Christian pastor and pregnant wife killed in Nigeria | SW News | 126

Boko Haram attack on village leaves 81 people dead
The Islamic militant group Boko Haram is thought to be responsible for an attack upon a Nigerian village that has left at least 81 people dead. The fatal raid upon the village of Faduma Kolomdi, in the north eastern state of Borno, took place on Tuesday morning.

Protestant pastor and wife gunned down by militants
Meanwhile, last week saw a protestant pastor and his wife also become victims of anti-Christian violence in Nigeria. The Reverend Emmanuel Saba Bileya and his wife, Juliana, who is thought to have been pregnant, were gunned down on Monday June 1 while working on their farm in the Taraba State in north-east Nigeria.

The Vatican has announced that there will be no outdoor Eucharistic procession during this Sunday’s celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi. That’s due, they say, to COVID-19 restrictions. Instead, Pope Francis will lead solemn benediction of the Blessed Sacrament within St. Peter’s Basilica following Sunday Mass.

Bishop Egan: Proposed abortion laws “fundamentally detestable”
The Bishop of Portsmouth in England is urging both Catholics and all people of goodwill on the Channel Island of Guernsey to take a stand against proposed new abortion laws which he describes as “fundamentally detestable”. The new laws would seek to raise the time limit for abortion on Guernsey from 12 weeks to 24 weeks.

Pope Francis creates new COVID-19 recovery fund
Pope Francis has established a new charitable fund to help those within the Diocese of Rome who are facing financial hardship or have lost their job due to the Covid-19 crisis. Entitled the “Jesus the Divine Worker Fund” it will initially have an endowment of one million Euros.

Primate of All Ireland welcomes return of public Masses
The Primate of All Ireland is welcoming the news that churches are to reopen in the Republic of Ireland later this month. Following a drop in the number of COVID-19 cases, the Irish Prime Minister or Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, has announced that places of worship can re-open on June 29th.

The Diocese of Beaumont gets a new bishop
The Diocese of Beaumont in Texas has a new bishop. He’s Monsignor David Toups who is current the rector of the St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Florida’s Boynton Beach. He’ll succeed Bishop Curtis Guillory who has served as bishop of Beaumont for the past 20 years. 49-year-old Monsignor Toups grew up in Louisiana.

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Boris Johnson pays tribute to railway ticket office worker Belly Mujinga after ‘tragic’ death | London Evening Standard

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has paid tribute to a railway ticket office worker who died with coronavirus after being spat at while on duty.

Belly Mujinga, 47, was on the station concourse in March when a member of the public claiming to have Covid-19 spat and coughed at her and a colleague, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) said.

Within days of the assault, both women fell ill with the virus and Ms Mujinga, who has an 11-year-old daughter, died in hospital in Barnet 11 days after the attack on April 5.

Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Mr Johnson described the death of Belly Mujinga as “tragic”.

He said: “The fact that she was abused for doing her job is utterly appalling.

“My thoughts, and I’m sure the thoughts of the whole House, are with her family.”

The Prime Minister described the death as ‘tragic’ (Sky News)

A police investigation is under way, launched more than a month after 47-year-old Ms Mujinga and a colleague were attacked by a man claiming to be infected with Covid-19 on the concourse at the London transport terminal on March 22.

Ms Mujinga, a mother to an 11-year-old daughter, was said to have told her bosses at Govia Thameslink Railway about the incident, but police were not called at the time. 

Speaking on Good Morning Britain today, Ms Mujinga’s cousin, Agnes Ntumbas said the mum-of-one was a “lovely woman, happy and caring”.

“It’s disgusting. How could a human being react in that way to another human? It’s insane – it’s not right,” said Ms Ntumba

Ms Mujinga moved to the UK in 2000 from The Democratic Republic of Congo (PA)

Piers Morgan condemned the attack saying: “I would say tragedy but it’s worse than that, this seems to be a murder. That’s murder to me.”

He added: “It’s one of the most sickening stories I can remember from this entire crisis.”

It has not been confirmed that the spitting incident is directly linked to Ms Mujinga contracting the virus.

However, TSSA has reported the incident to the Railways Inspectorate, the safety arm of the Office for Road and Rail (ORR), for investigation and is taking legal advice on the situation.

Belly Mujinga was a caring and lovely woman, says her cousin

As of Wednesday morning, a fundraising page set up for Ms Mujinga’s family has raised £11,075, surpassing its initial target of £1,000.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said around 50 transport workers have died during the crisis.

He told BBC Breakfast: “My heart goes out to Belly’s family. Nobody should be spat at. This is not a question of PPE, it’s just disgusting and I know that the British Transport Police are investigating.

“So very, very sad, her death and indeed the deaths of around 50 transport workers is something I take particularly seriously.”

Read more

A BTP spokesman said: “British Transport Police have now launched an investigation into a report of two members of rail staff being spat at while working at London Victoria station on 22nd March.

“One of the victims, a 47-year-old woman, very sadly died in hospital on April 5th. Enquiries are ongoing, they added.

Anyone who has any information is asked to contact BTP by texting 61016 or calling 0800 40 50 40 quoting reference 359 of 11/05/20.

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The Bolton Bucket List – 40 things you must experience while in the town – Manchester Evening News

There’s loads of things to experience in Bolton – but how many have you actually done?

Steeped in heritage and culture both historical and modern, there’s plenty of offerings for all tastes, whether you’re local or just visiting.

We’ve put together a list of 40 things to tick off in and around Bolton to get you started on your way to experiencing the best of the borough.

Some might seem obvious, others you might never have heard of, but all are entirely worth a mention.

Special thanks to the ‘I belong to Bolton’ Facebook group who helped with their suggestions.

How many can you cross off our ultimate Bolton Bucket List?

Watch Bolton Wanderers play at home

Art Gallery

They may be some way off the heights reached during the Sam Allardyce era, but Bolton is still immensely proud of its football club.

Four time FA Cup winners and one of the founder members of the Football League, Wanderers is a club steeped in history.

Now in League One, times have been tough for the club in recent years – but a visit to the University of Bolton Stadium is something all Boltonians must experience at least once.

Shop until you drop at Middlebrook

The UK’s largest retail and leisure park has plenty of things to do on a day out.

Whether it is taking in the shops, dining at one of the many restaurants, a trip to the cinema or bowling alley, it’s a popular spot for many Boltonians.

Dine at Britain’s best curry house

Benjamin Disraeli

Hot Chilli, in Bromley Cross, scooped the champion of champions award at the Asian Restaurant & Takeaway Awards in October.

The restaurant, which has been open since 2011, specialises in eastern Indian cuisine and boasts an extensive menu for all tastes.

Pull off into paradise

Bolton Museum

When Phoenix Nights, a sitcom set in a working men’s club in Bolton, first aired in the early 2000s it became a major national success and catapulted many of its stars on to bigger and better things.

Bringing us iconic characters such as Brian Potter, Jerry St. Clair and doormen Max and Paddy, the show is still quoted by many to this day.

Fans can actually pay a visit to the Phoenix Club, which is in fact St Gregory’s Social Club in Farnworth, and guided tours are available upon request.

Try a pint at one of the town’s many breweries

Bolton is awash with great breweries at the moment and beer lovers certainly don’t have a shortage of options to choose from.

Two of the finest are Northern Monkey and Bank Top, both of which have opened their own tap rooms in the town, while honourable mentions also go out to Blackedge Brewing Company and Rivington Brewing Company.

Enjoy a hike up the Pike

Bowling

For many families, an Easter hike up Rivington Pike is an annual tradition.

Hundreds of keen walkers clamber up to the summit, which stands at 1,191 feet, where they are rewarded with spectacular views across Bolton and the West Pennine Moors.

But the views are best enjoyed on a quieter day, away from the crowds. It’s an ideal spot to escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Sample local delicacies at Ye Olde Pastie Shoppe

Bolton is blessed with several great bakeries, but a trip to this family-run shop is a must for anyone visiting the town.

Dating back to 1898, Ye Olde Pastie Shoppe has been serving generations of families from its modestly-sized shop on Churchgate.

TripAdvisor users even rate it as the best bakery in Greater Manchester. High praise indeed.

Try the Bolton institution that is Carrs Pasties

Another of Bolton’s finest pasty institutions, Carrs’ products can be found right across the town.

But for the proper experience, you need to visit one of their three shops dotted around the borough.

