EU agrees on $2.1 trillion deal after marathon summit

EU agrees on $2.1 trillion deal after marathon summit

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French President Emmanuel Macron, second left, speaks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels, Monday, July 20, 2020. Weary European Union leaders are expressing cautious optimism that a deal is in … more >

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By Raf Casert and Samuel Petrequin

Associated Press

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

BRUSSELS (AP) — After four days and nights of wrangling, exhausted European Union leaders finally clinched a deal on an unprecedented 1.8 trillion-euro ($2.1 trillion) budget and coronavirus recovery fund early Tuesday, after one of their longest summits ever.

The 27 leaders grudgingly committed to a costly, massive aid package for those hit hardest by COVID-19, which has already killed 135,000 people within the bloc alone.

With masks and hygienic gel everywhere at the summit, the leaders were constantly reminded of the potent medical and economic threat the virus poses.

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“Extraordinary events, and this is the pandemic that has reached us all, also require extraordinary new methods,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

To confront the biggest recession in its history, the EU will establish a 750 billion-euro coronavirus fund, partly based on common borrowing, to be sent as loans and grants to the hardest-hit countries. That is in addition to the agreement on the seven-year, 1 trillion-euro EU budget that leaders had been haggling over for months even before the pandemic.

“The consequences will be historic,” French President Emmanuel Macron said. “We have created a possibility of taking up loans together, of setting up a recovery fund in the spirit of solidarity,” a sense of sharing debt that would have been unthinkable not so long ago.

Merkel added: “We have laid the financial foundations for the EU for the next seven years and came up with a response to this arguably biggest crisis of the European Union.”

Despite Macron and Merkel negotiating as the closest of partners, the traditionally powerful Franco-German alliance struggled for days to get the quarreling nations in line. But, even walking out of a negotiating session in protest together over the weekend, the two leaders bided their time and played their cards right in the end.

“When Germany and France stand together, they can’t do everything. But if they don’t stand together, nothing is possible,” said Macron, challenging anyone in the world who criticized the days of infighting to think of a comparable joint endeavor.

“There are 27 of us around the table and we managed to come up with a joint budget. What other political area in the world is capable of that? None other,” Macron said.

At first, Merkel and Macron wanted the grants to total 500 billion euros, but the so-called “frugals” – five wealthy northern nations led by the Netherlands – wanted a cut in such spending and strict economic reform conditions imposed. The figure was brought down to 390 billion euros, while the five nations also got guarantees on reforms.

“There is no such thing as perfection, but we have managed to make progress,” Macron said.

The summit, at the urn-shaped Europa center, laid bare how nations’ narrow self-interests trumped the obvious common good for all to stand together and face a common adversary.

Rarely had a summit been as ill-tempered as this one, and it was the longest since a five-day summit in Nice, France, in 2000, when safeguarding national interests in institutional reforms was a stumbling block.

“There were extremely tense moments,” Macron said.

Still, considering every EU leader had the right of veto on the whole package, the joint commitment to invest and spend such funds was hailed as a success.

Adriaan Schout, an EU expert and Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael think tank in the Netherlands, said that the unusually acrimonious and drawn-out talks ultimately produced a typical Brussels deal.

“The EU hasn’t changed. This is always what it’s about – finding compromises – and the EU always finds compromises,” he said. “And the compromise has been hard fought. There are checks and balances in it. We don’t know how they will work.”

The days and nights of brutal summiteering will surely have left many wounds between member states, but as history has proven, the EU has an uncanny gift to quickly produce scar tissue and move on.

“We all can take a hit,” said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. “After all, there are presidents among us.”

Despite bruising confrontations with Merkel, Macron and his Italian counterpart, Giuseppe Conte, Rutte maintained that “we have very good, warm relations.”

Conte also didn’t have time to dwell on grudges. With 35,000 Italians dead from COVID-19 and facing EU estimates his economy will plunge 11.2% this year, he had to think ahead, of things big and small – from getting cash to businesses still trying to get a foothold after the lockdown to getting school desks.

In order to open in September, his country needs up to 3 million new desks, to replace old-fashioned double and triple desks so students can keep a proper distance.

”We will have a great responsibility. With 209 billion euros, we have the possibility to relaunch Italy with strength, to change the face of the country. Now we must hurry. We must use this money for investments, for structural reforms,” Conte said.

Even if Tuesday’s agreement was a giant leap forward, the European Parliament, which has called the moves of the member states too timid considering the challenge, still has to approve the deal.

Rutte and others also wanted a link to be made between the handout of EU funds and the rule of law – a connection aimed at Poland and Hungary, countries with right-wing populist governments that many in the EU think are sliding away from democratic rule.

In its conclusion, the European Council underlined the “importance of the respect of the rule of law” and said it will create a system of conditionality aimed at preventing member states from getting subsidies from the budget and recovery fund if they don’t abide by its principles.

But Tuesday was a moment to revel in the achievement itself. What was planned as a two-day summit scheduled to end Saturday was forced into two extra days by deep ideological differences among the 27 leaders.

The compromise deal they finally hammered out was one that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban claimed as a victory.

“We not just managed to get a good package of money, but we defended the pride of our nations and made clear that it is not acceptable that anybody, especially those who inherited … the rule of law criticize us, the freedom fighters that did a lot against the communist regime in favor of rule of law,” he said.

___

Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands; Colleen Barry in Soave, Italy; and Pablo Gorondi in Budapest, Hungary, contributed.

EU says Iran has triggered nuclear deal dispute mechanism

EU says Iran has triggered nuclear deal dispute mechanism

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European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell speaks during a media conference after a meeting, Supporting the future of Syria and the Region, in videoconference format at the European Council building in Brussels, Tuesday, June 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, … more >

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By LORNE COOK

Associated Press

Friday, July 3, 2020

BRUSSELS (AP) – The European Union’s top diplomat said Friday that he has received a letter from Iran that triggers a dispute mechanism in the international agreement limiting Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, citing concerns that Britain, France and Germany are not living up to their side of the deal.

The accord, which Iran signed with the U.S., Britain, Germany, France, China and Russia in 2015, has been unraveling since President Donald Trump pulled Washington out in 2018, unleashing sanctions designed to cripple the Islamic Republic’s economy.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who is coordinator of the pact known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, said that in the letter Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif seeks redress under “the dispute resolution mechanism, as set out in paragraph 36 of the agreement.”

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No details about the nature of Iran’s “implementation issues” with Britain, France and Germany were provided. The dispute mechanism provides for a period of about one month, which can be prolonged if all parties agree, to resolve any disagreement.

In a tweet on June 19, Zarif said the three countries “must stop public face-saving and muster the courage to state publicly what they admit privately: their failure to fulfill even (their) own JCPOA duties due to total impotence in resisting U.S. bullying.”

Zarif’s letter to Borrell was sent a day after a mysterious fire broke out at the Natanz underground facility where Iran enriches uranium.

Britain, France and Germany consider the nuclear deal to be a cornerstone of regional and global security and have struggled to keep it alive since the U.S. pulled out, setting up a parallel system to try to keep funds flowing into Iran as its economy flagged.

On Jan. 15, they reluctantly triggered the accord’s dispute resolution mechanism themselves to force Iran into discussions on possible violations of the deal, as Tehran appeared to backslide and refused to be bound by its uranium enrichment limits. They later suspended the action.

Borrell said the dispute process “requires intensive efforts in good faith by all.”

He underlined his support for the agreement, saying that it “is an historic achievement for global nuclear non-proliferation contributing to regional and global security” and that he remains determined to preserve it.

Late last month, Iran’s president warned the U.N. nuclear watchdog to expect a “stern response” regarding its demands for Iran to provide access to sites thought to have stored or used undeclared nuclear material.

Tehran was irritated by a resolution adopted by the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency demanding access to the sites. The resolution was proposed by Britain, France and Germany. Russia and China voted against it. Iran has dismissed allegations of nuclear activities at the sites in question.

Turkey demands French apology over Med naval incident

Turkey demands French apology over Med naval incident

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Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, right, and Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas greet each other by using their elbows before a meeting, in Berlin, Thursday, July 2, 2020. (Cam Ozdel/Turkish Foreign Ministry via AP, Pool) more >

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Associated Press

Thursday, July 2, 2020

BERLIN (AP) – Turkey’s foreign minister on Thursday demanded an apology from France over its depiction of a standoff between ships from the two countries in the Mediterranean Sea that prompted Paris to suspend its involvement in a NATO naval operation.

France says its frigate Courbet was “lit up” three times by Turkish naval targeting radar on June 10 when it tried to approach a Tanzanian-flagged civilian ship suspected of involvement in arms trafficking. The ship was being escorted by three Turkish warships. The Courbet backed off after the confrontation.

At the time, the French frigate was part of the Sea Guardian mission, which is helping to provide maritime security in the Mediterranean. France said it was acting based on NATO information and that under the alliance’s rules of engagement such conduct is considered a hostile act.

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Turkey has denied harassing the Courbet. Both countries are NATO allies.

France has not told the truth to the EU or to NATO,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said during a visit to Berlin.

“The claims that our vessels locked onto (French vessels) are not true,” Cavusoglu added. “We have proven this with reports and documents and gave them to NATO. NATO saw the truth.”

NATO has confirmed only that investigators have submitted their report into the incident but said it was “classified” and declined to say what conclusions, if any, had been drawn.

“Instead of engaging in anti-Turkish activities and such leanings, France needs to make a sincere confession,” Cavusoglu said. “Our expectation from France at the moment is for it to apologize in a clear fashion, without ifs or buts, for not providing the correct information.”

The French government sent a letter Tuesday to NATO saying it is halting its participation in Sea Guardian “temporarily.”

France has accused Turkey of repeated violations of the U.N. arms embargo on Libya and branded the Turkish government as an obstacle to securing a cease-fire in the North African nation, which Turkey firmly denies.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, speaking alongside Cavusoglu, said “it is extremely important that relations between France and Turkey are constructive” because the countries need to work together on many issues. He said he hopes that “a constructive, open and very transparent dialogue” will be possible in the coming days and weeks to address their differences.

Francois Fillon, French ex-prime minister, found guilty of fraud

Francois Fillon, French ex-prime minister, found guilty of fraud

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In this Feb. 26, 2020, file photo, France’s former Prime Minister Francois Fillon, left, and his wife Penelope, arrive at the Paris courthouse, in Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File) more >

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By Sylvie Corbet and Nicolas Vaux-Montagny

Associated Press

Monday, June 29, 2020

PARIS (AP) — A Paris court has found French former Prime Minister Francois Fillon guilty of having used public funds to pay his wife and children for work they never performed.

His wife, Penelope Fillon, has also been found guilty as an accomplice.

The court has not detailed the sentence yet.

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The work had brought the family more than 1 million euros ($1.08 million) since 1998.

The scandal broke in the French media just three months before the country’s 2017 presidential election, as Fillon was the front-runner in the race. It cost him his reputation. Fillon sank to third place in the election, which was won by Emmanuel Macron.

Fillon, who was France’s prime minister from 2007 to 2012, and his wife have denied any wrongdoing and can appeal the decision.

Penelope Fillon’s role alongside her husband drew all the attention during the February-March trial, which focused on determining whether her activities were in the traditional role of an elected official’s partner — or involved actual paid work.

Prosecutors denounced “fraudulent, systematic practices” and requested five years in prison, including a three-year suspended sentence, and a 375,000 euro (more than $415,000) fine against Francois Fillon, and a three-year suspended sentence and the same fine against his wife.

Fillon was accused of misuse of public funds, receiving money from the misuse of public funds and the misappropriation of company assets. His wife was charged mostly as an accomplice.

During the trial, Penelope Fillon explained how she decided to support her husband’s career when he was first elected as a French lawmaker in 1981 in the small town of Sable-sur-Sarthe, in rural western France.

Over the years, she was offered different types of contracts as a parliamentary assistant, depending on her husband’s political career.

She described her work as mostly doing reports about local issues, opening the mail, meeting with residents and helping to prepare speeches for local events. She said working that way allowed her to have a flexible schedule and raise their five children in the Fillons’ countryside manor. She said her husband was the one who decided the details of her contracts.

Prosecutors pointed at the lack of actual evidence of her work, including the absence of declarations for any paid vacations or maternity leave, as her wages reached up to nine times France’s minimum salary.

Prosecutor Aurelien Letocart argued that “meeting with voters, getting the children from school, going shopping or reading mail isn’t intended to be paid work.”

Letocart said Fillon “had a deep feeling of impunity, the certainty that his status would dissuade anyone from suing him … This gets cynical when that attitude comes from a man who made probity his trademark.”

Francois Fillon insisted his wife’s job was real and said that, according to the separation of powers, the justice system can’t interfere with how a lawmaker organizes work at his office.

In addition, charges also cover a contract that allowed Penelope Fillon to earn 135.000 euros in 2012-2013 as a consultant for a literary magazine owned by a friend of her husband – also an alleged fake job. The magazine owner, Marc de Lacharriere, already pleaded guilty and was given a suspended eight-month prison sentence and fined 375,000 euros in 2018.

The National Assembly, which joined the proceedings as a civil plaintiff, has requested a total penalty of 1.081 million euros that correspond to the salaries and payroll charges that were paid.

Fillon, once the youngest lawmaker at the National Assembly at the age of 27, served as prime minister under President Nicolas Sarkozy from 2007 to 2012. He was also a minister under two previous presidents, Francois Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac.

He left French politics in 2017 and now works for an asset management company.

Today in History

Today in History

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By The Associated Press

Associated Press

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Today in History

Today is Sunday, June 28, the 180th day of 2020. There are 186 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlights in History:

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On June 28, 1919, the Treaty of Versailles (vehr-SY’) was signed in France, ending the First World War.

