less dependent on oil, gas and coal.

Biden says his administration would ban new permits for oil and gas production on federal lands, although he says he does not support a fracking ban.

Biden’s public health and environment platform also calls for reversing the Trump administration’s slowdown of enforcement against polluters, which in several categories has fallen to the lowest point in decades. That would include establishing a climate and environmental justice division within the Justice Department.

Biden emphasizes environmental justice, which is about addressing the disproportionate harm to lower-income and minority communities from corporate polluters. Biden says he would support climate lawsuits targeting fossil fuel-related industries.

He said he would reverse Trump’s plan to exit the Paris climate accord.

Read more: US elections: Obama scolds Trump while Biden keeps low profile ahead of final debate

Education

Education is a family affair for Biden. His wife, Jill, has taught in high school and community college, and she delivered her speech to the Democratic National Convention this year from her old classroom.

Biden has proposed tripling the federal Title I program for low-income public schools, with a requirement that schools provide competitive pay and benefits to teachers. He wants to ban federal money for for-profit charter schools and to provide new dollars to public charters only if they show they can serve needy students. He opposes voucher programs, where public money is used to pay for private school education.

He has pledged to restore Obama-era policies that were rolled back by the Trump administration, including rules on campus sexual misconduct and a policy that aimed to cut federal money to for-profit colleges that left students with heavy debt and unable to find jobs to pay it back.

Biden supports legislation to make two years of community college free and to make public colleges free for families with incomes below $125,000. His proposed student loan overhaul would not require repayment for people who make less than $25,000 a year, and would limit payments to 5 percent of discretionary income for others.

He is proposing a $70 billion increase in funding for historically Black colleges and universities, and other schools that serve underrepresented students.

Abortion

Biden supports abortion rights and has said he would nominate federal judges who would uphold Roe v. Wade.

He would rescind Trump’s family planning rule, which has prompted many clinics to leave the federal Title X program that provides birth control and basic medical care for low-income women.

In a switch from his previous stance, Biden now says he supports “repeal” of the Hyde Amendment, opening the way for federal programs such as Medicaid to pay for abortions.

Social security

Biden has a Social Security plan that would expand benefits, raise taxes for upper-income people, and add some years of solvency.

He would revamp Social Security’s annual cost-of-living adjustment by linking it to an inflation index that more closely reflects changes in costs for older people, particularly health care. That’s been a priority for advocates. He would also increase minimum benefits for lower-income retirees, addressing financial hardship among the elderly.

Biden would raise Social Security taxes by applying the payroll tax to earnings above $400,000 a year. The 12.4 percent tax, equally distributed among employees and employers, currently only applies to the first $137,700 of a person’s earnings. The tax increase would pay for Biden’s proposed benefit expansions and also extend the life of program’s trust fund by five years, to 2040, according to the nonpartisan Urban Institute.

Guns

Biden led efforts as a senator to establish the background check system now in use when people buy guns from a federal licensed dealer. He also helped pass a 10-year ban on a group of semi-automatic guns, or “assault weapons,” during the Clinton presidency.

Biden has promised to seek another ban on the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Owners would have to register existing assault weapons with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He would also support a program to purchase assault weapons.

Biden supports legislation restricting the number of firearms an individual may purchase per month to one and would require background checks for all guns sales with limited exceptions, such as gifts between family members.

Biden would also support legislation to prohibit all online sales of firearms, ammunition, kits, and gun parts.

Veterans

Biden says he would work with Congress to improve health services for women, the military’s fastest-growing subgroup, such as by placing at least one full-time women’s primary care physician at each Department of Veterans Affairs’ medical center.

He promises to provide $300 million to better understand the impact of traumatic brain injury and toxic exposures, hire more VA staff to cut down office wait times for vets at risk of suicide to zero as well as continue the efforts of the Obama-Biden administration to stem homelessness.

