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World  

Think-tank urges China to release Canadian employee

Release Kovrig: Think-tank

The president of the International Crisis Group used a high-level U.N. Security Council meeting attended by China’s foreign minister Tuesday to appeal for the release of the think-tank ’s northeast Asia expert, Michael Kovrig, who has been held by Beijing for nearly two years as part of a diplomatic dispute with Canada.

Robert Malley told the council at the end of his briefing on security in the Persian Gulf that the Crisis Group strives to be “an impartial conflict resolution organization” and its staff tries to understand the perspectives of all parties.

“That’s what our colleague Michael Kovrig was doing in his work on China’s foreign policy,” Malley said.

He said it wasn’t the time or place to discuss Kovrig’s case, “but I cannot conclude without appealing to the Chinese authorities, if they are listening, to understand the mission he was pursuing, end his almost two-year detention, allow him at long last to be reunited with his loved ones and continue his work toward a more peaceful world.”

The participants at the virtual council meeting were shown on the screen, and when Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi heard China mentioned he looked up and paid attention. But he made no mention of Kovrig in his speech to the council.

German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen did, echoing Malley’s appeal “to liberate Michael Kovrig.”

“He is not only a member of the International Crisis Group, but a former colleague of ours, a former diplomat,” Heusgen said.

Britain’s acting ambassador, Jonathan Allen, echoed Heusgen, saying Kovrig’s case “causes us deep concern.”

On Oct. 10, China granted consular access to Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor, both Canadians, for the first time since January.

The following day, the Canadian government expressed serious concern at their “arbitrary detention” and called for their immediate release.

China’s Foreign ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, denied on Oct. 12 that the two Canadians had been arbitrarily detained in response to Canada’s arrest of an executive of Chinese technology giant Huawei. He said Kovrig and Spavor were “suspected of engaging in activities that endanger China’s national security.”

Despite its disavowals of any connection, Beijing has repeatedly tied the detentions to the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and the daughter of the company’s founder. The U.S. is seeking her extradition on fraud charges and the case is before Canadian courts.

“What Canada did in the case of Meng Wanzhou was arbitrary detention,” Zhao said.

Bilateral ties have suffered as China has upped its demands that Canada release Meng, who was detained during a stopover in Vancouver in December 2018 and is currently living in one of her mansions in that city while fighting extradition. Kovrig and Spavor were detained days later.



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How Trump plowed through $1 billion, losing cash advantage

How Trump spent $1 billion

President Donald Trump’s sprawling political operation has raised well over $1 billion since he took the White House in 2017 — and set a lot of it on fire.

Trump bought a $10 million Super Bowl ad when he didn’t yet have a challenger. He tapped his political organization to cover exorbitant legal fees related to his impeachment. Aides made flashy displays of their newfound wealth — including a fleet of luxury vehicles purchased by Brad Parscale, his former campaign manager.

Meanwhile, a web of limited liability companies hid more than $356 million in spending from disclosure, records show.

Now, just two weeks out from the election, some campaign aides privately acknowledge they are facing difficult spending decisions at a time when Democratic nominee Joe Biden has flooded the airwaves with advertising. That has put Trump in the position of needing to do more of his signature rallies as a substitute during the coronavirus pandemic while relying on an unproven theory that he can turn out supporters who are infrequent voters at historic levels.

“They spent their money on unnecessary overhead, lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous activity by the campaign staff and vanity ads,” said Mike Murphy, a veteran Republican consultant who advised John McCain and Jeb Bush and is an outspoken Trump critic. “You could literally have 10 monkeys with flamethrowers go after the money, and they wouldn’t have burned through it as stupidly.”

For Trump, it’s a familiar, if not welcome, position. In 2016, he was vastly outraised by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton but still pulled off a come-from-behind win. This time around, though, he was betting on a massive cash advantage to negatively define Biden and to defend his own record.

Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien insisted money was no issue. “We have more than sufficient air cover, almost three times as much as 2016,” he told reporters Monday.

Biden, Stepien added, was “putting it all on TV,” as he eschewed most door-knocking because of the pandemic, while Trump has roughly 2,000 field staffers across the country knocking on doors and making calls for his campaign.

“Where we have states that are sort of tipping, could go either way,” Trump told campaign staffers Monday, “I have an ability to go to those states and rally. Biden has no ability. I go to a rally, we have 25,000 people. He goes to a rally, and he has four people.”

Advertising spending figures, however, offer a bleak picture.