On this date:

In 1838, Britain’s Queen Victoria was crowned in Westminster Abbey.

In 1863, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Maj. Gen. George G. Meade the new commander of the Army of the Potomac, following the resignation of Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker.

In 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Sophie, were shot to death in Sarajevo (sah-ruh-YAY’-voh) by Serb nationalist Gavrilo Princip (gavh-REE’-loh PREEN’-seep) – an act which sparked World War I.

In 1939, Pan American Airways began regular trans-Atlantic air service with a flight that departed New York for Marseilles (mar-SAY’), France.

In 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Alien Registration Act, also known as the Smith Act, which required adult foreigners residing in the U.S. to be registered and fingerprinted.

In 1964, civil rights activist Malcolm X declared, “We want equality by any means necessary” during the Founding Rally of the Organization of Afro-American Unity in New York.

In 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill, which moved commemorations for Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day and Veterans Day to Monday, creating three-day holiday weekends beginning in 1971.

In 1975, screenwriter, producer and actor Rod Serling, 50, creator of “The Twilight Zone,” died in Rochester, New York.

In 1978, the Supreme Court ordered the University of California-Davis Medical School to admit Allan Bakke (BAH’-kee), a white man who argued he’d been a victim of reverse racial discrimination.

In 1994, President Bill Clinton became the first chief executive in U.S. history to set up a personal legal defense fund and ask Americans to contribute to it.

In 2000, seven months after he was cast adrift in the Florida Straits, Elian Gonzalez was returned to his native Cuba.

In 2013, tens of thousands of supporters and opponents of President Mohammed Morsi rallied in Cairo, and both sides fought each other in Egypt’s second-largest city of Alexandria, where two people – including an American – were killed and scores injured. The four plaintiffs in the U.S. Supreme Court case that overturned California’s same-sex marriage ban tied the knot, just hours after a federal appeals court freed gay couples to obtain marriage licenses in the state for the first time in 4 1/2 years.

Ten years ago: Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., the longest-serving senator in the nation’s history, died in Falls Church, Virginia, at 92. The Senate Judiciary Committee opened its confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. The Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, that Americans had the right to own a gun for self-defense anywhere they lived. The FBI announced the arrests of 10 suspected deep-cover agents, including Anna Chapman, the chic 28-year-old daughter of a Russian diplomat. (All 10 were later returned to Russia in a swap.)

Five years ago: Authorities in upstate New York captured David Sweat, one of two convicted murderers who’d escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility on June 6; Sweat was apprehended two days after his fellow escapee, Richard Matt, was shot and killed in a confrontation with law enforcement. After 18 straight successful launches, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket broke apart minutes after soaring away from Cape Canaveral, Florida, while carrying supplies for the International Space Station. Comedian Jack Carter, 93, died in Beverly Hills, California.

One year ago: Avowed white supremacist James Alex Fields, who deliberately drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing a young woman and injuring dozens, apologized to his victims before being sentenced to life in prison on federal hate crime charges. President Donald Trump joked with Russian President Vladimir Putin about interfering in U.S. elections as the two met on the sidelines of an international summit in Japan. The U.S. team advanced to meet England in the semifinals of the Women’s World Cup soccer tournament with a 2-1 victory over France. Thousands converged on New York’s Stonewall Inn for the 50th anniversary of a clash between patrons and police; the rebellion served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement.

Today’s Birthdays: Comedian-movie director Mel Brooks is 94. Former Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., is 86. Comedian-impressionist John Byner is 83. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is 82. Rock musician Dave Knights (Procul Harum) is 75. Actor Bruce Davison is 74. Actress Kathy Bates is 72. Actress Alice Krige is 66. College and Pro Football Hall of Famer John Elway is 60. Record company chief executive Tony Mercedes is 58. Jazz singer Tierney Sutton is 57. Actress Jessica Hecht is 55. Rock musician Saul Davies (James) is 55. Actress Mary Stuart Masterson is 54. Actor John Cusack is 54. Actor Gil Bellows is 53. Actress-singer Danielle Brisebois is 51. Jazz musician Jimmy Sommers is 51. Actress Tichina Arnold is 51. Actor Steve Burton is 50. Entrepreneur Elon Musk is 49. Actor Alessandro Nivola (nih-VOH’-luh) is 48. Actress Camille Guaty is 44. Rock musician Tim Nordwind (OK Go) is 44. Rock musician Mark Stoermer (The Killers) is 43. Country singer Big Vinny Hickerson (Trailer Choir) is 37. Country singer Kellie Pickler is 34.

Putin, Macron discuss closer cooperation in video call

Putin, Macron discuss closer cooperation in video call

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Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to French President Emmanuel Macron during a via video conference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 26, 2020. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP) more >

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By ANGELA CHARLTON and VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV

Associated Press

Friday, June 26, 2020

MOSCOW (AP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron discussed international crises during a video call Friday and vowed to cooperate more closely to tackle global challenges.

Putin, noting that it was the 75th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations’ charter, spoke of the need to pool efforts to combat common threats such as the coronavirus pandemic, international terrorism and climate change.

He said the call with his French counterpart offered an opportunity to discuss the crises in Ukraine, Syria and Libya, and unresolved tensions in the Balkans, among other issues.

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“If we want to achieve positive results, we need to combine our efforts,” the Russian leader said during the conversation in which he and Macron addressed each other by their first names. “I know about your intention to organize joint work on many of those issues. We will fully support your proposals.”

Putin mentioned a Red Square parade held in Moscow on Wednesday to belatedly commemorate the 75th anniversary of World War II’s end in Europe to hail France’s contribution to defeating the Nazis.

“We in Russia will never forget the French people who fought alongside our soldiers on the Eastern Front,” Putin said.

Macron, who was due to attend the parade on May 9 before it was postponed due to the pandemic, voiced regret that the virus prevented him from visiting Moscow. The French president paid tribute to the Soviet Union’s role in World War II.

“The crisis that we have just been through, like all regional crises we’ve experienced, shows the importance of making the European space, in a broad sense, from Lisbon to Vladivostok, a real space of cooperation and peace,” Macron said.

Responding to an invitation from Putin to come to Russia, Macron said he’d be happy to visit “so we could spend a lot more time together,” but only “if health conditions allow,” possibly at the end of summer.

Macron’s office said the meeting was part of an outreach effort launched in August to try to thaw France’s relations with Russia, which were damaged by Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

The French presidency said that during the call with Putin, Macron noted the need to put an end to the “dangerous cycle of foreign interference” in Libya and the need for a quick ceasefire and the revival of political dialogue.

A French presidential official said that the two leaders spent most of the conversation discussing the situation in Libya and voiced a shared interest in the stabilization of the country and reunifying its institutions.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to make public comment, noted that Macron expressed France’s anger at foreign interference, including by Russian private military contractor Wagner.

In conflict-stricken Libya, Russia, France, Egypt and several other countries back the east-based forces led by commander Khalifa Hifter, who has been waging war against the U.N.-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, which is mainly backed by Turkey.

During the call, the French leader also stressed his concern over the humanitarian situation in Syria, which the pandemic has worsened. The French presidential official said Macron pushed for a humanitarian corridor in the country’s northwest, arguing that a long route for aid deliveries via Damascus was not an option.

Turning to Ukraine, where Russia-backed rebels have been fighting Ukrainian troops in the country’s east for more than six years, Macron emphasized quickly relaunching the implementation of a road map toward peace that was agreed to during a December meeting in Paris of the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine.

The Kremlin said in its readout of the call that Putin emphasized the need for Ukraine to fulfill its obligations on political settlement under a 2015 deal brokered by France and Germany. More than 14,000 people have been killed in the fighting in eastern Ukraine since 2014.

The two leaders also emphasized the importance of preserving existing arms control agreements and the need to improve trust and predictability in the military sphere, the Kremlin said.

__

Charlton reported from Paris.

Germany unveils record contribution to WHO following U.S. threats to withdraw

Germany unveils record contribution to WHO following U.S. threats to withdraw

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, June 24, 2020. (Hannibal Hanschke/Pool Photo via AP) more >

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By Lauren Meier

The Washington Times

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Germany and France on Thursday announced heightened political and financial backing for the World Health Organization as it continues to combat the coronavirus pandemic, one month after President Trump announced a U.S. withdrawal from the agency.

The U.S. president last month threatened to withdraw from the WHO and permanently cut off all funding to the group after lodging a series of complaints that the agency mishandled the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement quickly saw pushback from European allies, who urged Mr. Trump to reconsider the withdrawal.

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Germany and France have since engaged in stabilization talks with the WHO. German Health Minister Jens Spahn said Berlin would be contributing additional funds and medical equipment that would bring its total contribution to the WHO to 500 million Euros, Reuters reported. The contribution marks the highest the agency has seen.

“We need a strong, efficient, transparent and accountable WHO today more than ever,” Mr. Spahn said during a press conference.

Germany will do its part to give the WHO the political, financial and technical backing that is needed,” he continued. “This comes with the expectation that remaining challenges are adequately addressed and needed reforms are pushed forward.”

The U.S. contributes up to $400 million per year, the highest of any other country until now. The WHO is financed through both assessed and voluntary contributions, according to the agency’s website.

The U.S. assessed contribution for 2020 is $120 million, representing 22% of WHO’s core budget for the year, according to data from USAID. In 2018, the U.S.’s voluntary budget was nearly double its assessed contribution at $220 million.

France also announced a contribution of 90 million Euros to a WHO research center in Lyon, and an additional 50 million Euro donation.

“I truly believe the world needs, more than ever, a multilateral organization,” said French Health Minister Olivier Veran during the news conference. “I believe the world cannot get rid of partners. We need a global answer [to the pandemic] and only the WHO can provide that answer.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has been criticized by Mr. Trump for his management of the coronavirus pandemic, praised the contributions and said the intra-Euro talks have been “very productive.”

“We are getting today all the support we need, politically and financially,” he said. “Both Germany and France are long-standing friends of WHO and global health.”

Donors pledge $1.8 billion for Sudan’s democratic transition

Donors pledge $1.8 billion for Sudan’s democratic transition

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FILE – In this Nov. 19, 2019 file photo, people gather as they celebrate first anniversary of mass protests that led to the ouster of former president and longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir. in Khartoum, Sudan. On Thursday, June 25, 2020, … more >

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By FRANK JORDANS and ISABEL DEBRE

Associated Press

Thursday, June 25, 2020

BERLIN (AP) – Western and Arab countries pledged a total $1.8 billion in aid to Sudan on Thursday in efforts to help the struggling African nation, one year after pro-democracy protesters forced the removal of the country’s longtime autocratic ruler, Omar al-Bashir.

The pledges from 40 countries, including an additional $400 million grant from the World Bank, came during a video conference hosted by Berlin, which marks the formal launch of the international community’s financial support for Sudan’s democratic transition after three decades of punitive sanctions and isolation under al-Bashir.

Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, said that Thursday’s conference was just the beginning on the path to helping Sudan, and that donors would reconvene early next year.

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“We are extremely delighted, satisfied and happy with this response,” said Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, a former economist with the United Nations. “For 30 years, we have longed for this.”

Although the conference presented an unprecedented amount of international support, pledges fell far short of the $8 billion Hamdok had previously said Sudan will need to rescue its plunging economy.

Sudan’s interim government has been grappling with an economic crisis since it took office last year, also navigating a treacherous transition to civilian rule. On top of that, the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated Sudan’s economic despair, throwing millions of casual laborers out of work.

Drastic shortages of basic goods nationwide have generated deep frustration, forcing people to line up for hours to buy bread or get fuel. Many of Thursday’s pledges will be used to fund an ambitious $1.9 billion cash transfer program to Sudan’s neediest families, around 80% of the population, over the course of two years.

“This is about helping the government to build political capital domestically so that it can show civilians that they’re capable of responding to all the slogans of the revolution,” said Jonas Horner, senior Sudan analyst at the International Crisis Group.

Two-thirds of the country’s more than 40 million people live in poverty, and the government has inherited a debt of 60 billion dollars and a rapid inflation rate. The nation’s currency, the Sudanese pound, is trading on the black market for double its official rate of 55 pounds to the dollar.

Acting USAID administrator John Barsa said that the U.S. would give $356.2 million toward development aid and democratic transition programs. The funds included a nearly tenfold increase in development assistance compared to 2019, he said.

The European Union pledged 312 million euros ($350 million), while Germany said it would give 150 million euros ($168 million). France pledged a total of 100 million euros, or about $112 – a mixture of previously announced aid and newly bolstered assistance. The United Kingdom also gave 166 million euros, more than $186 million.

The United Arab Emirates, which last year pledged a $3 billion joint aid package with Saudi Arabia, announced $50 million in new aid for an investment initiative Thursday. The reduction suggested that the wealthy Gulf Arab monarchies, known for bankrolling military rulers in the region, including ousted al-Bashir, may be more reluctant to prop up the country’s civilian leaders.

Sudan’s government faces steep challenges to transforming its economic system and meeting the demands of protesters who ousted al-Bashir last year, spurred by the soaring prices of staple goods and rising youth unemployment. The government is on the hook for billions of dollars in interest and principal repayments, which has crippled its economic activity and hindered its access to funds from international financial institutions.

David Malpass, President of The World Bank Group, said the global body has worked to find innovative ways to circumvent these financial restrictions, and will establish a multi-donor trust fund to channel Thursday’s pledges as it works with the government to clear its massive debt.

On Wednesday, the International Monetary Fund announced it had reached a preliminary deal to reform the country’s economy, and while the government grapples with the economic fallout of the coronavirus.