Trade

Like Trump, Biden accuses China of violating international trade rules, subsidizing its companies and stealing US intellectual property. But he doesn’t think Trump’s tariffs have worked and wants to join with US allies to form a bulwark against Beijing.

Biden has joined a growing bipartisan embrace of “fair trade” abroad — a twist on decades of “free trade” talk as Republican and Democratic administrations alike expanded international trade. Biden wants to juice US manufacturing by directing $400 billion of federal government purchases to domestic companies (part of that for buying pandemic supplies) over a four-year term.

Read more: Biden says intelligence briefings point to election meddling by Russia, China

He wants $300 billion in new support for US technology firms’ research and development. Biden says the new domestic spending must come before he enters into any new international trade deals.

He pledges tough negotiations with China, the world’s other economic superpower, on trade and intellectual property matters. China, like the US, is not yet a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the multilateral trade agreement that Biden advocated for when he was vice president. As a senator, Biden voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement that the Trump administration renegotiated. The replacement went into effect on July 1.

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Last Update: Saturday, 31 October 2020 KSA 21:14 – GMT 18:14

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Tunisia to cooperate with France on Nice attack investigation

Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi on Saturday instructed his interior and justice ministers to cooperate with French authorities following the deadly knife attack in Nice allegedly perpetrated by a Tunisian.

Brahim Issaoui, 21, is suspected of brutally killing three people in Thursday’s attack at the Notre-Dame Basilica in the southern French city, and French authorities are investigating whether outside help was provided.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Mechichi met Interior Minister Taoufik Charfeddine and Justice Minister Mohamed Boussetta on Saturday and reiterated Tunisia’s “absolute” condemnation of the “brutal and cowardly” attack.

“The interior and justice ministers must focus their full attention on the investigation into the circumstances of this terrorist act and fully cooperate with French investigators,” he said in a statement.

French police are currently holding three people for questioning in the investigation, which is focusing on two telephones found on the suspect after the attack.

Tunisia, which Thursday said it launched its own investigation into the Nice killings, said that Issaoui was not on any “terrorist” list in the North African country.

But he had a “criminal record for common-law offences (such as) violence and drugs,” Mohsen Dali, the deputy attorney general at the Court of First Instance in Tunis, told AFP.

Issaoui, he said, left Tunisia clandestinely on September 14, making his way to the Italian island of Lampedusa — a major stepping stone for illegal migrants seeking to make a new life in Europe.

His family, in an interview with AFP, said he had called on the evening of October 28, the day before the attack, telling them he had just arrived in France and that he intended to find work.

Tunisian authorities arrested two people on Friday after a video posted on social networks carried a claim of responsibility for the Nice attack by an unknown group, according to Dali.

“Jihadist” experts said the claim was not credible.

Issaoui was shot by French police multiple times and is currently in a grave condition in hospital. Investigators have been unable to question him and his precise motivations remain unclear.

Read more:

Orthodox priest shot in France’s city of Lyon, attacker flees: Police

Indonesia condemns France attacks, but says Macron ‘insulted Islam and Muslims’

Spain’s police arrest a Moroccan man for praising teacher beheading in France

Belgian teacher suspended for showing cartoon of Prophet Mohammed

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Last Update: Saturday, 31 October 2020 KSA 21:07 – GMT 18:07

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Trump, Biden barrel through key states on weekend before vote

Underscoring the high stakes — and the disruptive impact of the coronavirus pandemic — a record 90 million early votes have already been cast.

With Tuesday’s US presidential election only days away, Donald Trump, Joe Biden and their top surrogates were barreling through the crucial states of Michigan and Pennsylvania on Saturday, digging deep as they pressed their closing arguments.

Underscoring the high stakes — and the disruptive impact of the coronavirus pandemic — a record 90 million early votes have already been cast, as the bruising contest heads toward the biggest turnout in at least a century.

For the first time since the start of the campaign, Biden, 77, will be joined on stage in Michigan by his former boss and most popular campaigner, former president Barack Obama.

