Target ‘bunch of criminals’ around Putin with sanctions, Navalny urges Europe

Europe should target Vladimir Putin’s inner circle with direct sanctions because they are “a bunch of criminals” temporarily in power, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has told MEPs.

He said travel bans or asset freezes on senior Russian officials would not be taken seriously so long as they do not also focus on the richest oligarchs.

Navalny is in Germany, where he was treated in hospital after collapsing in August on board a flight to Moscow from the Siberian city of Tomsk.

Laboratory tests subsequently confirmed he had been poisoned with a nerve agent.

Speaking to the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee on Friday, Navalny said it was “extremely important for Russian people to know that Europe as a whole and [the] European Parliament will not keep silent on such events.”

“I’m definitely not the first one and unfortunately I will not be the last one who [is] poisoned or killed or treated in this way.”

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied he was poisoned in Russia.

‘Target oligarchs’

Navalny called for stronger European sanctions against senior Russian business figures, saying they would be supported by 99% of the Russian people.

“The main question we should ourselves why ask ourselves [is] ‘why are these people are poisoning, killing and fabricating elections?’ and the answer is very, very simple: money,” he said.

“So [the] European Union should target the money and Russian oligarchs, and not just old oligarchs but also new ones like the circle of Mr Putin, they must be real targets of sanction.

“Let me say it very straight: until the most expensive yacht of Mr [Alisher] Usmanov standing in Barcelona or Monaco, no-one in Russia or Kremlin even, they will not treat European sanctions seriously.”

He added: “They are a bunch of criminals who temporarily took over the power in our country.”

Navalny is a long-standing critic of Usmanov, a billionaire tycoon with stakes in businesses including the Kommersant publishing house and the MegaFon mobile telephone network.

Elections a ‘critical moment’

The Russian opposition leader also said next year’s elections to the country’s national parliament, the Duma, would be a critical moment.

He said fabrication and falsification of results was “inevitable” and that the focus should be on ensuring every willing candidate is not preventing from standing in the election.

Asked by MEPs whether he felt he could operate safely from outside the country, Navalny said that he planned to return to Russia soon.

“My current plan is recovery and then go back to Russia to act from inside, so I’m not even trying to develop ways to act from abroad,” he said.

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COVID-19: ‘Every reason’ to believe some areas in England could have restrictions eased before Christmas | Politics News

Some parts of England could have their coronavirus restrictions eased before Christmas, a cabinet minister has told Sky News.

Speaking to Kay Burley, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said there was “every reason” to believe some areas could be moved down the COVID-19 tier system when there is a review in the middle of December.

Search your area on this map to find out which tier it has been placed in

“It is possible,” he said.

“There will be a review point in 14 days’ time, around December 16.

“At that point we – advised by the experts – will look at each local authority area and see whether there is potential to move down the tiers.

“There were a number of places which were quite finely balanced judgments where they were on the cusp of different tiers. Those are the places that are more likely to be in that position.”

Mr Jenrick said a relaxation of restrictions over Christmas – which will see three households allowed to mix over five days – will likely “drive some higher rate of infection”.

“Our overall approach is trying to ensure the tiers hold the line and that places are in a process of de-escalation,” he continued.

“What we don’t want to do is ease up too quickly and then find that in January we are having to put tiers back in place again.

“But there is every reason to believe that places could see a change at December 16-17 time.”

Ahead of the end of the second national lockdown on 2 December, the allocation of the tiers was revealed on Thursday.

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Labour not yet backing new tiers

It was revealed that 99% of England’s population will fall under the two toughest tiers.

About 32 million people – covering 57.3% of England – will fall into Tier 2.

But 23.3 million people – 41.5% of the population – are going to be placed in Tier 3.

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Tougher tiers could continue into 2021

Large parts of the Midlands, the North East and the North West will be subject to the severest measures.

Hospitality venues will be closed in the run-up to Christmas unless they can provide takeaway or delivery services, and households are forbidden from mixing indoors.

But figures suggest that, of the 119 areas that will be in Tier 3 from next week, only eight have reported a rise in coronavirus cases.

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Boris Johnson is facing the prospect of a revolt among Conservative MPs when the measures are put to a vote in the Commons next week.

According to a tally by Sky News, at least 48 Tory MPs have gone public with their concerns over tiering or have said they are unlikely to support the measures when it comes to a vote.

