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At least 130 people were feared dead after a quarantine vessel carrying 180 migrants wrecked in stormy seas near the Italian island of Sicily, according to authorities.

Following the accident on morning Monday, July 6, 2020, 50 migrants have been rescued, including one woman and twelve children, but dozens were still missing, the Italian coastguard said in a statement.

Five bodies, all minors, were recovered on Monday dawn by Italian officials in Sicily.

According to an initial reconstruction of events, the quarantine vessel was carrying more than 180 migrants who have been on the Ocean Viking ship operated by SOS Mediterranee for over a week, with fights and suicide attempts on board prompting the charity to declare a state of emergency on Friday.

Earlier, a medical team sent by authorities in Pozzallo, Sicily “ascertained the absence of particular health problems and also reported that some tensions that had been registered on the ship are being overcome”, the ministry source said.

The transshipment took place after the medical team successfully conducted a test on all 180 migrants which included a pregnant woman in Porto Empedocle, also in Sicily.

Rough weather has hampered the search for those missing.

More updates soon…


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A MAN has been rushed to hospital after a two-car smash outside Glasgow’s High Court last night.

Emergency services raced to the junction of Clyde Street and Saltmarket around 5.30pm.

Police, ambulance and fire crews swooped on the scene, with cops throwing up a cordon and closing a section of Saltmarket.

Pictures at the scene showed two cars wrecked with debris spread across the road.

One vehicle appears to have had its roof removed while the other looks crushed after the collision.

One man was rushed to the city’s Royal Infirmary for treatment.

The road was reopened shortly after 8pm.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service confirmed they attended the scene after being alerted at 5.37pm.

A number of roads were closed off after the smash with road users urged to follow diversions but the streets have since reopened.

A Glasgow City Council statement read: “Several places in Saltmarket currently closed to road users – between Greendyke St & Clyde St also Albert Bridge & Crown St to Ballater Street.

“Diversions are in place.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We received a report of a two-car crash on Clyde Street, Glasgow around 5.30pm on Saturday July 4.

“Emergency services attended and one man was taken to Glasgow Royal Infirmary for treatment. The road was re-opened around 8.10pm.”


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Italy is carrying out tests on 180 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean with a view to transferring them to a quarantine vessel in Sicily, an interior ministry source said Saturday.

The migrants have been on the Ocean Viking ship operated by SOS Mediterranee for over a week, with fights and suicide attempts on board prompting the charity to declare a state of emergency on Friday.

A medical team sent by authorities in Pozzallo, Sicily “ascertained the absence of particular health problems and also reported that some tensions that had been registered on the ship are being overcome”, the ministry source said.

The medical team is testing the migrants for the Covid-19 virus after which they will be transferred to a quarantine ship currently in Porto Empedocle, also in Sicily.

“The situation is carefully monitored in view of the transhipment of migrants, scheduled for Monday 6 July, on the Moby Zaza ship,” the source said.

The Ocean Viking, which has been in limbo in the Mediterranean south of Sicily, has been waiting for permission from Italy or Malta to offload the migrants at a safe port.

Tensions have risen in the past week, as witnessed by an AFP reporter aboard the boat, as migrants have become increasingly desperate to reach land. Others have become distraught at not being able to telephone their families to let them know they were safe.

SOS Mediteranee said in a statement on Saturday that “the only assistance proposed has been a visit by a medical doctor and a cultural mediator who spoke to the survivors but are not in a position to present a solution for their disembarkation.”

The migrants, which include Pakistanis, North Africans, Eritreans, Nigerians and others, were picked up after fleeing Libya in four separate rescues by the Ocean Viking on June 25 and 30.

The migrants include 25 minors, most of whom are unaccompanied by adults, and two women, one of whom is pregnant.

More than 100,000 migrants tried to cross the Mediterranean last year with more than 1,200 dying in the attempt, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

The arrival of summer and more favourable conditions at sea may lead to an increase of attempts to cross the Mediterranean with the hope of arriving in Europe.

