Russian opposition leader wakes from coma after poisoning, German hospital confirms


Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who Germany says was poisoned by a weapons-grade Novichok nerve agent, is now out of a medically induced coma and is being weaned off mechanical ventilation, the Berlin hospital treating him said Monday.

“He is responding to verbal stimuli,” Charite hospital said in a statement, reporting that the 44-year-old’s condition “has improved”.

His spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said “today he was taken out of an artificial coma.

“Gradually he will be disconnected from the ventilator. He responds to speech and calls to him.”

However, the hospital said it was too early to determine the long-term impact of the poisoning.

Navalny fell ill after boarding a plane in Siberia last month. He was initially treated in a local hospital before being flown to Berlin for treatment.

RELATED: Putin announces Russian virus vaccine

The German government said last week that toxicology tests have found “unequivocal evidence” that Novichok was used on Navalny, prompting Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Western counterparts to demand answers from Russia.

Earlier Monday, Merkel’s spokesman underlined that she would not rule out consequences on the multi-billion-euro Nord Stream 2 pipeline project if Moscow failed to thoroughly investigate the case.

The Kremlin has however denounced attempts to blame the poisoning on Russia as “absurd”.

Novichok is a military-grade poison that was developed by the Soviet government towards the end of the Cold War and can be deployed in an ultrafine powder, liquid or vapour.

It was used against ex-double agent Sergei Skripal in Britain in 2018, a poisoning that the West believes was ordered by the Kremlin.



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Veteran Guinea opposition leader to challenge President Conde in October election



FILE PHOTO: Former prime minister and presidential candidate Cellou Dalein Diallo of Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG), casts his vote at a polling station during a presidential election in Conakry, Guinea October 11, 2015. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

September 6, 2020

CONAKRY (Reuters) – Guinea’s veteran opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo accepted the nomination on Sunday of his UFDG party to challenge President Alpha Conde, who is seeking a third term in an Oct. 18 election despite protests from the opposition.

Conde, 82, who defeated Diallo in a runoff in 2010, and won in the first round of the 2015 presidential election, pushed through a constitution amendment in a referendum in March that lifted a term-limit, allowing him to run again.

Diallo, whose UFDG party had joined forces with other opposition parties to lead protests against the constitutional change, has said he does not recognise the new constitution.

“To attain power, you have to participate in elections. The choice to go to an election when transparency and fairness are not guaranteed is not an easy one,” Diallo told supporters at the party convention, accepting the nomination.

Diallo, 69, served as prime minister under President Lansana Conte from 2004 to 2006. He is expected to be Conde’s toughest challenger, after another opposition leader, Sidya Toure, who came third in the 2010 and 2015 elections, said he would not participate this year.

Conde was a leading opposition figure during Conte’s 24-year rule. Conde and Diallo faced off in 2010 in Guinea’s first free national election, which Conde won with a promise for democratic and economic progress. But opponents say he has since cracked down on dissent.

(Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Frances Kerry)





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Alexei Navalny: ‘No proof’ Russia poisoned opposition leader, says Donald Trump | US News


Donald Trump has failed to join other world leaders in condemning Russia for an alleged Novichok poison attack on opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The US president told reporters on Friday that “it’s tragic. It’s terrible, it shouldn’t happen. We haven’t had any proof yet, but I will take a look”, before asking why they were focused on Russia, rather than China.

He said his administration will “have to look at it very seriously, if it’s the case”.

However, Mr Trump later said he would not be happy if Russia did poison Mr Navalny, “and that seems to be the case”.

Mr Navalny, one of Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critics, has called the leader’s United Russia group the “party of crooks and thieves“.

He fell ill on a flight to Moscow and has been in an induced coma for more than a week after being flown to Germany, where he is being treated at a hospital in Berlin.

Supporters believe the pro-democracy campaigner was poisoned at an airport in Siberia while waiting for the flight.

Not for the first time, Mr Trump’s stance is in sharp contrast to that of many of Washington’s traditional allies.