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Tory MP Robert Jenrick admits he’s still undecided on whether he’ll hug relatives at Christmas

Conservative MP Robert Jenrick has admitted that he’s still undecided as to whether he will hug relatives at Christmas.

The Housing Secretary appeared on Good Morning as he was grilled on the government’s new tier system.

On Thursday, the government confirmed 99% of people will be in either Tier 2 or Tier 3 – where all indoor social gatherings are banned.

The new arrangements will apply from December 2 after England’s blanket lockdown ends. Restrictions have been tightened after Government scientific advisers warned that previous measures had not been effective enough.

This comes after it was revealed that three households would be able to meet for Christmas in a five-day relaxing of Covid, which is believed to be between between December 23 and December 27.

During last night’s press conference, Professor Chris Whitty warned against “hug or kiss relatives” during the family Christmas relaxation period.

Questioned whether he would hug his elderly relatives, Jenrick said: “I’m having those conversations with my mum and dad – they’re both older people, they’ve both been shielding at different times.

“I have young kids that would find it very difficult to socially distance when they would love to hug and kiss their grandparents.

“So we’re having those conversations deciding what is the right way-“

Host Kate Garraway interjected, saying: “You’re not sure either, then, because that’s the confusing thing for all of us!”

“Well, we’re going to have a conversation coming to our own conclusion,” Jenrick replied. “It might be, that we choose to do something quite different this Christmas.”

*Good Morning Britain airs weekdays at 6am on ITV

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Moscow Reports 300% Spike in Coronavirus Deaths

Moscow reported a 300% month-on-month increase in coronavirus deaths for October, the Russian capital’s health department said late Thursday.

In September, the city’s health department said Covid-19 was the direct cause of death among 543 Muscovites.

As the second wave of the virus escalated in October, Moscow’s health department said coronavirus was the main cause in 2,235 deaths that month. That’s 311%, or four times, more than the number in September.

Another 1,338 Muscovites tested positive for Covid-19 but died from other causes in October, the health department said, bringing Moscow’s overall number of coronavirus-related deaths for the month to 3,573. 

A total of 13,718 Muscovites died in October — 2,541 more than in September, 3,262 more than in October 2019 and 3,173 more than the past three-year average. The Moscow health department said the Covid-19 deaths “explain all excess mortality for October.”

Moscow’s overall Covid-19 fatality rate totaled 2.13% when it was the sole cause of death and 4.3% when the disease was not the main cause of death. 

Russia’s coronavirus information center places Moscow’s overall Covid-19 death toll at 8,603 and the national death toll at 38,062, a number widely thought to be undercounted.

The epicenter of Russia’s outbreak, Moscow has registered more than a quarter of the country’s nearly 2.2 million coronavirus cases. Moscow has reported record numbers of Covid-19 infections and hospitalizations in recent days.

Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, who extended some of the remote work and self-isolation restrictions into the new year, said earlier Thursday that the city does not plan to go into full lockdown.

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Finnish PM pleads with public and authorities to help fight coronavirus

PRIME MINISTER Sanna Marin (SDP) on Thursday pleaded with the public and authorities to assist in the effort to manage the coronavirus epidemic and reduce the number of new infections in Finland.

“Now is the time to pull up your socks,” she declared in a press conference according to YLE.

Marin pointed out that a growing number of regions and hospital districts are edging closer to the worst, spreading stage of the epidemic. People should consequently forgo all non-essential social contacts.

“My message is don’t make trips, don’t travel overseas [and] avoid all sorts of activity that isn’t necessary – be it free-time activity, parties, hobbies or anything like that. Giving up on these is a reasonable ask in a situation as serious as this,” she underlined.

The prime minister reiterated the conclusion drawn by the government on Wednesday: Finland is not yet in a state of emergency.

“We aren’t in a state of emergency at the moment, we’re not about to start utilising the powers in the emergency powers act. If the situation worsened quickly, this could be something we’d consider, and it’s possible that it becomes the government’s duty to start utilising these powers,” estimated Marin.

Mika Salminen, the director of health security at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), on Thursday confirmed that the epidemiological situation has deteriorated rapidly over the past week, with the number of new cases growing by roughly 30 per cent.

The situation is beginning to place a significant burden also on the health care system, added Markku Mäkijärvi, the chief medical officer at the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS). HUS alone, he highlighted, has 83 people in hospital care with symptoms caused by the new coronavirus, the youngest of whom is only 27 years old.

