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Boris Johnson admits he is concerned by Leicester outbreak as lockdown looks set to remain in the city



There has been more than one million cases of Covid-19 in the 22 countries of the World Health Organization’s Eastern Mediterranean region, the WHO confirmed on Sunday.

As of 11:00 on Sunday, 1,025,478 cases and 23,461 deaths have been recorded from the region, which spans from Morocco to Pakistan.

While cases in Europe have been largely declining, several countries in the region have been seeing increases in the number of cases and deaths. Countries recently reporting increases in cases include Iran, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, occupied Palestinian territory and Oman.

The WHO said it is especially concerned about the spread of the virus in war-torn countries such as Syria, Yemen and Libya due to poor infrastructure and fragile health systems vastly weakened by conflict. In all countries, it said, there is still a clear need for expansion of testing and more accurate reporting of cases and deaths to inform targeted responses.

Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari, the WHO’s regional director for the region, said: “This is a very concerning milestone. As shops, restaurants, mosques, businesses, airports and other public places begin to open up, we need to be more vigilant and cautious than ever before. One million people have been infected, tens of thousands have died, and many more are still at risk in our region.

“We cannot relax our efforts. In fact, many countries lifting restrictions are seeing marked increases in cases, which signifies the need to accelerate public health response measures. Communities must remain vigilant and play a key role in keeping themselves and their countries safe.”





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Snowbirds to remain at Kamloops Airport indefinitely


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Some members of the Snowbirds team will call Kamloops home, remaining in the city to look after their CT-114 Tutor jets that remain grounded indefinitely on Fulton Field at Kamloops Airport.

On May 17, one of the jets crashed in Brocklehurst shortly after takeoff, claiming the life of Capt. Jennifer Casey and injuring Capt. Richard MacDougall who was piloting the plane. Both managed to eject from the plan before it crashed, but Casey succumbed to injuries suffered in the incident.

The Snowbirds were on a cross-Canada tour called Operation Inspiration, intended to salute frontline health-care workers and lift the spirits of the public amid the pandemic. The tour, which began on May 3 in Nova Scotia, has been suspended due to the tragedy.

Capt. Jenn Casey is seen in this undated handout photo from the Royal Canadian Air Force Twitter page. The family of Capt. Jenn Casey says the member of the Snowbirds aerobatic team died while supporting an important mission
Capt. Jenn Casey. HO/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Lt. Alexandra Hejduk, public affairs officer for 19 Wing Comox, said most members of the Snowbirds have now departed the city for Moose Jaw — the Snowbirds’ home base — via a Hercules plane, but a small contingent is staying behind, acting as stewards of the jets for as long as they need to be.



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COVID-19 Canada: Political parties remain undecided on how to resume House of Commons


OTTAWA — Canada’s political parties have until 11 a.m. Eastern time to reach a deal about how best to re-open Parliament or else the House of Commons is to resume on its normal schedule, but so far no consensus has been reached.

The NDP, Bloc Quebecois, and Liberals reached a tentative agreement to sit in person once a week, but Conservatives have said that is not enough.

Most parties say the only reason to be physically present in the House of Commons is to vote on legislation. The reason they proposed one sitting per week is so those votes can happen quickly, without having to reconvene an emergency session.

Two virtual sittings of the committee of the whole per week can accommodate all other needs, said NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh in a Monday morning news conference

Those virtual sittings would not only minimize contact, but also make sure people in regions far from Ottawa would be able to question the government.

“It’s important to hear voices from parliamentarians across this country,” Singh said.

The NDP have three MPs in Ottawa, including Singh, who say they are prepared to stay in the capital as long as necessary to reach a deal with the other parties.

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet accused the Conservatives of holding parliament “hostage” for partisan reasons, and said he wants to get to the business of serving Canadians and the people of Quebec.

The Bloc said its priorities during the next sitting of the House is to promote the needs of seniors, and the NDP cited students who will be out of work this summer as one of their top concerns.

Both the NDP and the Bloc said they were confident a deal could be reached by the 11 a.m. deadline.

The Senate has broken until at least June 2, though several committees have plans to meet virtually and the full body can be recalled if legislation need to be passed.



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Supreme Court Lets Block On Federal Executions Remain



The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Friday against the Trump administration and upheld a lower court’s preliminary injunction blocking the Justice Department from carrying out federal executions.

The decision halts the pending executions of four men, which the Justice Department had scheduled for December and January. 

It’s been more than 16 years since the death penalty was last used at the federal level.

In July, Attorney General William Barr directed the Federal Bureau of Prisons to resume the federal death penalty so that he could schedule executions for five men: Daniel Lewis Lee, Wesley Purkey, Alfred Bourgeois, Dustin Lee Honken and Lezmond Mitchell. (In Mitchell’s case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled in October to stay his execution pending resolution of his appeal.) 

In November, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan in the District of Columbia imposed a preliminary injunction, placing a temporary hold on federal executions while the four inmates legally challenged the Justice Department. The death row inmates have alleged that the Justice Department’s new lethal injection protocol ― which uses one drug instead of a three-drug combination it previously used ― isunlawful. 