Germany has said Mr Navalny was poisoned with a Soviet-style Novichok nerve agent – the same substance used against Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury in March 2018 – and is demanding the perpetrators be held to account.

Image:
Sergei and Yulia Skripal were attacked with novichok and found slumped on a bench in Salisbury

Boris Johnson said the Russian government “must now explain what happened to Mr Navalny”, adding that it was “outrageous that a chemical weapon was used”.

NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg condemned the “appalling assassination attempt” on Mr Navalny.

He said: “There is proof beyond doubt that Mr Navalny was poisoned using a military-grade nerve agent from the Novichok group. The use of such a weapon is horrific.”

Even the US State Department went further than the president, expressing grave concern about the matter.

Alexei Navalny marching in memory of murdered Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov in Moscow in February
Image:
Mr Navalny marching in memory of murdered Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov in Moscow in February

In a meeting in Washington, Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun told Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov that Moscow’s use of this chemical weapon would be a clear violation of its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement: “The Deputy Secretary urged Russia to cooperate fully with the international community’s investigation into this attack.”

Russia has denied any involvement in the affair, has not opened a criminal investigation and said there is no evidence yet of a crime.

Mr Navalny is the most popular and prominent opponent of President Vladimir Putin, and Germany’s confirmation that he was poisoned has raised the possibility of further Western sanctions against Moscow.



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AFL ladder leader Port Adelaide beats North Melbourne by 36 points on the Gold Coast



Port Adelaide has recorded what may turn out to be a costly 36-point win over North Melbourne, with Ryan Burton injured and Zak Butters set to come under match review scrutiny.

In his second match back from a quadriceps injury, Burton went down with the same issue before quarter-time in Carrara on Saturday night.

His absence did not stop the Power notching a comfortable 11.12 (78) to 6.6 (42) victory that maintained their place at the top of the AFL ladder, four points clear of Brisbane, who has a match in hand.

But they have a further concern with Butters facing likely suspension for a high bump on Jy Simpkin during the third quarter.

Butters could have tackled Simpkin but chose to bump in a collision that left the Kangaroos midfielder momentarily dazed.

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Simpkin was ordered to the bench and played no further part in the match.

The Kangaroos showed fight in the first half but the Power’s better ball movement and efficiency in attack were telling, as Ollie Wines, Travis Boak and Tom Rockliff controlled the midfield battle.

Wines and key forward Charlie Dixon kicked two goals apiece, while Butters was among seven Power players to pick up a major.

There was a sliding-doors moment in the third quarter as Jack Ziebell sliced a set shot at one end and Robbie Gray kicked truly at the other soon afterwards.

It opened up a 20-point advantage for the Power, who were not troubled beyond that point.

Recalled Kangaroos wingman Jared Polec (15 disposals) did not have a huge impact after three matches out of the side and captain Ziebell was quiet in his return from a hamstring injury.

Highly-rated debutant Flynn Perez was crunched in a huge tackle by Dixon but bounced straight to his feet and finished with nine disposals.

AAP/ABC



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Tests Show Russian Opposition Leader Was Poisoned


Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned with a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group, the German government said Wednesday. The toxicology results will further raise suspicion of the Kremlin’s involvement in the attack.

Navalny, who fell ill on a flight from the Siberian city of Tomsk last month, is being treated at Berlin’s Charité hospital. He was airlifted there from Omsk after two days of painstaking negotiations between his family and personal doctor and Russian authorities, who were hesitant to release him.

Steffen Seibert, spokesperson for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a statement that a toxicology test conducted by the Charité hospital laboratory showed “unequivocal evidence of a chemical nerve agent of the Novichok group” in Navalny’s system.

Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent, was used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in the British city of Salisbury in 2018. The substance disrupts the nervous system and causes bodily functions to shut down.

Seibert said the German government would inform its partners in the EU and NATO about the test results and consult with them on a joint response. Speaking on German TV later on Wednesday, Merkel said the test results proved “that Alexei Navalny is the victim of a crime.”

“He was meant to be silenced, and I condemn this in the strongest possible manner,” she said. “There are very serious questions now that only the Russian government can answer, and must answer.”

