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Still teaching at 95, Jimmy Carter draws devotees to church…


PLAINS, Ga. (AP) — The pilgrims arrive early and from all over, gathering hours before daybreak in an old pecan grove that surrounds a country church. They come, they say, for a dose of simple decency and devotion wrapped up in a Bible lesson.

The teacher is the 39th president of the United States, Jimmy Carter.

Nearly four decades after he left office and despite a body that’s failing after 95 years, the nation’s oldest-ever ex-president still teaches Sunday school roughly twice a month at Maranatha Baptist Church in his tiny hometown of Plains in southwest Georgia. His message is unfailingly about Jesus, not himself.

The church has only 30 or so members, but as many as 450 people attend any week Carter teaches. About 200 people fill the sanctuary, with pale-green walls and stained glass windows, and others gather in side rooms where the lesson is shown on TVs.

It’s nearly impossible to separate even an ex-president from politics, and some come because they’re Democrats who recall voting for Carter when he was elected in 1976. Almost uniformly, they’re dismayed by the tone of President Donald Trump and his Republican administration.

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But Trump has only been in office since 2017 and Carter has been drawing crowds for years. Those who attended Carter’s most recent lesson on Nov. 3 said they just wanted to be in the presence of someone who seems kind, humble and godly despite having been a world leader.

“He’s a role model and an inspiration for both of us both in public service and in faith,” said visitor Doug Kluth. He and his wife Ramona drove 2,400 miles (3,862 kilometers) round trip from their home in Columbus, Nebraska, to see Carter in person.

John and Sarah Dyer packed their four daughters, ages 2 through 12, into their Honda Pilot for the 1,700-mile (2,736-kilometer) round trip to Plains from suburban Chicago.

“To see a man who was once on top of the world choose to spend his twilight years lifting the world higher was inspirational to my family and I,” John Dyer wrote to the church’s pastor in a letter shared with The Associated Press.

Carter faced mockery for his Southern Baptist faith in 1976 when he said in a Playboy magazine interview that he was guilty of adultery in his heart because he lusted after women. The soul-baring sentiment paralleled Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount, but it came across as odd and narrow-minded to many.

These days, with a twice-divorced president who curses in public and once said he’d never asked God for forgiveness, Carter’s approach to life — with his wife of 73 years, Rosalynn, by his side — seems especially appealing to fans.

They say they admire Carter’s work to eradicate disease and monitor elections worldwide; the time he has spent helping build homes as a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity; and his advocacy for food programs and rural health care in his home county. Many were touched by photos of a bruised-but-smiling Carter performing volunteer work after he fell and hit his head in October.

So they flock to Plains any week Maranatha Baptist posts on its website or Facebook page that Carter plans to teach.

Fray and Susan Carter of Russellville, Alabama, slept overnight in their car in the church parking lot to get a front-row view as Carter taught on his first Sunday back after falling and breaking his pelvis in October.

As recently as last year Carter would stand during his 45-minute lesson, but he now uses an electric lift chair at the front of the sanctuary as a concession to age. He breaks into that familiar smile when he raises the seat so he can see the crowd over a wooden lectern. A cross made by Carter, a longtime woodworker, adorns the choir loft. He also made the wooden offering plates, which bear his initials on the bottom.

Carter’s lesson this day was on his belief in life after death. He ended the same way he always does, by challenging class members to do one nice thing for somebody over the next month.

“That’s what I think would make America a better country. It would make you a better person, right? And a better Christian,” Carter said. “Well, that’s the essence of my Sunday school lesson. Not anything fancy to it. Just some personal things to think about.”

Visitors that day included people from multiple U.S. states plus Venezuela and Ecuador. Rarely a week goes by without someone from overseas in the crowd, said the Rev. Tony Lowden, Carter’s pastor.

The church was formed in 1977 from a split when another church refused to accept blacks as members. Lowden was hired in March as Maranatha’s first black pastor. On any given Sunday, Lowden said, the congregation is a “mix of everything.”

“It’s a melting pot of people who are looking for faith and looking for something that they can believe in,” Lowden said. After a cancer diagnosis in 2015 and three falls this year, it’s unclear how much longer Carter can continue to teach, but Lowden said he’s welcome as long as he’s able.