They’ll put on drive-in rallies in the cities of Flint and Detroit. Detroit native Stevie Wonder is expected to be the musical guest of the evening.

Trump, 74, won the industrial state by a narrow margin of 0.2 points in 2016 — but this year the former vice president leads by nearly seven points, according to a RealClearPolitics average of polls.

That would seem to put him in pole position to take its 16 electoral votes, a sizable leap towards the 270 he needs to win the White House.

For the past week Obama has put his popularity at the service of his former vice president, hosting several rallies at which he repeatedly slammed Trump’s response to the pandemic, notably in the crucially important states of Florida and Pennsylvania.

But Trump — who has dismissed Obama’s rallies as much smaller than his own — will himself head to Pennsylvania Saturday, where he will host three rallies, a sign of how key the state is to his own path to 270 votes.

He won Pennsylvania, where Biden was born, by a razor-thin margin against Hillary Clinton in 2016. Every ballot will therefore count on November 3 if he hopes to claim its 20 electoral votes once more.

Biden will follow suit there both Sunday and Monday in a clear sign that his campaign also sees the Keystone State as absolutely crucial to victory.

The election takes place in a deeply divided country, with feelings so raw and polarization so pronounced that gun sales have surged in some areas and law enforcement agencies have made contingency plans for possible violence.

On Friday the two candidates carried their battle to the American Midwest, barnstorming three heartland states each as they chased every last vote in a region that propelled the Republican to victory in 2016.

The race has been overshadowed by the pandemic, with infections spiking across the country. More than 94,000 new infections were recorded Friday — a new high for the second day running — and total cases passed nine million.

Nevertheless Trump, who has long said the virus will “disappear,” remained defiant at rallies in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

“We just want normal,” he told supporters — many of them unmasked — at an outdoor rally near Detroit as he pushed states to relax public health restrictions and resume daily life.

He again downplayed the threat of the coronavirus, saying, “If you get it, you’re going to get better, and then you’re going to be immune.”

The virus has killed nearly 230,000 Americans.

US hospitals are bracing as infections soar in nearly every state, with winter flu season looming.

The outbreak has ravaged the economy, and while there have been signs of recovery, millions remain jobless.

Trump has touted the economic successes of his presidency, including positive GDP figures Thursday. But US stocks closed out their worst week since March, highlighting concerns about a shaky recovery.

After a campaign largely muted by the pandemic, Biden is on the offensive, pushing Trump onto the back foot in unexpected battlegrounds like Texas, a large, traditionally conservative bastion now rated a toss-up by multiple analysts.

On Friday, the state reported that a staggering nine million residents had already voted, surpassing its 2016 total.

Biden’s running mate Kamala Harris visited Texas Friday in a bid to turn the state Democratic for the first time since Jimmy Carter won there in 1976.

A Biden victory there would be a major blow to Trump, but the president dismissed the notion, saying: “Texas, we’re doing very well.”

Biden also stumped Friday in Wisconsin and in Minnesota, where he sharpened his attacks on the president on everything from Trump seeking to dismantle Obama-era health care protections and keeping his taxes secret to climate change and trade policy with China.

“We cannot afford four more years of Donald Trump,” the Democrat said at a socially distanced drive-in rally in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“So honk your horn if you want America to lead again!” he said, embracing the awkward pandemic-era campaign trend of rallying supporters in their vehicles.

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Indonesia condemns France attacks, but says Macron ‘insulted Islam and Muslims’

Indonesian president Joko Widodo on Saturday condemned what he called “terrorist” attacks in France, but also warned that remarks by President Emmanuel Macron had “insulted Islam” and “hurt the unity of Muslims everywhere.”

Conservative Islamic organizations in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, have called for protests and boycotts against France, sharing an image of Macron as a red-eyed devilish snail.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

“Freedom of speech that injures the noble purity and sacred values and symbol of religion is so wrong, it shouldn’t be justified and it needs to stop,” the Indonesian leader, who is known by his popular name Jokowi, said in a televised address.