The family-run bakery counts radio presenter Chris Evans among its admirers; the former Top Gear host has rated their pasties among the finest in the country.

Take part in the Ironman. Or maybe just watch.

Easter

Bolton has played host to the biggest Ironman race in the UK 11 times now.

Thousands of entrants descend on the town’s streets each year to take on a gruelling course involving a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and a marathon.

If you aren’t quite in shape to take part, you could always join the thousands of others who turn out to line the streets and cheer on those who are.

Last year, a 5k night run was introduced on the Friday, while athletic youngsters can also join in an Ironkids event.

Learn about the history of steam

Bolton Steam Museum boasts one of Britain’s largest collection of working steam mill engines.

The volunteer-run museum delves into the area’s industrial heritage through the engines, which powered Bolton’s mills and helped transform it into the town it is today.

Take a stroll around Jumbles Country Park

Extraordinaire

Situated about four miles to the north of the town centre, the woodland trail and reservoir is a popular spot for dog walkers and those out for an afternoon stroll.

A sailing club is also based at the reservoir and hosts regular training days and races.

Boasting picturesque views, there are worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon than paying a visit to Jumbles.

Shop at Bolton Market

Bolton’s market tradition stretches back hundreds of years to 1251 when the town was granted a charter by King Henry III.

Centuries later, the town’s market continues to thrive, although the range of products on offer has come a long way.

The market moved to its current base in Ashburner Street during the 1930s and boasts hundreds of stalls selling everything from fresh fish to cotton reels.

Try some African cuisine at Nkono

One of Bolton Market’s most popular traders is Nkono, a Cameroonian street food stall.

Finding it is no issue as the voice of its larger life than life owner, Alain Job, can often be heard booming through the indoor market hall as he entertains customers.

Nkono opened back in 2014 and quickly became a hit. With a range of exotic dishes, many of which are accompanied by jollof rice and sweet dumplings, it soon established itself as one of the town’s best eateries.

If you’re feeling especially experimental, why not try one of their goat curries?

Learn about the history of Turton Tower

Henry III

Set in relaxing woodlands on the edge of a popular walking area, the distinctive 15th century English country house has fascinating period rooms displaying a huge collection of decorative woodwork, paintings and furniture – all re-telling the lives of the families who lived there.

Dig for hidden gems at X Records

An institution in the town since the 1980s, this record shop serves as a treasure trove for Bolton’s music lovers.

Head down to its Bridge Street base and get lost in its vast collection of records. You might even find yourself a bargain.

Spend an afternoon with family at Moss Bank Park

Kazer

A sprawling park with a large play area including a sand pit area for children, the park is an ideal destination for a family afternoon out.

While the much-loved children’s zoo and tropical butterfly house are no more, there are plenty of other attractions to keep kids entertained including a mini steam train, crazy golf and fairground rides.

Feed the animals at Smithills Open Farm

Smithills has a wide range of animals from pigs and cows to snakes and owls.

As well as families, large groups of children visit from schools and nurseries with some coming from miles away to say hello, feed and cuddle the animals.

Children get the chance to feed the lambs and there are plenty of other hands on opportunities with snakes and chicks.

The venue also offers tractor rides, on toy ones as well as the real thing, and donkey rides too.

With bouncy castles, a sand pit and adventure playground it’s a popular place for day visits and children’s birthday parties.

Check out the town’s street art

Moss Bank Park

Some spectacular murals have sprouted up around Bolton over the last year or so.

The local artist behind them is Kazer, a joiner by trade who got into graffiti-style art after watching a series of YouTube.

You’ll find some of his eye-catching designs adorning the walls of several of the town’s pubs, including the Sweet Green Tavern, The Greyhound, and The Beer School in Westhoughton.

Enjoy a tour of Smithills Hall

Nkono

Set in restored formal gardens and a 2,000 acre estate leading to the West Pennine Moors, the beautiful old hall is an architectural gem dating back to the 14th century.

Travel in time through medieval, Tudor and Victorian rooms or enjoy the various walks on offer in the splendid surrounding countryside.

Sample a local delicacy at Rice n Three

The phenomenon that is rice and three has spread right across Greater Manchester since its creation at some point in the 1980s.

A base of rice topped with a choice of three curries, it’s affordable, filling and homely, making it the fast food go-to for many.

Rice and three’s origins are uncertain, but Bolton may well lay claim to it.

The Essa family bought the Northern Quarter’s This and That in the 1980s after coming to Manchester from Uganda claim rice and three as their creation.

They later sold the cafe and took the idea to Bolton, where they have since opened two restaurants, in Bradshawgate and Deane Road.

Is it really the original rice and three? Maybe. Is it tasty? Most definitely. It’s affordable too – one meat, two veg and rice costs just £5.00.

Visit the shops at Market Place

one of the founder members

Originally designed and opened in 1855, the Bolton Market Hall was said to be ‘the largest covered market in the kingdom’.

It was reopened as Market Place Shopping Centre by Queen Elizabeth ll in 1988 and has undergone a £25 million refurbishment transforming it into the town centre’s shopping heart.

Some of the biggest high street names can be found there, including Debenhams, Next, H&M and Zara.

Enjoy an evening in The Vaults

Prime Minister

The Vaults dining and leisure venue opened below Market Place back in 2016 and has fast become the go-to socialising spot for many Bolton families.

Based in the renovated Victorian vaults, which are part of the original market halls, several restaurant chains can be found there, including Nandos and Prezzo.

Watch a film at the Light Cinema

One of just a handful across the UK, the town centre venue was opened by independent cinema chain The Light back in 2016.

Dubbed ‘sociable cinema’, the whole experience is a little more laid back than your standard cinema trip, with reclining seats, and you can even have a drink from the bar in there too.

Learn from the top chefs at food and drink festival

Queen

Taking place across the August bank holiday weekend, the annual event is one of the biggest food and drink events in the north west.

Some of the world’s best-known celebrity chefs have appeared at the event to entertain crowds with cookery demos and book signings in recent years, with James Martin even hailing it the best festival of its kind in the UK.

There are markets aplenty too, with the streets around Victoria Square and Le Mans Crescent packed with street food stalls (including Thai, toasties, Polish BBQs, Italian desserts, Green meze, and Yorkshire pudding wraps) and produce to take away with you.

Visit Barrow Bridge

A picturesque model village to the north of Moss Bank Park, Barrow Bridge was created during the Industrial Revolution to house workers at nearby mills.

The cotton mills have long since gone, but the quaint cottages remain. The charming village is a haven of tranquility and is a perfect spot for a Sunday afternoon stroll.

Explore the town’s paranormal activity

Bolton is apparently a hotbed for paranormal activity. 

Ghost Walker Extraordinaire Flecky Bennett offers a number of ghost walks throughout the town, which are part history, part theatre and part paranormal. 

Covering haunted bookshops and pubs, as well as the Bolton Massacre, all the stories you hear are based on real people and actual events.

Unlock the mysteries of Ancient Egypt

retail

Bolton’s connection to Ancient Egypt is little-known, but its collection of treasures is one of the country’s finest.

Bolton Museum’s multi-million pound Egyptology gallery reopened last year following a £3.8 million refurbishment and more than 275,000 have stepped back into the land of the Pharoahs since then.

Rivington Pike

One of the oldest pubs in Britain, Ye Olde Man & Scythe is thought to have been built in Churchgate some time before 1251.

But its place in the town’s history was cemented in 1651 when the Earl of Derby, James Stanley, was executed outside the pub for his part in the Bolton Massacre, which led to the death of 1,600 people.

The royalist spent the final hours of his life in the pub, which his family owned at the time, and it still contains the chair he supposedly sat on before being taken outside to be beheaded.

His spirit is also said to linger in the pub and has seen it named one of the country’s most haunted.

Catch a show at The Albert Halls

Samuel Crompton

Located within Bolton Town Hall, the 670-theatre is a popular spot for families looking to enjoy a pre-Christmas pantomime.

The iconic building is perhaps best known as the setting for Peter Kay’s stand-up DVD, ‘Live At The Bolton Albert Halls’, which was filmed there in 2003.

A recent refurbishment included the addition of a new restaurant run by Michelin-starred chef Paul Heathcote, which has promised to champion ‘proper northern, old-fashioned food’.

Visit Hall i’th’ Wood Museum

Originally built as a half-timbered hall in the 15th century, this handsome building was owned by wealthy yeomen and merchants.

