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  • Military suicides up as much as 20% in COVID era

    Military suicides up as much as 20% in COVID eraMilitary suicides have increased by as much as 20% this year compared to the same period in 2019, and some incidents of violent behavior have spiked as service members struggle under COVID-19, war-zone deployments, national disasters and civil unrest. Such a move would be part of a broader effort to make the wellbeing of soldiers and their families the Army's top priority, overtaking combat readiness and weapons modernization. The Pentagon refused to provide 2020 data or discuss the issue, but Army officials said discussions in Defense Department briefings indicate there has been roughly a 20% jump in overall military suicides this year.




  • The eyes don't have it: Masks upset classroom communication


  • On guns, abortion, high court could become more conservative

    On guns, abortion, high court could become more conservativeIf Congress confirms President Donald Trump's nominee to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Supreme Court would become more conservative, and also perhaps more ready to tackle certain hot-button issues like abortion and guns. Chief Justice John Roberts would also likely become less able to steer the outcome in divisive cases. Ginsburg, who died Sept. 18 at 87, was the leader of the liberal wing of the court, which had been split 5-4 between conservatives and liberals.




  • UN: Yemen's warring sides to swap more than 1,000 prisoners


  • Islamist militants kill 18 in north-eastern Nigeria

    Islamist militants kill 18 in north-eastern NigeriaThe Islamic State group said it was behind the ambush on a convoy of government officials.




  • Large majority of Swiss reject bid to rein in immigration from EU, says exit poll

    Large majority of Swiss reject bid to rein in immigration from EU, says exit pollSwiss voters have overwhelmingly rejected a right-wing party's attempt to scrap a pact allowing the free movement of people from the European Union, according to a projection of results by broadcaster SRF on Sunday. The Swiss People's Party (SVP) had called a referendum on the EU agreement - a vote that was seen as an important test of attitudes towards foreigners who make up a quarter of the population. The broadcaster said its projection, based on partial results from Sunday's plebiscite, showed the motion was defeated 63%-37%. The SVP - the biggest party in parliament - has pushed to take back control of immigration, echoing some of the arguments pro-Brexit politicians used in the run-up to Britain's exit from the EU. It has painted a gloomy picture of young foreigners supplanting older Swiss, housing getting dearer, schools and transport getting overcrowded and construction running wild. Opponents said the plan would have robbed business of skilled workers and torpedoed accords that enhance non-EU member Switzerland's access to the EU single market.




  • Macron's party faces struggle in French Senate elections

    Macron's party faces struggle in French Senate electionsNearly half of France’s Senate seats are up for grabs Sunday in an election that is likely to leave the chamber dominated by conservatives and serve a new electoral blow to President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party. The election is indirect, with senators chosen primarily by some 75,000 local elected officials like city councilors. The conservative Republicans party is expected to keep its majority, now at 143 seats.




  • Israelis mark Yom Kippur under 'painful' virus lockdown

    Israelis mark Yom Kippur under 'painful' virus lockdownThe solemn Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, which annually sees Israeli life grind to a halt, begins on Sunday in a nation already under a sweeping coronavirus lockdown. Every year, businesses shut down, roads empty out and even radio and TV stations go silent as the faithful fast for 25 hours and hold intensive prayers of atonement on the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. It's the second nationwide lockdown since the pandemic began, an attempt to contain one of the most severe outbreaks in the world.




  • Former Lebanese FM, president's son-in-law, has coronavirus

    Former Lebanese FM, president's son-in-law, has coronavirusA former Lebanese foreign minister and son-in-law of President Michel Aoun has tested positive for the coronavirus, his office said Sunday. The statement from his office said Gebran Bassil, who also heads the Christian Free Patriotic Movement party, will isolate until he recovers, adding that the infection level is still “low and acceptable.” The announcement comes amid an alarming surge in coronavirus cases in Lebanon, with record numbers registered almost every day for the past week.




  • France vows to protect its Jewish community after stabbing

    France vows to protect its Jewish community after stabbingFrance’s interior minister promised Sunday to protect France’s Jewish community from extremists after a double stabbing in Paris blamed on Islamic terrorism. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin visited a synagogue Sunday ahead of the evening start of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, and said more than 7,000 police and soldiers are protecting Jewish services this weekend. France has Europe’s largest Jewish community.