He added, however, that “linking religion to acts of terrorism is a massive mistake. Terrorists are terrorists.”

A knife-wielding Tunisian man shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest) beheaded a woman and killed two other people in a church in the French city of Nice on Thursday. The attack came less than two weeks after a middle-school teacher in a Paris suburb was beheaded by an 18-year-old attacker who was apparently incensed by the teacher showing a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad in class.

Macron has vowed to stand firm against attacks on French values and freedom of belief, but some of his comments both prior to and after the recent attacks – including calling Islam “a religion in crisis all over the world” – have proved controversial.

Jokowi did not specify which of Macron’s comments he was referring to in his address on Saturday.

An Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Saturday the ministry had summoned the French ambassador on Tuesday over remarks by Macron they said “insulted Islam” and the fact he allowed publication of the cartoons.

Tens of thousands of Muslims in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Russia, and the Palestinian territories protested against France on Friday.

Read more:

Spain’s police arrest a Moroccan man for praising teacher beheading in France

Belgian teacher suspended for showing cartoon of Prophet Mohammed

Pakistan’s police fire teargas at demonstrators protesting French cartoons of Prophet

Thousands rally in Jerusalem against France’s Macron over the Prophet cartoons

Clashes at Lebanon’s capital Beirut as people protest French cartoons of the Prophet

Denmark’s far-right party launches campaign to republish cartoons of Prophet Mohammed

France’s Macron vows country will not yield after ‘Islamist terrorist attack’ in Nice

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Last Update: Saturday, 31 October 2020 KSA 20:54 – GMT 17:54

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US Election: Expect a lot more of the same if Trump wins a second term

US President Donald Trump has consistently pointed to tax cuts and regulatory relief as key successes of his first four years in office. He has repeatedly pushed for the end of the Obama-era health law but has yet to deliver a plan to replace it. And he has spent most of this year defending his response to the coronavirus pandemic while fighting openly with scientists and medical experts about vaccines, treatments and more. If he gets another four years in office, there’s no indication of any big policy shift.

A glimpse at how a second Trump term might look:

Economy, taxes and the debt

Low unemployment and a soaring stock market were Trump’s calling cards before the pandemic. While the stock market clawed its way back after cratering in the early weeks of the crisis, unemployment stands at 7.9 percent, and the nearly 10 million jobs that remain lost since the pandemic began exceed the number that the nation shed during the entire 2008-09 Great Recession.

And by Friday, Wall Street had closed out another punishing week with the S&P 500 posting its first back-to-back monthly loss since the pandemic first gripped the economy in March. Much of the market’s focus has been on what’s to come for the economy when coronavirus counts are rising at troubling rates across Europe and the United States.

Trump has predicted that the US economy will rebound in late 2020 and take off like a “rocket ship” in 2021. He promises that a coronavirus vaccine or effective therapeutics will soon be available, allowing life to get back to normal. His push for a payroll tax cut over the summer was thwarted by stiff bipartisan opposition. But winning a second term — and a mandate from voters — could help him resurrect the idea.

An analysis from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates that Trump’s plan would increase the debt by about $5 trillion over 10 years. That’s on top of the $13 trillion in deficits the country is already expected to run up during that time. The national debt now stands at more than $20 trillion.

Coronavirus pandemic

Trump insists that the country is “rounding the corner” on the pandemic and has stepped up calls on Democratic governors to lift coronavirus restrictions in their states. But Trump’s sunny outlook belies the ground truth in many states — including several critical to his path to 270 Electoral College votes — that have seen a surge in the virus.

The president has often disputed medical experts in his own administration, among them infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, on key issues surrounding the virus, including the timing of a vaccine, the need for social distancing and the importance of masks to contain the virus. His campaign rallies were filled with people gathered less than 6 feet apart without masks.