Later rented out, it was home to a young Samuel Crompton whose Spinning Mule invention revolutionised the cotton industry. Links with Crompton remain in its interactive museum.

Take a stroll around Queens Park

street food stalls

Just north east of the town centre, this Victorian park is a peaceful haven away from the hustle and bustle.

For generations, it has been a place where Bolton families have gone to play, relax, have a picnic and feed the ducks.

Opened in 1866 by the Earl of Bradford, it has undergone a £4.3 million refurbishment in recent years.

It now boasts a children’s play area, a cafe, as well a series of grade II listed statues, including one of the former prime minister Benjamin Disraeli.

Spend an idyllic afternoon at Turton and Entwistle Reservoir

Sweet Green Tavern

This breathtaking beautyspot, tucked away down quiet country lanes on the moors north of Bolton, is the perfect spot for an afternoon walk.

A path runs around the edge of the reservoir, while other trails lead off into the surrounding woods.

The reservoir contains almost 3,4 million litres of water and, with along with nearby Wayoh Reservoir, provides about 50% of Bolton’s drinking water.

Grab a scoop at Holden’s Ice Cream

With flavours including Vimto, Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls, Eccles Cake and Manchester Tart, there are plenty of reasons to venture out to Edgworth for a scoop of this home made ice cream.

Known locally for their special family recipe they have been making their ice cream in the same premises since the 1930s.

Rock out at The Alma Inn

This Bradshawgate pub is a haven for lovers of rock, punk and metal music and hosts live gigs every weekend.

The 250-capacity venue is usually crammed with loyal regulars trying to catch the next big upcoming bands.

It’s reputation isn’t a secret, though. In 2015, it was shortlisted as one one of Britain’s best small music venues by music magazine NME.

Catch a show at The Octagon Theatre

Top Gear

The theatre is currently undergoing a major makeover, but is expected to throw open its doors again in the summer.

Dominic Monaghan and Sue Johnston are among the famous names to have trod the boards at the celebrated venue.

A diverse range of events are held throughout the year, ranging from classic and contemporary plays to musicals and festive productions for youngsters.

Fish and chips at Olympus

A popular pre-theatre spot, the town centre chippy is often ranked among Bolton’s best and has been attracting visitors from across the North West for more than 30 years.

The family run restaurant offers great fish and chip meals and has seating for more than 200 people, as well as a takeaway next door.

Tackle Go Ape in Rivington

Explore the forest canopy via a treetop rope course on the outskirts of Bolton.

The Go Ape adventure is a must-go attraction for a thrilling day out.

It’s a hit with adrenaline lovers as they embark on the challenging course featuring 13-metre-high platforms.

So get your trainers on and be prepared for the thrill of your life.

See the sights on a night out in Bradshawgate

Bolton’s nightlife comes in for a fair bit of stick, but it is still a good place to let your hair down.

Many bars and clubs can be found off Bradshawgate, which comes to life as revellers descend on the town centre on a Friday and Saturday evening.

Pay homage to Fred Dibnah

Victoria Square

One of Bolton’s most famous sons, the celebrity steeplejack found national fame through his BBC programmes celebrating Britain’s industrial heritage and the golden age of steam.

Following Fred’s death, his grade II listed former home was converted into a heritage centre so that fans could see his tools and machinery.

It closed in 2018 and the property is currently up for auction, but Fred’s legacy is still preserved in his hometown where a statue of him takes pride of place in the town centre.

Marvel at Le Mans Crescent

Art Gallery

The jewel in Bolton town centre’s crown, Le Mans Crescent is an architectural triumph on par with anywhere else in the North West

The grade II listed crescent is currently home to Bolton Museum, Art Gallery, Central Library and Aquarium, while plans are afoot to transform the former magistrates’ court into a luxury boutique hotel.

In recent years it has also proved a popular filming location for television dramas, including Peaky Blinders and Bancroft.

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Coronavirus live updates: U.S. death toll nears 55,000

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The U.S. coronavirus death toll neared 55,000 early Monday, with more than 972,000 confirmed cases, according to NBC News’ tally.

The grim milestone comes as the White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx warned that many of the social distancing measures that have upended American life will be a fixture through the summer.

To get a more accurate picture of the virus’ spread, the U.S. needs a “breakthrough” on coronavirus testing, she said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” Sunday.

Meanwhile in Italy, Europe’s hardest hit country, the prime minister laid out plans for a phased end to restrictions, including the opening of restaurants and libraries in mid-May.

Download the NBC News app for latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak.

45m ago / 12:13 PM UTC

British Grand Prix could take place behind closed doors, French race cancelled

The British Grand Prix and French Grand Prix are the latest global sporting events to be affected by coronavirus.

France has called off its event altogether, while Britain’s race might take place without fans this year as the U.K. government continues to ban large gatherings to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Silverstone, the track that has hosted the race since 1952, said it was discussing with the government a plan to show the event on TV for free instead. Silverstone said it would give health care workers tickets for the 2021 event.

✍️An update from our Managing Director, Stuart Pringle about the Formula 1 Pirelli British Grand Prix 2020. pic.twitter.com/APIXq8F2OS

— Silverstone (@SilverstoneUK)

Nursing home industry pushes for immunity from lawsuits during coronavirus emergency

As the COVID-19 death toll at nursing homes climbs to nearly 12,000, the nursing home industry is pushing states to provide immunity from lawsuits to the owners and employees of the nation’s 15,600 nursing homes.

So far at least six states have provided explicit immunity from coronavirus lawsuits for nursing homes, and six more have granted some form of immunity to health care providers, which legal experts say could likely be interpreted to include nursing homes.

Patient advocates worry that nursing homes accused of extreme neglect could avoid liability.

“I can’t even believe this is a topic of discussion,” said Anny Figueroa, whose 55-year-old mother was a resident at Andover Subacute & Rehab Center in New Jersey, where law enforcement discovered 17 bodies in a makeshift morgue this month.

1h ago / 11:52 AM UTC

Italian expat in Sweden shows off country’s lack of restrictions

An Italian PhD candidate living in Sweden has documented the “parallel universe” of daily life in Sweden, a country where the government has not enforced strict social distancing measures amid Covid-19.

Alessandra Palusco, 28, who is studying at the University of Orebro, posted several videos on social media showing life in Sweden and the difference with countries living under lockdown. Palusco told NBC News via text message that she lied to her family back in Italy to reassure them that locals are wearing masks in public,”otherwise they would go crazy.”

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Anne Linde denied in a news conference on April 17 that “life goes on as normal in Sweden,” but Palusco believes that the Swedish government has not taken firm enough action on the virus. “I really don’t understand, if they implement certain measures, it means that they basically know that the situation is dangerous,” Palusco told NBC News.

“Masks do very little, if anything at all”. We wont forget the way you misinformed people, and this is the result 👏👏👏 @Folkhalsomynd #COVID19 #COVID19sverige #covid19swed pic.twitter.com/BaUEDro1J4

— Alessandra • 桑德拉 (@alex_paiusco)

1h ago / 11:37 AM UTC

Salons, florists and garden centers allowed to reopen in Switzerland

Hospitals in Switzerland reopened for outpatient and non-urgent procedures on Monday as the country began easing measures put in place to contain the coronavirus outbreak. 

Beauty salons, DIY stores, garden centers and florists were also permitted to reopen, the government announced as it laid out its staged plans to lift the lockdown. On May 11th, elementary schools and other shops will be allowed to reopen “if the situation allows,” the government said in a statement. Then in June, high schools, zoos and libraries will be allowed to open their doors.

Switzerland has nearly 30,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,600 deaths since the pandemic began.

2h ago / 11:19 AM UTC

Two funeral home workers in Harlem, N.Y. said they are turning away families whose loved ones have died because there are more bodies than they can handle.

“We want to be able to help everyone,” manager Alisha Narvaez told “Kasie DC” Sunday evening, adding that they often have to tell families to call back because they have no room. Both women, who work at International Funeral and Cremation Services, said the emotional toll of helping the families weighs heavily on them.

“Just today I had a family call because they’re pretty much at the cut-off time for the hospital to hold their loved one. And out of desperation, she cried to us and she begged,” said funeral director Nicole Warring, adding the woman was fearful her father would end up buried in an unmarked grave. “It’s tough when we just don’t have the capacity.”