(AFP)


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Spain’s autonomous Catalonia region on Saturday reinstalled a lockdown for some 200,000 residents near the town of Lerida following a sharp increase in coronavirus cases.

“We have decided to confine the del Segria zone following data confirming a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections,” Catalonia’s regional president Quim Torra told reporters on Saturday, saying the regional government had to “take a step back to protect ourselves and control the outbreak.”

The confinement started at noon, and means no one can enter or leave the area — part of the greater Lleida region — but does not require residents to stay in their homes. People can only enter or exit the area, which is comprised of 38 municipalities, to go to work or in an emergency. Those who are found in breach of the new rules will face fines, local media reported.

The health department said Friday it had reported 365 new coronavirus cases in the region in the past week, double the number detected the previous week and more than in any week in March and April. Several of the local outbreaks are linked to fruit-picking companies, a nursing home and a homeless shelter, according to authorities.

Spain, one of the worst-hit countries in Europe, has seen 250,545 confirmed coronavirus cases and 28,385 deaths.


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Greece will not accept strict oversight as a condition to receiving money from EU’s €750 billion coronavirus recovery fund, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.

The Greek government is opposed to the kind of unpopular conditions imposed on the country during the debt crisis, when the EU-led “troika” — made up of the EU, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — “[forced] us to do reforms” despite a lack of “domestic buy-in,” Mitsotakis told the Financial Times in an interview published today.

“Greeks have matured a lot,” the Greek PM said. “And we want to do our own reforms.”

He added that other southern EU countries also consider the proposal of “conditionality” — ensuring EU money is spent to improve countries’ competitiveness — to be “politically unacceptable.”

“I don’t think any additional strict conditionality is necessary,” he said, arguing that the European Commission’s regular reviews of economic performance carried out every six months were enough.

EU leaders are set to convene in Brussels for an in-person summit on July 17-18 to discuss the EU’s proposed recovery measures and the next long-term budget for 2021-2027. Member states have so far been unable to agree on a deal and remain deeply divided over the mix of grants versus loans in the recovery package, as well as potential safeguards against perceived misspending.


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By speaking out about Belgium’s brutal colonial past, the country’s King Philippe took a gamble — and might have opened up a Pandora’s box.

On Tuesday, on the 60th anniversary of the Congo’s independence from Belgium, the monarch sent a letter to the Congolese president expressing his “deepest regret” for the “acts of violence and cruelty” that were committed in the Congo under Belgian occupation.

t was a surprising rupture with the royal tradition of silence on the country’s colonial history. Even though the Black Lives Matter protests had led to mounting pressure on the royal family to speak up, most expected the palace would wait at least until fall, when a new truth and reconciliation commission in the Belgian parliament is expected to start working on a report about the country’s colonial history.

But in the days leading up to the anniversary, the 60-year-old king realized he needed to acknowledge the suffering of the colonial period and so help to introduce a sort of calmness into the debate, people close to him told POLITICO, especially as this is one of the traditional roles of the king in Belgian society.

Belgium’s Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès confirmed to reporters at a celebration of the anniversary in Brussels that it was the king himself who initiated the idea of a personal letter expressing his regret, as an indirect descendent of Leopold II, the Belgian king who used the Congo as his personal fiefdom for several decades starting in the 1880s.

“Expressing regrets eludes the real issues at stake” — Gia Abrassart, founder of the Café Congo project

“This will surely be remembered as a milestone in his reign,” said Kalvin Soiresse Njall, a member of the Brussels parliament of African descent who applauded the move. “He’s creating a historic profile for himself.”

While Philippe’s letter was commended by most politicians and activists, the wider reaction reflects the sensitivity of the issue. Some have argued the king should have stayed out of the debate, while others say the regrets he conveyed this week are too little, too late.

Having crossed a line, Philippe is finding it’s not so easy to stop. He has already come under pressure to do more, putting him at risk of being drawn deeper into the highly charged political discussion.