THL on Thursday reported that the number of laboratory-confirmed coronavirus infections rose by 535 on Tuesday and 363 on Wednesday.

Over 10 per cent, or 2,541, of the 22,652 infections detected in the country to date were reported between 16 and 22 November, signalling an increase of 906 from the period between 9 and 15 November. The two-week total, in turn, stood at 4,176 between 9 and 22 November, signalling an increase of 1,315 from the period between 26 October and 8 November.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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Trial to investigate use of inhaled steroid as home treatment for coronavirus

An inhaled steroid will be investigated as a possible treatment for coronavirus as part of a national trial.

Budesonide will form part of the UK’s priority platform trial for Covid-19 treatments that can be taken at home.

Led by the University of Oxford, the Principle (Platform Randomised trial of INterventions against Covid-19 In older peoPLE) trial is evaluating treatments that can help people aged over 50 recover more quickly from coronavirus and prevent the need for hospital admission.

Inhaled corticosteroid budesonide is commonly prescribed as part of the long-term management of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease with no serious side-effects associated with short-term use.

In some patients with Covid-19, the body mounts a significant immune response to fight the virus, causing high levels of inflammation that can damage human cells in the airways and lungs.

Research suggests inhaling budesonide into the airways targets anti-inflammatory treatment where it is needed most and can potentially minimise any lung damage that might otherwise be caused by the virus.

Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, binds to ACE2 receptors lining cells in the airways, gaining entry to human cells and replicating within.

Laboratory studies suggest inhaled corticosteroids reduce the number of these receptors in the airways and so may block entry of the virus into human cells.

Professor Chris Butler at the University of Oxford, who led the Principle trial, said: “Budesonide is a relatively inexpensive, safe and easy-to-administer drug for respiratory conditions that may have a role to play in treating Covid-19.

“It is only through enrolling volunteers on a randomised controlled trial like Principle that we can assess whether there are clear benefits or harms associated with potential treatments like budesonide.

“We need many more volunteers to join the trial so we can get the answers we really need to keep people with Covid-19 out of hospital.

“Like vaccines and preventative measures, treatments have an important role to play in minimising the burden of this disease on society.”

Trial participants will be randomly assigned to receive an inhaler in the post and the usual standard-of-care from their clinician.

They will be asked to inhale two puffs twice a day for 14 days with each puff providing a 400 microgram dose of budesonide.

They will be followed-up for 28 days and will be compared with participants who have been assigned to receive the usual standard-of-care only.

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U.N. Panel: Digital Technology in Policing Can Reinforce Racial Bias

Governments need an abrupt change of direction to avoid “stumbling zombielike into a digital welfare dystopia,” Philip G. Alston, a human rights expert reporting on poverty, told the United Nations General Assembly last year, in a report calling for the regulation of digital technologies, including artificial intelligence, to ensure compliance with human rights. The private companies that play an increasingly dominant role in social welfare delivery, he noted, “operate in a virtually human-rights-free zone.”

Last month, the U.N. expert monitoring contemporary forms of racism flagged concerns that “governments and nonstate actors are developing and deploying emerging digital technologies in ways that are uniquely experimental, dangerous, and discriminatory in the border and immigration enforcement context.”

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency, also called Frontex, has tested unpiloted military-grade drones in the Mediterranean and Aegean for the surveillance and interdiction of vessels of migrants and refugees trying to reach Europe, the expert, E. Tendayi Achiume, reported.

The U.N. antiracism panel, which is charged with monitoring and holding states to account for their compliance with the international convention on eliminating racial discrimination, said states must legislate measures combating racial bias and create independent mechanisms for handling complaints. It emphasized the need for transparency in the design and application of algorithms used in profiling.

“This includes public disclosure of the use of such systems and explanations of how the systems work, what data sets are being used and what measures preventing human rights harms are in place,” the group said.

The panel’s recommendations are aimed at a global audience of 182 states that have signed the convention, but most of the complaints it received over the past two years came from the United States, Ms. Shepherd said, and its findings amplify concerns voiced by American digital rights activists.

American police departments have fiercely resisted sharing details of the number or type of technologies they employ, and there is scarce regulation requiring any accountability for what or how they use them, said Rashida Richardson, a visiting scholar at Rutgers Law School and director of research policy at New York University’s A.I. Now Institute.

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