While a half-dozen pro-Trump outside groups are coming to the president's aid, Biden and his Democratic allies are on pace to dump $142 million into ads in the closing days of the campaign, outspending Republicans by more than 2-to-1, according to data from the ad tracking firm CMAG/Kantar.

On Monday, the firm Medium Buying reported Trump was cancelling ad buys in Wisconsin; Minnesota, which Trump had hoped to flip; and Ohio, which went for Trump in 2016 but now appears to be a tight contest.

It's a reversal from May, when Biden's campaign was strapped for cash and Parscale ominously compared the Trump campaign to a “Death Star” that was about to “start pressing FIRE for the first time.”

The ad campaign they unrolled over the next three months cost over $176 million but did little to dent Biden's lead in public opinion polling.

Trump is now in a position that's virtually unthinkable for an incumbent president, said Travis Ridout, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks advertising spending.

“Advertising obviously isn’t everything. But we do think ads matter for a couple percentage points in a presidential race. And it’s just not a good sign for the Trump campaign,” Ridout said.

A review of expenditures by Trump’s campaign, as well as the Republican National Committee, lays bare some of the profligate spending.

Since 2017, more than $39 million has been paid to firms controlled by Parscale, who was ousted as campaign manager over the summer. An additional $319.4 million was paid to American Made Media Consultants, a Delaware limited liability company, whose owners are not publicly disclosed.

Campaigns typically reveal in mandatory disclosures who their primary vendors are. But by routing money to Parscale’s firms, as well as American Made Media Consultants, Trump satisfied the basic disclosure requirements without detailing the ultimate recipients.

Other questionable expenditures by Trump and the RNC that are included in campaign finance disclosures:

— Nearly $100,000 spent on copies of Donald Trump Jr.’s book “Triggered,” which helped propel it to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list.

— Over $7.4 million spent at Trump-branded properties since 2017.

— At least $35.9 million spent on Trump merchandise.

— $39 million in legal and “compliance” fees. In addition to tapping the RNC and his campaign to pay legal costs during his impeachment proceedings, Trump has also relied on his political operation to cover legal costs for some aides.

— At least $15.1 million spent on the Republican National Convention. The event was supposed to be in Charlotte, North Carolina, but Trump relocated it to Jacksonville, Florida, after a dispute with North Carolina's Democratic governor over coronavirus safety measures. The Florida event was ultimately cancelled, with a mostly online convention taking its place. Disclosures show the RNC still spent $1 million at the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island, near Jacksonville.

— $912,000 spent on ads that ran on the personal Facebook pages of Parscale and Trump spokesperson Katrina Pierson.

— A $250,000 ad run during Game 7 of the 2019 World Series, which came after Trump was booed by spectators when he attended Game 5.

— At least $218,000 for Trump surrogates to travel aboard private jets provided by campaign donors.

— $1.6 million on TV ads in the Washington, D.C., media market, an overwhelmingly Democratic area where Trump has little chance of winning but where he is a regular TV watcher.

There are signs Trump’s grassroots fundraising operation has slowed, too. Once a driving force, the campaign is now spending about 77 cents for every dollar it raises, typically through online ads asking supporters to chip in a few dollars.

Between July and September, it cost the campaign $181 million to raise $235 million through such small contributions. That’s a considerable break from earlier in the year, when it raked in hundreds of millions while spending far less.

Some of Trump's wealthy supporters are also exploring their options.

Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, recently donated $75 million to Preserve America, a new pro-Trump super political action committee that is not controlled by Trump World political operatives.

One of the reasons the group was founded in August is because there is deep distrust among some GOP donors that the existing pro-Trump organizations would spend the money wisely, according to a Republican strategist with direct knowledge of the matter. The strategist spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive discussions with donors.

Dan Eberhart, who has given over $190,000 to Trump’s election efforts, said many Republican donors are now focused on keeping control of the Senate in GOP hands — not Trump's chances of winning.

“The Senate majority is the most important objective right now,” he said. “It's the bulwark against so much bad policy that the Democrats want to do."



UK to infect healthy volunteers in vaccine research trial

Volunteering for COVID-19

Danica Marcos wants to be infected with COVID-19.

While other people are wearing masks and staying home to avoid the disease, the 22-year-old Londoner has volunteered to contract the new coronavirus as part of a controversial study that hopes to speed development of a vaccine.

Marcos and other young volunteers say they want to take part to help bring an end to the pandemic after seeing the havoc it has wreaked. The grandparents of Marcos’ best friend died early in the crisis, and as a volunteer for a homeless charity she has seen the struggles of those who have lost their jobs.