IMF assistance is presumably contingent on significant economic reforms, including painful measures that will slash subsidies for basic goods to create room for more spending on social programs.

Sudanese Finance Minister Ibrahim Elbadawi told the conference that the government would enact various security sector reforms, stabilize prices through the central bank act and accelerate the work of an anti-corruption commission, which has so far confiscated property from al-Bashir’s relatives.

Also Thursday, Kristalina Georgieva, IMF managing director, stressed the need for the government to remove fuel subsidies, which she said consumed 10.5% of Sudanese gross domestic product. She also appealed for $1.5-2 billion in aid to plug Sudan’s financial gap, saying that without donors’ help, “inflation cannot be put under control and these reforms cannot have legs.”

Another major economic stumbling block for Sudan is the fact that it remains listed as a state sponsor of terrorism by the U.S. State Department because of the country’s former support for radical Islamic extremist groups. Osama bin Laden lived in Sudan as a guest of al-Bashir’s government in the 1990s, and in 1998, his al-Qaida network blew up U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224 people.

Barsa said that the U.S. could not give a timeline for dropping Sudan from the blacklist, but that a key step is settling punitive damages to victims’ families. Sudan’s foreign ministry said Thursday it had come very close to reaching “a satisfactory settlement.”

The collapse of Sudan’s economy poses an existential threat for its political transition. The uprising that toppled al-Bashir in April 2019 led to a power-sharing deal between civilian appointees and the military. Pro-democracy activists have said that the military leaders have stalled in handing over power to civilian leaders.

While the conference represents a vote of confidence in Sudan’s government, optimism has been tempered by the country’s ongoing power struggle.

“There’s a recognition that there’s a wholesale change at the top of Sudan,” said Horner, the Sudan expert. “But the military is still ascendant in power, so that limits the sort of reforms the government can take … and their ability to gain the trust of people in the street.”

___

DeBre reported from Los Angeles.

Turkey accuses France of dragging Libya into ‘chaos’

Turkey accuses France of dragging Libya into ‘chaos’

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By

Associated Press

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – A Turkish government spokesman shot back at French President Emmanuel Macron and blamed France on Tuesday for allegedly “dragging Libya into chaos.”

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy accused Macron of “losing reason” and of making unfounded accusations against Turkey a day after the French leader said Ankara was involved in a “dangerous game” in Libya.

Macron also urged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday to end Turkey’s activities in the the conflict-torn country.

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“Due to the support it has given to illegitimate structures for years, France has an important responsibility in dragging Libya into chaos, and in this respect, it is France that plays a dangerous game in Libya,” Aksoy said in a statement.

The comments referred to France’s support of Libya’s eastern-based forces, which under Khalifa Hifter launched an April 2019 offensive to try to take the capital of Tripoli.

Turkey backs the U.N.-recognized Tripoli-based administration in Libya. The Tripoli administration’s forces, with Turkish military support, gained the upper hand in the war this month after retaking the capital’s airport, all main entrance and exit points to the city and a string of key nearby towns.

Aksoy added, “The people of Libya will never forget the damages France has inflicted on this country.”

The ministry spokesman also called on France to end steps that he said “put the security and future of Libya, Syria and the eastern Mediterranean under risk” and to enter into a dialogue with Turkey, a NATO ally.

Tensions between France and Turkey escalated following a June 10 incident between Turkish warships and a French naval vessel in the Mediterranean, which France considers a hostile act under NATO’s rules of engagement. Turkey has denied harassing the French frigate.

France accused Ankara of repeated violations of the U.N. arms embargo on Libya.

Libya has been in turmoil since 2011, when a NATO-backed uprising toppled leader Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed.

U.S., Russia hold new nuclear arms talks, but without China

U.S., Russia hold new nuclear arms talks, but without China

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In this photo taken from undated footage distributed by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, an intercontinental ballistic missile lifts off from a truck-mounted launcher somewhere in Russia. The Russian military said the Avangard hypersonic weapon entered combat duty. The Kremlin … more >

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By David Rising

Associated Press

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

BERLIN (AP) — American and Russian negotiators have concluded a round of nuclear arms control talks in Vienna, aimed at producing a new agreement to replace the New START treaty that expires in February — the last remaining pact constraining the arsenals of the world’s two major nuclear powers.

U.S. negotiator Marshall Billingslea told reporters Tuesday that a day of high-level “marathon discussions” ended late Monday night and had been productive enough to conclude with the establishment of several technical working groups to delve deeper into the issues with the idea of paving the way for a second round of talks by late July or early August.

“We both agreed at the termination of our talks that the strategic environment has changed significantly since the New START treaty was signed,” he told reporters. “We can all remember back 10 years ago, the world is, in fact, a radically different place.”

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New START, signed in 2010, imposes limits on the number of U.S. and Russian long-range nuclear warheads and launchers.

It became the last nuclear arms pact between the two nations after the U.S. last year scrapped the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty with Russia, a Cold War-era agreement that both sides had repeatedly accused the other of violating.

The INF treaty was also criticized because it did not cover China or missile technology that did not exist a generation ago.

New START can be extended by five years by mutual consent.

Sergei Ryabkov, the Russian deputy foreign minister who led his country’s delegation in Vienna, told reporters in Moscow that he had reiterated the position that it should be.

“We presented our view and will keep doing so,” Ryabkov told the Interfax agency. “We are running out of time.”

He added, however, that the establishment of working groups was “a significant step forward” and said the talks were conducted in a positive atmosphere and reflected a shared desire to move forward.

U.S. President Donald Trump has called New START “just another bad deal” made by the Obama administration, and it was not clear whether he would agree to an extension.

Billingslea told reporters at a press conference held by the American delegation that any new agreement must include all nuclear weapons and not just strategic nuclear weapons, and also subject China to restrictions.

All options, he said are “definitely on the table.”

“Our ultimate decision, which is in the hands of the president, whether he decides to extend the New START treaty or allow it to run its course, is going to be very much driven by the extent to which we have made progress, not just with our Russian colleagues but with our Chinese counterparts,” he said.

He said China had refused an American invitation to be part of the Vienna talks, but that he hoped the international community would pressure Beijing to take part in the future.

“The United States is not engaged in an arms race,” Billingslea said. “Of course we will not be left behind, but we seek to avoid this, and this is why a three-way nuclear arms control deal, in our view, has the best chance of avoiding an incredibly destabilizing three-way nuclear arms race.”

Ryabkov said Russia believes that other nuclear powers should join future nuclear arms deals, but added that a decision to join could only be voluntary.

“We are well aware of China’s position, we respect it and we don’t see any sign that the Chinese position could change in the direction the U.S. desires in a foreseeable perspective,” he said, according to Interfax.

Billingslea said he “wouldn’t rule anything in or out” but that the U.S. did not think Britain or France, with much smaller nuclear arsenals, should be included like he said Russia wanted.

“Both qualitatively and quantitatively the United Kingdom and France are in a very different situation than the arms racing Chinese,” he said.

The U.S. attempt to bring China on board got off to an awkward start when Billingslea on Monday tweeted a photo of the negotiating table set up with Chinese flags in front of vacant seats, saying “China is a no-show.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian lashed out Tuesday, saying it was “neither serious nor professional for the United States to attract attention in this way.”

“We urge the U.S. to stop this boring trick, actively respond to Russia’s call for the extension of the New START, and carry out serious discussions with the Russian side on this,” he said.

Billingslea defended setting up the flags, saying “we configured the room for all three countries” in anticipation of China sending a delegation, then removed them to set up the room for bilateral talks.

_____

Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Liu Zheng in Beijing contributed to this report.

Britain, France, Germany urge Iran to allow atomic site access, reject U.S. sanctions push

Britain, France, Germany urge Iran to allow atomic site access, reject U.S. sanctions push

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In this photo released by the official website of the Office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani attends a Cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. (Office of the Iranian Presidency via AP) ** FILE ** more >

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By Lauren Meier

The Washington Times

Friday, June 19, 2020

Britain, France, Germany urge Iran to allow atomic site access, reject U.S. efforts to trigger sanctions

Britain, France, and Germany on Friday said they would not support U.S. efforts to trigger the reimposition of United Nations sanctions on Iran while the group demands Tehran provide access to its atomic energy sites.

As part of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Iran accepted restrictions on its nuclear development in exchange for some sanctions on the country. A weapons embargo on Iran — set to expire this October — was also included in the agreement.

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The U.S., which pulled out of the deal in 2018, has called for an extension of the embargo and has threatened to launch a resurgence of all U.N. sanctions in a move to gain backing from the U.N. Security Council to extend the arms embargo.

“We firmly believe that any unilateral attempt to trigger U.N. sanctions snapback would have serious adverse consequences in the U.N. Security Council,” the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, otherwise known as the E3, said in a statement Friday.

“We would not support such a decision, which would be incompatible with our current efforts to preserve the [Iran nuclear deal],” they continued.

The U.S. said last month it is “hopeful” the 15-member U.N. Security Council will extend the embargo before it expires despite opposition from Russia and China, which both hold veto powers on the council.

On Friday, U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook reiterated that the U.S. continues to seek an arms embargo extension.

Iran has not upheld its end of the bargain,” he told reporters. “Our focus is extending the arms embargo. That is our preferred diplomatic path, and we will be — we have drafted a resolution that we hope will win the support of the U.N. Security Council.”

Mr. Hook also said that he believes Russia would also be interested in extending the embargo.

“I think it’s in Russia’s interest to extend the arms embargo,” he said. “One of the preambular paragraphs in the Iran nuclear deal states that the deal will contribute to regional peace and stability. Iran has not upheld its end of the bargain.”

European diplomats have been racing to strike a compromise, Reuters reported, but it remains unclear if they can present an option that will please the U.S., as well as China and Russia.

The foreign ministers said they believe that the lifting of the arms embargo “would have major implications for regional security and stability.”

Their comments come as the U.N.-backed International Atomic Energy Agency approved a resolution that calls on Iran to provide agency inspectors access to sites where it is believed the country is storing nuclear material.

Iran in recent months has consistently denied inspectors access to two locations believed to house nuclear material. IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi earlier this week said inspectors have sought to “clarify our questions related to possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities.”

The country has, however, provided access to sites that are mentioned under the Iran nuclear deal, otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Friday that Iran’s moves to block IAEA access to the sites is “unacceptable and underscore the continued threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program to international peace and security.”

“As the IAEA Board made clear today, Iran must immediately comply with its IAEA safeguards obligations and provide the IAEA nothing short of full cooperation,” Mr. Pompeo said. “If Iran fails to cooperate, the international community must be prepared to take further action.”

Russia, meanwhile, rejected the approval of the resolution — which was introduced by Britain, France and Germany — and called the move “unproductive.”

The Russian ambassador to international organizations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, tweeted that his country and China had voted against the resolution.

“We believe that the resolution can be counterproductive,” Mr. Ulyanov said, while also “stressing the need for Tehran and IAEA to settle this problem without delay.”

• This story is based in part on wire reports.

Germany, France, UK press Iran to provide atomic site access

Germany, France, UK press Iran to provide atomic site access

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By DAVID RISING

Associated Press

Friday, June 19, 2020

BERLIN (AP) – The board of the United Nations‘ atomic watchdog agency on Friday adopted a resolution calling for Iran to provide inspectors access to sites where the country is thought to have stored or used undeclared nuclear material, the Russian representative said.

Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s ambassador to international organizations in Vienna, tweeted that his country and China had voted against the resolution that Germany, France and Britain proposed at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency board.

“We believe that the resolution can be counterproductive,” Ulyanov said, while also “stressing the need for Tehran and IAEA to settle this problem without delay.”

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Earlier this week, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi reiterated concerns that for more than four months Iran had denied his inspectors access to two locations ” to clarify our questions related to possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities.”

Activities at the sites are thought to have been from the early 2000s, before Iran signed the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Iran maintains the International Atomic Energy Agency has no legal basis to inspect them.

The agency has said that Iran continues to provide access to sites covered by the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

Iran’s representative to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, said his country rejected the resolution.

“We do not consider this resolution acceptable at all,” he said. “This resolution cannot create any legal obligation for the Islamic Republic of Iran in cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency to grant the two accesses.”

Since the United States withdrew unilaterally from the deal in 2018, the other signatories – Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China – have been struggling to save it.

Meanwhile, Iran has been violating its restrictions, including the amount of uranium it can enrich and the purity of enrichment, to try to pressure those countries to provide additional economic relief to offset American sanctions.

It is not clear what effect the new resolution will have on the JCPOA, but Iran threatened unspecified consequences.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran will take appropriate action and respond to this resolution,” Gharibabadi said.

Iran’s foreign ministry described the resolution as an “unconstructive, irresponsible and unacceptable action,” the state-run IRNA news agency reported. Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi accused Britain, France and Germany of creating tension between Iran and the IAEA and trying to avoid “their responsibilities based on the nuclear deal.”

In a tweet, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif urged the three nations to “muster the courage to state publicly what they admit privately: their failure to fulfill even own JCPOA duties due to total impotence in resisting US bullying.”

China’s ambassador to international organizations, Wang Qun, told board members he was “deeply concerned” about both Grossi’s decision to openly express concerns about being denied access and the resolution that was passed.

He said, according to a copy of his statement provided to The Associated Press, that it could “set forth a process, under the current circumstances, that may bring the Iranian nuclear issue back to a crossroad full of uncertainties again.”

The foreign ministers of Germany, France and Britain discussed Iran at a meeting in Berlin later Friday and issued a statement noting that the resolution passed with a “very strong majority.”

The American representative, Jackie Wolcott, said the U.S. had supported the resolution and that the ball was now in Iran’s court.

