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Pope Names 13 New Cardinals, Includes WDC Archbishop Gregory 

Pope Francis on Sunday named 13 new cardinals, including Washington D.C. Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who would become the first Black U.S. prelate to earn the coveted red hat.In a surprise announcement from his studio window to faithful standing below in St. Peter’s Square, Francis said the churchmen would be elevated to a cardinal’s rank in a ceremony on Nov. 28.Other new cardinals include an Italian who is the long-time papal preacher at the Vatican, the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, a Franciscan friar; the Kigali, Rwanda, Archbishop Antoine Kambanda; the Capiz, Philippines, Archbishop Jose Feurte Advincula, and the Santiago, Chile, Archbishop Celestino Aos Braco. Another Franciscan who was tapped is Friar Mauro Gambetti, in charge of the Sacred Convent in Assisi. The pope, when elected in 2013, chose St. Francis of Assisi as his namesake saint. Earlier this month, the pontiff journeyed to that hill town in Umbria to sign an encyclical, or important church teaching document, about brotherhood.In a reflection of the pope’s stress on helping those in need, Francis also named the former director of the Rome Catholic charity, Caritas, the Rev. Enrico Feroci, to be a cardinal.Wilton, 73, was picked by Francis to lead the prestigious diocese in the U.S. capital last year. The prelate has his pulse on factions in the U.S. Catholic Church, which has both strong conservative and liberal veins since he served three times as the head of the U.S. Conference of Bishops.Nine of the new cardinals are younger than 80, and thus eligible to elect the next pontiff in a secret conclave. Some cardinals head powerful Vatican offices, and pontiffs frequently turn to cardinals for advice.No details were immediately given by the Vatican about the concistory, as the formal ceremony to make the churchmen cardinals is known, especially in view of travel restrictions involving many countries during the COVID-19 pandemic.As he has in other groups of cardinals he tapped in his papacy, Francis in this selection reflected the global nature of the Catholic Church and his flock of 1.2 billion Catholics.Others named cardinals include a Maltese prelate, Monsignor Mario Grech; Monsignor Marcello Semeraro, an Italian serving as prefect of the Vatican office which runs the saint-making process; Bishop Cornelius Sim, a Brunei native who serves as apostolic vicar of Brunei; the Italian archbishop of Siena and nearby towns in Tuscany, Augusto Lojudice; the retired bishop of San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, Monsignor Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel; and an Italian former Vatican diplomat, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi.Churchmen over 80 who are named cardinals are chosen to honor their life of service to the church. Those in this batch too old to vote in a conclave are Cantalamessa, Tomasi, Feroci and Arizmendi Esquivel. 

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Italy Further Tightens Closures as Coronavirus Infections Surge 

With the number of daily new infections from the coronavirus now close to 20,000, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Sunday announced new closures set to take effect on Monday. He is tightening restrictions nationwide for the next month despite street protests in Rome and Naples over curfews.  Concerns over the fast-rising numbers in new daily infections from the coronavirus have brought a rapid tightening of measures by the Italian government. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte signed a new decree announcing the new closures that would take effect across the country starting at midnight.  Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte wearing a protective face mask gestures as he speaks during a news conference on government’s new anti-COVID-19 measures, at Chigi Palace in Rome, Oct. 25, 2020.Conte said the analysis of the epidemiological curve shows a rapid increase with the consequence that across nearly the entire country, the spread of the contagion and the stress on the health system have reached concerning levels. The government has ordered bars, cafes and restaurants to stop serving at 6 p.m. local time. At restaurants, only four customers will be allowed to sit at the same table unless they live under the same roof. Seventy-five percent of lessons for high school students will be online but younger children will continue to be able to attend their classes in person. Gyms, swimming pools, spas, cinemas, theaters and gaming halls will be shuttered as will ski resorts. There will be no more fairs and gatherings for weddings and other such events. Local police officers check that stores are closed in a shopping center in Milan, after the Lombardy region imposed a stop to non-essential economic activities and people’s movements between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m, in Milan, Oct. 24, 2020.The latest decree also encourages members of the public not to leave home unless they have to go to work, school, or venture out for health or other strictly necessary reasons. The government says smart working must take place as much as possible and families should also avoid hosting people at home. As the number of people going into intensive care units also rises, Prime Minister Conte has been trying to avoid a new national lockdown, aware of the further damage it would cause to the Italian economy, already suffering from last-year’s two-month-long lockdown. He says every effort is needed to halt the rapid resurgence of the virus responsible for the COVID-19 disease. Conte said everything possible must be done to protect both health and the economy. For the past couple of days and before the new closures were announced, Italy witnessed street protests in Naples and Rome, indicating that despite the concerns over the rising number of infections, there is general discontent in the nation and fears that this pandemic is far from under control.      