“So many people (are) struggling right now, and I want this pandemic to be over,” Marcos told The Associated Press. “Every day that goes on, more cases are going on, more people are dying. And if this vaccine trial could mean that this period of trauma for the whole world will be over sooner, I want to help. I want to be a part of that.”

Imperial College London and a group of researchers said Tuesday that they are preparing to infect 90 healthy young volunteers with the virus, becoming the first to announce plans to use the technique to study COVID-19 and potentially speed up development of a vaccine that could help end the pandemic.

This type of research, known as a human challenge study, is used infrequently because some question the ethics of infecting otherwise healthy individuals. But the British researchers say that risk is warranted because such studies have the potential to quickly identify the most effective vaccines and help control a disease that has killed more than 1.1 million people worldwide.

“Deliberately infecting volunteers with a known human pathogen is never undertaken lightly,? said Professor Peter Openshaw, co-investigator on the study. “However, such studies are enormously informative about a disease, even one so well studied as COVID-19.”

Human challenge studies have been used to develop vaccines for diseases including typhoid, cholera and malaria.

Imperial College said the study, involving volunteers aged 18 to 30, would be conducted in partnership with the government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust and hVIVO, a company that has experience conducting challenge studies. The government plans to invest 33.6 million pounds ($43.4 million) in the research.

Governments around the world are funding efforts to develop a vaccine in hopes of ending the pandemic that has pummeled the global economy, putting millions of people out of work. Forty-six potential vaccines are already in human testing, with 11 of them in late-stage trials — several are expected to report results later this year or in early 2021.

The Imperial College partnership plans to begin work in January, with results expected by May. Before any research begins, the study must be approved by ethics committees and regulators.

While one or more vaccines are likely to be approved before then, the study is needed because the world may need multiple vaccines to protect different groups within the population, as well as treatments for those who continue to get sick, said Dr. Michael Jacobs, a consultant in infectious diseases at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust who will take part in the research.

“I don’t think many people think that what we’re doing as scientists is searching for a silver bullet,? Jacobs said. “We’re going to need a whole raft of interventions in order to control this pandemic.”

Critics of challenge studies question the need to expose healthy people to the virus when the disease remains widespread and vaccine development is moving quickly. Tens of thousands of volunteers around the world have already signed up to participate in more traditional vaccine trials.

Alastair Fraser-Urquhart, 18, of Stoke-on-Trent in northwestern England, said he wants to take part in the challenge study because he’s young and strong and can help move the vaccine research forward quickly. He is taking a year off school and working with 1Day Sooner, an organization created earlier this year to advocate on behalf of volunteers in COVID-19 challenge trials.

“I can’t let this opportunity to do something, to really do something, pass me by when I’m at such low risk. ..,’’ he said. “The idea that I could have a part to play in ending, you know, millions of people’s misery and pain and I don’t — It just doesn’t sit well with me.”

In the first phase of the study, researchers will expose paid volunteers to the virus using nasal drops in an effort to determine the smallest level of exposure needed to cause COVID-19. Ultimately, the same model will be used to test the effectiveness of potential vaccines by exposing volunteers to the virus after they’ve received one of the candidate vaccines.

The research will be conducted at the Royal Free Hospital in London, which has a specially designed area to contain the disease. Volunteers will be monitored for at least a year to ensure they don’t suffer any long-term effects.

Challenge studies are typically used to test vaccines against mild infections to avoid exposing volunteers to a serious illness if the vaccine doesn’t work. While the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms in most people and seems to be especially mild in young, healthy individuals, the long-term effects of the disease aren’t well understood, and there have been reports of lingering problems in the heart and other organs even in those who don’t ever feel sick.

In the U.S., the National Institutes of Health has downplayed the need for challenge studies given the speed with which vaccines are being developed, but it has taken preliminary steps to prepare for such research in case the approach eventually is required. Those steps include examining the ethics of a challenge study, and funding research to create lab-grown virus strains that potentially could be used.

But even if they are needed, “human challenge trials would not replace Phase 3 trials” of COVID-19 vaccines, according to a September statement from NIH that said standard, rigorous studies were its priority.

Estefania Hidalgo, 31, a potential volunteer from Bristol in southern England, said she’s not worried about taking part because the study will be conducted in a controlled environment and the participants will be closely monitored.

Hidalgo, a student from Venezuela, wants to take part because of the toll COVID has taken on minority communities — and because she believes science is the way out of the pandemic.

“I am a person of colour, a woman . …’’ she said. “I also think it’s important that the trials have, like, representation from everybody. So I just figure, why not me?’’