“The fact of the matter is this is entirely Iran’s decision,” she said in a conference call with reporters. “They could fix this overnight if they would just decide to comply with their obligations with the IAEA.”

Germany, France and Britain in January invoked a dispute resolution mechanism designed to resolve issues with the 2015 deal or refer them to the U.N. Security Council. On Friday, their foreign ministers said that “we will seek a ministerial meeting to urge Iran to cooperate and to take stock of where we stand” in that process.

If no resolution is found, the process could result in the resumption of U.N. and European Union sanctions on Iran. But the ministers warned against trying to force the reimposition of sanctions.

“We firmly believe that any unilateral attempt to trigger U.N. sanctions snapback would have serious adverse consequences” in the U.N. Security Council, they said. “We would not support such a decision which would be incompatible with our current efforts to preserve the JCPOA.”

___

Associated Press writers Geir Moulson in Berlin, and Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.

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A policeman wearing a protective suit stands watch people living surrounding the Xinfadi wholesale market arrive to get a nucleic acid test at a stadium in Beijing, Sunday, June 14, 2020. China is reporting its highest daily total of coronavirus … more >

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By The Associated Press

Associated Press

Sunday, June 14, 2020

MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin says the country is emerging from the coronavirus crisis, but that the United States is struggling because it has a fragmented government system.

In an interview on state television Sunday, parts of which were reported before broadcast by news media, Putin said “we are working quite steadily and getting out of this situation with the coronavirus confidently, with minimal losses.”

In the U.S., “this is not happening,” he said, noting the central and regional governments work more closely in Russia. “I doubt that someone somewhere in the government or in the regions suddenly said: ‘We will not do what the government says or the president says. We consider this inappropriate,’” Putin said.

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___

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

– Russia’s low virus death toll still raises questions in West.

China, Korea, Egypt report rise in virus cases as curbs ease.

– Europe opens its borders to Europeans, but not Americans, Asians.

– Thai entrepreneur connects Michelin bistros to those in need.

– Bars are being allowed to reopen in party-loving New Orleans after a long shutdown prompted by coronavirus fears.

– Workers who agreed to live at a Georgia nursing home to keep residents safe from the coronavirus are back with loved ones.

– Major League Baseball appears headed to its shortest season since the 1870s.

___

Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

___

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:

LIMA, Peru – Archbishop Carlos Castillo on Sunday looked out over a cathedral full of faces – none of them now alive.

The cleric had his church filled with more than 5,000 portraits of those who have died in the pandemic that is burning across Peru and South America as a whole, using his broadcast homily to criticize a health system he said “is based on egotism and on business and not on mercy and solidarity with the people.”

COVID-19 has taken at least 6,400 lives in the nation of some 32 million people – a toll second only to that of Brazil within South America.

Hundred of them have died without receiving help from the health system, and many families have faced financial ruin due to the cost of trying to care for the ill. The nation as a whole faces a projected economic contraction of 12% this year, and Castillo called for solidarity with the poor.

“An even harder moment is coming,” he said. “It would be terrible if in the times to come we have thousands of these photos – but dead of hunger.”

Church workers spent days filling the pews with images of coronavirus victims, and when the 84 pews were filled, the archbishop ordered thousands of photos more attached to the base of the columns that rise to the arched ceiling.

___

PARIS – President Emmanuel Macron announced that France is fully reopening its economy, including all restaurants, to accelerate the country’s recovery after virus crisis.

Macron said restaurants in the Paris region will be allowed to open indoor seating starting on Monday. Until then, only outdoor seating was permitted.

Restaurants in other French regions have already reopened.

From June 22, all nursery schools, primary schools and junior high schools will be open and mandatory for all students – instead of classes capped to small groups and many children staying at home.

Macron also confirmed that the second round of local elections that have been interrupted by the virus lockdown will take place on June 28.

“We must relaunch our economy,” Macron said.

France is reopening its borders with other European countries at midnight and will start allowing visitors from other continents on July 1st.

The country, which has reported at least 29,398 deaths from the virus in hospitals and nursing homes, has been under strict lockdown from March 17 to May 11, before gradually easing restrictions.

___

LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered a review of the government’s two-meter (6.5-feet) social distancing rule, saying the falling number of coronavirus cases gives the government “more margin for manoeuvre” in easing the guideline.

Johnson said that “probably” fewer than one in 1,000 people now have the virus, and the chance of coming in contact with someone who’s infected are increasingly remote.

Treasury chief Rishi Sunak said that officials will be drawing on advice on the issue from economists as well as the government’s scientific and medical advisers.

Conservative lawmakers and businesses have been putting increasing pressure on the government to ease the two-metre rule, arguing that it will make it extremely difficult for many pubs and restaurants to operate.

They say that the government in the U.K. can follow other countries and ask people to socially distance at one meter or 1.5 meters.

___

MILAN – Italy added 44 deaths from coronavirus on Sunday, with nearly half of those in hardest-hit Lombardy.

While most Italian regions counted fewer than 10 new confirmed cases in the last 24 hours, with eight regions at zero, Lombardy’s count remained stuck in the triple digits, numbering 244, according to the civil protection agency.

The next highest number was in neighboring Piedmont, at 30. As of Sunday, more than a month after a gradual easing of lockdown started and nearly two weeks since regional borders opened, the number of people currently positive for the virus is 26,274 — with 3,800 being treated in the hospital.

___

ATHENS, Greece – Greece has announced zero new fatalities for the fifth consecutive day, the longest such run since mid-March.

Thus, fatalities remain at 183, while nine new confirmed cases over the past 24 hours have pushed the total to 3,121.

Thirteen patients remain hooked up to ventilators, while 116 have exited intensive care units, authorities said Sunday.

On Monday, Greece is opening a second airport to international traffic, in Thessaloniki, the country’s second-largest city, part of an attempt to ease into the tourist season. Depending on the country of origin, arriving passengers will either be tested at random or will follow the existing protocol, which mandates that all aboard an arriving flight be tested.

Flights will be allowed only from European Union countries, at least until June 30. But while routes from France, Italy and the Netherlands to Athens will resume Monday, the ban remains in Thessaloniki.

Also, land travel with Bulgaria, the only neighboring country that is also an EU member, will be permitted from Monday.

Greece’s museums reopen Monday, after a three-month shutdown. Masks, social distancing and limits to groups will be enforced.

___

ANKARA, Turkey – Turkey is “moving away from the target,” the country’s health minister warned Sunday as the daily number of new coronavirus cases rose above 1,500 following the relaxation of restrictions.

Fahrettin Koca tweeted that 1,562 new cases were recorded over the previous 24 hours, the highest daily figure since June 3.

Reporting 1,330 recoveries, he said: “Our number of recovered patients fell below the number of new cases. The need for intensive care and respiratory equipment is rising.”

Koca also reported 15 deaths due to coronavirus, taking the total since the first case on March 11 to 4,807. Turkey has recorded a total of 178,239 coronavirus cases.

At the start of June, the government authorized cafes, restaurants, gyms, parks, beaches and museums to reopen and eased stay-at-home orders for the elderly and young.

A weekend curfew that was due to be implemented last week was canceled, ending the series of part-time lockdowns in place since April.

Koca called for people to switch to a period of “controlled social life” from Monday to halt the rise in cases.

___

CAIRO – Egypt says it will resume international flights starting July 1 with countries that will open its airports.

Minister of Civil Aviation Mohammed Manar told a news conference on Sunday that all of the country’s airports will be reopened allowing travelers around the world to return to parts of the country less hard-hit by the coronavirus.

Antiquities and Tourism Minister Khaled el-Anany also says the government will open three provinces to tourists starting July 1.

Those include the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula, home to the major resort and beach destination of Sharm el Sheikh, the Red Sea resort areas of Hurghada and Marsa Alam, as well as Marsa Matrouh, on the Mediterranean coast.

The government hopes to draw tourists to popular yet remote attractions that have been spared the ravages of the virus.

The decision comes even as the pandemic surges in the Arab world’s most populous country, which has at least 1,484 deaths among 42,980 confirmed cases.

___

PARISFrance is opening its borders with other European countries at midnight for the first time since shutting them amid virus fears three months ago, and will start opening up to visitors from other continents July 1.

It’s among several European countries opening borders first thing Monday – though it’s not clear how many Europeans are ready to travel again.

The French government has urged fellow EU members to coordinate their border rules, and is sticking to calendar recommendations from the European Commission last week.

“Given the favorable evolution of the health situation in France and in Europe,” the French government said in a statement it’s opening its borders to all arrivals from the EU and countries in the border-free Schengen zone Monday.

People arriving from inside Europe won’t need to undergo quarantine. But France will apply different rules to visitors from Spain and Britain because those countries established different reopening schedules.

France will gradually allow visitors from outside Europe starting July 1, based on the virus situation in countries of origin.

The French government promised to ease entry for foreign students in particular ahead of the new academic year.

___

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – El Salvador’s president says that a stringent quarantine imposed to fight COVID-19 has legally expired and a gradual reopening of the economy will begin Tuesday.

The Central American nation’s Supreme Court ruled that the strict measures decreed by President Nayib Bukele were unconstitutional and Bukele said Saturday night that he is going to veto the alternative restrictions passed Friday by the National Assembly.

As a result, he acknowledged, by law the region’s most restrictive legal lockdown has ended, though he asked citizens to continue in quarantine voluntarily until Tuesday, when phased measures to reactivate economic life would begin.

Under Bukele’s stay-at-home decrees, violators were sent to government-run containment centers for month-long stays. He had resisted loosening the orders, arguing that the country’s medical system could be quickly overwhelmed, resulting in much greater loss of life.

Health Minister Francisco Alabí said that the nation’s health system is already strained, with 90 of its 105 available intensive care beds already occupied. He said he expected to see an increase in COVID-19 cases with the end of restrictions.

The country of nearly 6.5 million people has reported 3,603 confirmed cases of the disease, with 72 deaths.

___

SKOPJE, North Macedonia – Authorities in North Macedonia have reported a new record day of fatalities from the coronavius.

The Health Ministry announced Sunday nine deaths from COVID-19 and 162 new cases over the past 24 hours, which brings the total number of infected to 4,064 with 188 deaths.

The figures place the small Balkan nation of about 2 million people at the top of the list of infections and deaths in the region.

Despite the spike, North Macedonia has lifted a state of emergency as of midnight Saturday. It has also adopted a protocol for visitors transiting through the country, either through the land crossings with neighboring Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Kosovo and Serbia, or through the international airport in the capital Skopje. Transiting visitors are allowed to remain in the country for five hours maximum and will be obliged to fill out a form upon entry in North Macedonia and to hand it over to the border police at the exit as proof of the duration of transit.

Macedonian citizens can leave the country, but they are obliged to sign a statement at the exit that, if they are infected with COVID-19 while abroad, they will pay for their treatment. Upon re-entry, they must present to border authorities the results of a diagnostic test taken within the past 72 hours.

___

MADRID – Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says Spain will open its borders to travelers from Europe’s Schengen travel areas except Portugal on June 21, moving up the original date by 10 days.

Spain will drop its requirement for people arriving from abroad to stay in quarantine, either at home or in a hotel, for 14 days on arrival, when it reopens on that day.

Sánchez said Sunday that Spain and Portugal will keep their border closed to non-essential crossings until July 1.

Spain’s government had already announced that on June 21 it will end the nation’s state of emergency to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. From then on, Spaniards will be able to move freely around the country without restrictions, but face masks will remain obligatory in public transport and crowded spaces.

On Monday, Spain’s Balearic Islands test their reopening strategy by accepting the first flights from Germany of tourists who will be exempt from a quarantine. The islands plan to welcome up to 10,900 Germans during the trial.

Over 27,000 Spaniards have died in the country’s pandemic.

___

DHAKA, Bangladesh – Bangladesh reported 3,141 new cases and 32 more deaths from the coronavirus on Sunday, raising its total caseload to 87,520, including 1,171 fatalities.

Nasima Sultana, additional director general of the Health Directorate, said a junior minister from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Cabinet and a former health minister and close aide to Hasina both died of the virus on Saturday in Dhaka, the capital.

Bangladesh’s main state-run hospitals are overwhelmed, with many critical COVID-19 patients being deprived of intensive care beds and ventilators.

___

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – The Yemeni Embassy in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, is shuttering indefinitely due to a number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus among staff.

The embassy made the announcement on Twitter late Saturday, but did not specify how many people had contracted COVID-19.

Similarly, the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh also announced that starting Sunday its office for labor affairs will close after a number of employees were tested for the coronavirus and six people were confirmed positive for the disease. The office is being sterilized and employees were working remotely, according to the embassy.

Despite taking early and unprecedented measures to curb the spread of the virus, Saudi Arabia’s numbers continue to climb by more than 3,000 cases daily with more than 123,000 confirmed cases overall.

___

BEIJING – China is reporting its highest daily total of coronavirus cases in two months after the capital’s biggest wholesale food market was shut down following a resurgence in local infections.

Officials say there were 57 confirmed cases in the 24 hours through midnight Saturday. That was the highest daily total since mid-April and included 36 new cases in Beijing.

The Xinfadi market on Beijing’s southeast side was closed Saturday and 11 neighboring residential compounds locked down after more then 50 people in the capital tested positive for the virus. They were the first confirmed cases in 50 days in the city of 20 million people.

China had relaxed most of its anti-virus controls after the ruling Communist Party declared victory over the disease in March.

___

SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea has confirmed 34 more coronavirus cases in a continuation of an upward trend in new infections, mostly in the densely populated Seoul region.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sunday that 30 of the 34 new cases are in the grater Seoul area, where half of the country’s 51 million people live.