In the first US statement, White House Nation Security Council spokesperson John Ullyot wrote on Twitter: “The United States is deeply troubled by the results released today. Alexei Navalny’s poisoning is completely reprehensible. Russia has used the chemical nerve agent Novichok in the past. We will work with allies and the international community to hold those in Russia accountable, wherever the evidence leads, and restrict funds for their malign activities.”

Ullyot added: “The Russian people have a right to express their views peacefully without fear of retribution of any kind, and certainly not with chemical agents.”

Allies of Navalny, a staunch critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, have accused the Kremlin of deliberately poisoning the opposition leader.

The German finding will add credence to their claim and make it more difficult for Russia’s leadership to deny any role in the poisoning, since access to the country’s stock of Novichok is highly regulated and limited to those with high-level clearance.

“In 2020, poisoning Navalny with Novichok is exactly the same as leaving an autograph at the crime scene. Like this,” tweeted Leonid Volkov, another Navalny ally, adding a photograph of Putin’s signature.

“Novichok can only be administered by the government,” and with the approval of the GRU military intelligence agency and FSB federal security service, tweeted Ivan Zhdanov, director of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, upon hearing the news. “That is without any sensible doubt.”

Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told Russia’s TASS news agency that Germany had not notified the Kremlin before publishing its statement. He did not comment further.

But Russian officials and Navalny critics were quick to downplay the severity of the situation and deny the poisoning last month, claiming that his illness was caused by “metabolic disorder caused by a steep drop in blood sugar” and not poison.

In videos posted to Instagram by a passenger aboard Navalny’s Tomsk-Moscow flight on Aug. 20, the politician can be heard howling in agony from the plane’s bathroom. After the plane made an emergency landing in Omsk, an unconscious Navalny was wheeled on a stretcher to an ambulance and rushed to the city’s hospital, where he fell into a coma.

He has remained in a coma for almost two weeks. The Charité hospital said in a statement on Wednesday that Navalny is in serious condition and on a ventilator. The hospital said he is gradually recovering but may have “long-term consequences” as a result of the poisoning.





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Ex-Costa Rican leader drops bid to lead Inter-American Development Bank



FILE PHOTO: Costa Rica’s former President Laura Chinchilla speaks during a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela, July 17, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

September 3, 2020

By Alvaro Murillo

SAN JOSE (Reuters) – Former Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla has dropped her bid to head the Washington-based Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and criticized a process seen favoring U.S. President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the institution.

“To continue with our national aspiration would be equivalent to endorsing a process that I do not consider convenient either for the IDB or for the Hemisphere under the present conditions,” said Chinchilla on Thursday.

Chinchilla’s jibe appeared directed at the United States, which has broken with decades of tradition to nominate its own candidate, Trump adviser Mauricio Claver-Carone, known for his hard-line stance on Venezuela and Cuba.

Claver-Carone, the favorite to win the top spot, would become the first person from outside Latin America to lead the Washington-based bank, a smaller cousin of the International Monetary Fund.

The IDB, founded in 1959, is currently led by Colombia’s Alberto Moreno, who is set to step down in September.

The U.S. “decision is also an extremely worrying signal for the governance that a financial institution like the IDB should have,” Chinchilla said in a letter to the government of Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado.

Several countries, including Argentina, Mexico, Costa Rica and Chile, and European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell have called for a delay on the vote, citing concerns about having an IDB leader from outside the region.

But Claver-Carone has pushed back against the regional opposition to his candidacy, saying 17 countries had given him public support.

“The more the process advanced, the more difficult it became for me to justify why I was participating in it,” said Chinchilla.

(Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)





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Victorian Opposition leader rips into Premier Daniel Andrews over restrictions


Victoria’s Opposition leader has blasted Premier Daniel Andrews over his vague handling of the downgrade of stage four restrictions in the state and demanded a “pathway out”.

On Monday, the Andrews government announced the plan to ease the state’s tough COVID-19 stage four restrictions will be unveiled on Sunday but Michael O’Brien is demanding to see one now, claiming “we should have been on top of this within six months”.