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Duterte: Hold me responsible for killings in drug crackdown

Duterte takes responsibility

The Philippine president has said he accepts responsibility for the thousands of killings committed during police operations in his crackdown on drugs, adding that he was even ready to go to jail.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s televised remarks Monday night were typical of his bluster — and tempered by the fact that he has pulled his country out of the International Criminal Court, where a prosecutor is considering complaints related to the leader’s bloody campaign.

The remarks were also a clear acknowledgement that Duterte could face a deluge of criminal charges. Nearly 6,000 killings of drug suspects have been reported by police since he took office in mid-2016, but rights watchdogs suspect the death toll is far larger.

“If there’s killing there, I’m saying I’m the one ... you can hold me responsible for anything, any death that has occurred in the execution of the drug war,” Duterte said.

“If you get killed, it’s because I’m enraged by drugs,” said the president known for his coarse and boastful rhetoric. “If I serve my country by going to jail, gladly.”

He said, however, that drug killings that did not happen during police operations should not be blamed on him, alleging that those may have been committed by gangs.

Duterte has made a crackdown on drugs a centerpiece of his presidency. At the height of the campaign — which has often targeted petty dealers and users along with a handful of the biggest druglords — images of suspects sprawled dead and bloodied in the streets were frequently broadcast in TV news reports and splashed on the front pages of newspapers. Tens of thousands of arrests in the initial years of the crackdown worsened congestion in what were already among the world’s most overcrowded jails.

U.N. human rights experts and Western governments led by the United States have raised alarm over the killings, enraging Duterte, who once told former U.S. President Barack Obama to “go to hell.”

There have been widespread suspicions that police engage in extrajudicial killings in the crackdown, allegations that they and Duterte deny. In 2018, a court convicted three police officers of murdering a 17-year-old student after witnesses and a security video disproved their claim that the suspect was shot after violently resisting, a common reason cited by police officers after drug suspects are killed.

At least two complaints for crimes against humanity and mass murder in connection with Duterte’s campaign are being examined by an ICC prosecutor, who will determine whether there is enough evidence to open a full-scale investigation.

When the complaints were made, Duterte withdrew the Philippines from the world tribunal two years ago in a move that human rights groups said was a major setback in the country’s battle against impunity. The ICC prosecutor has said the examination into the drug killings would continue despite the Philippine withdrawal.

Duterte reiterated his defiance of the court’s probe Monday by asking, when did “drugs become humanity?”

Instead, he framed the drug menace as a national security threat, as he has in the past, comparing it to the communist insurgency that the government has tried to quell for more than a half-century.

“If this is allowed to go on and on and if no decisive action is taken against them, it will endanger the security of the state,” said Duterte, a former government prosecutor.

“When you save your country from the perdition of the people like the NPAs and drugs, you are doing a sacred duty,” he said, referring to communist New People’s Army insurgents.

Police have reported at least 5,856 drug suspects have been killed in raids and more than 256,000 others arrested since the start of the crackdown. Human rights groups have accused authorities of considerably under reporting the deaths.



Amnesty: Credible reports protesters shot dead in Nigeria

Protesters shot dead

Amnesty International said late Tuesday there was “credible but disturbing evidence” that security forces in the megacity of Lagos had fatally shot protesters who were demonstrating against police brutality despite a new curfew going into effect.

The Lagos state commissioner for information, Gbenga Omotoso, said in a statement Tuesday night only that “there have been reports of shooting at the Lekki Toll Plaza following the 24-hour curfew imposed on Lagos."

“The state government has ordered an investigation into the incident,” he said.

Video shown on Nigeria's Channels Television appeared to capture audio of live rounds being fired at the scene.

“While we continue to investigate the killings, Amnesty International wishes to remind the authorities that under international law, security forces may only resort to the use of lethal force when strictly unavoidable to protect against imminent threat of death or serious injury,” Amnesty tweeted.

The development came just hours after Lagos state Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu warned on Twitter that the growing protests against police brutality in Nigeria had “degenerated into a monster that is threatening the well-being of our society.”

A police statement also had warned that security forces would now “exercise the full powers of the law to prevent any further attempt on lives and property of citizens.”

The reports of fatal shootings in Lekki come after two chaotic weeks of mounting protests leading to more widespread social unrest. On Tuesday, authorities said nearly 2,000 inmates had broken out of jail after crowds attacked two correctional facilities a day earlier.

The Inspector-General of Police said it was deploying anti-riot police across Nigeria, which is Africa’s most populous nation, and ordered forces to strengthen security around correctional facilities.

