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Obese adults will be put on a ‘soup and shakes’ diet



For the residents along Indonesia’s Cisadane River, the coronavirus has brought not just deadly disease, but also a deluge of medical waste: a constant stream of syringes, face masks and hazmat suits floating by.

The double threat for those who depend on the 86-mile-long river to bathe and wash their clothes comes as Indonesia has struggled to contain Covid-19, now with the highest death toll in Southeast Asia, and in the past week almost 3,000 new infections a day.

As the virus has spread, medical waste had been piling up at Tangerang’s Cipeucang landfill. Then in May its walls collapsed, sending tons of garbage straight into the Cisadane’s khaki green waters.

“I still worry to be honest, but I have to wash here,” local resident Eka Purwanti, 36, told Reuters, as she did her laundry in the river, and children played on the riverbank, “I hope nothing will happen, although I know it’s a deadly disease.”





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why this was a disaster ten years in the making


There would have been no demand for masks, visors or droplet repellent PPE. Mass testing and track and trace systems would have been next to worthless. And there would have been no need for lockdown.

Why? Because an influenza pandemic would have been unstoppable. Just as was shown by Excercise Cygnus in 2016 when ministers simulated a flu pandemic, many tens of thousands would have died but there would have been nothing much to do, other than bury the dead.

This is the narrative pushed by Jeremy Hunt, the former Health Secretary, and Sally Davies, the former chief medical officer, who were responsible for Britain’s pandemic planning, but it will never survive the scrutiny of the public inquiry to come.

As epidemiologists like Prof Francois Balloux, director of the Genetics Institute at University College London, have pointed out, past pandemic strains of influenza and SARS-CoV-2 are extraordinarily similar. Both are droplet spread, if anything Covid spreads faster than influenza, both cause asymptomatic infections and both have similar infection fatality rates.

“SARS-CoV-2 behaves in most ways like a pandemic influenza strain,” wrote Prof Balloux in a recent Twitter thread. “The only major epidemiological difference between COVID 19 and flu pandemics is the age risk distribution, with influenza being highly dangerous to young children in addition to the elderly. At this stage, COVID 19 is really ‘like pandemic flu’, but not like ‘seasonal endemic flu'[which is much less lethal]”.

Mr Lesh says the real problem in Whitehall was “failure of imagination” and a ­misjudgment about society’s  tolerance for risk.

He said: “The thinking was, as with previous pandemics and Excercise Cygnus, you would let it run through and manage the deaths. They thought people’s tolerance for risk was higher, and that people would also be far less tolerant of social distancing measures.”

“If they looked at the SARS outbreak for example, my guess is they thought we would never accept that sort of mitigation in the west. So in some ways, you could say it was a benign assumption – that western publics would not be willing to make the sacrifices of the relatively more collectivist societies of Asia”.

Group think and western ­exceptionalism were certainly part of the problem but, as Mr Davies points out it was money too. The Institute for Government’s report on the pandemic finds that “failures in planning and funding cuts meant public services were not well prepared to handle the coronavirus crisis”.

Years of austerity overseen by former chancellor George Osborne saw the NHS protected but the capacity of its sister public health services dramatically cut.

“The Treasury is very effective at controlling spending but has historically been less good at understanding what it is getting for its money”, said Mr Davies.

“Also, the priority of governments since 2010 has been to keep tax as low as they can and – within public spending – to focus on efficiency over resilience.

“Those are perfectly reasonable political judgments to make, but clearly that has come back to bite us.”

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Justin Trudeau ‘shocked’ by video of indigenous chief being punched by police in Canada



Justin Trudeau has called for an independent investigation after a “shocking” video showing the arrest of an indigenous chief by federal police in Canada.

The video, filmed and released by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, shows an officer rushing at Chief Allan Adam on March 10 during an encounter over an expired licence plate. The officer tackles Mr Adam and punches him in the face.

“We’ve all now seen the shocking video of Chief Adam’s arrest and we must get to the bottom of this,” the Canadian Prime Minister told a daily briefing.