Iran to open mosques in areas with few coronavirus cases

Iran plans to loosen restrictions in some parts of the country by classifying regions as either white, yellow or red based on the spread of the coronavirus, President Hassan Rouhani has said.

Iran has been one of the Middle East’s worst hit countries with more than 91,000 cases of coronavirus recorded as of Monday, as well as around 5,800 deaths.

2h ago / 10:37 AM UTC

Nearly 2 million people download Australia tracking app

More than 1.8 million people downloaded a new tracking app released by the Australian Government that claims to “speed up contacting people exposed to coronavirus,” according to the country’s Health Department.

COVIDSafe is available to all Australian residents, though participation is not mandatory. It tracks the movement and interaction of residents with the aim of quickly locating and informing anyone that may have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. If a user tests positive, the other users of the app that have been in close proximity to that initial user will be informed so they can get tested and isolate themselves. Health officials will not name the person who was infected.

Officials have said 40 percent of the population will need to download the app for it to work effectively. Australia has been one of the most successful countries in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, recording just 83 deaths and 6,700 cases.

3h ago / 9:53 AM UTC

Italy’s prime minister lays out plan to slowly reopen in May

Construction workers and factories will restart in Italy on May 4, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said as he laid out plans for a phased end to the country’s strict nationwide lockdown. 

Public parks will reopen then as will restaurant takeout and delivery services. “We will live with the virus and we will have to adopt every precaution possible,” Conte said Sunday evening. Shops, museums, exhibitions and public libraries will reopen on May 18, and hairdressers, bars and restaurants will be open from June 1. Schools however, will remain closed until September.

The announcement comes a week after the country reported its first decline in the number of people sick with coronavirus since the virus hit. The country has recorded 26,384 coronavirus deaths and 195,351 confirmed cases.

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Coronavirus update: One death and five more Covid-19 cases | Stuff.co.nz

There has been another Covid-19 related death in New Zealand.

The woman in her 70s was one of the residents from an Auckland rest home transferred to Waitakere hospital.

Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield also announced there are five more cases, bringing the total number of people affected by Covid-19 to 1445.

SCOTT HAMMOND/STUFF
Leaves gather at Witherlea School, Marlborough.

This included two confirmed cases, and three probable cases. 

Education Minister Chris Hipkins joined director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield for the daily Covid-19 briefing on Tuesday.

Cabinet decided the country would stay in level 4 until 11.59pm on Monday April 27.

GETTY IMAGES
Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said The current plan is for schools to be able to re-open for a Teacher Only Day on April 28 as part of their preparation, and the Government expects those who need to attend, to be able to from 29 April 29.

​Hipkins discussed the rules around schools during alert level three and explained what will be happening this week, in the lead up to schools opening safely.

  Under alert level 3, most children will be learning from home still. Schools will only be open for families that need to have their children at school, he said.

“Education for students in years 11 to 13 will continue remotely,” Hipkins said.

Universities will be mostly remote, only allowing staff and students to only attend when crucial – such as hands on research.

“If students went home to join their family bubble, they must stay home.”

1 NEWS
From next Wednesday, some schools will be welcoming back students.

Referring to early childhood concerns, Hipkins said he would continue to talk with the sector and provide further guidance.

“We’ve reached the point where the director-general of health is confident there is no widespread community transmission … so the chance of it coming through the gate or door is low,” he said.

The public health advice said it was safe for children to learn together, though Hipkins acknowledged that maintaining physical distancing would be difficult.

As leader of the House, he also gave an update about what will happen when Parliament sits again next week.

Christopher Furlong
Schools and early learning centres can be accessed this week for cleaning, maintenance and any other preparations.

This week, businesses will be allowed to get ready to open, such as re-entering premises to receive stock if necessary, but will have to stick to social distancing and their bubbles.

The same principle applies for preparing schools.

Schools and early learning centres can be accessed this week for cleaning, maintenance and any other preparations.

The current plan is for schools to be able to re-open for a Teacher Only Day on April 28 as part of their preparation, and the Government expects those who need to attend to be able to do so from  April 29. 

However, Ardern acknowledged it may take a bit longer for some schools and early learning centres to be ready.

During level 3, the Government still wants the vast majority of children and young people learning from home. 

The official advice is for children who can stay at home should, and so should at-risk students.

Early childhood centres, and schools right up to year 10, will physically be open for families that need them.

Ardern said children should still learn from home if they can – except for those situations where it was not possible.

For example, parents who cannot manage the kids as well as work. Those who do go to school will be kept within one bubble while there.

She was not expecting large numbers of pupils to be in attendance.

Bloomfield said international evidence and New Zealand’s experience so far shows that Covid-19 does not affect or infect children and teens in the same way as adults. There were low infection rates, they don’t become too unwell and don’t tend to pass the virus to adults.

School principals said they are still awaiting guidance on what level 3 will look like in the classroom. 

Senior ministry officials met with education unions and school associations early on Monday to discuss those guidelines. 

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UK’s coronavirus death toll rises by 684 to 3,605 in biggest jump yet – Mirror Online

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The UK’s coronavirus death toll has soared to 3,605 after 684 patients died in just 24 hours – the biggest single day increase yet.

The figure does not include people who have died at home. The previous total stood at 2,921 deaths.

The number of confirmed cases has increased to 38,168 after 4,450 more people tested positive.

Most of the deaths have been in England (3,244), followed by Scotland (172), Wales (141) and Northern Ireland (48).

Two NHS nurses, who were both mothers in their 30s with three young children, are among the latest patients to die after battling Covid-19 in hospital.

The grim news came as Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who is back at work after battling the virus, said the Government expects the virus to peak in Britain in the next few weeks and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is still infected with Covid-19 and isolating, urged people to stick with social distancing in a bid to flatten the curve.

Have you been affected by coronavirus? Email webnews@mirror.co.uk.

Aimee O'Rourke

The Department of Health said: “As of 9am on 3 April 2020, 173,784 people have been tested, of which 38,168 were confirmed positive.

“As of 5pm on 2 April 2020, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 3,605 have died.”

Public Health England said 11,764 tests were carried out on Thursday in England, while testing capacity for inpatient care in the country currently stands at 12,799 tests per day.

Two NHS nurses were among the latest patients to die.

BBC Radio 4

Mum-of-three Areema Nasreen, 36, was in intensive care on a ventilator after testing positive for the virus.

She worked at Walsall Manor Hospital in the West Midlands.

In Kent, Aimee O’Rourke, 38, died at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, where she worked.

The mum-of-three was hailed as a “brave angel” as her family said in a tribute: “Aimee was a beautiful woman and a valued NHS nurse.”

Boris Johnson

More than 10,000 tests carried out

Friday’s figures from the Department of Health show that for the second day running more than 10,000 new people were tested in the UK for coronavirus.

A total of 10,590 new people were reported as being tested in the 24 hours to 9am April 3.

The equivalent figure for April 2 was 10,215.

The total number of people in the UK tested since the outbreak began is now 173,784.

This is the equivalent of around 261 people in every 100,000, or 0.3% of the population.

The number of coronavirus-related hospital deaths reported by the Department of Health stood at 3,605 as of 5pm April 2.

It took 19 days for this number to pass 300. It has taken further 11 days to pass 3,000.

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK has taken two weeks to go from just under 4,000 (3,983 as of 9am March 20) to just under 40,000 (38,168 as of 9am April 3).

Commenting on the death of Ms Nasreen, Mr Hancock said: “I pay tribute to the NHS staff who’ve died serving the NHS, serving the nation.

“It shows the incredible bravery of every member of the NHS who goes into work knowing that these dangers are there.

“I think it is a testament to every doctor and nurse and paramedic and other health professional who is working in the NHS in these difficult times.

“And I think the whole nation is grateful.”

About 35,000 front-line NHS staff are not currently in work due to coronavirus, said Mr Hancock.

He said testing figures for health staff “should” rise to thousands a day in the next few weeks.

The Government has set a goal of testing 100,000 people a day across the whole of the UK by the end of April following widespread criticism of its testing strategy.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said the 5,000-plus NHS staff who had been tested had mainly been tested at new testing sites.

Health Secretary

A total of 172 patients have died in Scotland after testing positive for coronavirus, up by 46 from 126 on Thursday.

3,001 people have now tested positive for the virus in Scotland, up from 2,602 the day before.