Victoria’s COVID-19 death toll jumped by 41 in the 24 hours to Monday, with 73 new cases also recorded.

On Monday, Mr Andrews said it was too early to “lock in” the road map now, adding another week of coronavirus data was needed to finalise the plan.

But under the current plan, restrictions that began on August 2 and lasted for six weeks means they are due lift on Sunday, September 13, if case numbers continue to dip.

RELATED: Treasurer Josh Frydenberg slams Victoria’s handling of virus crisis

RELATED: Opposition leader Michael O’Brien lashes restrictions

RELATED: What Victoria will look like after lockdown ends

Yesterday, Victorians were warned it is “too early” to start easing restrictions right now, with the Premier highlighting how essential one more week of COVID-19 data is to creating the best plan to reopen the state.

“I know that Victorians also want the clearest picture possible of what the next phase looks like. We cannot provide that certainty today.

“We cannot provide a detailed road map today, but we will provide that on Sunday, another week’s data is almost invaluable,” Premier Daniel Andrews said.

“I know a week feels and indeed is a long time locked at home, but it is also a very lengthy period of time when it comes to understanding what this virus is doing.

“That is a clear timeline, and one that I think will be very well received by the Victorian community.”

But a frustrated Victorian Opposition leader Michael O’Brien blasted Andrews, claiming Victorians are “suffering the brunt” of his failures and that businesses require necessary notice and need more than a week in advance to plan their reopening.

“Victorians are desperate to get our lives back. We want our jobs back, we want our family and friends back,” he said.

“And the Premier gives us a blank sheet of paper and says he’s still working on it.

“Victorians deserve light at the end of the tunnel.”

In an interview on Sky News on Monday night, Mr O’Brien said he wanted to see a “sensible path out of lockdown”, including “protecting the vulnerable”.

But he pleaded, “we must be able to safely reopen this state because we can’t keep living like this, I promise you that”.

“We’re the only state that has a second wave, we’re the only state in stage 4 lockdown and it’s all because Daniel Andrews couldn’t manage hotel quarantine, it’s all because he can’t manage contact tracing.

“The problems we’re in at the moment are because of government failures and to put your faith in Daniel Andrews to solve the problems he’s created takes a leap of faith that I and millions of Victorians just can’t handle.”

Mr Andrews has said he “can’t rule out” stage four restrictions still being in place for Melbourne beyond the September 13 end date.

“It is very difficult to know what those settings will be. They have to be guided by the data, the science and the very best medical advice,” Mr Andrews said.

“What we will provide on Sunday will be the plan that we intend to put in place, the plan that all things being equal, we will put in place, but again, it has never been my habit or my practice to be making commitments that we can’t keep.”

Mr O’Brien called some stage four restrictions “bizarre” and demanded the government “get rid of these restrictions that serve no health purpose, but only serve to keep people out of work”.

Mr Andrews said he knew the uncertainty was “deeply frustrating” for residents but noted the state couldn’t start to open up with the case numbers they are seeing now.

“If we were to open up with numbers anything like what we have had, even with a really positive trend, then those numbers will explode,” he said.

“We will lose control of this again, and instead of having the long-term stable COVID normal where businesses can return, where customers can be out there purchasing, where workers can get back to work, when profitability can come back to so many businesses, lives being saved and livelihoods, we won’t have that.

“We will have a seesawing effect where the rules are on and off, that will do enormous damage and it of course means also that we are likely then to have many thousands of people needing hospitalisation and many people dying.”

Mr O’Brien lashed the state’s new restrictions last month after the announcement of the beginning of stage four restrictions, declaring “Victorians don’t deserve this”.

“In declaring a State of Disaster, Premier Daniel Andrews has conceded that his government has lost control of COVID-19 in this state,” Mr O’Brien said in a statement.

“The failings of the Labor Government in hotel quarantine, in testing and in contact tracing have led to millions of Victorians being subjected to the harshest restrictions in our history.