“Like many people I have serious questions about what happened,” Mr Trudeau said. “The independent investigation must be transparent and be carried out so that we get answers.”

In the dashcam video (below) broadcast by several Canadian media, Mr Adam has a heated exchange with a police officer outside a casino in the province of Alberta.



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Donald Trump clashes with reporters



A group of California prisoners tried to infect themselves in a futile bid to win freedom, a senior police official said on Monday.

Inmates at a facility in Castaic, north of Los Angeles, were filmed sharing a disposable cup and sniffing a used face mask while crowded together.

“Somehow, there was some mistaken belief among the inmate population that if they tested positive, that there was a way to force our hand and somehow release more inmates out of our jail environment – and that’s not going to happen,” said county sheriff Alex Villanueva.

Some 21 prisoners tested positive in the prison section where the video was shot “as a result of the behaviour”, he added.

The activity came to light as prison officials investigated a broader spike in Covid-19 cases behind bars, with nearly 40 percent of those incarcerated in Los Angeles County now in quarantine.





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7.5 magnitude earthquake triggers tsunami warning for Russia



A 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck near Russia’s far eastern Kuril Islands on Wednesday, prompting a tsunami warning for the closest shores.

The US Geological Survey said the quake struck 136 miles south-southeast of Severo on the Kuril chain north of Japan. It was 37 miles deep.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said hazardous tsunami waves were possible within 620 miles of the quake’s epicenter.

It said earthquakes of this strength in the past have caused tsunamis far from the epicentre, and the US National Tsunami Warning Centre was analysing the event to determine the level of danger.

The US National Tsunami Warning Centre also still was analyzing the event to determine the level of danger for Alaska and the US West Coast.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said the quake was a stronger 7.8 magnitude and may cause a slight change of sea levels around Japanese coasts.





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Israel set for unprecedented third election amid political gridlock



Israel is heading towards an unprecedented third election in one year after both Benjamin Netanyahu and his centrist rival failed to form a government and were unable to agree a deal for a unity coalition.

As a midnight deadline passed, there was no last-minute deal between the two sides and MPs instead voted through a bill to send Israelis to the polls for a third time in 11 months on March 2, 2020.

By a vote of 94 in favour to none opposed, lawmakers approved a motion dissolving parliament and setting the new election date.

Mr Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, the leader of the centrist Blue & White party, blamed each other for what has become the worst stalemate in Israeli political history.

Mr Gantz said the prime minister was dragging the country into new elections to try to win a Right-wing majority which would grant him immunity from the criminal corruption charges he faces. He denies wrongdoing. 

“It now seems that we will be going into a third election cycle today because of Netanyahu’s attempt to obtain immunity,” Mr Gantz said. 

Mr Netanyahu said Mr Gantz and his allies had never seriously entered into negotiations on a unity government.

“It’s time that for one day, for the citizens of Israel, we sit and have a serious discussion about forming a broad unity government,” he said. 





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RNLI blames trapped tourists and beach selfies as call-outs double over festive period in four years



Tourists hunting beach selfies on perilous stretches of coast have helped fuel an almost doubling in call-outs to the RNLI over the festive period, it has been claimed. 

The lifeboat charity revealed it is now 600% busier over the Christmas break compared to 40 years ago – with launches also up from 85 in 2014 to 155 in 2018.

Rescue crews have reported the rise appears to be linked to the increasing number of people visiting the coast for a break, who are unfamiliar with the dangers they can face. 

While a common source of call-outs in the 1980s was embattled fishing vessels, lifeboats are now more likely to be deployed to tourists trapped by the tide, the charity said. 

It is believed the rise of social media may have inspired visitors to seek out beauty spots to serve as the backdrop for a family Christmas picture they can post online. 

However, although a large expanse of sand can be alluring as the setting for a festive selfie, the changing tide can leave areas of the beach impassable within minutes. 

“We believe more and more people are staying in the country in the festive period; more and more people are going to the seaside and are not aware of the dangers of the sea,” a spokesman for the RNLI told the Telegraph.