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Top Aide to US Vice President Pence Tests Positive for Coronavirus

A close aide to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has tested positive for COVID-19, a spokesperson for the office said late Saturday.“Today, Marc Short, chief of staff to the vice president, tested positive for COVID-19, began quarantine and assisting in the contact tracing process,” Devin O’Malley said, adding that Pence and his wife, Karen, tested negative Saturday and were in good health.Pence “will maintain his schedule in accordance with the CDC guidelines for essential personnel,” O’Malley said. On Sunday the vice president is to address a campaign rally in North Carolina.Asked about Short when he returned to Washington Saturday evening, after rallies in three U.S. states, President Donald Trump said, “I did hear about it just now. I think he’s quarantining. I did hear about that. He’s going to be fine. But he’s quarantining.”

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UN Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons Worldwide Ratified

An international treaty to ban nuclear weapons has been ratified by 50 United Nations member countries, the world body said Saturday.With Honduras being the 50th nation to ratify it, the historic document enters into force in 90 days, on Jan. 22.In a statement U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres commended the efforts of the 50 countries and of civil society’s anti-nuclear activists for such “instrumental work.”The treaty is the culmination of a worldwide movement “to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons,” Guterres said in the statement issued by U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, adding it “is a tribute to the survivors of nuclear explosions and tests, many of whom advocated for this treaty.”The movement had been strongly opposed by the United States and other major nuclear powers.The treaty “represents a meaningful commitment towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons, which remains the highest disarmament priority of the United Nations,” Dujarric quoted Guterres as stating.The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross saluted the treaty, saying in a statement “today is a victory for humanity, and a promise of a safer future.”Since the 75th anniversary of the nuclear attacks on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in August, several countries, including Nigeria, Malaysia, Ireland, Malta and Tuvalu, have ratified the treaty.

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Greece Court Orders Neo-Nazi Leaders to Jail

The leader and founder of Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party has turned himself in after a court ordered him and other senior members of the party to serve more than 13 years in prison for acting as a criminal organization under the guise of a political party.It is a historic decision bound to have ramifications for other far-right parties across Europe.However, as a three-member criminal court here ordered the leaders of the far-right Golden Dawn party to immediately serve out their prison sentences, many of them emerged defiant.Nikos Michaloliakos, the leader of Golden Dawn, emerged from his home, vowing to quickly return.“We will be vindicated!” he shouted. “I am proud to be taken to jail for my ideas, and we will be vindicated by history and the Greek people,” he said.Michaloliakos and six other leading members of Golden Dawn were former members of the Greek parliament. One continues to hold a seat in the European Parliament.They were convicted earlier this month and sentenced to more than 13 years in prison for leading a violent, decade-long campaign that targeted anyone who was on the political left and not Greek.Despite their conviction, the defendants battled in court for days seeking to win some sort of leniency or suspended sentences that would allow them to serve their sentences at home. Even the court’s prosecutor recommended the neo-Nazis be kept out of jail on the grounds that they had had no prior criminal record.After repeated delays and days of deliberation, though, the judge, Maria Lepenioti, ordered the entire leadership to serve out their sentences behind bars, insisting the order take immediate effect.Police have already started rounding up Golden Dawn’s leaders. They are all expected to appeal their convictions.After the five-year trial, prosecution attorneys such as Kostas Papadakis emerged elated, punching the air in victory.This decision is historic, he said, because it debunks the mystique surrounding Golden Dawn.With a symbol similar to a swastika, and stiff-arm salutes in praise of Adolf Hitler, Golden Dawn is a neo-Nazi party that emerged from obscurity, gaining surprising prominence during Greece’s grim economic crisis.The party went from winning fewer than 20,000 votes in the 2009 general election to more than 7% of the vote and winning 21 parliamentary seats within three years.It retained that hold through 2019, with 18 lawmakers in Greece’s Parliament.No outright fascist party in Europe managed to make such gains in general elections for years.What made Golden Dawn different, and potentially more dangerous than all other Nazi groupings in Europe, was that in public many of its members professed respectable politics and community service that put Greeks first.Many of its members helped escort young women, protecting them at night across the country’s crime-infested capital. They came to the aid of senior citizens and brought food and clothes to many of those in need, including the tens of thousands of Greeks who had lost their jobs to the financial crisis.But they were also seen as the kind of Nazis read about in history books, all driven by profound racism and an admiration for Adolf Hitler, his extremist rhetoric, the torchlit flag-waving rallies, the endless recruitment of young men and the operation of violent hit squads that frequently roamed the streets of the country, targeting immigrants, communist trade unionists, gay people and an antifascist rapper.It was this deadly attack in 2013 against Pavlos Fyssas that finally forced authorities to crack down on the violent group and send its leaders to jail.It remains unclear whether the party can and will remain operative. It is also unclear whether the end of Golden Dawn will stamp out far-right extremism and racist attitudes still strong within Greek society.