  • Facing IS, last embattled Sikhs, Hindus leave Afghanistan

    Facing IS, last embattled Sikhs, Hindus leave AfghanistanAfghanistan’s dwindling community of Sikhs and Hindus is shrinking to its lowest levels. With growing threats from the local Islamic State affiliate, many are choosing to leave the country of their birth to escape the insecurity and a once-thriving community of as many as 250,000 members now counts fewer than 700. The community’s numbers have been declining for years because of deep-rooted discrimination in the majority Muslim country.




  • Fighting erupts between Armenia, Azerbaijan; 2 killed

    Fighting erupts between Armenia, Azerbaijan; 2 killedFighting erupted anew Sunday between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia said a woman and a child were killed in the area by shelling from Azerbaijani forces and Azerbaijan’s president said his military has suffered losses. Armenia also claimed that two Azerbaijani helicopters were shot down and three Azerbaijani tanks were hit by artillery, but Azerbaijan’s defense ministry rejected that claim.




  • Lebanese army: Shooting in north Lebanon kills 2 soldiers


  • Leaders to UN: If virus doesn't kill us, climate change will

    Leaders to UN: If virus doesn't kill us, climate change willIn a year of cataclysm, some world leaders at this week’s annual United Nations meeting are taking the long view, warning: If COVID-19 doesn't kill us, climate change will. With Siberia seeing its warmest temperature on record this year and enormous chunks of ice caps in Greenland and Canada sliding into the sea, countries are acutely aware there's no vaccine for global warming. “We are already seeing a version of environmental Armageddon,” Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said, citing wildfires in the western U.S. and noting that the Greenland ice chunk was larger than a number of island nations.




  • Late night protest in Portland, Oregon, declared unlawful

    Late night protest in Portland, Oregon, declared unlawfulLaw enforcement declared an unlawful assembly late Saturday, forcing protesters from downtown Portland, Oregon, and making several arrests, just hours after demonstrations earlier in the day ended without many reports of violence. Hundreds of people were gathered downtown in Oregon's largest city when the unlawful assembly was announced just before midnight by the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office. Images showed protesters crowded in and around a park near the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse — the same courthouse that had been the scene of nightly unrest over the summer.




  • Trump caps judiciary remake with choice of Barrett for court

    Trump caps judiciary remake with choice of Barrett for courtPresident Donald Trump has nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, capping a dramatic reshaping of the federal judiciary that will resonate for a generation and that he hopes will provide a needed boost to his reelection effort. Barrett, a former clerk to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, said Saturday that she was “truly humbled” by the nomination and quickly aligned herself with Scalia's conservative approach to the law, saying his “judicial philosophy is mine, too." Barrett, 48, was joined in the Rose Garden by her husband and seven children.




  • New US threats to Iraq widen rifts, leave PM exposed

    New US threats to Iraq widen rifts, leave PM exposedEnraged by near-daily attacks on its interests in Iraq, Washington has threatened to close its embassy in Baghdad, in a blow to a premier seen as a bulwark against Iran.




  • North Korea accuses South of intrusion to find dead official

    North Korea accuses South of intrusion to find dead officialNorth Korea accused South Korea of sending ships across the disputed sea boundary to find the body of a South Korean official recently killed by North Korean troops, warning Sunday the intrusion could escalate tensions. “We urge the South side to immediately halt the intrusion across the military demarcation line in the West Sea that may lead to escalation of tensions,” the official Korean Central News Agency said. Along with its denial, South Korea proposed a joint investigation to resolve discrepancies in each country’s account of the South Korean official's death last week.




  • In a time of disarray, UN's virtual meeting adds surreal notes

    In a time of disarray, UN's virtual meeting adds surreal notes"Our common house is in disorder," said French President Emmanuel Macron, describing the troubled state of the United Nations General Assembly as it prepares for a second week of mostly virtual meetings and speeches starting Tuesday.