Officials said 176 people are in intensive care with coronavirus or coronavirus symptoms, and increase of 14 on Thursday.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned: “I want to be very clear that nothing I have seen gives me any basis whatsoever for predicting the virus will peak as early as a week’s time here in Scotland.”

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A total of 24 patients have died after testing positive for coronavirus in Wales, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 141, health officials said.

Public Health Wales said 345 new cases had tested positive for Covid-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in Wales to 2,466.

Dr Robin Howe, from Public Health Wales, said “345 new cases have tested positive for Covid-19 in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 2,466, although the true number of cases is likely to be higher”.

Dr Howe added: “Twenty-four further deaths have been reported to us of people who had tested positive for Covid-19, taking the number of deaths in Wales to 141.

Louisa Jordan

“We offer our condolences to families and friends affected, and we ask those reporting on the situation to respect patient confidentiality.”

The Welsh Government will introduce a law compelling all employers to make sure their workers keep two metres apart, Wales’ First Minister has said.

Mark Drakeford said the social distancing legislation, the first in the UK, would require bosses to “put the needs of their workforce first” when it comes into force on Monday or Tuesday of next week.

The number of people who have died in Northern Ireland after contracting coronavirus has risen by 12 to 48, health officials said.

Testing has resulted in 130 new positive cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the region to 904.

Manchester's Central Complex

In England, two siblings of Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab, the 13-year-old London boy who died after testing positive for coronavirus, have also developed symptoms, according to a family friend who launched an online appeal.

The development means Ismail’s mother and six siblings are forced to self-isolate and cannot attend his funeral in Brixton on Friday, Mark Stephenson said.

Meanwhile, Prince Charles, who tested positive for coronavirus last month, officially opened the NHS Nightingale Hospital at the ExCeL centre in east London.

The Prince of Wales, 71, appeared via video-link from his Scottish home of Birkhall and spoke to those gathered at the entrance of the new temporary hospital.

He said: “It is without doubt a spectacular and almost unbelievable feat of work in every sense, from its speed of construction – in just nine days as we’ve heard – to its size and the skills of those who have created it.

Mark Stephenson

NHS Nightingale Hospital – the facts

The NHS Nightingale Hospital has been built in east London in the ExCel convention centre.

The facility will be used to treat Covid-19 patients transferred from intensive care units across London

Just one ward will need 200 members of staff

“An example, if ever one was needed, of how the impossible could be made possible and how we can achieve the unthinkable through human will and ingenuity.”

Charles added: “The creation of this hospital is above all the result of an extraordinary collaboration and partnership between NHS managers, the military and all those involved to create a centre on a scale that has never been seen before in the United Kingdom.

“To convert one of the largest national conference centres into a field hospital, starting with 500 beds with a potential of 4,000, is quite frankly incredible.”

The prince and Mr Hancock both recently ended self-isolation after contracting the virus and Charles commented on the fact they had recovered.

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He said: “Now I was one of the lucky ones to have Covid-19 relatively mildly and if I may say so I’m so glad to see the Secretary of State has also recovered, but for some it will be a much harder journey.”

Shortly after he spoke, Buckingham Palace confirmed the Queen has recorded a special broadcast on the coronavirus outbreak to be broadcast on Sunday night.

Previously, it was said that the 93-year-old monarch, who is isolating with Prince Philip, 98, at Windsor Castle, was preparing to make a televised address to calm the nation’s nerves, but was waiting for the “right moment” to address the country.

Mr Hancock, meanwhile, praised all those involved in the setting up of the hospital, adding the “extraordinary project”, the core of which was completed in just nine days, was a “testament to the work and the brilliance of the many people involved”.

Matt Hancock

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We are building a map of appreciation for the NHS heroes looking after us through the coronavirus crisis. Place your heart on our live updating map at www.thanksamillionnhs.co.uk.

Add your partial postcode (eg: CF5 1) to put a heart on the map and you can add a thank you message too.

If you’re an NHS worker, you’ll also find a handy list of all the places and brands currently offering you well-deserved discounts.

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He also praised the NHS and the way its staff are dealing with the virus crisis.

The Health Secretary said: “In these troubled times with this invisible killer stalking the whole world, the fact that in this country we have the NHS is even more valuable than before.”

Asked about the number of ventilators currently in use and how many are expected to arrive next week, Mr Hancock said: “We’ve obviously got a big programme to ramp up the number of ventilators and we now have more ventilators than we had before.

“And we’re going to need them for this hospital and I’m just going to go and have a look at that now.”

Pressed for exact numbers, Mr Hancock did not respond.

Northern Ireland

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme earlier, Mr Hancock said it is unclear whether he is now immune to Covid-19.

He described having coronavirus as a “pretty unpleasant experience” with an “incredibly” sore throat and a feeling of “having glass in my throat”.

He said he has lost half a stone in weight.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson remained in isolation in Downing Street after testing positive for the virus.

He was “feeling better” but still had a fever on Friday.

nurse and paramedic

In a video on social media, the Prime Minister urged the public to stick with social distancing and not be tempted to “hang out” in the warmer weather predicted for this weekend.

“In my own case, although I’m feeling better and I’ve done my seven days of isolation, alas I still have one of the symptoms, a minor symptom, I still still have a temperature,” he said.

“So, in accordance with government advice I must continue my self-isolation until that symptom itself goes.”

Mr Johnson said people must not be tempted to break social distancing rules as the weather warms up even if they were going “a bit stir crazy”

In England, more than 26.7 million units of personal protection equipment (PPE) were delivered to 281 NHS “trusts and providers” on Thursday, Downing Street confirmed.

Prime Minister

Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “That included 7.8 million aprons, 1.7 million masks and 12.4 million gloves.”

It follows the new guidance issued by Public Health England about the level of protection health staff should wear depending on the patient situation.

There would be no new guidance published on the public wearing masks or face coverings when out of the house, said the spokesman.

The spokesman said “surveillance” of the population to determine the spread of coronavirus was ongoing, with 3,500 antibody tests carried out per week.

“This is a population surveillance programme which we have been carrying out since February,” said the spokesman.

“It is being done by Public Health England at their campus which is at Porton Down.

“We currently have capacity for 3,500 of these surveillance tests to be carried out this week which is enough for small-scale population sampling.”

Two newly-planned temporary hospital sites have been agreed at the University of the West of England and the Harrogate Convention Centre.

They will join other sites due to open at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre and Manchester’s Central Complex.

Construction of a temporary hospital called the NHS Louisa Jordan is underway in Glasgow.

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Christchurch mosque attacks: Gunman pleads guilty to murder, attempted murder and terrorism | Stuff.co.nz

The man accused of the Christchurch mosque attacks has entered shock guilty pleas, bringing relief to survivors and victims’ families.

Amid extraordinary coronavirus lockdown restrictions, Brenton Tarrant, 29, appeared via video-link in the High Court at Christchurch on Thursday morning and admitted 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and a charge of engaging in a terrorist act.

He’d previously pleaded not guilty to all the charges and was scheduled to stand trial on June 2.

GEORGE HEARD/STUFF
Fifty-one people died as a result of the March 15, 2019 attack.

Tarrant, who wore a grey prisoner sweater, was largely silent and emotionless throughout the hearing. He sat alone in a white room with a grey door at Auckland Prison, Paremoremo, where he’s held in maximum security.

The terrorist’s lawyers, Shane Tait and Jonathan Hudson, appeared via video-link from another court room.

Brenton Tarrant pleads guilty to murder, attempted murder and terrorism via AVL in the Christchurch High Court.

The names of all 51 people killed were read to Tarrant, before he was asked how he pleaded to the murder charges.

He replied: “Yes, guilty.”

The same process was followed for the attempted murder charges.

JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/STUFF
Terrorist Brenton Tarrant pictured at his first court appearance, the day after the mosque shootings.

Justice Cameron Mander remanded Tarrant in custody, but has not yet set a date for sentencing, when the summary of facts would be made public.

Few people knew of the special hearing, which was only scheduled late Wednesday, on the eve of an unprecedented nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Six New Zealand journalists attended. Also in court were the imams from both targeted mosques. An-nur (Al Noor) imam Gamal Fouda was visibly upset as the guilty pleas were entered.

JOSEPH JOHNSON/STUFF
Mustafa Boztas still has a fragment of a bullet inside him.