“Expressing regrets eludes the real issues at stake,” said Gia Abrassart, founder of the Café Congo project. “These are not apologies. Without apologies, it will be very difficult to claim for memorial and financial compensations,” she said.

“It’s a very important first step,” said Wouter De Vriendt, a member of the Belgian parliament for the Greens. “But this can’t be a one-shot move. We have to move beyond this letter and engage in a discussion about formal apologies as a nation.”

‘He can’t do it’

Speaking out about the Congo was a bold move — but it was one the Belgian king could make because he has spent the past several years building political capital and popular support in the linguistically divided country.

That his advisers felt he was in a position to act is a reflection of how far he has exceeded expectations since ascending to the throne in 2013 — especially because so many feared he was not up to the job.

Two decades ago, Herman Liebaers, then the “grand marshal” in charge of the royal court, said in an interview about Philippe that “he just can’t do it.”

In the years before his father’s abdication handed him the crown, Philippe’s rigid public appearances were roundly mocked. After he criticized the far-right Vlaams Belang party in 2004, fears mounted over a “king with a mission.” Philippe said in an interview that Vlaams Belang wanted to destroy Belgium, but that he would make sure this didn’t happen. The interview was controversial, as Belgian royals are not supposed to state political preferences.

As recently as the beginning of the decade, when the 2010 parliamentary election left Belgium without a government for what was then a record-setting 589 days, some politicians admitted privately they were happy Philippe had not ascended to the throne, as they weren’t sure whether he could have handled the situation.

It wasn’t just politicians who had their doubts about the then-crown prince. Belgian media questioned his fitness to govern, and royal observers pointed to his difficult childhood; he was the oldest son of a difficult marriage, and by dint of his position was not permitted to take decisions on his future. King Boudewijn and Queen Fabiola, his uncle and aunt who have no children, took charge of his education after it became clear that Philippe would inherit the throne. He was required to finish high school at a boarding school in Flanders, where he found it difficult to make friends.

King Philippe has long struggled with coming off as awkward and stiff | Eric Lalmand/Belga Mag/AFP via Getty Images

“The childless couple Boudewijn and Fabiola have made Philippe into a caricature: the prince without character,” Barend Leyts, now spokesperson for European Council President Charles Michel, wrote in his biography of Philippe.

The Belgian royal family is just like any other family: It has its issues. Philippe’s father, Albert II, made headlines earlier this year when a DNA test confirmed he had fathered the artist Delphine Boël during an extramarital affair, which he had long denied.

The family’s relationship with Philippe’s youngest brother Prince Laurent has also been difficult, especially after the younger royal became embroiled in a controversy over Muammar Gaddafi’s unpaid debts. Earlier this month, Laurent reacted to the toppling of Leopold II’s statues during Black Lives Matter protests by defending his ancestor and claiming the monarch could not be held responsible, as he “never went to Congo.”


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A municipal councillor in northern Spain has offered to resign after inadvertently broadcasting video of himself showering during an online council meeting that was being livestreamed.

Earlier this week councillors in Torrelavega gathered online to hash out some of the latest issues facing the municipality of some 52,000 people. Following the protocols put in place as the coronavirus pandemic tightened its grip on Spain, half a dozen councillors dialled into the videochat at 8am, streaming it online for journalists and residents.

As the meeting stretched past midday, councillor Bernardo Bustillo, who works part-time with the municipality, began to fret that he wouldn’t have time to shower and shuttle his daughter to her commitments before heading to his other job as a swim instructor.

He came up with what seemed to him the perfect solution to multitask: hauling the computer into the bathroom and minimising the chat screen so that he could just listen in on the meeting as he showered.

But like a 2020-specific anxiety dream, as his colleagues considered plans to clean up a local river, an image of him showering appeared on the bottom left of the chat, much of it blurred by a pane of frosted glass. The sound of running water drowned out the constant ringing of his mobile phone, as frantic colleagues tried to warn him that the camera was still rolling.