  • Belarus tells UN sanctions would be 'harmful for everyone'

    Belarus tells UN sanctions would be 'harmful for everyone'Belarus' foreign minister warned Western nations Saturday against imposing sanctions over the country's disputed presidential election and crackdown on protesters, saying their expressions of concern are “nothing but attempts to bring chaos and anarchy to our country.” With the European Union and Britain contemplating sanctions, Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei told the virtual U.N. General Assembly meeting of world leaders that “interference in our internal affairs, sanctions and other restrictions on Belarus will have the opposite effect and are harmful for absolutely everyone.”




  • Italian family fosters Gambian migrant: 'The son we never had'

    Italian family fosters Gambian migrant: 'The son we never had'When Gambian orphan Muhammed Sanneh arrived in Sicily aged 16, his life took an unexpected turn.




  • Syria minister calls Turkey main terrorism sponsor in region

    Syria minister calls Turkey main terrorism sponsor in regionSyria’s foreign minister accused Turkey on Saturday of being “one of the main sponsors of terror” in his country and the region, and said it is guilty of “a war crime and a crime against humanity" for cutting water to more than a dozen towns that resisted Turkish occupation. The nine-year Syrian conflict, which initially began as a civil war, later became a regional proxy fight. Turkey, which now controls a zone in northern Syria, has backed opposition fighters against Syrian President Bashar Assad, Syrian Kurdish fighters and the Islamic State extremist group.




  • North Korea warns of naval tensions during search for slain South Korean

    North Korea warns of naval tensions during search for slain South KoreanNorth Korea said on Sunday it is searching for the body a South Korean official killed by its troops, but warned that South Korean naval operations in the area threatened to raise tensions. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un issued a rare apology on Friday for the fatal shooting of the South Korean fisheries official in North Korean waters. Seoul then urged Pyongyang to further investigate the fatal shooting and suggested it could be a joint probe by the two sides. South Korea's military has accused the North's soldiers of killing the man, dousing his body in fuel and setting it on fire near the sea border. North Korean state news agency KCNA said on Sunday that the country's authorities were considering ways to hand over the body to the South if it is found. The report called it an "awful case which should not have happened" but warned that South Korean naval operations near the site of the incident had crossed into North Korean waters.




  • How it happened: From law professor to high court in 4 years

    How it happened: From law professor to high court in 4 yearsFour years ago, Amy Coney Barrett was a little-known law professor in Indiana. Within weeks, she is likely to be the newest associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. Barrett's fast-track rise, set to drive the nation's highest court to the right for a generation or longer, is the fulfillment of a decadeslong effort by conservatives to remake the federal bench that kicked into high gear after President Donald Trump was elected.




  • Some Breonna Taylor protesters out past curfew, fires set

    Some Breonna Taylor protesters out past curfew, fires setA diverse crowd of hundreds marched in Louisville's streets chanting “Black Lives Matter" on Saturday night, the fourth night of protests after a grand jury declined to charge officers in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor. A few police cars followed behind, with officers telling protesters to stay on the sidewalk and out of the street before the march ended.




  • GOP invests $10M in boosting Trump with Barrett confirmation

    GOP invests $10M in boosting Trump with Barrett confirmationThe Republican National Committee is putting Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court confirmation fight front and center with voters just weeks before Election Day. The confirmation battle will be featured in a new $10 million RNC digital ad campaign to encourage battleground state voters to return vote-by-mail ballots or go to the polls. The national party, in concert with President Donald Trump's campaign, is planning local events and protests across the country to support Barrett’s confirmation as well.




  • The U.S. reckoning on race, seen through other nations’ eyes

    The U.S. reckoning on race, seen through other nations’ eyesIt’s not only in the United States where protests against racial injustice are part of the national conversation. A handful of America’s critics have taken note too, using recent months’ demonstrations and graphic images of police violence to denounce the country at the United Nations’ gathering of world leaders this year. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani invoked the killing of George Floyd, the Black American man who died after a white police officer in Minneapolis pressed his knee against his neck even as he repeatedly said he could not breathe.