The governor of Lagos state said the new curfew would cover the entire city of some 14 million people and surrounding areas. The announcement came after a police station was burned down in the city and two people were shot dead by police.

“Lives and limbs have been lost as criminals and miscreants are now hiding under the umbrella of these protests to unleash mayhem on our state,” the governor said.

Lagos has been the epicenter of the protests, with demonstrators at times blocking access to the airport and barricading roads leading to the country's main ports.

A curfew also went into effect in Benin City after a pair of attacks on correctional facilities that left 1,993 inmates missing. Interior Ministry spokesman Mohammed Manga said large, armed crowds had attacked the two prisons, subduing the guards on duty. It was unclear what the prisons' exact populations had been before the attack.

“Most of the inmates held at the centres are convicted criminals serving terms for various criminal offences, awaiting execution or standing trial for violent crimes,” he said in a statement.

The protests began two weeks ago after a video circulated showing a man being beaten, apparently by police officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, known as SARS.

Young protesters marched in cities across Nigeria, under the banner #EndSARS. In response, the government announced it would ban the anti-robbery squad, which for several years human rights groups have blamed for widespread abuses, including torture and killings.

The demonstrators have not been satisfied with the disbandment of the SARS unit and are demanding an end to abuses and respect for human rights in all parts of the police force. The protests have stopped traffic in Lagos, the capital Abuja and many other large cities in Nigeria, a country of 196 million people.

Protests continued Tuesday in many cities including Abuja the capital, where troops have been deployed.

 



Leaders in US, Europe divided on response to surging virus

Global COVID-19 roundup

Virus cases are surging across Europe and many U.S. states, but responses by leaders are miles apart, with officials in Ireland, France and elsewhere imposing curfews and restricting gatherings even as some U.S. governors resist mask mandates or more aggressive measures.

The stark contrasts in efforts to contain infections come as outbreaks on both sides of the Atlantic raise similar alarms, including shrinking availability of hospital beds and rising deaths.

Governors of states including Tennessee, Oklahoma, Nebraska and North Dakota are all facing calls from doctors and public health officials to require masks.

In Utah, a spike in cases since school reopened has created a dynamic that Republican Gov. Gary Herbert has called “unsustainable.”

But Herbert, who has been pressured by an outspoken contingent of residents opposed to masks, has resisted a statewide mandate. Instead, he announced last week that they would be required only in six counties with the highest infection rates, while leaving it to others to make their own rules. Meanwhile, many hospitals are being pushed to the breaking point.

“We are not just managing COVID. We are also managing heart attacks and strokes and respiratory failure and all those other things that need ICU-level care," said Dr. Kencee Graves, chief medical officer for inpatient care at the University of Utah Health hospital in Salt Lake City. The hospital's intensive care unit was filled by the end of last week, forcing the reopening of a backup intensive care unit.

“The sooner we take care of each other, wear masks, physically distance, the sooner we can have some gatherings in a safe way,” Graves said.

In Oklahoma, where the number of people hospitalized for the virus has reached record levels, doctors have called on officials to do more.

“We need face mask mandates to protect more of our Oklahoma citizens,” Dr. George Monks, the president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, said in a tweet Sunday.

But Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, reiterated Tuesday that he has no plans to do so and would instead leave such decisions to local officials. The state's three largest cities have mask requirements in place.

Oklahoma health officials reported a record high of 821 people hospitalized Tuesday with the virus or under investigation for the infection. Wyoming also reported a record high number of patients hospitalized for the virus.

New virus cases in the U.S. have surged in recent weeks from a daily average of about 42,000 in early October to about 58,000 — the highest level since late July, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In one of the most troubling outbreaks, 10 residents of a nursing home in northwest Kansas have died from the virus, health officials said. All 62 residents of the Andbe Home in Norton County, as well as an unspecified number of employees, have tested positive for the infection.

The surge in new cases prompted a change of heart Monday from the mayor of Fargo, North Dakota, about a mask mandate.

Mayor Tim Mahoney, who is also a general surgeon, had been largely supportive of Republican Gov. Doug Burgum’s approach of leaving management of the virus to local officials. Mahoney, himself, cast the deciding vote against a city mask mandate early this month.

But with North Dakota leading the nation in new cases and up to one in four local tests for the virus coming back positive, Mahoney said a statewide change is in order. Late Monday, he also reversed course on a local measure, mandating that city residents wear masks when they're in close proximity to people other than family members. There is no penalty for non-compliance.

The dynamic contrasts sharply with Europe, where national officials are battling similar spikes with measures including new lockdowns and smart phone apps that track the virus’ spread.