“We had a lot of wind recently and people know that the wind is dangerous, but on a calm winter’s day people think it is nice and safe, they walk around the headland and, figures reveal, there are a lot of people who are not necessarily in the water but are on a cliff edge, walking, something like that.

“With camera phones these days, people go out and want a nice Christmas Day picture, they want a nice family selfie (but find themselves in trouble). 

He added: “Even if you go back five years, cameras with selfies have since come in and then you’ve got all your Instagram and things for your best pictures – everyone has different means and motives for visiting the coast.” 

The RNLI is expecting this Christmas to be just as hectic for its volunteer crews and has launched a fundraising drive to help preserve its future.

Phil Eaglen, a volunteer for the crew in Wells, said: “The RNLI has experienced a shortfall in funds, but we are rescuing more people than ever before.”





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Stranded strike passengers can make claims for hotel costs, South Western Railway confirms



The strikes began after talks between RMT and SWR broke down last week, over whether human guards should operate the opening and closing of train doors.

As the strike got underway passengers complained of “dangerously overcrowded” carriages and “scrums” ensuing as commuters struggled to board trains.

One passenger, Rachel Lonergan, tweeted SWR to say: “The train I was on this morning was dangerously overcrowded with fare-paying passengers feeling very unwell.”

Another, IT manager Karl Lawson, who is waiting for a knee replacement operation, spoke of how he had to bring a foldout chair to aid his commute.

The 59-year-old from Basingstoke said: “It has been very difficult. I need a knee replacement and cannot stand for more than half an hour.

“I had to bring my own chair even though I paid for a seat. I used it on the platform and on the train.

“It is a scrum to get to the train. There is no such thing as politeness. We were told there would be queues but everyone was just fighting to get on the train.”

Other passengers were also asking on social media whether they would be eligible for refunds on their season tickets during the strike.

During previous walkouts, such as on the Northern Rail lines, passengers have been able to claim back a day’s worth of fares if they did not travel due to strike action. 

SWR said that any season ticket holder wanting to make a claim should contact their customer services and those claims would also be “reviewed individually”.





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Australian police find body of man in search for missing British backpacker



Australian police have found a body they believe to be that of Aslan King, a British backpacker who went missing from a campsite at the weekend.

The body has not yet been formally identified, but local authorities believe it is that of King, 25, who has been missing in the state of Victoria since Saturday.

King, an illustrator from Brighton, was last seen at a camping ground in Princetown, on the Great Ocean Road, at about 2am on Saturday. His disappearance prompted an intensive search.

King had been camping with friends near the Twelve Apostles, about three hours southwest of Melbourne, when he suffering a suspected seizure and hit his head, before suddenly running into bushland.

Fearing King – who had been on holiday in Australia – had become disorientated and lost in the bush, police deployed a helicopter, horses, motorcycle riders, specialist rescue teams and volunteers to find him.

“The body was located about 10:15 am this morning in a creek just over a kilometre from the camping ground where Aslan was last seen,” police said.





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Chinese spy says he tried to infiltrate Hong Kong universities



In another alarming claim for the island of Taiwan, Mr Wang said his Chinese handlers issued him with a fake South Korean passport to travel there to manage a “cyber army” and to support China’s campaign to infiltrate its political system and meddle in its municipal and presidential elections.

China wants to annex Taiwan, a democracy of 23 million which operates like any other country with its own government, military and currency.

Taipei has consistently accused Beijing of trying to sway its January presidential election – by poaching from its small group of remaining formal diplomatic allies and by switching off lucrative income from Chinese tourists.

Mr Wang went further, alleging that his intelligence operation was in contact with media executives as part of a systematic influence campaign to topple candidates Beijing considered hostile, including Tsai Ing-wen, the current president.

A spokeswoman for Ms Tsai’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party said that the information was a reminder of China’s interference. .

“We solemnly appeal to the Taiwanese public to face up to the fact that whether it is the Chinese internet army or the Chinese government, it is using the democratic system of Taiwan to infringe upon our democracy,” the spokeswoman, Lee Yen-jong, said.





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