His announcement of the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court was widely regarded to be a super spreader event after he and several other people in attendance were diagnosed with the virus.

Trump spent three days at Walter Reed National Medical Center after his diagnosis. One of the drugs he received, remdesivir, has since been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treatment of COVID-19.

Trump also says he’s “pretty damn certain” that vaccines and new treatments for the virus are coming in the not-so-distant future. Scientists are more cautious about the timing.

Congress passed and Trump signed into law a more than $2 trillion coronavirus relief package earlier this year, but the two sides have been unable to agree on an additional aid package.

Read more: Twitter flags Trump tweet saying he was ‘immune’ to coronavirus as ‘misleading’

Health care

As a candidate for the White House, Trump promised that he would “immediately” replace former President Barack Obama’s health care law with a plan of his own that would provide “insurance for everybody” with lower costs. Americans are still waiting for a pan that Trump has been teasing for many months.

He may be counting on the Supreme Court, which is scheduled to hear a case challenging “Obamacare” soon after the election. The court now has a solid conservative majority with the confirmation of Barrett as a justice.

Trump officials say the administration has made strides by championing transparency on hospital prices, pursuing a range of actions to curb prescription drug costs and expanding lower-cost health insurance alternatives for small businesses and individuals. But those incremental steps fall far short of the sweeping changes he promised.

The number of uninsured people has gone up on Trump’s watch, from 27.6 million people under age 65 in 2017 to 29.2 million last year, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. There are no solid statistics on uninsured Americans this year, after millions lost job-related coverage in the pandemic.

On prescription drugs, Trump came into office promising change so Americans would see the lower costs common in other economically advanced countries. But he backed away from a 2016 campaign promise to authorize Medicare to negotiate prices. And a big, bipartisan deal with Congress to reduce costs for Medicare recipients and restrain price increases eluded him.

His administration did reach a narrower, yet significant agreement with drug companies and insurers to limit out-of-pocket costs for insulin for seniors to $35 a month. A series of regulations to try to curb drug costs remains a work in progress.

Read more: US Elections: Trump says Obama administration left him a ‘mess’

Immigration

Trump worked through his first term to sharply curtail both legal and illegal immigration. Expect that to continue if he wins a second term.

One of his top priorities would be to use agreements with Central American governments as models to get countries around the world to field asylum claims from people seeking refuge in the United States, a top adviser, Stephen Miller, recently told The Associated Press. He said the agreements would help stop “asylum fraud, asylum shopping and asylum abuse on a global scale.”

Miller also forecast a broader offensive against so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities, saying the administration would use its “full power, resources and authority.” He vowed more efforts toward legal immigration “based on merit.”

Trump’s pledge to build a wall along the US border with Mexico was a hallmark of his first presidential campaign and four years in office. Trump is expected to continue to trumpet progress after having completed nearly 400 miles of wall construction, though most of that replaced existing smaller barriers.

Trump has yet to outline second-term immigration priorities in detail, though he has openly toyed with trying to repeal a constitutional right to citizenship for anyone born in the United States.

His administration has long pursued a zero-tolerance policy to crack down on illegal immigration, and thousands of children were separated from their parents after crossing the border illegally. The administration was roundly criticized for its actions.

Administration officials also sought to restrict legal immigration, including higher fees and increased scrutiny for people seeking to legally emigrate to the US The administration slashed the number of refugees allowed in the country by about three-quarters to its lowest level in decades.

Trump has also sought to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a program that allowed people brought to the United States illegally as children to remain as legal residents, though his effort was halted, at least temporarily, by the courts.

Foreign policy and national security

Trump’s foreign policy centers on his mantra of “America First,” but in the months leading up to the election, he engaged in diplomacy.

The Trump administration scored a big win in recent weeks by nudging three Arab states — Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates — to normalize relations with Israel. Trump officials also brokered an economic cooperation agreement between Serbia and Kosovo, bitter foes in the Balkan wars.