In Ireland, Prime Minister Micheal Martin announced a lockdown starting at midnight Wednesday that will close all non-essential stores, limit restaurants to carryout service and require people to stay within three miles (five kilometres) of their homes, while banning visits to other households.

It marks a near-return to restrictions imposed by the government in March, although schools, construction sites and manufacturing industries will remain open. If people comply with the restrictions, which will be in place until Dec. 1, the country will be able to celebrate Christmas “in a meaningful way,” Martin said.

But as cases surge, some decisions by European leaders to impose new restrictions are facing stiff opposition at the local level. After a tense faceoff, Britain’s government said Tuesday it had failed to reach agreement with Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who has rejected tough new measures without money to support the workers and businesses that will be most affected.

Britain’s Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick expressed disappointment with Burnham, saying the mayor ”has been unwilling to take the action that is required to get the spread of the virus under control.” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Tuesday he would impose the restrictions, drawing criticism from Burnham.

“It cannot be right to close people’s place of work, to shut somebody’s business, without giving them proper support,” Burnham said. He said Manchester had sought 90 million pounds ($117 million) from the national government to help people get through the winter. It was unclear how much the city would receive.

In the Netherlands, which has one of the highest infection rates in Europe, a judge in The Hague rejected an appeal by more than 60 Dutch bars and restaurants to overturn a government four-week closure order.

Lawyer Simon van Zijll, representing the bars and restaurants, warned in court that the Dutch hospitality industry faces “a tidal wave of bankruptcies” caused by the lockdown order, which he described as “random and disproportionate.”



Bill Cosby, now 83, grins in newly released prison mug shot

New Bill Cosby mug shot

A newly released prison mug shot shows Bill Cosby smiling with a disposable mask hanging off his face.

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections recently updated Cosby’s mug shot, something routinely done to document changes to inmates' appearance as they age. Cosby's new photo was taken Sept. 4.

Cosby, 83, was convicted of felony sex assault and is serving a three- to 10-year prison term. An appeals court had upheld his conviction, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed this year to review two key issues in the case. The appeal is scheduled to be heard Dec. 1.

Cosby, a once-beloved comedian long known as “America’s Dad,” became the first celebrity convicted of sexual misconduct in the #MeToo era when he was convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home near Philadelphia in 2004.



Danish submarine killer briefly escapes from prison

Submarine killer escapes

A Danish man convicted of torturing and murdering a Swedish journalist on his homemade submarine made a dramatic but brief escape from a suburban Copenhagen prison Tuesday, reportedly taking a hostage to break out before police recaptured him.

Peter Madsen was quickly apprehended near the Herstedvester prison where he is serving a life sentence for the killing of Kim Wall.

Justice Minister Nick Haekkerup called the escape attempt “very serious.”

“It goes without saying that convicted prisoners who have committed the worst possible crimes should not be able to escape from the custody of the authorities,” Haekkerup tweeted.

Police said Madsen appeared to be carrying fake weapons, including a “bogus” explosive belt.

“When we came, he threw away something that looked like a firearm,” said Mogens Lauridsen, operations chief of the suburban Copenhagen police.

Madsen, one of Denmark's most notorious criminals, was captured about five minutes after the escape and around 500 metres (less than a half-mile) from the facility. Prison personnel who followed him saw that he had jumped into a passing white van and informed police.

Lauridsen said that they don't believe Madsen had an accomplice.

Police officers then found on Madsen “what seems to be a belt with explosives,” Lauridsen said. He was handcuffed, officers stepped back and Madsen was left on the side of a road while a bomb squad investigated the belt, Lauridsen said.

“It seems to be a bogus belt,” he said, adding it was unclear whether Madsen had made it or the object which looked like a firearm.

Prison head Hanne Hoegh Rasmussen told a news conference that the escape was being investigated and that she couldn't immediately confirm media reports that Madsen took a female prison psychologist hostage inside the prison.

“No one has been injured physically,” Hoegh Rasmussen said, adding that prison staff were getting psychological support.

The facility has 161 cells and has a wing with inmates who have psychiatric, psychological or sexual behaviour problems.

In 2018, Madsen was sentenced in the Copenhagen City Court to life in prison for killing Wall, a 30-year-old reporter from Sweden who he lured aboard his homemade submarine in 2017 with the promise of an interview. He dismembered her body and dumped it at sea.

Madsen lost his appeal, shortly after apologizing to the victim’s family who were present in the appeals court. The sensational case has gripped Scandinavia.