  • The U.S. reckoning on race, seen through other nations’ eyes

    The U.S. reckoning on race, seen through other nations’ eyesIt’s not only in the United States where protests against racial injustice are part of the national conversation. A handful of America’s critics have taken note too, using recent months’ demonstrations and graphic images of police violence to denounce the country at the United Nations’ gathering of world leaders this year. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani invoked the killing of George Floyd, the Black American man who died after a white police officer in Minneapolis pressed his knee against his neck even as he repeatedly said he could not breathe.




  • Her words: Amy Coney Barrett on faith, precedent, abortion

    Her words: Amy Coney Barrett on faith, precedent, abortionPresident Donald Trump on Saturday announced he was nominating Barrett to fill the seat vacated by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. — 2013 article in the Texas Law Review, citing Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark ruling that recognized a woman’s right to abortion.




  • Thousands march in Washington to pray and show Trump support

    Thousands march in Washington to pray and show Trump supportThousands of people packed the National Mall in downtown Washington on Saturday to pray and show their support for President Donald Trump. The march, which stretched from the Lincoln Memorial to the U.S. Capitol, was held just hours before Trump was set to announce he was nominating a conservative judge for the Supreme Court. Vice President Mike Pence, speaking from the steps of the memorial, said he came to extend Trump’s “greetings and gratitude” and asked them to pray for the new Supreme Court nominee.




  • The U.S. reckoning on race, seen through other nations' eyes

    The U.S. reckoning on race, seen through other nations' eyesIt's not only in the United States where protests against racial injustice are part of the national conversation. A handful of America's critics have taken note too, using recent months' demonstrations and graphic images of police violence to denounce the country at the United Nations' gathering of world leaders this year. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani invoked the killing of George Floyd, the Black American man who died after a white police officer in Minneapolis pressed his knee against his neck even as he repeatedly said he could not breathe.




  • The Latest: Graham: Court vote could be week before election

    The Latest: Graham: Court vote could be week before electionSenate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham says he hopes his committee will approve Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court by the week of Oct. 26, setting up a final confirmation vote on the Senate floor one week before the Nov. 3 presidential election. Trump nominated Barrett on Saturday to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.




  • Boris Johnson urges nations to unite and ‘turn our fire against our common foe’

    Boris Johnson urges nations to unite and ‘turn our fire against our common foe’British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged world leaders to unite in the fight against COVID-19, speaking Saturday at the 75th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks in a prerecorded message which was played during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday. The controversial British leader, who spent three nights in intensive care in early April after contracting the disease, promised an increase of 30% in contributions to the World Health Organization — 340 million pounds ($432 million) — over the next four years.




  • As U.S., China squabble at U.N., a plea - and warning - from one of world's smallest states


  • Lord Frost insists EU needs to work on more realistic policy positions on Brexit

    Lord Frost insists EU needs to work on more realistic policy positions on BrexitThe Prime Minister's chief Brexit negotiator hinted at progress in the trade talks last night, but insisted the EU still needed to be more "realistic" about the rules that the UK could accept. Lord Frost said the last fortnight of informal talks with Michel Barnier, his Brussels counterpart, had been "relatively positive", as he suggested that the EU had scaled back on some "unrealistic ambitions". The two sides have been at loggerheads over fishing rights in British waters and EU demands for the UK to continue following the bloc's rules on industrial subsidies. Government sources have also claimed that the EU's method of conducting the negotiations has led to "paralysis", with Mr Barnier insisting on slowing down talks on less contentious issues in order to focus on the most difficult areas. Mr Barnier is believed to have given ground on his previous insistence on "parallelism" in the talks. Lord Frost said: “As we enter the final stages of negotiations we are all focusing on what it might take to get a trade agreement in place. "An agreement is still very much possible, but equally very far from certain. The last two weeks of informal talks have been relatively positive, but there remains much to be done, and time is short. “We have been saying from the beginning of this process that we simply want a standard free trade agreement like Canada’s. Sadly the EU’s position has not been so straightforward and we continue to be asked to accept provisions which do not reflect the reality of the change which our exit from the EU brings. "If the gaps in these areas are to be bridged, the EU still needs to scale back more of its unrealistic ambitions and work on more realistic policy positions. I hope this will be possible this coming week, and I and my team are ready to work as hard as necessary to move things forward.” On Monday, Michael Gove will take part in a meeting of the joint UK-EU committee on the Withdrawal Agreement, when he is likely to come under renewed pressure to drop provisions in the Internal Market Bill which would allow ministers to override parts of the 2019 deal. Meanwhile, the Confederation of British Industry released polling showing that three-quarters of businesses (77 per cent) favour the two sides striking a post-Brexit trade agreement, with 18 per cent expressing no preference between a deal or no deal. Some 4 per cent favoured a no-deal outcome. Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, the CBI Director-General, who was pictured alongside Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor last week, said: “Next week Brexit talks enter the eleventh hour. Now must be the time for political leadership and the spirit of compromise to shine through on both sides. A deal can and must be made. “More than three-quarters of businesses want to see a deal that will support people’s jobs and livelihoods. This matters for firms and communities across Europe."