Earlier this month, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously rejected Barr’s motion to lift the injunction, sending the case up to the Supreme Court.

On Friday, Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec responded to the Supreme Court’s ruling, saying: “While we are disappointed with the ruling, we will argue the case on its merits in the D.C. Circuit and, if necessary, the Supreme Court. The Department of Justice is committed to upholding the rule of law and to carrying forward sentences imposed by our justice system.” 





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USMCA: Ratification is getting there but ‘difficult issues’ remain


The push to ratify a new North American trade pact is “getting there” Mexico’s top negotiator says, though some “difficult issues” remain as U.S. Democrats continue to insist on stronger labour enforcement.

Jesús Seade, Mexican Undersecretary for North America, met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland in Ottawa Friday, as the political window to approve the trilateral pact this year slowly closes.

The Trump administration has spent months negotiating changes designed to woo skeptical Democrats even as a series of obstacles — including a government shutdown, an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and an ongoing impeachment inquiry — threatened to derail the process.

United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer must satisfy Democrat concerns while holding on to the support of Mexico and Canada, as well as Senate Republicans.

“If the amendments suggested are fine, are acceptable, are improvements, then there’s no reason why we should not be shaking hands next week,” Seade told reporters at the Mexican Embassy.

Seade’s comments followed those of Trudeau, who told reporters that there was “a little more work to do,” on the trilateral pact.

“Canada is extremely supportive of Mexico’s steps toward labour reforms,” he said.

The Ottawa talks followed a flurry of high-level meetings in Washington earlier in the week involving Seade, Freeland and Lighthizer.

The $1 trillion North American Free trade pact — dubbed the U.S.- Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, by U.S. President Donald Trump — was signed by leaders in Buenos Aires last fall. However, it still requires ratification by all three countries before it can take effect. Mexico has already ratified the deal. Canada has been waiting for it to be approved in the U.S, where the Democrats controlling Congress have insisted on changes to pharmaceutical provisions and tougher enforcement of Mexican labour reforms.

The question of just how to enforce those reforms has yet to be answered. So far, Mexico has resisted a push by Democrats to allow U.S. officials to inspect Mexican workplaces in order to ensure compliance.

In general, my sentiment is that this is going to be an improvement, but there are some difficult issues I have to discuss with stakeholders in Mexico.

Jesús Seade, Mexico’s NAFTA negotiator

The proposal to allow U.S. inspectors is “no longer a red line but an engraving on the floor” for Mexico, Seade said Friday.

“We would not accept these lone ranger inspectors being called and 12 hours later they dash to see a factory. That’s not fun.”

Still Seade believes something will be signed soon that is an overall improvement.

“So, this is a major achievement,” he said. “In general, my sentiment is that this is going to be an improvement, but there are some difficult issues I have to discuss with stakeholders in Mexico. But we are getting there.”

Despite the optimistic tones and the final push to approve it, the path to ratification for the pact remains far from certain, analysts warn.

Indeed, since negotiations between Lighthizer and House Democrats have taken place under confidentiality agreements, “we don’t really know what they’ve agreed to,” said Dan Uzcjo, an Ohio-based trade lawyer with Dickinson Wright. That will become clear only when an implementing bill is written and presented to Congress for consideration.

“Everyone might say this is a done deal. It’s not,” Uzcjo said. “There’s a lot more work to do in December and January. The implementing bill is where the fight begins and going through that will take up until Christmas, perhaps longer.”

Everyone might say this is a done deal. It’s not. There’s a lot more work to do in December and January.

Dan Uzcjo, trade lawyer, Dickinson Wright

Democrats, for instance, are pushing to shorten patent protection for a class of drugs known as biologics to eight years from 10. Those changes could anger the pharmaceutical lobby, he noted.

Crucially, the trade deal has also faced resistance from labour group leaders, including Richard Trumka, president of the powerful AFL-CIO union, who last month warned that the agreement “would be defeated” if Congress voted before the U.S. Thanksgiving. American unions — who believe the original NAFTA did little to stop the flow of U.S. jobs to Mexico — are emphatic about the need to ensure labour reforms are fully carried out this time.

“The problem is organized labour is dead set against this deal,” said Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics. “If the unions double down against it and the Democrats vote it through anyway, I think it’ll hurt their chances in the election.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, charged with the decision on whether to put the bill forward for a vote, could easily argue that with only a few weeks left in the political calendar, not enough time remains for Congress to consider the deal, he added.

U.S. President Donald Trump lashed out Pelosi and other Democrats last week, saying USMCA is “dead in the water” because of the party’s inaction.

Pelosi has insisted the Democrats are working hard, to “get to yes” on the deal, though she recently suggested a vote is unlikely in 2019. Pushing the deal into 2020 raises the risks of it languishing amid the runup to the U.S. presidential election, analysts have warned.

It could also see the deal reopened for further negotiations, something Ottawa and Mexico City have said is a non-starter, though Freeland said this week that Canada was prepared to do everything it can to ensure ratification.

“I do think if it spills into 2020 the new administration may take it back to the negotiating table whether it’s Trump or someone else elected,” Hufbauer said.





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