The agency says South Korea has now recorded 12,085 virus cases. It says 10,718 have recovered, 1,090 remain in treatment and the other 277 died.

New cases have been linked to nightlife establishments, church services, a large-scale e-commerce warehouse and door-to-door sellers.

In late February and early March, South Korea reported hundreds of new cases daily, then a significant easing prompted authorities to ease social distancing rules.

___

CAIRO – Egypt’s Health Ministry has announced 1,677 new confirmed cases of coronavirus – the highest 24-hour infection total since the virus was first detected in the country in mid-February.

The ministry also reported 62 deaths from COVID-19, the disease that can be caused by the virus.

The figures announced Saturdays raise Egypt’s coronavirus totals to 1,484 deaths and 42,980 confirmed cases. The ministry says 11,529 patients have been discharged from quarantine after their recovery.

Egypt is the Arab world’s most populous country and it has the highest death rate from COVID-19 among Arab nations. It ranks third in the Middle East after Iran and Turkey.

___

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis celebrated Mass Sunday for about 50 socially distanced and masked faithful inside St. Peter’s Cathedral, the first time the pontiff said Mass with ordinary congregants since restrictions were put in place for the coronavirus epidemic.

The Mass marked the Corpus Christi holiday, celebrating the Roman Catholic belief that the Eucharist is the real body and blood of Christ. During lockdown, the faithful could follow Mass on television but were unable to receive communion, one of the church’s holy sacraments.

The faithful – standing at a safe distance from one another – also were present in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly Sunday blessing. The pope led a prayer for Libya, and urged political and military leaders to end hostilities and for the international community to take “to heart” the plight of migrants trapped in the lawless nation. “There is cruelty,” the pope said. “We all have responsibility. No one can feel exempt.”

___

PARISFrance’s highest administrative court says coronavirus concerns no longer justify banning public protests.

In a country that sees thousands of protests annually, the Council of State’s ruling Saturday night allows demonstrations to resume as long as health protections are respected and the events are declared in advance to authorities and not deemed a risk to public order.

The council says that “the ban on protesting is not justified by the current health situation” and the right to protest is a “fundamental freedom.”

The ruling came as an unauthorized protest against police violence and racial injustice wound down in Paris. Police stopped at least 15,000 protesters from marching through the city Saturday, citing virus restrictions on any gathering of more than 10 people.

Iran looking to France to review black boxes from downed Ukrainian plane: Report

Iran looking to France to review black boxes from downed Ukrainian plane: Report

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By Lauren Meier

The Washington Times

Friday, June 12, 2020

Iranian officials have asked French air accident agency BEA to review the black boxes from the Ukrainian commercial airliner that was shot down in January by Iranian forces near Tehran, killing all 176 people on board.

Iranian officials initially said a mechanical problem was to blame for the fiery crash, but it was later revealed a Russian-made surface-to-air missile accidentally fired by Iranian forces was the cause of the incident, which occurred amid skyrocketing tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

The fate of the black boxes from the flight, which reveal vital data and recordings from the cockpit, has been at the center of an international dispute, with several western nations calling for the information to be released.

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Iran’s United Nations envoy on Friday said that a request has been sent to the BEA (Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses or the Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety when translated in English) to review the information.

“Iran’s AAIB recently made a request to the BEA that the recorders should be taken by Iran to the BEA’s premises in France to be read in the presence of representatives of other involved countries and ICAO, if the BEA is in a position to accommodate this,” Farhad Parvaresh, Iran’s representative to the U.N. agency, told Reuters in a phone call.

He explained the request from the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau’s request was discussed at a U.N. International Civil Aviation Organization council meeting earlier this week.

Anger, activism grow over police abuse amid French lockdown

Anger, activism grow over police abuse amid French lockdown

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Hundreds of demonstrators gather on the Champs de Mars during a demonstration in Paris, France, Saturday, June 6, 2020, to protest against the recent killing of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, U.S.A., after … more >

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By ARNO PEDRAM

Associated Press

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

PARIS (AP) – With France confined to fight the virus, a video circulated online in April showing a young man lying on the bloody ground next to two police officers – and quickly set off protests in struggling neighborhoods around the Paris region.

Sometime before, the man had been on a motorcycle. Then, he crashed into a suddenly opened police car door. Whether the door was opened on purpose or not is unclear, but what was clear was the anger the video sparked. A protest that night in the town of Villeneuve-la-Garenne led to others in a dozen Paris suburbs and similar neighborhoods around France in the ensuing days.

The relationship between police and marginalized residents of France’s low-income neighborhoods, many of whom are Arab or black and trace their roots to former French colonies, has long been tense. Safety measures intended to curb the spread of COVID-19 further empowered police – but also empowered community activists using apps or online sleuthing to track and challenge what they see as an abuse of police power.

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George Floyd’s death in the U.S. has resonated especially loudly in places like Villeneuve, one of many banlieues, or suburbs, where poverty and minority populations are concentrated in France. Floyd-related protests against police violence and racial injustice have been held around France.

Thousands of people gathered in Paris once again to pay tribute to Floyd as his funeral took place in Houston, Texas on Tuesday. Waving banners and signs with “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t breathe” written on them, participants knelt and observed silence in his memory.

“To see so many people here fuels hope, but we have to fight because it’s never a victory,” a 42-year-old artist living in Paris who goes by the professional name Fhemann said.

Denouncing police violence in the United States and in France, he said, “It’s unacceptable that young people, when they’re in contact with the police, see their life expectancy melt like snow in the sun.”

In a pivotal moment for modern France, rioting engulfed the country for three weeks in 2005 after two boys who were running from police, Zyed and Bouna, were electrocuted while hiding in a generator in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois. A state of emergency was declared and almost 3,000 people were arrested.

Despite billions of euros in government improvement programs for the banlieues since 2005, tensions with police persist, and the deaths of other young men periodically rekindles anger. Protesters marching in solidarity with Floyd notably called for justice for Adama Traore, whose death in police custody in 2016 is still under investigation.

“The anger (in those neighborhoods) is so present and police impunity so frustrating that we don’t need much for it to blow up,” said Ilyes Ramdani, editor-in-chief of the Bondy Blog, which was founded in 2005 to tell the stories of young black and Arab French people in the banlieues.

Under France’s strictest virus lockdown measures, from March 17 to May 11, the government restricted people’s movements to a kilometer (half-mile) around their homes and required anyone going out to carry a signed paper stating why. Punishments included fines starting at 135 euros (about $150), or even prison.

On the first day punishments were doled out, 10% of the fines handed out across the country were given in the region of Seine-Saint-Denis on Paris’ northern edge, where unemployment is twice the national average, almost one person out of three is an immigrant, and many others are the descendants of immigrants.

Government officials defended the fines as necessary to fight the virus in a region with especially high infection rates.

But police union leader Yves Lefebvre lamented that the lockdown measures “again made the police a repressive tool.”

“Public services have deserted these neighborhoods,” and police are the only presence left, which “necessarily leads to confrontation,” he said.

Lefebvre, general secretary for Unité SGP Police-Force Ouvrière union, said trust has been broken because “police only enter those neighborhoods to restore order.”

The Villeneuve incident is being investigated by prosecutors and by the French state police watchdog agency, which said it received 166 citizen reports of problematic police behavior and seven formal complaints of police abuse during the 54-day lockdown.

Under pressure to act, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner pledged Monday to ban police chokeholds and said more officers will be equipped with cameras to help ensure that identity checks don’t lead to discrimination against minorities.

Frustrated activists are taking matters into their own hands.

At the start of the lockdown, Sihame Assbague, an anti-racial profiling activist and journalist, started to collect reports of police harassment, citing “a multiplication of police violence videos on social media.”

She’s cross-referencing and verifying about 40 cases, most of them from videos she’s received.

“I don’t expect much from the state or public authorities, but what I know is they respect strength. That’s why it’s important to organize,” she said.

Amal Bentounsi, whose brother Amine was shot in the back and killed by the police in 2012, founded a group to support families of victims and to provide legal help to bring abusive police to court. The officer who killed her brother was sentenced to a 5-year suspended prison sentence, regarded as a rare legal victory for families like hers.

In March, Bentounsi and three other families launched an app called Emergency-Police Violence designed to record abuses.

“The idea is for people to develop the habit of filming, not to make buzz, but to create a tool for citizens to contradict the police’s version of events and dissuade police who will be filmed” from abusing their authority, Bentounsi said.

Users can record arrests live, and the videos are directly uploaded onto the app’s server so they can be salvaged if the phone is seized or broken.

Since March, the app has been downloaded more than 30,000 times.

___

AP journalist Alexander Turnbull in Paris contributed to the story.

___

Follow all developments and AP stories on global protests against racial injustice and police brutality at https://apnews.com/GeorgeFloyd

___

Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

On sad anniversary, few to mourn the D-Day dead in Normandy

On sad anniversary, few to mourn the D-Day dead in Normandy

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In this Thursday, June 6, 2019, file photo, President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and Brigitte Macron watch a flyover during a ceremony to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day at the American Normandy cemetery, … more >

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By Raf Casert

Associated Press

Friday, June 5, 2020

COLLEVILLE-SUR-MER, France (AP) — At least the dead will always be there.

All too many have been, for 76 years since that fateful June 6 on France’s Normandy beaches, when allied troops in 1944 turned the course of World War II and went on to defeat fascism in Europe in one of the most remarkable feats in military history.

Forgotten they will never be. Revered, yes. But Saturday’s anniversary will be one of the loneliest remembrances ever, as the coronavirus pandemic is keeping almost everyone away — from government leaders to frail veterans who might not get another chance for a final farewell to their unlucky comrades.

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Rain and wind are also forecast, after weeks of warm, sunny weather.

“The sadness is almost too much, because there is no one,” said local guide Adeline James. “Plus you have their stories. The history is sad and it’s even more overwhelming now between the weather, the (virus) situation and, and, and.”

The locals in this northwestern part of France have come out year after year to show their gratitude for the soldiers from the United States, Britain, Canada and other countries who liberated them from Adolf Hitler’s Nazi forces.

Despite the lack of international crowds, David Pottier still went out to raise American flags in the Calvados village of Mosles, population 356, which was liberated by allied troops the day after the landing on five Normandy beachheads.

In a forlorn scene, a gardener tended to the parched grass around the small monument for the war dead, while Pottier, the local mayor, was getting the French tricolor to flutter next to the Stars and Stripes.

“We have to recognize that they came to die in a foreign land,” Pottier said. “We miss the GIs,” he said of the U.S. soldiers.

The pandemic has wreaked havoc across the world, infecting 6.6 million people, killing over 391,000 and devastating economies. It poses a particular threat to the elderly – like the surviving D-Day veterans who are in their late nineties or older.

It has also affected the younger generations who turn out every year to mark the occasion. Most have been barred from traveling to the windswept coasts of Normandy.

Some 160,000 soldiers made the perilous crossing from England that day in atrocious conditions, storming dunes which they knew were heavily defended by German troops determined to hold their positions.

Somehow, they succeeded. Yet they left a trail of thousands of casualties who have been mourned for generations since.

Last year stood out, with U.S. President Donald Trump joining his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron at the American cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach. A smattering of veterans were honored with the highest accolades. All across the beaches of Normandy tens of thousands came from across the globe to pay their respects to the dead and laud the surviving soldiers.

The acrid smell of wartime-era jeep exhaust fumes and the rumble of old tanks filled the air as parades of vintages vehicles went from village to village. The tiny roads between the dunes, hedges and apple orchards were clogged for hours, if not days.

Heading into the D-Day remembrance weekend this year, only the salty brine coming off the ocean on Omaha Beach hits the nostrils, the shrieks of seagulls pierce the ears and a sense of desolation hangs across the region’s country roads.

“Last year this place was full with jeeps, trucks, people dressed up as soldiers,” said Eric Angely, who sat on a seawall, dressed in a World War II uniform after taking his restored U.S. Army jeep out for a ride.

“This year, there is nothing. It’s just me now, my dog and my jeep,” the local Frenchman said.

Three quarters of a century and the horrific wartime slaughter of D-Day help put things in perspective. Someday the COVID-19 pandemic, too, will pass, and people will turn out to remember both events that shook the world.

“We don’t have a short memory around here,” Pottier said with a wistful smile.

___

Virginia Mayo contributed.

On WWI treaty’s centenary, Hungary says its ‘curse’ must go

On WWI treaty’s centenary, Hungary says its ‘curse’ must go

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Lawmakers attend the commemorative parliamentary session marking the centenary of the Trianon Peace Treaty in Budapest, Hungary, Thursday, June 4, 2020. Hungary is commemorating the 100th anniversary of a post-World War I peace treaty which led to the loss of … more >

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By PABLO GORONDI

Associated Press

Thursday, June 4, 2020

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) – Hungary’s president on Thursday stressed the need for mutual respect between Hungary and neighboring countries where some 2 million ethnic Hungarians live following a post-World War I peace treaty signed exactly 100 years ago.

At the same time, Janos Ader spoke of Hungarians’ “right” to keep unaltered their “spiritual borders,” despite the changes on the real map, and stressed the need to “rectify” the damage from the treaty.

Hungary was on the losing side in the war and was stripped of over two-thirds of its territory, populated by some 3.3 million ethnic Hungarians, after the June 4, 1920, Treaty of Trianon – signed in the Grand Trianon Palace in Versailles, France.

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The fate of the ethnic Hungarian minorities in countries like Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine was a taboo issue during the roughly four decades of Hungary’s communist regime that ended in 1990, when it regained attention. Since his return to power in 2010, right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban has prioritized support and advocacy for the roughly 2 million ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries, and for the rest of the Hungarian diaspora around the world.