  • Amy Coney Barrett, Supreme Court nominee, is Scalia's heir

    Amy Coney Barrett, Supreme Court nominee, is Scalia's heirAlthough Amy Coney Barrett is the president’s choice to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she is more aptly described as heir to another departed Supreme Court justice: conservative hero Antonin Scalia. Like Scalia, for whom she once clerked, she is a committed Roman Catholic and a devotee of his favored interpretation of the Constitution known as originalism. President Donald Trump nominated the 48-year-old federal court appellate judge from South Bend, Indiana, at a Rose Garden press conference Saturday.




  • Egypt returns bodies of 2 Gaza fishermen shot by its navy


  • Reports: Car bomb kills 7 in northeastern Syria


  • How Trump, Biden are preparing for first presidential debate

    How Trump, Biden are preparing for first presidential debateAhead of the first debate-stage matchup between President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden, each campaign is promising a stark contrast in policy, personality and preparation. Trump has decided to skip any formal preparation. Biden's campaign has been holding mock debate sessions featuring Bob Bauer, a senior Biden adviser and former White House general counsel, playing the role of Trump, according to a person with direct knowledge of the preparations who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal strategy.




  • Justin Trudeau: 'The World Is In Crisis, And Things Are About To Get Much Worse'

    Justin Trudeau: 'The World Is In Crisis, And Things Are About To Get Much Worse'The Canadian prime minister argued in a U.N. speech that COVID-19 is a "wake-up call" that current global systems simply don't work anymore.




  • If Barrett joins, Supreme Court would have six Catholics

    If Barrett joins, Supreme Court would have six CatholicsRoman Catholics account for a bit more than 20% of the U.S. population, yet they are on track to hold six of the Supreme Court’s nine seats now that President Donald Trump has nominated Amy Coney Barrett to fill its vacancy. Catholic academics and political analysts offer several explanations for the turnaround – related to Catholics’ educational traditions, their interest in the law, and – in the case of Catholic conservatives – an outlook that has appealed to recent Republican presidents filling judicial vacancies. Barrett, a favorite of conservative activists for her views on abortion and other issues, will likely be an ideological opposite of liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Jewish justice whose recent death created the vacancy.




  • Q&A: How to handle technology issues with online school

    Q&A: How to handle technology issues with online schoolAcross the U.S., the pandemic has forced students to attend virtual school to prevent spread of the coronavirus. Your internet service may be inadequate for all-day videoconferencing or simply overstressed. There can be unanticipated consequences from turning on a new video camera in your home for school lessons.




  • At UN, India vows to help produce virus vaccine for world

    At UN, India vows to help produce virus vaccine for worldIndian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to help the world produce and deliver potential coronavirus vaccines while making no mention Saturday of the heavy toll the pandemic has taken on his own country, where the enormous population has suffered among the highest numbers of cases and deaths in the world. Modi's remarks to the U.N. General Assembly — pre-recorded because the gathering is virtual this year — also said nothing about growing tensions with neighboring Pakistan, whose prime minister, Imran Khan, devoted much of his speech Friday to assailing India, leading to a sharp exchange between the two countries' diplomats in the Assembly hall.