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‘Murder Hornet’ Nest Vacuumed Out of Washington Tree

A team of entomologists in full-body protective gear vacuumed Asian giant hornets out of a tree in Washington state on Saturday, eradicating the first nest of the so-called murder hornets found in the United States.The state’s agricultural department said it had spent weeks searching for and trapping the hornets, which attack honeybee hives and could pose a threat to humans, because they can sting repeatedly with venom that is stronger than a honeybee’s.The state’s entomologists succeeded by attaching radio trackers to three hornets they had trapped earlier in the week, one of which they followed to the nest, located in a tree near Blaine, Washington, on Thursday.They returned on Saturday to make the extraction.”Got ’em. Vacuumed out several #AsianGiantHornets from a tree cavity near Blaine this morning,” the agriculture department said on Twitter, adding that more details would be provided at a news conference on Monday.The stinging hornet, the world’s largest, can grow as large as 6.4 centimeters in length and is native to Southeast Asia, China and Taiwan. It was first discovered in the United States in December by a homeowner in Blaine.Aside from the danger to humans, the hornet presents a threat to agriculture and the apiary industry, officials have said, because it is a known predator of honeybees, with a few of the hornets capable of wiping out an entire hive in hours.

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Agencies: Belarus and Russia Will Respond to External Threats, Lukashenko Tells Pompeo

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko told U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a phone call on Saturday that Belarus and Russia were ready to respond jointly to external threats, Russian agencies quoted Belarus state media as saying.Lukashenko, who is holding on to power despite major protests in recent weeks calling for him to resign, is facing the prospect of a national strike that could begin on Monday following an ultimatum set by opposition leaders.Lukashenko has shown no sign he will heed the ultimatum and step down. Protests against his 26-year rule began following an Aug. 9 election victory his opponents say was rigged.Lukashenko had sought to mend fences with the West in recent years and Pompeo had traveled to Belarus in February in a bid to “normalize” ties. But the crisis after the disputed election pushed Lukashenko back closer to traditional ally Russia.A U.S. State Department spokesperson confirmed Pompeo’s call on Saturday. “The Secretary called for the full release and immediate departure from Belarus of wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Vitali Shkliarov and reaffirmed U.S. support for the democratic aspirations of the people of Belarus,” the spokesperson said in a statement.Washington has imposed sanctions on Belarus officials following violent crackdowns at demonstrations in Minsk and across the country.Protesters shouting slogans and waving red-and-white opposition flags marched through the streets of Minsk on Saturday, footage taken by local media showed.”Russia does not interfere in the internal affairs of Belarus. At the same time, the countries are ready to jointly respond to emerging external threats,” Russia’s Interfax news agency cited Belarus state television as saying, describing the call.”By mutual opinion, after Pompeo’s February visit to Minsk, the situation has changed dramatically, new challenges have arisen and are emerging,” Interfax cited Belarusian state television as saying.