He counts as another major achievement his efforts to cajole more NATO members to fulfill their pledge to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense.

Trump also pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal, saying it was one-sided in favor of Iran. He’s announced that the US is withdrawing from the intermediate-range nuclear missile treaty with Russia and the Open Skies Treaty, which permits 30-plus nations to conduct observation flights over each other’s territory.

He later said he might reconsider pulling out of that treaty.

The president has reduced to about 3,000 the number of troops in Iraq. The US plans to reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan to at least 4,500 in November, although Trump wants them all withdrawn by the end of the year. He also counts his engagement with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un as a foreign policy victory, yet he’s been unable to prod Kim to give up his nuclear program.

Public health and environment

A Trump second term would begin to see a US transformed by the scores of public health and environment rollbacks in Trump’s first term, when the administration weakened protections in landmark pollution laws that had stood for a half-century.

Trump’s biggest environmental rollbacks include removing federal protections for millions of miles of wetlands and waterways. That means mining companies and other industries will be freer to dump waste into the fragile habitats or destroy them outright, removing buffers against storms and flooding and making it harder for cities downstream to clean public water supplies, environmental groups say.

Another major rollback means neighborhoods nationwide will find themselves having less say about highways or other big projects tearing through their communities. Other rollbacks enacted in Trump’s first term — in regulations ranging from endangered species to oil and gas and mining in federal wilderness to power plant pollution to water-thrifty dishwashers — will take effect.

On climate change, Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the Paris global climate accord would become official Nov. 4, the day after the presidential election. Trump is still fighting California and other Western states over his plans to ease future vehicle mileage standards, undoing another legacy climate effort of the Obama administration.

A Supreme Court made more conservative by Trump’s appointments will decide pending court challenges by states and environmental groups to many of the rollbacks.

The Trump administration says it wants to focus on helping minority communities that are disproportionately harmed by polluting industries in a second term. Environmental groups point to the administration’s efforts to slash funding for such programs, and call it an empty election-year promise.

Education

Trump believes that a key to economic recovery from the virus is fully reopening schools, though Americans are wary. Only about 1 in 10 think day care centers, preschools or K-12 schools should open this fall without restrictions, according to a recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs.

He is calling for the expansion of charter schools and school choice programs, including a proposed tax credit for people who contribute to scholarships sending students to private schools and other education options. Under his watch, the federal government has also increased funding for historically Black colleges and universities — an effort he often cites as one of the things he has achieved for Black Americans.

Trump frequently rails against what he has described as “radical left indoctrination” in schools. He is pledging to create a commission to promote “patriotic education” in schools. Amid complaints that conservative voices are stifled on college campuses, he also sought to cut federal funding to colleges that do not protect speech rights.

Trump’s administration has revoked several Obama-era initiatives, including guidance intended to curb racial disparities in school discipline and a rule that sought to cut federal funding to for-profit colleges that left students with heavy debt.

The Education Department under Trump has also created rules telling schools and universities how to respond to sexual misconduct, with more protection for the accused.

Abortion

Before becoming a presidential candidate, Trump described himself as a strong abortion-rights proponent. But after coming to Washington, he pushed for overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that 47 years ago established a constitutional right to abortion.

Anti-abortion groups hope the addition of Barrett to the Supreme Court will provide a majority to overturn Roe. Barrett has declined to characterize Roe as a “super-precedent” that must not be overturned, although she says that she sets her personal views aside when weighing cases.

Trump also has barred federally funded family planning clinics from referring women for abortions. He supports the Hyde Amendment, a series of federal laws that ban the use of taxpayer money to pay for abortions except in cases of rape or incest or to save the woman’s life.

Social security

Even before the coronavirus shutdown sent the economy on a roller coaster ride, government experts estimated that Social Security would be unable to pay full benefits starting in 2035. The program’s insolvency date is now likely closer than that, because layoffs have cut into Social Security tax collections from workers and employers.