“Curfews. Businesses that will be closed. Limits on daily exercise. Limits on shopping. Limits on moving 5 kilometres from your home. Unprecedented in their nature and their intrusion into the lives of Victorians.”

– with Ally Foster



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Shinzo Abe leaves behind a significant legacy as Japan’s longest serving leader. But now he needs to put his health first


This was always meant to be a momentous week for Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

On Monday, he became Japan’s longest serving leader. But instead of celebrating 2,799 days in office, he was in a Tokyo hospital having tests.

“I will return to work and ‘ganbaru,'” he vowed to reporters as he left the hospital.

Ganbaru is a Japanese term which means to ‘work with perseverance’ or to ‘tough it out’.

But by the week’s end, he had resigned — again forced out of the job by a chronic bowel condition which has plagued him since he was a teenager.

This isn’t the first time Mr Abe has left the job of Prime Minister. He had to resign over the same issue in 2007 after a painful flare-up of the disease called ulcerative colitis.

But this time, it looks to be more permanent. At 65 and with deteriorating health, it is unlikely he will return to the country’s most powerful political position.

“What is most important in politics is to deliver on the results,” Mr Abe said in announcing his decision.

He of all people would know, having helped drive Japan’s economic and international reputation during his almost eight years of leadership.

This has been a test of Abe’s leadership, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.(Akio Kon/Pool Photo via AP)

“Since the inauguration of the administration … in order to generate outcomes I pulled out all the stops for my job as Prime Minister,” Mr Abe said.

“I cannot make any mistake … and I made a judgement — I should not continue my job as Prime Minister.”

Leaders working long hours during COVID-19 pandemic

The resignation of any major leader is big news, but Abe’s decision to do so for his health is particularly notable during a global pandemic.

When asked whether he should have had a break or tried to keep less busy after working for more than 140 days straight, Mr Abe was coy.

A crowd of people wearing face masks walk through a train station turnstile
In his announcement, Abe said Japan was “fighting against an invisible enemy, COVID-19”.(Reuters/Kyodo)

“Keeping on top of my health is one of the responsibilities for a Prime Minister,” he said.

“Japan is fighting against an invisible enemy, COVID-19 and we have to go all out in fulfilling my responsibility.”

No-one, it seems, is immune to stress and burnout during a pandemic — especially the experts and world leaders expected to lead us out of this crisis.

America’s top health expert, Dr Anthony Fauci has admitted to being “chronically fatigued” by his work on the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

“I’m doing okay; I’m doing fine. I am running a bit on fumes, but as they say, the fumes are really thick,” Dr Fauci, 79, said in an interview with The Atlantic.

“It’s enough to keep me going.”

And Victoria’s Premier Dan Andrews was urged by some to take a break this month when he conducted his 50th consecutive daily coronavirus update.

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“This has been going on for months, and probably will go on for a number of months so someone else is going to have a step up I think, so he can take a few days off,” his predecessor Jeff Kennett said on the Sunrise program.

Premier Daniel Andrews addresses press conference with a purple back drop and microphones in front of him.
Some public figures have publicly called for Victoria’s Premier to take a break amid the pandemic.(ABC News: Scott Jewell)

But the coronavirus has been just one of the extraordinary challenges during Mr Abe’s tenure, according to Japanese politics expert Stephen Nagy from the International Christian University in Tokyo.

“Arguably, the past eight years have been perhaps the most stressful period of leadership,” Dr Nagy said.

“We had North Korean missile tests, Chinese ships in the East China Sea, floods … President Trump’s election and disruptive policies, etc.

“The relentless pressure would get to any leader, especially one that has pre-existing conditions.”

Nevertheless, Abe brought resilience and stability to a role that had largely been a revolving door for years.

Will Abe’s decision change Japan’s work culture?

Pandemic or no pandemic, hard work has always been a hallmark of Japanese culture, and Mr Abe was no exception.

“I haven’t had a full day off in about five months,” he admitted on an internet TV program on June 20.

Finally after more than 140 workdays in a row, the Prime Minister agreed to take a day off on June 24.