The hearing concluded at 10.30am, but the judge suppressed the outcome for an hour to allow victims, who were unaware of the hearing, to be notified.

The decision to hold the hearing amid the national state of emergency was not made lightly.

Earlier in the week Tarrant indicated to counsel that he might change his pleas. A formal request was made on Wednesday that the matter be brought before the court.

DAVID WALKER/STUFF
Omar Abdel-Ghany, whose father Ahmed Gamal Eldin Abdel-Ghany was killed at Masjid An-Nur.

Mander said both the Crown and defence asked to have the hearing expedited, despite the severe health restrictions.

The courts were considered an essential public service that was able to deal with “priority proceedings without compromising people’s health”.

The judge said he felt the court had the capacity to safely hear the matter by limiting the number of people in court. In total, 17 people were present.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reflects on the last year following the Christchurch mosque shootings.

It was regrettable the Covid-19 restrictions prevented victims from attending, he said, but the imams had been asked to be present to bear witness to the proceedings.

“It was my assessment that taking the defendant’s pleas at this time was the appropriate course in the circumstances,” Mander said.

“The entry of guilty pleas represents a very significant step towards bringing finality to this criminal proceeding, and I considered the need to take the opportunity to progress the matter was particularly acute coming as it has at a time when the risk of further delay as a result of Covid-19 was looming as realistic possibility.”

Mander said the defendant would not be sentenced before the court returned to normal operations.

The defendant had been remanded to a nominal date of May 1. It was hoped a sentencing date would be confirmed in the interim.

“It is fully anticipated that all who wish to attend court for the sentencing hearing will be able to do so in person.”  

On March 15 last year, Tarrant drove from his Dunedin home to Christchurch with an arsenal of guns and ammunition he’d amassed since moving from Australia to New Zealand in 2017.

The white supremacist entered Masjid An-nur (also known as the Al Noor Mosque) on Deans Ave as Friday prayers were beginning, about 1.40pm, and opened fire – killing and wounding dozens of people.

He then drove across town to the Linwood Mosque where he continued his shooting spree.

Tarrant was arrested a short time later after his car, a gold Subaru Outback, was rammed off the road by two police officers on Brougham St as he tried to make his way to a third target, though to be a mosque in Ashburton, where he planned to carry out another attack.

When police searched the vehicle they found several guns and petrol bombs.

NZ’S WORST MASS SHOOTING

In total, 51 people were killed in the terrorist attack, the worst mass shooting by an individual in New Zealand history.

Tarrant was the first person to be charged under NZ’s Terrorism Suppression Act 2002.

Omar Abdel-Ghany, whose father Ahmed Gamal Eldin Abdel-Ghany was killed at Masjid An-Nur, said he could not understand what caused Tarrant to change his plea.

“I’m both shocked and relieved. Shocked at the sudden change in plea, relieved that my family and I, along with other victims won’t have to relive it all through the courts.”

Muslim Association of Canterbury spokesman Tony Green said his immediate reaction was one of enormous relief and great gratitude.

“I think the victims will feel a huge weight has been lifted from their shoulders. Our position has always been to let justice take its course, but a trial would have put a lot of pressure on our families. If you look at the anguish caused by the trial of Grace Millane’s killer you can see how bad it would be for 51 families.”

Mustafa Boztas, who lay on the ground inside the Masjid An-nur with a bullet in his leg, pretending to be dead, said from Turkey he always knew Tarrant would be found guilty. 

“I feel he basically played with our minds and emotionally upset us more for no reason.”

Boztas said he would have stayed in the country instead of going overseas if he’d known Tarrant was going to plead guilty. 

“While it can’t undo the damage it has brought upon our community and country, it gives me hope that this help bring not only justice but some closure to those touched by this event.

“To the families, I hope this brings you peace, and a sense that love can conquer hate. While this closes the criminal proceedings for the shootings, please know there is still a long way to go in recovery for some of us, so thank you for your continued support.”

Yasir Amin, whose father 67-year-old Muhammad Amin Nasir was shot in the back by the gunman shooting from his car, said the guilty pleas were good news.

“It’s good to avoid a trial because we would be reminded of everything, every day of the six week trial. We’ve avoided that mental torture and we’re not in a situation where the outcome is not 100 per cent sure.”

Nasir was to undergo another operation on Monday but the operation was postponed due to Covid-19 measures. He had spent two months in hospital after the shootings and had another 20-day stay in December.

“He is now doing well. He goes for walks and eats well.”

Just about every organ in his father’s body except his heart had been damaged by the shotgun pellets, Amin said.

Nasir was shot about 200 metres from the mosque on Deans Ave. The gunman drove past Amin and his father, who were walking to the mosque along the footpath, when he aimed a shotgun at them from his car. Both ran for their lives but Nasir was shot. Their plight was captured by a motel CCTV camera. 

‘HE’S GOT TO PAY THE TIME’

Tarrant’s grandmother, Marie Fitzgerald, had no idea about the plea until called by Stuff.

“I feel sorry he did the crime, but he’s got to pay the time now.”

She declined to comment further.

Victim Support chief executive Kevin Tso said support was ongoing for hundreds of victims who still need help coping with the trauma of the event and rebuilding their lives.

“We’re pleased victims no longer have to face the trauma of the trial.”

The victims had shown remarkable courage and resilience in the face of a heart-breaking, shocking and senseless tragedy, Tso said.

“They have our utmost respect and promise that we will be here for them for as long as they need us.”

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said the pleas were a “significant milestone in respect of one of our darkest days”.

“I want to acknowledge the victims, their families and the community of Christchurch – the many lives that were changed forever. They have inspired all of us to be a kind and more tolerant community.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it would provide some relief to the many people whose lives were “shattered” on March 15.

“These guilty pleas and conviction bring accountability for what happened and also save the families who lost loved ones, those who were injured, and other witnesses, the ordeal of a trial,” she said.

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Church and State in Montenegro: between National(istic) and Imperial Policies | Political Theology Network

A crisis is brewing in the tiny ex-Yugoslav country of Montenegro. There are massive street protests, attacks on priests, and fights in the Parliament. Various domestic, regional, and international actors, interests and policies are at stake here, giving us the opportunity to learn important lessons about national (and nationalistic) ideological projects, and the role of religion and international (also imperial) aspirations in their creation. And yet, mainstream Western media has shown little interest in the matter. One can speculate why.

The Government of Montenegro proposed new legislation on religious organizations called “The Law on the Freedom of Religion,” which was approved by the Parliament on December 27, 2019.  A draft version of the document is available from the website of the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights, both in the local language and in English. The legislation generated significant controversy due to its treatment of religious organizations, their internal procedures, as well as their property.

Article 4 specifies that:

“Prior to the appointment, i.e. announcement of the appointment if the highest religious leaders, a religious community shall confidentially notify the Government of Montenegro (hereinafter: the Government) about that.”

Article 16, § 1 requires that the application for registration of a religious community shall contain:

“The name of the religious community, which must be different from names of other religious communities and must not contain the official name of other state and its features”

For many, the most problematic article is 52, found under the
section “Transitional and Final Provisions”:

“Religious facilities and land used by the religious communities in the territory of Montenegro and for which is found to have been built or obtained from public resources of the state or have been in state ownership until 1 December 1918, as the cultural heritage of Montenegro, shall be the property of the state. Religious facilities for which if found to have been built on the territory of Montenegro from joint investments of the citizens until 1 December 1918, shall be the property of the state.”

The law caused an outrage among the members of the Orthodox Church
in Montenegro. Let me sketch some of the background which will, hopefully,
render the current crisis more intelligible.

There are four Orthodox dioceses (belonging to the Serbian
Orthodox Church, i.e. Patriarchate of Peć) whose territory is fully or in part
located on the territory of Montenegro. The Orthodox Church (i.e. these four dioceses)
is, by far, the largest religious organization in the country.

The majority of both the clergy and laity view the new legislation as a purposeful targeting of the Church by the Government. They interpret Article 16, § 1 as specifically crafted against the Orthodox Church, as the above-mentioned dioceses in Montenegro belong to the Serbian Orthodox Church. However, the Article 52 appears to be a much more serious threat. Many these churches and monasteries are centuries old, predating even the formation of the modern state of Montenegro. If enacted, Article 52 could lead to the confiscation of Church property and its sacral objects.

Why would the government do this? Why would it go against the Church,
in a country where a significant majority of the population considers itself
Orthodox? This is where things get complicated.