Trump kept his promise not to cut Social Security benefits, but this summer he sent confusing signals with a plan to temporarily suspend collection of certain taxes that fund the program.

While the White House staff said it was a limited measure that would have no lasting impact, Trump kept hinting to reporters that he had much bigger tax cuts in mind. Early in the year, he told an interviewer he wanted to tackle “entitlements,” or benefit programs, in a second term.

Guns

Trump has flirted at times with tighter gun laws. After the Parkland school shooting in Florida two years ago, Trump chided Republican lawmakers for being too “scared” of the National Rifle Association to tighten gun laws. And after back-to-back mass shootings in Ohio and Texas in 2019, he embraced calls for “strong background checks.” He backpedaled quickly in each instance.

In the campaign, the president has repeatedly promised to “defend our Second Amendment.” The NRA’s political action committee has endorsed Trump.

Veterans

Trump frequently touts an expanded program at the Department of Veterans Affairs passed by Congress in 2018 that allows veterans to choose a private physician outside of the government-run VA system and still receive taxpayer-paid medical care.

The program, first passed as a temporary measure during the Obama administration, was spurred by a 2014 scandal in which veterans died while waiting months for appointments at the Phoenix VA medical center. Trump supports giving veterans wide access to private-sector care if they are dissatisfied with VA treatment, and he has suggested he may issue additional regulations in a second term that will make it even easier.

Trump has boosted telehealth services at the VA and broadly promises an improved US economy in a second term that will reduce veterans’ unemployment. He created a federal task force last year to address veterans suicide.

In October, he signed into law a bipartisan bill that creates a new three-digit 988 phone line — similar to 911 — that will be reserved for mental health emergencies. It becomes active in fall 2021.

About 20 veterans die by suicide each day, a rate basically unchanged during the Trump administration.

Trade

Trump views the signing of two major trade deals — an updated pact with Mexico and Canada and the first phase of a China agreement — as signature achievements. The US and China signed in January, less than two months before the pandemic put an enormous strain on US-China relations.

Trump says the first phase would lead to China buying roughly $200 billion over two years in US agricultural products, energy and other American products.

In return, the US canceled or reduced tariffs on an array of China imports. So far, China is significantly behind in meeting its purchasing commitments, according to tracking from the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

The second phase of the deal is expected to focus on tougher issues between the countries, including Trump’s wish to get China to stop subsidizing its state-owned enterprises. But for Trump, who has come to frequently refer to the coronavirus as the “China virus,” it remains to be seen whether he will be able to effectively reengage Beijing on trade. Trump recently said he’s “not interested” in talking to China.

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Last Update: Saturday, 31 October 2020 KSA 20:20 – GMT 17:20

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Coronavirus: Erdogan’s spokesman and interior minister test positive for COVID-19

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman and interior minister both announced Saturday that they had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kolin tweeted that he had reached “the final stage of coronavirus treatment” but did not say how long he has been sick.

“I am going very well,” he wrote.

Visit our dedicated coronavirus site here for all the latest updates.

Kolin’s comment came only hours after Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said he was hospitalized Friday with his wife and daughter, who also tested positive for the virus.

Both men routinely meet Erdogan, who was travelling on Saturday to Izmir to inspect the damage from an earthquake that killed more than 30 people in Turkey and Greece.

The Turkish leader, whose entourage is routinely tested for the virus, has exhibited no signs of illness and keeps a punishing schedule that often includes several daily televised speeches.

Turkey, which this week surpassed 10,000 coronavirus deaths, has so far refrained from reintroducing the lockdown measures being unveiled by countries such as France and Greece.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Read more:

New measures needed as coronavirus makes comeback in Turkey, says Erdogan

WHO calls on Turkey to follow coronavirus guidelines

Turkey considering reimposing coronavirus curbs, without hurting economy

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Last Update: Saturday, 31 October 2020 KSA 20:08 – GMT 17:08