A woman wearing a face mask walks past a electronic screen showing numbers.
During his time as leader, Abe helped coin the term ‘Abenomics’.(AP: Eugene Hoshiko)

During his time in office, Mr Abe spoke out against karoshi — or death by overwork.

One in five Japanese workers are at risk of death from overwork, according to a government study in 2016.

A 31-year-old woman who worked as a political reporter died from heart failure in 2013 after logging 159 hours of overtime in a month.

Mr Abe’s government passed a controversial work reform bill which put a cap on the number of hours an employee could work.

“It will rectify the culture of working long hours … so that their careers will become more compatible with their child-rearing and nursing-care duties,” he said at the time.

But Mr Abe’s decision to resign to prioritise his health is unlikely to affect Japan’s ganbaru culture, according to Dr Nagy.

“Ganbaru-culture is deeply embedded in Japanese society [at] all levels and people who persevere are considered respectable people,” he said.

Leadership put to the test in a difficult year in Japan

This year has not been a time where work-life balance was achievable for Mr Abe.

Residents reach out hands each other on a flooded road in Kurume city, Fukuoka prefecture, southern Japan.
Pounding rain caused deadly floods in southern Japan in July, triggering mudslides and destroying houses and roads.(AP via Shoehei Miyano/Kyodo News)

First there was an international diplomatic crisis over an outbreak of the coronavirus on board the Diamond Princess in the port of Yokohama.

The pandemic has forced Tokyo to delay the Olympics until at least next year — an event Abe was instrumental in winning and hoped would be his legacy.

More than 64,000 people in Japan have been infected with the virus.

While Japan has largely escaped the worst of the pandemic — especially compared to other countries like the UK and US — a series of missteps marred the early response and the government’s approval rating tanked.

The government distributed washable cloth face masks — but these were unpopular because they arrived too late and were seen to be too small.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe waves during the Olympics closing ceremony on August 22, 2016.
Abe was a key part of helping secure the 2020 Olympic bid for Japan, although it ended up being postponed.(AP Photo: Vincent Thian)

Japan’s economy has also suffered greatly, shrinking at an annual rate of 27.8 per cent between April and June — the worst contraction on record.

The coronavirus-induced recession will be especially vexing to the man who coined the term “Abenomics” and the pandemic is sure to have dented his reputation as the man who helped pull Japan out of decades of economic stagnation.

Abe ‘most consequential’ Japanese PM on international front since WWII

Abenomics had mixed results in resuscitating the world’s third-largest economy. But Mr Abe’s legacy will go beyond his economic policies.

When he first took office in 2006, he became Japan’s youngest prime minister since World War II.

The grandson of former Japanese PM Nobusuke Kishi, he faced a huge amount of pressure in the role — including political scandals and voter outrage at lost pension records — before he quit citing ill health.

Five years later, he returned, leading his conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) back to power.

“On the domestic front, he has a mixed record that will likely be seen as having accrued incremental economic gain in the large urban areas and with some structural reform, but not enough to change the long-term trajectory of Japan,” Dr Nagy said.

He kept his promises to boost spending on the military after years of declines and expanding its capacity to project power abroad.

And in a historic shift in 2014, his government reinterpreted the constitution to allow Japanese troops to fight abroad for the first time since World War II.

A year later, Japan adopted laws scrapping a ban on exercising the right to defend a friendly country under attack.

Trump swings golf club wearing red cap with USA on it while Abe and others look on
Donald Trump played golf with Shinzo Abe on Trump’s visit to Japan.(AP: Ren Onuma, Kyodo News)

His work on the international stage has also set him apart from previous leaders, according to Dr Nagy.

Among his achievements include improving relations with China and South Korea and forging closer ties with the US under President Donald Trump, through frequent phone calls, meetings and the odd golf session.

Mr Abe has withstood a number of difficult periods in his time in power, but if this pandemic has reminded us of anything, it’s the importance of our health.

With infections on the way down in Japan, Abe decided now was the right time to step away — giving his successor the chance to prepare ahead of the winter flu season just months away.