“No one can dispute our right to work, given that the nation’s geographical borders have changed, for the nation’s spiritual borders to remain unchanged,” Ader said during a special parliamentary session.

In separate speeches, Ader and parliament speaker Laszlo Kover also talked about the 100-year-old grievances felt by Hungarians because of Trianon, especially the perceived anti-Hungarian bias during negotiations leading to the treaty and the disproportionately large number of Hungarians who suddenly found themselves as minorities in other countries.

Hungary, then a kingdom in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was one of the Central Powers led by Germany which lost the 1914-1918 war to an alliance led by Britain and France, and joined later by the United States.

“We respect our neighbors but we ask them to also respect us and the Hungarians living in their countries,” Ader said. “We have to work for each other, not against each other.”

“We have to rectify what the (WWI victors) damaged,” he added. “If we do so, the curse of Trianon will be removed from us.”

At the same time, Ader said Hungarians “will not be partners in suppression, in falsifying history, in the denial of Hungarians living outside the motherland.”

Long-standing disputes about the Hungarian minorities’ rights,mostly regarding education and the use of their mother tongue, have flared up in recent years, especially with Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine.

“On the other hand, we will be partners in candid talk, in taking advantage of the historical opportunities, in strengthening ties between Hungarians and Hungarians and between Hungarians and those of other nationalities,” Ader said.

Thanks to legal changes promoted by Orban’s government, since 2011 some 1.1 million ethnic Hungarians, mostly living in neighboring countries, have received Hungarian citizenship, including the right to vote in Hungary’s national elections.

In the 2018 parliamentary election, over 95% of the votes from neighboring countries were for Orban’s Fidesz party.

In Budapest, public transport will halt for one minute Thursday afternoon to mark the Trianon anniversary.

Rescued migrants stranded on chartered Maltese tourist boats

Rescued migrants stranded on chartered Maltese tourist boats

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Migrants dry their clothes aboard a tourist boats some 20 kilometers from Malta, Tuesday, June 2, 2020. More than 400 migrants are living aboard pleasure cruise vessels, bobbing in the sea off Malta, many of them for weeks now. Rescued … more >

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By FRANCES D’EMILIO and RENE ROSSIGNAUD

Associated Press

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

VALLETTA, Malta (AP) – More than 400 migrants are living aboard pleasure cruise vessels bobbing in the sea off Malta, many of them for weeks now. But for them, it’s no pleasure, only uncertainty over their fate and they aren’t cruising anywhere.

Rescued from human traffickers’ unseaworthy boats in several operations in the central Mediterranean since late April, the migrants, along with the Maltese government, are waiting for European Union countries to offer to take them in. So far, only France has stepped forward, pledging to accept some of the asylum-seekers.

France is one of a handful of EU countries which agreed last year to share the burden of caring for migrants rescued at sea by Malta and Italy.

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But that arrangement often yielded pledges that weren’t fully met, and that was before COVID-19 containment measures in Europe made movement of peoples across borders even more complicated.

On Wednesday, SOS Mediterranee, a European humanitarian group which has operated rescue boats in the Mediterranean Sea, lamented that the migrants being held on the chartered tourist boats were being used as political pawns.

“Instead of disembarking them in a safe place, as international law requires, the persons rescued at sea get used for political negotiations with member states of the European Union, which, despite the urgency of the situation, haven’t proposed a coordinated solution for their transfer,” the group said in a statement.

On Tuesday, some of the migrants could be seen walking on deck. Their laundry hung from improvised clothes lines. Maltese armed forces, arrayed in boats, keep watch on the four vessels usually used for pleasure excursions to ferry tourists to the tiny Mediterranean island nation’s attractions, like the blue grotto and beaches accessible by sea. The small flotilla of tourist boats is about 23 kilometers (14 miles) off shore.

With Malta under COVID-19 containment measures, its ports have been closed, and the four tourist cruise boats can’t operate for business now. But this week, Malta announced that on July 1 it re-opens to tourism. The government is paying several thousand euros a day to charter the boats from a Maltese company.

At a news conference Monday to outline the July 1 travel rules, Prime Minister Robert Abela was asked about the migrants’ fate. Abela described the situation as unfortunate. He noted that while Malta reopens its airport on July 1, its ports stay closed for now as part of coronavirus containment rules.

Malta has registered 620 known cases of COVID-19. About 50 of those infections were suffered by migrants in one of its reception centers on land. With that one under quarantine and others full in late April, Malta decided to charter private vessels, in this case from a tourist pleasure craft company, to house the migrants.

The numbers of migrants kept at sea swelled last week to past 400, with the latest sea rescue on May 27.

Abela said this week he hoped a European solution will be found for these migrants as well in case of future rescues of migrants from boats launched by Libya-based traffickers. The migrants flee conflict and poverty, with many of them coming from sub-Saharan Africa. Migrants who embark on the dangerous journeys because of economic reasons usually see their asylum bids denied.

Two weeks ago, the U.N. Refugee Agency and the International Organization for Migration said it was “unacceptable to leave people at sea longer than necessary, especially under difficult and unsuitable conditions.” The organizations noted that 21 people, mostly families and children, had been evacuated and brought ashore to Malta earlier in May.

Early in the standoff at sea, Maltese Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo said that since 2005, other EU countries had taken what he called a “miserly 8% of all those who were saved and brought to Malta.”

___

Frances D’Emilio reported from Rome. Sylvie Corbet contributed from Paris.

‘Dangerous’: Around world, police chokeholds scrutinized

‘Dangerous’: Around world, police chokeholds scrutinized

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In this May 26, 2019, file photo, police detain a woman during a yellow vest protest with other groups in Brussels. The death of George Floyd has renewed scrutiny of immobilization techniques long used in policing around the world. (AP … more >

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By Leicester

Associated Press

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

LE PECQ, France (AP) — Three days after George Floyd died with a Minneapolis police officer choking off his air, another black man writhed on the tarmac of a street in Paris as a police officer pressed a knee to his neck during an arrest.

Immobilization techniques where officers apply pressure with their knees on prone suspects are used in policing around the world and have long drawn criticism. One reason why Floyd’s death is sparking anger and touching nerves globally is that such techniques have been blamed for asphyxiations and other deaths in police custody beyond American shores, often involving non-white suspects.

“We cannot say that the American situation is foreign to us,” said French lawmaker Francois Ruffin, who has pushed for a ban on the police use of face-down holds that are implicated in multiple deaths in France, a parliamentary effort put on hold by the coronavirus pandemic.

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The muscular arrest on May 28 in Paris of a black man who was momentarily immobilized face-up with an officer’s knee and upper shin pressing down on his jaw, neck and upper chest is among those that have drawn angry comparisons with the killing of Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis.

The Paris arrest was filmed by bystanders and widely shared and viewed online. Police said the man was driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol and without a license and that he resisted arrest and insulted officers. His case was turned over to prosecutors.

In Hong Kong, where police behavior is a hot-button issue after months of anti-government protests, the city’s force says it is investigating the death of a man who was immobilized face-down during his arrest in May by officers who were filmed kneeling on his shoulder, back and neck.

Police rules and procedures on chokeholds and restraints vary internationally.

In Belgium, police instructor Stany Durieux says he reprimands trainees, docking them points, “every time I see a knee applied to the spinal column.”

“It is also forbidden to lean on a suspect completely, as this can crush his rib cage and suffocate him,” he said.

Condemned by police and experts in the United States, Floyd’s death also drew criticism from officers abroad who disassociated themselves from the behavior of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. He was charged with third-degree murder after he was filmed pushing down with his knee on Floyd’s neck until Floyd stopped crying out that he couldn’t breathe and eventually stopped moving.

In Israel, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said “there is no tactic or protocol that calls to put pressure on the neck or airway.”

In Germany, officers are allowed to briefly exert pressure on the side of a suspect’s head but not on the neck, says Germany’s GdP police union.

In the U.K., the College of Policing says prone suspects should be placed on their side or in a sitting, kneeling or standing position “as soon as practicable.” Guidance on the website of London’s police force discourages the use of neck restraints, saying “any form of pressure to the neck area can be highly dangerous.”

Even within countries, procedures can vary.

The thick Patrol Guide, hundreds of pages long, for the New York Police Department says in bold capitals that officers “SHALL NOT” use chokeholds and should “avoid actions which may result in chest compression, such as sitting, kneeling, or standing on a subject’s chest or back, thereby reducing the subject’s ability to breathe.”

But the so-called “sleeper hold,” where pressure is applied to the neck with an arm, blocking blood flow, was allowed for police in San Diego before Floyd’s death triggered a shift. Police Chief David Nisleit said he would this week order an end to the tactic.

Gendarmes in France are discouraged from pressing down on the chests and vital organs of prone suspects and are no longer taught to apply pressure to the neck, said Col. Laurent De La Follye de Joux, head of training for the force.

“You don’t need to be a doctor to understand that it is dangerous,” he said.

But instructions for the National Police, the other main law and order force in France, appear to give its officers more leeway. Issued in 2015, they say pressure on a prone suspect’s chest “should be as short as possible.”

Christophe Rouget, a police union official who briefed lawmakers for their deliberations in March about the proposal to ban suffocating techniques, said if officers don’t draw pistols or use stun-guns then immobilizing people face-down is the safest option, stopping suspects from kicking out at arresting officers.

“We don’t have 5,000 options,” he said. “These techniques are used by all the police in the world because they represent the least amount of danger. The only thing is that they have to be well used. In the United States, we saw that it wasn’t well used, with pressure applied in the wrong place and for too long.”

He added that the “real problem” in France is that officers don’t get enough follow-up training after being taught restraints in police school.

“You need to repeat them often to do them well,” he said.

___

AP journalists Samuel Petrequin in Brussels, Michael Sisak in New York, Zen Soo in Hong Kong, Aron Heller in Tel Aviv, Israel, and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed.

Algeria recalls envoy to France over public TV documentaries

Algeria recalls envoy to France over public TV documentaries

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Thursday, May 28, 2020

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) – Algeria has recalled its ambassador to France for consultations after French public television aired documentaries on the North African country’s anti-government protest movement, one of which contained shots of young people kissing and drinking alcohol.

The Algerian foreign ministry said in a statement Thursday that the two documentaries, while “seemingly spontaneous and under the pretext of the freedom of expression, are in fact attacks against the Algerian people and its institutions, including the National Armed Forces.”

The statement claimed that the airing of the documentaries, both broadcast on Tuesday, shows “malicious … intentions from some circles” opposed to good relations between Algeria and its former colonial ruler, France.

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Mass demonstrations brought down the long-time president of Africa’s largest country and his entourage in April 2019. The pro-democracy movement is looking for more change in a nation whose rulers have been shadowed by the army since independence from France in 1962.

The documentary on France 5 television portrayed five Algerians in their 20s, notably showing a couple kissing and people drinking alcohol – activities frowned upon in the largely conservative Muslim country where modern social attitudes are at odds with traditional values.

This prompted heated discussions on Algerian social media, with some commentators claiming that the scenes provided a distorted image of the pro-democracy movement.

The second film, also about the protest movement, was broadcast on the French parliamentary channel.

France’s foreign ministry said Thursday that “all media enjoy complete editorial independence, which is protected by law in France.”

The statement stressed that France attaches “the highest importance” to “deep and old relations” between the two countries. “France fully respects Algeria’s sovereignty,” it added.

Algeria ranks 146th out of 180 countries on Reporters Without Borders’ world press freedom index for 2020 – which has Norway ranked 1st and North Korea in 180th place.

Wang Yanyi, Wuhan Institute of Virology director, rejects coronavirus leak claims

‘Pure fabrication’: Wuhan lab director rejects coronavirus leak claims

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Workers line up for medical workers to take swabs for the coronavirus test at a large factory in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province Friday, May 15, 2020. Wuhan have begun testing inhabitants for the coronavirus as a program to … more >

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By David Crary, Amy Forliti and Geir Moulson

Associated Press

Sunday, May 24, 2020

NEW YORK — Claims promoted by the Trump administration that the global coronavirus pandemic originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in the central Chinese city are a “pure fabrication,” the institute’s director said.

Wang Yanyi was quoted by state media Sunday as saying the institute did not have “any knowledge before that nor had we ever met, researched or kept the virus … We didn’t even know about the existence of the virus, so how could it be leaked from our lab when we didn’t have it?”

President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have repeatedly said they suspect the virus that was first detected in Wuhan was somehow released from the laboratory.

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Most scientists say the pathogen that has infected 5.3 million and killed more than 342,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, was passed from bats to humans via an intermediary species likely sold at a wet market in Wuhan late last year.

The virus’ toll continued to ebb in Asia and other parts of the world, with China on Sunday reporting three new confirmed cases and just 79 people remaining in treatment for COVID-19.

The New York Times devoted Sunday’s entire front page to a long list of names of people who have died in the pandemic.

The names and brief descriptions culled from obituaries from around the country fill six columns under the headline “U.S. Deaths Near 100,000, an Incalculable Loss.”

“They Were Not Simply Names on a List. They Were Us,” read the subheadline.

In Australia, officials said 6 million residents have downloaded a mobile telephone app that helps health authorities trace coronavirus infections. Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the COVIDSafe app is playing a strong role in Australia’s response to the disease.

The U.S. is continuing a cautious state-by-state reopening.A pasta company in Spokane, Washington, announced there was an outbreak at its plant, while the Alaska Baseball League canceled its summer season. The five-team league is made up of college players from mostly the Lower 48 but also from places as far away as Taiwan.

Trump played golf at one of his courses Saturday during the Memorial Day weekend as he urged U.S. states to relax their lockdowns. Yet many Americans remained cautious as the number of confirmed cases nationwide passed 1.6 million.