  • Informant in top Venezuela case accused of lying to feds


  • Reporter lost International Women of Courage award for criticising Trump

    Reporter lost International Women of Courage award for criticising Trump* Jessikka Aro was to receive recognition in March 2019 * Senator says administration ‘sought to stifle dissent’The US state department “owes an apology” to a Finnish journalist who saw the International Women of Courage Award, bestowed in part for her work on Russia, taken away because she criticised Donald Trump on social media, a prominent senator said.“Secretary [of state Mike] Pompeo should have honored a courageous journalist willing to stand up to Kremlin propaganda,” said Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the ranking Democrat on the Senate foreign relations committee, about Jessikka Aro, an investigative reporter.“Instead, his department sought to stifle dissent to avoid upsetting a president who, day after day, tries to take pages out of [Vladimir] Putin’s playbook. The state department owes Ms Aro an apology.”Aro was due to receive the award in March 2019. Rescinding it, the state department insisted she had not been a finalist and blamed the confusion on a “regrettable error”.But Foreign Policy magazine reported that Aro was punished “after US officials went through [her] social media posts and found she had also frequently criticized President Donald Trump”.Menendez said the posts concerned “President Trump’s ‘fake news’ attacks on the media”. In one tweet, Aro said Trump and Putin’s summit in Helsinki in July 2018 meant “Finnish people can protest them both. Sweet”.On Friday, the state department Office of the Inspector General confirmed criticism of Trump caused Aro to lose the award.CNN quoted its report as saying: “Every person interviewed in connection with this matter acknowledged that had [the Office of Global Women’s Issues] not highlighted her social media posts as problematic, Ms Aro would have received the IWOC award.”According to the OIG, ambassador to Finland Robert Pence said that “although he appreciated Ms Aro’s work, the risk of embarrassment to the first lady [Melania Trump] and the department was too great to have her appear on stage at the awards ceremony.”In March last year, the ambassador, a Republican donor not related to vice-president Mike Pence, told the Senate committee he had not been “worried” by Aro’s posts. The then acting director of the Office of Global Women’s Issues said the posts had “not really” caused the withdrawal of the award.Menendez condemned the Trump administration for “misleading the public and Congress”.The state department did not immediately apologise.Aro told CNN: “In my heart I feel like an international woman of courage. That the Trump administration can’t take away from me.”




  • Scores arrested in protest against Belarus' president

    Scores arrested in protest against Belarus' presidentHundreds of women calling for the authoritarian president to step down protested in Belarus’ capital on Saturday, continuing the large demonstrations that have rocked the country since early August. Police blocked off the center of Minsk and arrested more than 80 demonstrators, according to the Viasna human rights organization. Protests, by far the largest and most persistent in Belarus since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, began Aug. 9 after an election that officials said gave President Alexander Lukashenko a sixth term in office.




  • US colleges struggle to salvage semester amid outbreaks

    US colleges struggle to salvage semester amid outbreaksColleges across the country are struggling to salvage the fall semester amid skyrocketing coronavirus cases, entire dorm complexes and frat houses under quarantine, and flaring tensions with local community leaders over the spread of the disease. Institutions across the nation saw spikes of thousands of cases days after opening their doors in the last month, driven by students socializing with little or no social distancing. School and community leaders have tried to rein in the virus by closing bars, suspending students, adding mask requirements, and toggling between in-person and online instruction as case numbers rise and fall.




  • Boris Johnson urges world leaders to unite against COVID-19

    Boris Johnson urges world leaders to unite against COVID-19British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Saturday that the coronavirus pandemic has frayed the bonds between nations, and urged world leaders to unite against the “common foe” of COVID-19. Johnson, who made the remarks in a prerecorded speech to the United Nations General Assembly, said that, nine months into the pandemic, “the very notion of the international community looks tattered.” Johnson set out a plan for preventing another global pandemic, including a network of zoonotic research labs around the world to identify dangerous pathogens before they leap from animals to humans.