Arguably the chief political authority in Montenegro, over the
past three decades, has been Milo Đukanović. He assumed the office of prime
minister in 1991, and has been in power ever since, performing the roles of
prime minister and president interchangeably (with a couple of years of break,
2006-2008, and 2010-2012). This style of rule brings to mind rulers in other
parts of Europe who have de facto been chief figures in the political
life of their countries for long periods of time, regardless of the name of the
office they would hold in a given moment. Not all long-lasting autocrats are
the same though: There are those who “we” (in the West) do not like very much,
since they refuse to obey us (branded as “evil autocrats”), and there are “our
kind of guys,” who are submissive enough to the Western political and economic
centers (branded as “democratic rulers”). Milo Đukanović, of course, belongs to
the latter group. During his pontificate the country joined the NATO alliance (in
2017), and he has successfully resisted a stronger Russian influence in the
country.

Đukanović, once upon a time, was loyal to Serbian president
Slobodan Milošević, and his allies in Montenegro. However, he switched sides just
in time, and his chief project became an independent Montenegro (proclaimed in
2006) and close cooperation with Western governments, military, and
multinational corporations. This where problems with the Serbian Orthodox
Church in Montenegro begin, in particular with the most prominent figure of
Montenegrin religious life—Metropolitan Amfilohije (Radović). At times partners,
at other times in conflict, this turbulent relationship between the politician
and the metropolitan has ended up, as of now, in an open battle.

Đukanović’s vision of independent Montenegro and the new
Montenegrin identity also includes the vision of an autocephalous (“self-governed”)
“Montenegrin church” which would be loyal (some would suggest obedient as a much better word choice) to the State (i.e., his regime). Amfilohije and
other bishops do not seem to share the same vision. For them, there is no conflict
between an “authentic” Montenegrin identity and Serbian identity, and therefore
no problem with the Orthodox Church in Montenegro being part of the Serbian
Orthodox Church. (Nota bene, many figures and structures within the Serbian
Orthodox Church are by no means innocent in the political games that have been
played in the region, particularly when it comes to Serbian nationalism and the
policies of various autocrats from Belgrade, but that is a topic for another analysis.)

To foster a new Montenegrin identity, Đukanović’s regime started
to promote “Montenegrin Orthodox Church” as an “autocephalous” organization,
headed by the colorful figure of Miraš Dedejić. According to some sources, Dedejić
used to be an admirer of Slobodan Milošević and his policies. He had also been a
priest of the Ecumenical Patriarchate until he was excommunicated by Patriarch
Bartholomew. This organization is not recognized by any of the canonical
Orthodox Churches. Even Đukanović’s support has not been full or unconditional.
One is tempted to say that its purpose has primarily been to put pressure on Amfilohije
to follow the “right path.”  

This is how one can understand the recent actions, at least in one
of their complex and intertwined dimensions: Just as the Ukrainian political
leadership was advancing the (formerly) uncanonical church structures and their
autocephaly in the hope that it would strengthen Ukrainian national identity, as
well as the political elite who championed the project, Montenegrin leadership
might hope that promoting one group, which would be loyal to one political
project and obedient to the political authorities (Amfilohije has not proven
himself in that role), would lead to the recognition of autocephaly of that
group, with same or similar political results. Probably working out of these
hopes, the regime has, then, threatened the confiscation of Church property of
the “disloyal” Church, which is quietly accepted (if not blessed) by the
Western political centers. The trade seems straight-forward, based on a
widely-practiced strategy: “We” (political/economic centers in the West) will
turn a blind eye to violence, undemocratic policies, the autocratic style of
rule, breach of various rights, and so forth, and “you” (local political
elites) will ensure that the (military, economic, political) interests of those
centers are protected and advanced locally.

An obstacle in the case of Montenegro (unlike in the case of
Ukraine) is the fact that the Ecumenical Patriarchate does not seem willing to intervene
to support the formation of a new autocephalous Church, which would advance the
local national identity, being closely connected to the State. Not yet at least,
and not with Miraš’s team as a new autocephalous
church. It seems that there is awareness that right now there are no credible
candidates in Montenegro who would be willing to lead a potential autocephalous
church, neither there is popular support for such project.

For those less familiar with Orthodox ecclesiology, it is worth noting that in Orthodoxy there is no equivalent role to the one of the Roman pontiff. Orthodox ecclesiology has advanced the principle of conciliarity instead of the (universal) primacy of power of one ecclesiastical/imperial center. This does not mean, of course, that there have been no attempts of ecclesiastical seats to assume such power. Indeed, just as the seat of Rome infused the universalist aspirations to power into the emptied shell of the Western (Roman) Empire, so the bishops of “New Rome” (Constantinople) have occasionally aspired to assume both universal ecclesial, and even political authority (at times when the Empire was weakened). This universalism is reflected also in the title of the bishop/patriarch of Constantinople – “Ecumenical” – as the authority of this episcopal seat, as well as the authority of the (Roman) emperor, should ideally stretch over the entire oikoumene (inhabited world). What one can see, based on the recent actions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, is the (renewed) aspiration to usurp a position within the Orthodox world which would be, in some aspects at least, comparable to the position which the Roman pontiff gradually acquired in the West. This, predictably, provokes a lot of criticism.

The entire episode can thus be understood as yet another example of how the whole concept of autocephaly, the way it is generally understood and practiced in “Orthodox countries” nowadays, is highly problematic. If autocephaly is understood as something “naturally” linked to national/ethnic identities (and/or nation states), it is both theologically unacceptable and very harmful to the body of the Church in long term. Serious Orthodox ecclesiology does not operate with the concept of “national Churches,” although it has been widely (and mistakenly) used both in the public discourse and, sometimes, in academia. Local Churches (i.e. dioceses) are organized as administrative regional ecclesiastical unites, that gather the faithful of a certain territory (for the sake of serving the Liturgy) regardless of their ethnicity, nationality, gender, class, race, etc. The predominant culture or customs have always been embraced in the Orthodox tradition, leaving a trace on how the service is conducted, which language is spoken, etc. However, the identity of the Church is not derived from the ethnic, national or other identities of the majority population of a certain territory, but from the Eucharist as the icon of the Kingdom of God. This is why an autocephalous Church makes sense as a self-governing administrative organization of dioceses of a certain region, having one of the local bishops as their own “head” (having the title of metropolitan, archbishop, pope or patriarch), but not as a “national” institution, or a Church of certain ethnic group (which, following Orthodox ecclesiology, amounts to nothing less than a heresy).

In practice, however, just as local ecclesiastical and political
elites are eager to exploit the (seriously flawed) understanding of autocephaly
as “national institutions,” for the sake of their own power struggles, so is
the Ecumenical Patriarchate. (Neo)imperial policies of ecclesiastical centers
(in this case of Phanar) can thus be very similar to the (neo)imperial policies
of States; both try to manipulate local nationalisms to their own advantage.
Therefore, if they serve the (neo)imperial agendas of “New Rome,” local
nationalisms and local “national” churches will be blessed. If they don’t,
local nationalisms and their cravings for autocephaly will be condemned in the
name of (neo)imperial “universalisms.”

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Nats double down on commitment to coal, Joyce rants against wind and solar | RenewEconomy

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If there were any questions over the National Party’s commitment to the coal sector after the loss of Matt Canavan from the resources portfolio, they were quickly answered by new deputy leader David Littleproud who reasserted his party’s commitment to a new coal generator in Queensland on his first day in the job.

In an interview with ABC’s RN Breakfast program on Wednesday, Littleproud trotted out the three consistent assertions of the coal lobby; that you can reduce emissions using more coal, that more coal generation is necessary to lower electricity prices and that baseload power is a necessary feature of the future energy system.

Each of these three assertions have been repeatedly debunked, but it confirms that it’s business as usual in a Morrison cabinet that will continue to face internal divisions over a need to act on climate change and the fossil fuel advocates within its ranks.

It is understood that Queensland Nationals MP Keith Pitt is the front runner to take over Canavan’s former positions as the minister for resources and Northern Australia when new ministerial appointments are announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday.

Pitt himself has been an outspoken advocate for a new coal-fired power station in Queensland, so while Canavan – who liked to describe himself as “Mr Coal” – has exited the federal cabinet, the pressure to push forward with the Collinsville project is likely to continue.