In California, where many businesses and recreational activities are reopening, officials in Los Angeles County said they would maintain tight restrictions until July 4.

Statewide, New York reported its lowest number of daily coronavirus deaths – 84 – in many weeks in what Gov. Andrew Cuomo described as a critical benchmark. The daily death tally peaked at 799 on April 8.

Parts of New Orleans stirred to back life, with some restaurants and businesses opening for the first time in over two months. Some remained closed, especially in the French Quarter, which relies largely on tourist dollars.

Many governments are easing restrictions as they face a political backlash and historic economic recessions.

Turkey, which has recorded over 155,000 infections, imposed its toughest lockdown measures yet for the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan. Yemen’s Houthi rebels urged believers to use masks and stay inside, as authorities try to contain infections at a time usually marked by multigenerational feasting and collective prayer.

In Germany, which has drawn praise for its handling of the virus, seven people appear to have been infected at a restaurant in the northwest of the country. It would be the first such known case since restaurants started reopening two weeks ago.

And in Frankfurt, more than 40 people tested positive after a church service of the Evangelical Christian Baptist congregation May 10. A church leader said the congregation has canceled gatherings and is now holding services online.

Mindful of evangelical Christians who are key to his base ahead of November’s election, Trump on Friday called houses of worship “essential” and urged governors to let them reopen this weekend. However, leaders of many denominations said they plan to move gradually and cautiously.

France allowed in-person services to resume Saturday after a legal challenge to a ban on gatherings in places of worship.

One of the world’s major pilgrimage sites is reopening Sunday: the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, built on the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.

Latin America is the latest epicenter of the virus, and experts note the limitations of government action in a region where millions have informal jobs and many police forces are unable to enforce restrictions.

Brazil and Mexico reported record numbers of infections and deaths almost daily this week, fueling criticism of their presidents for limited lockdowns. But infections also rose and intensive care units were swamped in Peru, Chile and Ecuador, all lauded for imposing early and aggressive business shutdowns and quarantines.

Concerns are rising in India, where new cases showed another record jump Saturday, topping 6,000 for a second consecutive day as a two-month lockdown has eased.

While some countries are facing a second wave of infections, badly hit Russia is still struggling with its first and reported more than 9,000 new cases Saturday.

___

Forliti reported from Minneapolis, and Moulson from Berlin. Associated Press writers around the world contributed to this report.

___

Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

As Europe reopens, key virus protections are still elusive

As Europe reopens, key virus protections are still elusive

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In this Monday, April 20, 2020, file photo, a woman gets a blood test taken by medical personnel at a converted gym, in Cisliano, near Milan, Italy. Italy’s virus reopening phase was supposed to have been accompanied by a series … more >

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By Nicole Winfield and Sylvie Corbet

Associated Press

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

ROME (AP) — Italy’s virus reopening was supposed to be accompanied by a series of measures to limit infections in the one-time epicenter of Europe’s pandemic: the distribution of millions of inexpensive surgical masks to pharmacies nationwide, a pilot project of 150,000 antibody tests and, eventually, the roll-out of a contact-tracing app.

None of these is in place as Italy experiments with its second week of loosening restrictions and looks ahead to Monday’s reopening of shops and, in some regions, bars and restaurants.

Italy’s commissioner for the emergency, Domenico Arcuri, went on the defensive Tuesday to respond to mounting criticism of his Phase II roll-out.

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He insisted “Italians know well what to do” to protect themselves, even if they don’t have the tests, masks, contact-tracing or other measures that public health authorities deemed necessary for Italy to reopen in safety.

“Sometimes I make mistakes for which I expect criticism and, if necessary, reprimand, from Italians,” Arcuri said. But he directed the blame at others and repeated that he was working solely in the public’s interest.

Italy is by no means alone in emerging from lockdown without all its infection-prevention pillars in place. And no country has had a blueprint for managing either the COVID-19 outbreak or the reopening phase.

But Italy’s problems epitomize the challenges many countries face as they seek to balance economic and health care needs while reassuring terrified citizens with promises that perhaps were overly optimistic.

France’s pledge to “protect, test and trace” all those who come into contact with a coronavirus patient was dealt a setback Monday when the constitutional court threw out part of its new virus law. The court objected to the contact-tracing language and ordered the government to take extreme care in protecting privacy.

The law, which took effect Tuesday, calls for teams of health care workers to trace the contacts of COVID-19 patients and share that data on a government server, with or without the patients’ consent.

French President Emmanuel Macron has also repeatedly pledged that France would be able to test up to 700,000 people per week. The national health authority told The Associated Press on Tuesday that France was averaging around 200,000-270,000 tests per week.

Britain, which has Europe’s highest official death toll at over 32,700, has ramped up its testing from 5,000 a day in March to close to 100,000 a day now. But it abandoned contact tracing after the virus’ spread overwhelmed its capacity. A contact-tracing app is in trial stages and 18,000 people are being recruited to do the tracing legwork now.

Spain, which like Italy was among the hardest-hit countries early on, is still ironing out protocols for contact tracing and has no immediate plans to roll out an app. While Spain’s virus testing capacity has improved, the government has left contact tracing largely to the already stressed local health centers.

Germany, which has prided itself on its comparatively low death rate, has engaged more than 10,000 people in contact tracing. An app is planned but is still weeks away. Turkey, meanwhile, has credited its army of contact tracers for its success in slowing the virus’ spread. About 5,850 teams reached out to and tested close to 470,000 people suspected of being infected.

Italy abandoned any concerted effort at contact tracing when its north got overwhelmed in late February. But health care officials say contact tracing, as well as testing, protective masks and social distancing, remain key to further reopening.

Italy’s mask problem began when Arcuri, the emergency commissioner, fixed a set price — .50 euro plus tax — for surgical masks that Italy only began producing domestically in recent weeks.

Producers balked at the low price and two distributors that had promised to get 12 million masks to pharmacies ended up not having them ready. Another 19 million made it to supermarkets, but the pharmacy shelves remained bare.

Deputy Health Minister Pierpaolo Sileri acknowledged the mask distribution plan had become a “mess” after three-quarters of the 12 million masks hadn’t been certified.

Arcuri also promised that Italy would distribute antibody tests to labs on May 4 for a pilot project of 150,000 people. Testing still hasn’t begun. Further delays are expected as health authorities contact the 150,000 people identified as potential subjects, selected for their demographic and geographic distribution. They then must agree and schedule the appointment.

Arcuri insisted his team has “done our part” by selecting the type of test and said delays were due to review by the government’s privacy guarantor.

He also said another 5 million virus test kits were being distributed to Italian regional health authorities to help boost capacity and isolate new possible clusters.

Italy was stymied during the outbreak by testing limitations, and ended up only testing those who went to the hospital or were showing strong symptoms. It has increased capacity and now leads Europe in per-capita testing, with more than 2.5 million tests conducted to date.

But regional officials say they can’t conduct more tests because they didn’t receive the extra reagent necessary to process the results.

Arcuri said reagent is running low worldwide, and he is now asking domestic makers to boost production “in the coming weeks and months.”

Like other European governments, Italy has been racing to develop a contact-tracing app. But technical, logistical and privacy concerns have stymied the launch.

Paolo De Rosa, technical chief in the ministry of innovation, told the Corriere della Sera newspaper that Italy’s version was expected to be rolled out at the end of May.

Like many others in Europe, Italy’s “Immuni” app will be based on a decentralized system using an Apple-Google software interface that experts say is better at preserving privacy. The apps use Bluetooth signals on cellphones to anonymously track users who come nearby, and send an alert if any users test positive.

De Rosa said testing would begin Friday, based on a preliminary version.

“We are working in your interests,” Arcuri said. “We accept all criticism as long as it’s constructive.”

___

Corbet reported from Paris. AP reporters contributed from across Europe.

UN council tries again to agree on COVID-19 resolution

UN council tries again to agree on COVID-19 resolution

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By EDITH M. LEDERER

Associated Press

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The U.N. Security Council is trying again to reach agreement on its first resolution since the coronavirus pandemic started circling the globe over two months ago, but a dispute between the U.S. and China over mentioning the World Health Organization remains unresolved.

The United States on Friday objected to a proposed resolution drafted by France and Tunisia after diplomats said it had agreed to compromise language with China that didn’t directly mention the U.N. health agency.

The 15 council ambassadors discussed how to proceed in closed consultations on Tuesday and afterward Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said “all council members are willing to come to a final agreement.”

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“I would assure you that the willingness to mend bridges is there, and we will attempt it in the nearest times,” he told a video news conference. “We have to respect the differences that we nearly managed to bridge, but still have not arrived there yet.”

Nebenzia said there was agreement on almost all the rest of the resolution, the main focus of which is to back Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ March 23 call for global cease-fires to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tunisia’s U.N. Ambassador Kais Kabtani said after the meeting that “Tunisian authorities are conducting at this moment intensive consultations at the highest political level” to resolve the differences.

He said new compromises with be presented by Tunisia and France “very soon” in hopes of reaching consensus.

Meanwhile Germany and Estonia circulated a much shorter draft resolution on Tuesday that focuses only on supporting cease-fires. There is no mention of a U.N. agency dealing with health, which China had accepted but the U.S. later rejected, or of “transparency” on COVID-19, which the U.S. wanted.

Germany’s U.N. Ambassador Christoph Heusgen said it is time to achieve the goal of trying to help those in conflicts, now compounded by COVID-19.

Germany’s U.N. Mission tweeted that at the closed meeting Heusgen again underscored “the absolute importance” that the Security Council address the pandemic, and said supporting the secretary-general’s “call for an immediate global cease-fire must supersede all other priorities.”

Like the France-Tunisia draft, the German-Estonia draft demands immediate cease-fires in major conflicts that are on the Security Council agenda, from Syria and Yemen to Libya, South Sudan and Congo, and calls for all parties to armed conflicts “to engage immediately in a durable humanitarian pause” for at least 90 days to deliver aid.

The Estonia-Germany draft, obtained by The Associated Press, says these measures do not apply to military operations against the Islamic State and al-Qaida extremist groups and their affiliates.

It also expresses “growing concern about the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on countries ravaged by armed conflicts, or in post-conflict situations, or affected by humanitarian crises” and recognizes “that conditions of violence and instability in conflict situations can exacerbate the pandemic.”

EU forecasts ‘recession of historic proportions’ this year

EU forecasts ‘recession of historic proportions’ this year

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A man wearing a face mask to protect against the coronavirus waits for a train at Schuman metro station during a gradual lifting of a lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Brussels, Tuesday, May 5, 2020. Belgium began … more >

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By Lorne Cook

Associated Press

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union predicted Wednesday “a recession of historic proportions this year” due to the impact of the coronavirus as it released its first official estimates of the damage the pandemic is inflicting on the bloc’s economy.

The 27-nation EU economy is predicted to contract by 7.5% this year, before growing by about 6% in 2021. The group of 19 nations using the euro as their currency will see a record decline of 7.75% this year, and grow by 6.25% in 2021, the European Commission said in its Spring economic forecast.

“It is now quite clear that the EU has entered the deepest economic recession in its history,” EU Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni told reporters in Brussels. As the virus hit, “economic activity in the EU dropped by around one third practically overnight,” he said.

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More than 1.1 million people have contracted the virus across Europe and over 137,000 have died, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Unclear outbreak data, low testing rates and the strain on health care systems mean the true scale of the pandemic is much greater.

With the spread slowing in most European countries, people are cautiously venturing out from confinement and gradually returning to work, but strict health measures remain in place amid concern of a second wave of outbreaks and any return to something like normal life is at least months away.

The pandemic has hurt consumer spending, industrial output, investment, trade, capital flows and supply chains. It has also hit jobs. The unemployment rate across the 27-nation EU is forecast to rise from 6.7% in 2019 to 9% in 2020 but then fall to around 8% in 2021, the commission said. Beyond that, Gentiloni said, “we will have a massive drop in hours worked.”

Inflation is also set to be significantly weaker as consumer prices fall amid a sharp weakening of demand and drop in oil prices. Investment too is likely to contract, with firms expected to postpone or cancel their investment plans amid the uncertainty. Exporters will not be spared, with continued disruption to movements of people, goods and services likely.

Italy and Spain — two of the countries hardest hit by the virus — and to a lesser extent France are among the economies that will suffer most. Greece, which largely escaped the disease but whose economy was ravaged previously by its debt crisis and which relies heavily on tourism, is also high on the economic hit list.

France’s economy is expected to shrink by about 8.2%, while Germany will endure a moremoderate contraction than most and recover better. Still, it is set to experience this year its worst recession since World War II, with exports notably hit, with a drop in output of 6.5%.

While the virus hit every member country, the extent of the damage it ultimately inflicts will depend on the evolution of the disease in each of them, the resilience of their economies and what policies they put in place to respond.

Gentiloni said that the depth of the recession and the strength of recovery will be uneven across the world’s biggest trading bloc.

Much will depend, he said, on “the speed at which lockdowns can be lifted, the importance of services like tourism in each economy and by each country’s financial resources. Such divergence poses a threat to the single market and the euro area – yet it can be mitigated through decisive, joint European action.”

How quickly things can change. On Feb. 13, the commission had predicted “a path of steady, moderate growth” this year and next of 1.2%. At that time, uncertainty over U.S. trade policy and a Brexit trade deal plus tensions in Latin America and the Middle East were the main threats.

The coronavirus outbreak in China was noted at the time as “a new downside risk” but the commission’s assumption less than three months ago was “that the outbreak peaks in the first quarter, with relatively limited global spillovers.”