  • The Quiet 2013 Lunch That Could Have Altered Supreme Court History

    The Quiet 2013 Lunch That Could Have Altered Supreme Court HistoryWhen Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined President Barack Obama for lunch in his private dining room in July 2013, the White House sought to keep the event quiet -- the meeting called for discretion.Obama had asked his White House counsel, Kathryn Ruemmler, to set up the lunch so he could build a closer rapport with the justice, according to two people briefed on the conversation. Treading cautiously, he did not directly bring up the subject of retirement to Ginsburg, at 80 the Supreme Court's oldest member and a two-time cancer patient.He did, however, raise the looming 2014 midterm elections and how Democrats might lose control of the Senate. Implicit in that conversation was the concern motivating his lunch invitation -- the possibility that if the Senate flipped, he would lose a chance to appoint a younger, liberal judge who could hold on to the seat for decades.But the effort did not work, just as an earlier attempt by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who was then Judiciary Committee chair, had failed. Ginsburg left Obama with the clear impression that she was committed to continuing her work on the court, according to those briefed.In an interview a year later, Ginsburg deflected questions about the purpose of the lunch. Pressed on what Obama might think about her potential retirement, she said only, "I think he would agree with me that it's a question for my own good judgment."With Ginsburg's death last week, Democrats are in a major political battle, as Republicans race to fill her seat and cement the court's conservative tilt.Obama clearly felt compelled to try to avoid just such a scenario, but the art of maneuvering justices off the court is politically delicate and psychologically complicated. They have lifetime appointments and enjoy tremendous power and status, which can be difficult to give up.Still, presidents throughout American history have strategized to influence the timing of justices' exits to suit various White House priorities.President Donald Trump's first White House counsel, Donald McGahn II, the primary architect of the administration's success in reshaping the judiciary, helped ease the way for Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement in 2018, which allowed Trump and a Republican-controlled Senate to lock down his seat for another generation.McGahn sought to make the justice comfortable with the process by which a successor would be chosen, according to people briefed on their conversations, by seeking his advice on potential picks for lower-court vacancies and recommending that Trump nominate one of his former clerks, Neil Gorsuch, to fill an earlier vacancy. (Brett Kavanaugh, who McGahn recommended to fill Kennedy's seat, was also one of his clerks.)Justices, however, often bristle at any impingement of politics or other pressures in their realm. Robert Bauer, who served as Obama's White House counsel for part of his first term, said he recalled no discussions then of having Obama try to nudge Ginsburg to step aside. Bauer said asking a judge -- any judge -- to retire was hypersensitive, recalling how in 2005 he wrote an opinion column calling for Congress to impose judicial term limits and require cameras in the courtroom, only to have Justice Sandra Day O'Connor blast his column in a speech on threats to judicial independence."The O'Connor episode reflects the sensitivity that justices can exhibit toward pressure from the outside about how the court runs," Bauer said, including showing "resistance to any questions about how long they serve." He added: "White Houses are typically mindful of all this."Resistance aside, Democrats outside the White House also strategized about how to raise the topic of retirement with Ginsburg. Several senior White House staff members say they heard word that Leahy had gingerly approached the subject with her several years before the Obama lunch.He was then chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees Supreme Court nominations; he also had a warm relationship with Ginsburg, a bond forged over their shared enjoyment of opera and visits to the Kennedy Center. Asked through a spokesman for comment, Leahy did not respond.One of the former Obama administration staff members who heard discussion of the roundabout outreach by Leahy was Rob Nabors, who served in a series of White House policy and legislative affairs positions under Obama from 2009 to 2014. But Nabors said he recalled hearing that "it wasn't clear that the message was entirely transmitted effectively, or that it was received in the manner it was delivered."While Obama's own talk with the justice was tactful, changing conditions should have made his implicit agenda clear, according to the two people briefed about the meeting, who spoke only on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the topic. Democrats were worried about the prospect of losing the Senate. And the president had invited no other justices to lunch.But the failure of that conversation convinced the Obama team that it was pointless to try to talk to her of departure. The next summer, when another Supreme Court term closed without a retirement announcement from