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Europe, US Watch COVID Case Totals Grow, Debate New Restrictions

Confirmed coronavirus infections continued to soar Saturday in many parts of the U.S. and Europe. In some cases, so did anger over the restrictions governments put in place to try to stem the tide.Oklahoma, Illinois, New Mexico and Michigan were among states announcing new record highs in daily confirmed cases Saturday, a day after a nationwide daily record of more than 83,000 reported infections, according to Johns Hopkins University.Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s chief medical executive, said it’s “now more important than ever that people take this seriously.” The 3,338 new COVID-19 cases in her state topped the old record by more than 1,300.German authorities reported a record one-day total of new coronavirus cases this weekend while leaders in Spain and Italy debated how to control the resurgent virus amid public pushback to curfews despite a global death toll topping 1.1 million.In Italy, officials huddled with regional authorities on Saturday to determine what new restrictions could be imposed as confirmed cases surpassed half a million.Premier Giuseppe Conte has said he doesn’t want to put Italy under severe lockdown again, as he did at the pandemic’s start. In past days, several governors ordered overnight curfews in their regions to stop people from congregating at night outside bars and other venues.One such curfew fueled anger in Naples, triggering a violent clash by protesters with police. Italian media said protesters hurled rocks, pieces of broken ceramic tiles and smoke bombs at police while they battled back with tear gas. Elsewhere in Europe, police in Warsaw, Poland, used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse protesters angry over new virus restrictions, and anti-lockdown demonstrators gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square.Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese on Saturday branded the Naples protests “unacceptable” and said prosecutors were investigating.According to Health Ministry figures, Italy’s one-day new caseload of confirmed infections crept closer to 20,000 on Saturday, a slightly bigger daily increase than Friday. The nation’s confirmed death toll, second-highest in Europe after Britain’s, rose to 37,210 after 151 more deaths.Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez plans to meet with his Cabinet on Sunday morning in Madrid to prepare a new state of emergency, a strategy used twice since the start of the pandemic.The first in March ordered strict home confinement across the nation, closed stores, and recruited private industry for the national public health fight. The second went into effect two weeks ago, focused on transit limits in the Madrid area.In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel urged citizens again to reduce their number of social contacts as the nation recorded a new daily high for infections.The 14,714 cases reported on Saturday includes cases from both Friday and Thursday because of a three-hour data outage at the country’s disease control agency Thursday. Forty-nine more people died, bringing the overall death toll past 10,000.The chancellor said in her weekly podcast “if we all obey (to social distancing) we will all together survive this enormous challenge posed by the virus.”Other European countries have tightened restrictions hoping to cope with their own rising case counts.Slovenia closed down hotels, shopping malls and other nonessential shops as authorities reported a record high of both new daily infections and deaths in the small country of 2 million people. Greece unveiled a mask requirement and a mandatory nightly curfew for Athens and other areas deemed high risk.In South America, Colombia became the eighth country to reach 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases on Saturday, according to the Colombian Ministry of Health. Two of the others are also in Latin America: Argentina, which hit that mark on Monday, and Brazil, which has more than 5 million confirmed cases.In the U.S., the virus has claimed about 240,000 lives, according to the COVID-19 Dashboard published by Johns Hopkins. The total U.S. caseload reported Friday was 83,757, topping the 77,362 cases reported on July 16.Many rural communities are bearing the brunt. In Columbia, Tennessee, Maury Regional Medical Center said Friday it was suspending elective surgical procedures that require an overnight stay for two weeks, beginning on Monday. The Daily Herald reported that it was treating 50 COVID-19 inpatients, 20 of whom were in the medical center’s 26-bed intensive care unit.Martin Chaney, Maury Regional’s chief medical officer, said small home gatherings have become the emerging threat through which the disease is being spread in the six-county region the medical center covers.”In our homes, we all let our guard down,” Chaney said. “You think it is safe to not socially distance, and you take your masks off. That is spreading the disease very rapidly.”