A wave of discomfort rippled across the videochat as he got out of the shower. “Say something to Berni. Say something to him quickly,” one colleague could be heard saying. Another asked: “We can’t disconnect him or do something?” The mayor then swiftly took control, bringing an end to the meeting.

As video of the incident made the rounds online, Mr Bustillo took to social media, saying he was at “complete peace” with what had transpired. He stressed that it had been an innocent accident – a failure of technological know-how rather than anything nefarious.

 

Ming’ Flanagan

He’s far from the only cautionary tale on the perils of remote working: last month Irish MEP Luke “Ming” Flanagan beamed out images of himself without trousers on on the European Parliament’s official live broadcast after positioning his iPad in portrait rather than landscape mode after hastily throwing on a shirt after a run.

Mr Bustillo chalked up the incident to the pandemic-era struggle of balancing remote work with parenting. “Anecdotes of this kind have become commonplace in recent weeks, thanks to the boom in teleworking,” he said, apologising to anyone who might have been upset by the images.

He added that his experience as a swim instructor had left him comfortable with his body. “I’ve spent half of my life half-naked and have never been ashamed of nudity, whether my own or that of others,” he said. “I can’t help but regret that the end of my political life . . . has to do with my nakedness, which isn’t a big deal.” – Guardian


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England takes its biggest steps yet towards resumption of normal life on Saturday as people are finally allowed to drink in a pub, get a haircut or have a meal in a restaurant for the first time in over three months.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said everybody had to behave responsibly and maintain social distancing to support businesses and not risk a second wave of the coronavirus.

Some hairdressers were reported to have opened at the stroke of midnight while pubs will be allowed to start serving from 0500 GMT on so-called “Super Saturday”, sparking worries of pent-up over-indulgence.

Johnson said his message was to “enjoy summer safely” and not undo the progress made in knocking back the pandemic.

He said workers in pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and other businesses had made an heroic effort to prepare for reopening.

“The success of these businesses, the livelihoods of those who rely on them, and ultimately the economic health of the whole country is dependent on every single one of us acting responsibly,” he said. “We must not let them down.”

Police said they were “absolutely prepared” for the pubs reopening.

But customers might find the atmosphere inside rather different from the usual Saturday-night scrum.

Numbers will be limited, no one will be allowed to stand at the bar and there will be no live music. Patrons will also have to give their details to allow tracers to identify them if anyone later tests positive.

JD Wetherspoon, one of the biggest chains, said it had invested 11 million pounds ($14 million) in safety measures.

Most of its pubs in England will open at the usual time of 8 a.m. on Saturday. It is not taking bookings, but said at busy times numbers would be controlled by staff.

(REUTERS)


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Between 2,000 and 3,000 people turned out Saturday in Paris for a politically engaged Gay Pride march, a week after the officially scheduled event was cancelled because of coronavirus restrictions.

A young, multicultural crowd marched behind a lorry bearing a banner declaring “our pride is political”, carrying rainbow flags, coloured hair and some dressed in drag.

Among the banners were ones calling for “a radical pride” and others denouncing transphobia.

The official Gay Pride march due to take place on June 27 was cancelled because of restrictions on large gatherings as a result of the coronavirus crisis. It is now due to go ahead on November 7.

But Emma Vallee-Guillard said Saturday’s rally was in response to a call made by several LGBT groups and it was important to mark the event.

“Pride, in the beginning, was a riot,” she said.

The first Gay Pride march was held in 1970 in New York to mark the first anniversary of the city’s Stonewall riots, a landmark event in the gay rights struggle, sparked by a police raid on a gay bar.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of that first Gay Pride march.

“The danger of rolling back our fundamental rights is very present and the epidemic has revealed multiple factors of exclusion, discrimination and violence,” Giovanna Rincon, director of the association Acceptess-T, which defends transgender people, told AFP.

Many Gay Pride events around the world went online this year, to get around restrictions imposed by the pandemic.

(AFP)



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