her, the administration did not try again.Neil Eggleston, who became White House counsel in April 2014, said that he did not remember anyone proposing that another attempt to ease Ginsburg toward resignation would do any good."I think it is largely not done," he said. "Suggesting that to a Supreme Court justice -- she is as smart as anyone; she doesn't need the president to tell her how old she is and what her timelines are."Given his previous tenure as chief counsel to the Judiciary Committee, Justice Stephen Breyer might have been a more pragmatic target of overtures. Walter Dellinger, a former solicitor general, mentioned to the White House counsel's office during the Obama administration a plan he conceived to motivate Breyer, a known Francophile, to start a next chapter."My suggestion was that the president have Breyer to lunch and say to him, 'I believe historians will someday say the three greatest American ambassadors to France were Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Stephen G. Breyer,'" recalled Dellinger, who recently joined former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign team.Although it is not clear how, word of Dellinger's idea made its way to Breyer.Dellinger said that when he ran into Breyer at a holiday party not long after Trump was elected, the justice pulled him aside. "So Walter," he asked, "do you still want to ship me off to France?" Dellinger, who sensed the justice was ribbing him, responded, "Mr. Justice, I hear Paris isn't what it used to be."Dellinger added that he now thought Breyer was correct to resist the idea, saying "he has made a tremendous contribution in the ensuing years." Breyer's office declined to comment.In making that suggestion to lure Breyer with an ambassador position, Dellinger was harking back to similar ideas from Lyndon B. Johnson, a master strategist. Johnson lured Justice Arthur Goldberg, who he wanted to replace with his friend Abe Fortas, off the court by offering him the role of ambassador to the United Nations, saying that he would have tremendous power in negotiating the end of the Vietnam War.Goldberg never did have that authority and regretted his decision. "I asked Goldberg, why did you leave the bench?" said Laura Kalman, professor of history at the University of California at Santa Barbara. He answered her in one word: "Vanity."Johnson also played on the paternal pride of the Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark, by appointing his son, Ramsey Clark, attorney general in March 1967. Johnson, who wanted to replace Clark with Thurgood Marshall, played up the notion that his continued presence on the court while his son ran the Justice Department created a conflict of interest, and Clark stepped down that June.But presidents cannot force justices to leave the court. Franklin Roosevelt floated a plan to "pack" the court by expanding the number of justices in frustration because aging conservatives kept striking down his "New Deal" programs. President William Taft could not push out Justice Melville Fuller, whom he deemed senile after the justice bungled Taft's swearing-in, biographer David Atkinson wrote; Taft had to wait until Fuller died of a heart attack a year later. (In a book about Taft, Henry Pringle wrote "the old men of the court seldom died and never retired.")Democratic leaders had precious few cards they could have played as they contemplated their options with Ginsburg. She made it clear in several interviews that she had no intention to retire; widowed in 2010, she was devoted to her work, determined to have a voice and appreciated the platform her celebrity offered her as an icon liberals liked to call the "Notorious RBG."She was clearly annoyed at any public suggestions that she step down. In 2014, Erwin Chemerinsky, now dean of the law school at the University of California at Berkeley, wrote articles, appearing in The Los Angeles Times and Politico, declaring that for the long-term good of progressive values, Ginsburg should step aside to make way for a younger Obama appointee."It was certainly conveyed to me that she was not pleased with those who were suggesting that she retire," Chemerinsky said.Randall Kennedy, a professor at Harvard Law School, had also written a column in 2011 in The New Republic calling for Ginsburg and Breyer to step down immediately, suggesting that they should not stay on the court so long that they risked conservatives inheriting their seats."I didn't feel at all apologetic about saying something which frankly seemed to me quite clear," Kennedy said. "I've been praying -- praying -- that I'd be able to look back and say I was wrong. It didn't turn out that way."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company




  • Tiny airborne particles may pose a big coronavirus problem

    Tiny airborne particles may pose a big coronavirus problemAt a University of Maryland lab, people infected with the new coronavirus take turns sitting in a chair and putting their faces into the big end of a large cone. It's part of a device called “Gesundheit II” that is helping scientists study a big question: Just how does the virus that causes COVID-19 spread from one person to another? It clearly hitchhikes on small liquid particles sprayed out by an infected person.





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