Pitt has also been a strong supporter of a nuclear industry in Australia, and will have the backing of failed Nationals leadership candidate Barnaby Joyce, who again argued for nuclear power to be considered as part of Australia’s efforts to reduce emissions as part of a bizarre Facebook rant against renewable energy.

“We have to recognise that the public acceptance of wind towers on the hill in front of their veranda is gone, and the public dissonance on that issue is as strong as any other environmental subject,” Joyce said.

“If zero emissions are the goal then surely nuclear energy should be supported, but it is not. If wind towers are a moral good and environmentally inoffensive, why can’t we have them just off the beach at Bondi so we can feel good about ourselves while going for a surf? It would cause a riot.”

“Do you want a 3,000ha solar farm next door to you? Lots of glass and aluminium neatly in rows pointing at the sun. I am not sure others will want to buy that view off you when you go to sell your house.”

The coal industry might have lost its most enthusiastic advocate from the federal cabinet, but the Nationals were quick to show that it won’t lead to any changes on the party’s energy and climate change policies.

In his interview, Littleproud, who is also tipped to take on the now vacant agriculture portfolio, told the ABC that investments in new coal generators would help lower emissions and lower electricity prices.

“You need to make sure that you create an environment in the marketplace with a mix of renewables and coal-fired power stations, and if you can improve the emissions of coal fired power stations, you should make that investment if it means that we hit our targets and we reduce energy prices,” Littleproud claimed.

It has been well established for some time that the cheapest source of new electricity generation capacity are renewable sources like wind and solar.

A recent update to the CSIRO’s GenCost assessment of the costs of different generation technologies re-confirmed that new wind and solar are, by far, the cheapest sources of electricity generation. Even when additional storage is accounted for, prices of firmed renewables are competitive with fossil fuel generators when the costs of carbon emissions are considered.

Renewables are already helping to drive down electricity prices.

This week, the ACT, which has recently achieved its 100 per cent renewable electricity target, is also set to see an almost 7 per cent fall in its electricity prices this year, as the territory’s investments in wind and solar projects have helped deliver lower electricity prices for Canberra households, ensuring they continue to pay some of Australia’s lowest electricity prices.

But this also didn’t stop Littleproud asserting that it is possible to achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions while still embracing coal.

“You can invest in clean coal technology in and reduce emissions,” Littleproud said.

“I’m not disputing the science, what I’m saying is I’m not gifted academically to have that science background myself.” – @D_LittleproudMP when asked about his recent statement that he didn’t know if climate change was man made. #abc730 @leighsales #auspol pic.twitter.com/sFh44eNP2a

— abc730 (@abc730) February 4, 2020

Again, there are fundamental limits to how much emissions from coal-fired power stations can be improved. Even with a complete transition to the Coalition’s favoured high-efficiency low-emissions (HELE) coal power station technologies, the most generous estimates put the amount of emissions reductions at 20 per cent.

In his review of the National Electricity Market, chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel compared the emissions intensity of different generation technologies, showing that the HELE coal-fired power stations promoted by the Nationals will still produce 0.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent for each megawatt-hour of electricity produced, and is only slightly below the NEM’s current average emissions intensity.

When the science, and the international commitments made under the Paris Agreement, are calling for governments to achieve zero net emissions by 2050, a 20 per cent cut in coal power station emissions is going to be grossly insufficient.

It’s a position that leaves the Nationals at odds with science, but also the business community which is undergoing an accelerating exit from the coal industry. This includes BlackRock, which manages USD$7 trillion (A$10.15 trillion) in investments, which announced in January that it was divesting its portfolios from thermal coal companies.

Littleproud argued for the need for “baseload” power, suggesting that coal-fired power stations are necessary, as Australia currently lacks sufficient levels of battery storage.

“We’ve still got to have baseload, the thing is that we don’t have battery storage to the capacity that we need to be able to keep the lights on,” Littleproud said.

With the emergence of new energy management technologies, a growing market for energy storage that is outpacing growth in coal generation in Australia, demand response platforms and the falling prices of renewables, the concept of baseload is quickly becoming outdated.

With system planners recognising the crucial role that a ‘flexible’ energy system will have into the future, pushing new inflexible baseload power stations, like a new coal generator, into the energy system will only be counterproductive.

Chair of the Energy Security Board, which has been tasked with redesigning Australia’s energy market in response to the widescale transformation underway in the energy sector, labelled Australia’s existing “baseload” generators as “dinosaurs”, singling out coal-fired generators Bayswater and Liddell saying that their inflexibility made them poorly suited to a future energy system.

There has been a surge of installations of large-scale battery storage systems, and new investments continue to be made in deploying storage projects, while coal-fired generators are readying to exit the market.

The renewed push from the Nationals for a new coal generator appears to have been bolstered by the findings of a $10 million feasibility study into a potential new coal-fired power station in Collinsville. The feasibility study was funded as part of the government’s Underwriting New Generation Investments initiative and has yet to be released publicly.

“Collinsville, there’s a there’s now a report that’s come back to say that that business case should advance and then obviously, that will be backed by the economics of it,” Littleproud told ABC’s RN Breakfast.

The saga of the Collinsville power station has been a source of tension within the Coalition party room. Outgoing resources minister Matt Canavan had been desperate to get the project off the ground, and confronted prime minister Scott Morrison when he thought progress on the proposal was progressing too slowly.

Those tensions continue to play out in the party room, with a fiery confrontation occurring during the first coalition party room meeting of the year, and after a summer dominated by bushfires and calls for stronger climate action.

Several Nationals members shouted down calls from moderate Liberal MPs, who called for the Morrison government to demonstrate that it was taking climate change seriously.

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UK officially leaves EU after 47 years of European membership – World – TASS

LONDON, February 1. /TASS/. After 47 years of European membership, the United Kingdom officially withdrew from the European Union at 23:00 GMT (2:00 Moscow time on Saturday).

The withdrawal, known as Brexit, was initiated after Britons voted to quit the European Union during the 2016 referendum. The margin was 1.3 million votes (52% versus 48%).

Thousands of Brexit supporters celebrated the withdrawal by gathering in downtown London. Brexiteers have gathered in Parliament Square to celebrate the historic moment, chanting and waving flags. Governmental buildings were illuminated with national flag colors – blue, red and white.

An hour before this turning point in the UK’s political history, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, an ardent Brexit supporter, delivered his address to the nation.

Flag removed

Earlier in the day, the flag of the United Kingdom has been removed from the building of the EU Council. The video of the flag being removed was released via the Council’s official Twitter shortly before midnight.

“The UK flag is removed from the EU Council building in Brussels as the country leaves the EU at midnight,” the EU Council said in a Twitter post.

Premier’s speech

After quitting the European Union, the United Kingdom will finally “rediscover muscles that we have not used for decades,” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a televised address to the nation shortly before Brexit.

“For all its strengths and for all its admirable qualities, the EU has evolved over 50 years in a direction that no longer suits this country. And that is a judgment that you, the people, have now confirmed at the polls,” Johnson said.

“I believe that with every month that goes by we will grow in confidence not just at home but abroad,” he continued. “And in our diplomacy, in our fight against climate change, in our campaigns for human rights or female education or free trade we will rediscover muscles that we have not used for decades.”

According to the premier, in order to achieve those ambitious tasks, the country needs to overcome the differences, generated by the Brexit issue.

“Tonight we are leaving the European Union. For many people this is an astonishing moment of hope, a moment they thought would never come. And there are many of course who feel a sense of anxiety and loss. And then of course there is a third group – perhaps the biggest – who had started to worry that the whole political wrangle would never come to an end,” he said.

The premier went on to say that finding a common ground for all political and social groups was his cabinet’s task.

“I understand all those feelings, and our job as the government – my job – is to bring this country together now and take us forward,” he said. “And the most important thing to say tonight is that this is not an end but a beginning. This is the moment when the dawn breaks and the curtain goes up on a new act in our great national drama.”

Johnson expressed hope that constructive dialogue with the European Union would continue.

“We want this to be the beginning of a new era of friendly cooperation between the EU and an energetic Britain,” he said.

After January 31, the UK and the EU enter a transition period meant to maintain the existing state of affairs, particularly on trade and tariffs, while the two sides are negotiating a deal on future trading relations. The transition period is scheduled to end on December 31, 2020. London is also obliged to continue paying membership fees to the EU budget until the end of 2020.

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