Madsen has denied murdering Wall. He claims she died accidentally inside the submarine, but he has confessed to throwing her body parts into the Baltic Sea.

Life sentences in Denmark usually mean 16 years in prison, but convicts are reassessed to determine whether they would pose a danger to society if released and can be kept longer.

A self-taught engineer, Madsen built rockets in his spare time but never went to college. In 2008, he launched his homemade UC3 Nautilus submarine.

Wall had planned to interview Madsen for a story on a rocket program he founded in 2014, with the goal of building a crowdfunded rocket to launch himself into space. But by the time he finally texted her, his cash flow had dried up and he had cancelled the planned test launch.



Police: Houston officer killed in shooting, another wounded

Officer killed in shooting

A Houston police officer was killed and a teenager and another officer were wounded Tuesday when a man opened fire on law enforcement responding to a domestic disturbance call, authorities said.

Police Chief Art Acevedo said officers arrived at the apartment in southwest Houston,Ttexas around 8 a.m. where they met a woman who said she was moving out and needed to retrieve her belongings, but that her husband would not let her in.

About an hour and a half later, the woman's 14-year-old son opened the apartment door and 51-year-old Elmer Manzano came out and began shooting at the officers who returned fire, Acevedo said during a news conference.

Sgt. Harold Preston, 65, was shot multiple times, including in the head, and died at a hospital, Acevedo said. Officer Courtney Waller was shot in the arm and is in stable condition at a hospital, he said.

Manzano and the teenager were also shot and are expected to survive. Acevedo said he expects Manzano to be charged with murder and that police have repeatedly responded to domestic calls at the home.

A SWAT team and other emergency personnel surrounded the building and Manzano surrendered around 10:30 a.m., Acevedo said.

The shooting came amid an uptick in domestic violence in Houston and other cities as the coronavirus pandemic has forced people to spend more time in their homes.

Acevedo said Manzano has an criminal history but declined to provide details. Harris County court records show he pleaded guilty in 2002 to felony evading arrest and was sentenced to 120 days in jail. The chief said he doesn't know what type of gun Manzano used or whether it was obtained legally.

Preston was with the Houston police for 41 years, while Waller has three years of service. Acevedo praised Preston's decades of leadership “from the front.” Preston, who looked after his elderly parents, lived long enough for his family to get to the hospital, he said.

“He is a hero,” Acevedo said. “As good as he was a cop, he was a better human being.”



Sweden bans Huawei, ZTE from 5G, calls China biggest threat

Sweden bans Huawei, ZTE

Sweden is banning Chinese tech companies Huawei and ZTE from building new high-speed wireless networks after a top security official called China one of the country's biggest threats.

The Swedish telecom regulator said Tuesday that four wireless carriers bidding for frequencies in an upcoming spectrum auction for the new 5G networks must not use equipment from Huawei or ZTE.

Wireless carriers that plan to use existing telecommunications infrastructure for 5G networks must also rip out any existing gear from Huawei or ZTE, the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority said.

The agency said the conditions were based on assessments by the Swedish military and security service. Huawei said it was “surprised and disappointed” by the rules.

Sweden is the latest country to prohibit Huawei from playing a role in building 5G networks and its decision is likely to add to tensions between the Chinese government and Western powers. U.S. officials have waged an intense lobbying campaign in Europe to persuade allies to shun the company, saying Huawei could be compelled by China's communist rulers to facilitate cyberespionage. The company has consistently denied the accusations.

The ban means more opportunities for Huawei's main rivals, Swedish company Ericsson and Finland's Nokia.

New 5G networks, which are expected to usher in a wave of innovation such as smart factories and remote surgery, are considered critical infrastructure. Klas Friberg, the head of Sweden’s domestic security service, known as SAPO, said Tuesday that foreign powers have intensified their intelligence activity in recent years so 5G networks should be built in a secure way from the start.

“China is one of the biggest threats to Sweden," Friberg said. “The Chinese state is conducting cyber espionage to promote its own economic development and develop its military capabilities. This is done through extensive intelligence gathering and theft of technology, research and development. This is what we must consider when building the 5G network of the future."

Huawei denied it was a security risk.

“Huawei has never caused even the slightest shred of threat to Swedish cyber security and never will," it said. "Excluding Huawei will not make Swedish 5G networks any more secure. Rather, competition and innovation will be severely hindered.



Tribes make new move to shut down Dakota Access Pipeline

Pipeline battle continues

Native American tribes opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline once again have asked a federal judge to stop the flow of oil while the legal battle over the line’s future plays out.

The Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes succeeded on their first attempt, only to have an appeals court overturn U.S. District Judge James Boasberg’s shutdown order earlier this year. Now, they’re asking the judge to clarify his earlier ruling to satisfy the appellate judges and then to again order the line to cease operations, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

The tribes argue that potential harm to their water supply outweighs any economic impacts of shutting down the line, which has been moving North Dakota oil to Illinois for more than three years.

“The Tribes are irreparably harmed by the ongoing operation of the pipeline, through the exposure to catastrophic risk, through the ongoing trauma of the government’s refusal to comply with the law, and through undermining the Tribes’ sovereign governmental role to protect their members and respond to potential disasters,” attorneys Jan Hasselman and Nicole Ducheneaux wrote in a Friday filing.

Tribes fear a spill into the Missouri River just north of the Standing Rock Reservation would pollute their water supply. Pipeline operator Energy Transfer and the Army Corps of Engineers both maintain the pipeline is safe. Prolonged protests in 2016 and 2017 drew thousands of people to camps near the river crossing and resulted in hundreds of arrests.

U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman Danielle Nichols declined to comment Monday on the tribes’ filing. The Corps and Energy Transfer have until Nov. 20 to file a formal response.

Boasberg, who is overseeing the four-year-old lawsuit filed by the tribes, ordered an extensive environmental study last spring because he felt previous, less-extensive environmental analysis by the Corps left lingering questions.

Boasberg in July revoked the easement that allows for the river crossing and ordered the pipeline shut down until its environmental soundness was proven. A federal appeals court allowed oil to keep flowing, however, ruling that Boasberg hadn’t justified a shutdown. That same appeals court is now determining whether to uphold his decision regarding the study.

Tribes are asking Boasberg to issue an injunction to shut down the pipeline while the legal fight plays out.



US Justice Dept. files landmark antitrust case against Google

Google antitrust case

The Justice Department on Tuesday sued Google for antitrust violations, alleging that it abused its dominance in online search and advertising to stifle competition and harm consumers.

The lawsuit marks the government’s most significant act to protect competition since its groundbreaking case against Microsoft more than 20 years ago. It could be an opening salvo ahead of other major government antitrust actions, given ongoing investigations of major tech companies including Apple, Amazon and Facebook at both the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission.

“Google is the gateway to the internet and a search advertising behemoth," U.S. Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen told reporters. “It has maintained its monopoly power through exclusionary practices that are harmful to competition.”

Antitrust cases in the technology industry have to move quickly, he said. Otherwise “we could lose the next wave of innovation.”

The Justice Department isn’t seeking specific changes in Google’s structure or other remedies at this point, but isn’t ruling out seeking additional relief, officials said.

Lawmakers and consumer advocates have long accused Google, whose corporate parent Alphabet Inc. has a market value just over $1 trillion, of abusing its dominance in online search and advertising to stifle competition and boost its profits. Critics contend that multibillion-dollar fines and mandated changes in Google’s practices imposed by European regulators in recent years weren’t severe enough and that structural changes are needed for Google to change its conduct.

Google responded immediately via tweet: “Today’s lawsuit by the Department of Justice is deeply flawed. People use Google because they choose to -- not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives.”

The case was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. It alleges that Google uses billions of dollars collected from advertisers to pay phone manufacturers to ensure Google is the default search engine on browsers. Eleven states will join the federal government in the lawsuit.

The Trump administration has long had Google in its sights. A top economic adviser to President Donald Trump said two years ago that the White House was considering whether Google searches should be subject to government regulation. Trump has often criticized Google, recycling unfounded claims by conservatives that the search giant is biased against conservatives and suppresses their viewpoints, interferes with U.S. elections and prefers working with the Chinese military over the Pentagon.

Google controls about 90% of global web searches. The company has been bracing for the government’s action and is expected to fiercely oppose any attempt to force it to spin off its services into separate businesses.

The company, based in Mountain View, California, has long denied the claims of unfair competition. Google argues that although its businesses are large, they are useful and beneficial to consumers. It maintains that its services face ample competition and have unleashed innovations that help people manage their lives.

Most of Google's services are offered for free in exchange for personal information that helps it sell its ads. Google insists that it holds no special power forcing people to use its free services or preventing them from going elsewhere.

A recent report from a House Judiciary subcommittee, following a year-long investigation into Big Tech’s market dominance, concluded that Google has monopoly power in the market for search. It said the company established its position in several markets through acquisition, snapping up successful technologies that other businesses had developed — buying an estimated 260 companies in 20 years.



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