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Ruckus in SDMC House: AAP leader tries to tear off his shirt in protest


In a bizarre incident, AAP councillor and Leader of Opposition Prem Chouhan allegedly attempted to tear off his shirt to “register protest” during the proceedings of the BJP-led SDMC House which witnessed a huge uproar on Friday.

While Chouhan claimed it was a “symbolic protest” to show the alleged “poor condition” of the areas falling under the civic body, South Delhi Mayor Anamika condemned the incident as “indecent behaviour” and said this has “lowered the dignity” of the House.

In a statement issued later, the mayor said Chouhan “tried to tear off his cloth” after stepping into the Well of the House and that this inicident is an insult to women members and herself.

“We condemn the incident by the AAP and its leader of opposition, and a complaint has been lodged with the disciplinary committee, and appropriate actions will be taken against the AAP councillors who indulged in the incident, so that in future, no one repeats such a behaviour,” the mayor was quoted as saying in the statement.

Chouhan, when contacted, claimed, “I have done nothing wrong” and “won’t apologise”.

“Three of our newly nominated AAP MLAs had come to the House and they wanted to put forth their views, but they were not allowed to speak. We protested and demanded that they be allowed to express their views,” he said.

Chouhan alleged that some of the mediapersons were “told not to air visuals” of the incident.

Soon, the arguments in the House turned into heated exchanges between members of the treasury and opposition benches.

Photographs circulated on social media purportedly showing an AAP member standing on the bench while others crowded near the Well of the House and raised anti-BJP slogans.

Chouhan later stepped into the Well of the House and allegedly tried to tear off his shirt, but only a few buttons got undone, an SDMC official said.

The House was then adjourned after some time, the official said.

Chouhan said that as elected representatives, “we have a right to express our views and people’s problems. Only trying to depict the poor condition (‘fatehal’) of Delhi by that symbolic protest.”

The BJP controls all the three municipal corporations, and in the 104-member SDMC Hoise, AAP is the principal opposition besides Congress.



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Russian police launch initial ‘check’ into alleged poisoning of opposition leader


Russian police have begun a preliminary examination of opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s illness after the Kremlin dismissed German doctors’ findings that he was apparently poisoned.

Transport police in Siberia announced on Thursday that they had started “a pre-investigation check” into what led to Mr Navalny’s hospitalisation in the city of Omsk, to establish “all the circumstances” and decide whether to open a criminal probe. 

The 44-year-old politician and anti-corruption campaigner fell ill on a plane to Moscow from the Siberian city of Tomsk last week.

Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.

EPA

The plane made an emergency landing and he spent two days in a clinic at Omsk in a coma before being transferred to Berlin’s Charite hospital

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday rejected international calls for a transparent investigation into the incident.

He said the decision was down to law enforcement authorities but that it was not possible to say Mr Navalny was poisoned since no toxic substance had been identified.

German medics said on Monday they do not know the exact substance involved while Mr Navalny was apparently poisoned with a substance that inhibits the cholinesterase enzyme, a feature of nerve agents.

Russian doctors said their tests did not find any trace of poison while they treated Mr Navalny with the same antidote that German medics are using.

Mr Navalny’s allies blame Russian President Vladimir Putin and say the opposition figure may have been poisoned by a cup of tea he drank at Tomsk airport.

Medics upload Alexei Navalny into a German special medical plane at the airport in Omsk, Russia.

Medics upload Alexei Navalny into a German special medical plane at the airport in Omsk, Russia.

AAP

The preliminary check by police announced a week after the incident is a low-key response after Mr Navalny’s allies asked for an investigation into an attempted assassination of a public figure. 

Police do such checks to determine whether a crime has been committed.

It comes after police and plain-clothed security service agents questioned doctors at the hospital without making any public statements.

Transport police said they searched locations that Mr Navalny visited and his hotel room, apparently referring to where he stayed in Tomsk.

They also examined security camera footage and confiscated “more than 100 items that could have value as evidence”.

Police said they did not find any “strong-acting or narcotic substances.”



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