France, Tunisia urge UN council to adopt COVID-19 resolution

France, Tunisia urge UN council to adopt COVID-19 resolution

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By EDITH M. LEDERER

Associated Press

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – France and Tunisia urged the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday to adopt a resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire in major conflicts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic after weeks of contentious negotiations that have paralyzed the United Nations’ most powerful body.

France, one of five veto-wielding permanent council members, and Tunisia, one of 10 elected members, melded their rival resolutions in hopes of winning approval for the first council resolution since COVID-19 started circling the globe. But diplomats say a vote has been held up primarily over a dispute between the United States and China on including a reference to the World Health Organization.

President Donald Trump suspended funding to WHO in early April, accusing the U.N. health agency of failing to stop the virus from spreading when it first surfaced in China, saying it “must be held accountable,’’ and accusing WHO of parroting Beijing.

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China strongly supports WHO and is insisting that its role in calling for global action on COVID-19 be included in any resolution, diplomats say, while the U.S. insists on a reference to “transparency” on COVID-19 and no mention of the WHO.

Ambassadors from the 15 council nations met privately Tuesday on the French-Tunisian draft resolution and France’s U.N. Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere said later it was “a good discussion.”

“France and Tunisia are working hard on it, things are moving forward,” he said. “The Security Council must act now.”

Tunisia’s U.N. Ambassador Kais Kabtani told several journalists that the two countries are working “very hard to present a final package deal” and are relying “on the spirit of compromise from the council members.”

At the meeting, he said, “Tunisia highlighted the urgency of concluding the ongoing consultations process on the draft resolution on COVID-19 in the next few days”

“It’s a moment of truth for the United Nations and the multilateral system which faces the most difficult crisis the U.N. has been confronted with since World War II,” Kabtani said.

The 193-member U.N. General Assembly approved two resolutions on COVID-19 in April.

One recognizes “the unprecedented effects” of the pandemic and calls for “intensified international cooperation to contain, mitigate and defeat” the new coronavirus. The other urges global action to rapidly scale up development, manufacturing and access to medicine, vaccines and medical equipment to confront the pandemic.

General Assembly resolutions reflect the opinion of governments around the world but are not legally binding. By contrast, Security Council resolutions are legally binding.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who called for a cease-fire to all global conflicts on March 23 to tackle COVID-19, told reporters last Thursday: “It is my hope the Security Council will be able to find unity and adopt decisions that can help to make cease-fires meaningful and real.”

The draft French-Tunisian resolution demands an immediate cease-fire in major conflicts that are on the Security Council agenda from Syria and Yemen to Libya, South Sudan and Congo, and calls for all parties to armed conflicts “to engage immediately in a durable humanitarian pause for at least 30 consecutive days” to deliver aid.

The draft, obtained by The Associated Press, states that these measures do not apply to military operations against the Islamic State and al-Qaida extremist groups and their affiliates.

Top diplomats discuss peace plans for eastern Ukraine

Top diplomats discuss peace plans for eastern Ukraine

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FILE – In this March 29, 2019 file photo, a Ukrainian solder checks his weapon as he guards on the contact line in the village of Zolote 4, eastern Ukraine. Top diplomats from Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany discussed ways … more >

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By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV

Associated Press

Thursday, April 30, 2020

MOSCOW (AP) – Top diplomats from Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany discussed ways to advance the peace process for eastern Ukraine in Thursday’s call, but failed to achieve any tangible progress.

The call follows a December summit in Paris where the leaders of the four nations agreed to make additional steps toward ending the fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed rebels. The six-year conflict that erupted after Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea has killed more than 14,000 people.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said at a briefing after the call that the four ministers agreed that negotiators from Russia, Ukraine and the rebels should quickly discuss specifics of a new cease-fire. Numerous previous attempts to establish a lasting truce have failed amid mutual accusations.

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Kuleba added that he called for speeding up efforts to ensure the release of remaining prisoners.

Speaking to reporters after the call, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also voiced hope for more prisoner exchanges, but accused Ukraine of dragging its feet on selecting new areas for troop withdrawal from the line of contact.

Lavrov also noted that the Ukrainian authorities have continued to shun direct dialogue with the rebels, stymieing peace efforts. He emphasized that such negotiations are essential for implementing earlier agreements that envisaged a broad autonomy for the rebel regions.

Kuleba rejected Lavrov’s arguments, insisting that Ukraine will not talk to the “illegal formations.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who was elected a year ago, has made settling the conflict in eastern Ukraine his top priority. Ukraine and the rebels have exchanged prisoners and pulled back their troops from several sections of the front line as part of confidence-building measures, but sporadic clashes have continued and efforts to negotiate a political settlement have stalled.

During their talks in December, the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany scheduled their next meeting for April in Berlin, but the coronavirus pandemic scuttled those plans.

Asked about the difficulties of holding talks by video conference, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that “the biggest problem probably lies in the fact that everyone sits in a different room and has control over their own microphone.” While Thursday’s call resulted in a discussion and a compromise “in many areas … I still clearly prefer physical meetings,” he observed.

The four-way talks focused on the implementation of a 2015 peace agreement for eastern Ukraine that was signed in Minsk and brokered by France and Germany.

Maas said that many of the elements agreed in Minsk and Paris have yet to be implemented. “These compromises, which are the result of long and hard negotiations, mustn’t be destroyed, including through inaction,” the minister added.

He said that the ministers agreed that representatives of Russia, Ukraine and the rebels in the so-called Contact group should focus on providing more humanitarian crossings across the line of contact and taking other steps to help the residents of the region ravaged by the six-year conflict.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement that participants agreed to call for a cease-fire.

Le Drian and his German counterpart insisted that humanitarian organizations’ access must be eased to help the local population and urged for rapid progress of de-mining efforts in areas most frequented by civilians, the statement said.

The four ministers agreed to have another such meeting in a month to review progress, rather than aim for a leaders summit, Maas said.

___

Frank Jordans in Berlin, Sylvie Corbet in Paris and Yuras Karmanau in Minsk, Belarus, contributed to this report.

Tour de France called off because of the coronavirus, no new dates set

Tour de France called off because of the coronavirus, no new dates set

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In this file photo taken on July 26, 2019, spectators along the road applaud the riders during the 19th stage of the Tour de France cycling race between Saint Jean De Maurienne and Tignes. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File) more >

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By Jerome Pugmire

Associated Press

Updated: 12:39 p.m. on
Tuesday, April 14, 2020

PARIS – After weeks of holding out hope the Tour de France would be able to go ahead as planned despite the coronavirus pandemic, the world’s most famous cycling race was finally added to the list of sporting events called off.

It may still happen this year, but it’s clear the three-week race won’t be starting on June 27 in the Riviera city of Nice as scheduled.

French President Emmanuel Macron effectively made that decision in his speech to the nation on Monday when he announced that all public events with large crowds have been canceled until at least mid-July.

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“Given that it’s now impossible that the Tour starts at its planned date, we are consulting with the (International Cycling Union) to try and find new dates,” race organizers said Tuesday.

The last time the Tour was not held was in 1946, with the nation still emerging from World War II. It was also stopped during WWI.

While cycling’s biggest event could be scrapped altogether, organizers are discussing potential later dates. New plans could be announced before the end of April following discussions between organizer Amaury Sport Organisation and the International Cycling Union.

Holding the race without legions of fans on the roadsides and mountain passes of France – an idea previously proposed by French Sports Minister Roxana Mărăcineanu – is not something organizers are likely to favor.

Millions of fans watch each year’s race in a festive atmosphere across many regions. This year’s event has 21 stages, with the longest of them stretching 218 kilometers (135 miles). Thousands of police officers are needed to keep crowds under control and help negotiate safe passage for riders.

Riders, too, have to be physically ready to tackle the grueling race – and able to actually attend it. After weeks of confinement, competitors would likely need several more weeks to get into racing shape.

Borders would have to be open, too, so racers like last year’s winner – Colombian rider Egan Bernal – can travel to France.

Juggling the cycling calendar is also tricky because of the various races scheduled throughout the season, including the Giro d’Italia and the Spanish Vuelta.

The Giro, which had been set for May, was called off late last month. The Spanish race, which is also owned by ASO, is still on the schedule for Aug. 14-Sept. 6.

If the Tour de France were to be held after the Spanish Vuelta in September, it could clash with the rescheduled French Open tennis tournament. The clay-court Grand Slam tournament at Roland Garros, normally in late May and June, has been pushed back to Sept. 20-Oct. 4.

France extends coronavirus lockdown restrictions until May 11

France extends coronavirus lockdown restrictions until May 11

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By Lauren Meier

The Washington Times

Monday, April 13, 2020

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday said the government will extend the country’s coronavirus-related lockdown restrictions until May 11.

In a televised news conference, Mr. Macron said that while there have been signs that the virus’ spread is slowing, the country was not “sufficiently ready” for the scope of the outbreak.

“Hope is coming back, but nothing is certain,” he said.

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Restaurants, bars and public spaces will continue to stay closed across the country until at least mid-July, while schools are expected to gradually reopen starting May 11, Mr. Macron explained.

France has closed its borders to all non-European Union countries for the foreseeable future in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, the highly contagious disease caused by the new coronavirus.

He said the restrictions will be enforced by the police, and anyone who goes outside is required to carry a permit that confirms their reason for leaving their home.

France has confirmed 133,685 cases of COVID-19, 14,986 deaths and 28,001 recoveries, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. France has a population of 65.2 million.

Take A Mic – Boite Noire (Boite Noire Album)

[Couplet 1]
Si j’veux, j’réfléchis pas, j’kicke
J’dois l’faire, j’t’allume pour ma clique
Meuf, ferme ta gueule, astique
J’suis en train d’percer askip
Devant l’micro, j’suis agile
J’monte sur scène, j’suis habile
J’dois faire un max de fric
Comme ça, j’retourne aux abîmes
Ma Saint-Laurent s’abîme
C’est comme ça qu’on s’habille
J’avance sur le terrain, on s’habitue
J’rappe c’que j’sais, j’fais pas d’études
C’est la vodka qui brûle mon foi
C’est l’avocat qui parle pour moi
J’ai toujours été sûr de moi
Même en r à la fin du mois
J’écris des textes qu’ont pas d’sens
J’analyse les passants
J’suis l’meilleur mais patience
J’suis le médecin de ma science
Une seconde, là j’m’absente
Une seconde, là j’m’absente

[Refrain] x2
Si vous retrouvez ma boîte noire
S’il vous plait, stoppez l’abattoir
Faites bon usage de mes mémoires
Personne n’est parfait, gros même-moi
Mais j’fais tout pour évoluer (Mais j’fais tout pour évoluer)
Mais j’fais tout pour évoluer (Mais j’fais tout pour évoluer)

[Couplet 2]
J’sais même plus c’qu’on disait
Car y’a une bad bitch à dix heures
Les gens qui m’méprisaient
Prennent de mes nouvelles sur Deezer
Un salaire de misère
Nan jamais je m’y f’rai
C’est mon huitième projet
Y’a plus rien qui m’effraie
Maintenant qu’j’suis dans l’business, j’dois gérer mon budget
Le p’tit est productif, j’suis en excès d’vitesse
Du swag au milieu d’la tess, les seules McQueen dans la pièce
De Suisse provient l’appel, y’a qu’sa voix qui m’apaise
Fuck la France, les lois et sa mentalité
Pour des papiers d’identité, les keufs ont brutalisés
On vend du shit, d’la beuh, d’la C de très bonne qualité
Impuissant quand c’est nos impôts qui sont détournés

[Refrain] x2
Si vous retrouvez ma boîte noire
S’il vous plait, stoppez l’abattoir
Faites bon usage de mes mémoires
Personne n’est parfait, gros même-moi
Mais j’fais tout pour évoluer (Mais j’fais tout pour évoluer)
Mais j’fais tout pour évoluer (Mais j’fais tout pour évoluer)

Break up every night – The Chainsmokers lyrics

Lyrics The Chainsmokers – Break up every night

She wants to break up every night
She wants to break up every night
Don’t wanna wait until she finally decides to feel it
She wants to break up every night
Then tries to f*ck me back to life
How can I help it if I like the way she makes me feel it?

“Give me time, give me space, give me reason.”
That’s what you tell me when you’re leaving
Change your mind every night like the seasons
You’re insatiable.

And I know you say you want it now (want it now)
Give me the runaround (runaround)
Which one am I with now?
She’s got seven personalities, every one’s a tragedy.

She wants to break up every night
She wants to break up every night
Don’t wanna wait until she finally decides to feel it
She wants to break up every night
Then tries to f*ck me back to life
How can I help it if I like the way she makes me feel it?

Been to France one time and you’re Parisian
Joined the real world, new season
Check my phone, check my pulse, ain’t a reason
I kinda love it though.

And I know you say you need me now (need me now)
Give me the runaround (runaround)
Which one am I with now?
She’s got seven personalities, every one’s a tragedy.

She wants to break up every night
She wants to break up every night
Don’t wanna wait until she finally decides to feel it
She wants to break up every niiight
Then tries to f*ck me back to life
How can I help it if I like the way she makes me feel it?
She wants to break up every night versuri-lyrics.info
She wants to break up every niiight
Don’t wanna wait until she finally decides to feel it.

So I build the bridges up, the bridges up
Build the bridges up again
Build the bridges up, the bridges up
Build the bridges up again
Build the bridges up, the bridges up
Build the bridges up again, ohhh.

She wants to break up every niiight
She wants to break up every niiight
Don’t wanna wait until she finally decides to feel it
She wants to break up every niiight
Then tries to f*ck me back to life
How can I help it if I like the way she makes me feel ittt?
The Chainsmokers lyrics
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