The crowd on the first Sunday in November included Chet Mulholland, an evangelical Christian from Wisconsin, and Joey and Sabrina Fretwell, faithful churchgoers from conservative Mississippi in the heart of the Deep South. The couple’s daughter attended a Trump rally in Tupelo, Mississippi, just two days before they drove to Plains to see Carter.

Sabrina Fretwell, 46, doesn’t really remember Carter’s presidency, but she recalls hours spent listening to her grandparents talk about Carter when she was a girl. That’s one reason she wanted to see the former president, she said, to somehow honor that time.

“I remember that warm feeling of sitting and listening to their conversations, and not being old enough to grab what they were talking about but knowing it was still important to them and knowing they admired the things he was doing,” she said.

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Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through the Religion News Foundation. The AP is solely responsible for this content.



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My Socialist Hell: Living in Post-Electricity Venezuela…


CARACAS – Venezuela has always had trouble maintaining a functional power grid. I lived in the city of Punto Fijo from 1992 to 1996, blackouts were occasional back then. But those woes of times past are nothing compared to the catastrophic collapse of our power grid that started almost a decade ago.

Twenty years of Bolivarian Revolution bought about glaring mismanagement and underinvestment in our power grid. Our electric sector was nationalized in 2007, which – you guessed it – is when the power tribulations truly began to plague Venezuelans.

Experts have warned for years of the imminent collapse. Some states, such as Zulia, my birth state, have been suffering a gruesome power rationing for years.

The much-anticipated collapse finally happened on March 7, 2019.

The entire country was thrown into the Middle Ages in a snap. I went thirty hours without power. It returned to my area for approximately twelve hours. Then I was met with another thirty-hour blackout.

As expected, Maduro blamed the incident on America. He hasn’t offered an official explanation beyond stating that it was an “Electronic coup” and a “cyber attack.”

Caracas felt like a ghost town. You couldn’t hear a single thing, not even gunfire and car alarms — quintessential sounds that one often hears through the night. It was as if we were all collectively going through a bizarre mass solitary confinement.

Water distribution was disrupted, people desperately sought for it, even in sewer drains. Telecommunications, as well – we were essentially disconnected from the world. We couldn’t even access our money since the banking network was offline. In Zulia, all hell broke loose.

After the longest blackout in Venezuelan history, power continues to be erratic. The power had scarcely recovered before a second series of long blackouts hit the country towards the end of March. Power, internet, and cellphone reception continue to be unstable. The blackouts and brownouts are constantly interrupting my ability to write this article right now.

If you’re curious, here’s the convoluted power rationing schedule. Caracas was exempt from rationing due to “military demands.”

This new calamity that has befallen us is far from over. Maduro recently announced that power will be rationed for thirty days. Judging by past experiences, this 30-day plan will likely morph into 60, then 90, then 120.

I might as well get ready for it to become a quasi-permanent reality, like the water rationing that we’re still going through.

For the longest time, Caracas had to deal with neither power blackouts nor water shortages, its prerogative as the nation’s seat of power. It has now been over three years since we had running water 24/7.

People draw water from a spring water tank to be used in their toilets, at Petare neighborhood in Caracas on April 1, 2019. - Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro announced 30 days of electricity rationing Sunday, after his government said it was shortening the working day and keeping schools closed due to blackouts. (Photo by Federico Parra / AFP) (Photo credit should read FEDERICO PARRA/AFP via Getty Images)

People draw water from a spring water tank to be used in their toilets, at Petare neighborhood in Caracas on April 1, 2019. - Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro announced 30 days of electricity rationing Sunday, after his government said it was shortening the working day and keeping schools closed due to blackouts. (Photo by Federico Parra / AFP) (Photo credit should read FEDERICO PARRA/AFP via Getty Images)

People draw water from a spring water tank to be used in their toilets, at Petare neighborhood in Caracas on April 1, 2019. (FEDERICO PARRA/AFP via Getty Images)

The government attributed the initial rationing to a draught period that has long passed, a weak attempt to mask a service clearly in a shoddy state of management and disrepair. Like everything else, even the lies produced by socialism are low-quality. As for the quality of the water (when it does finally appear!), that leaves much to be desired as well, which is why I always implore people that if they have to visit Venezuela, they shouldn’t drink tap water under any circumstances.

Like the power failures, instead of fixing the water distribution problems, the regime came up with an overly complicated water ration schedule, so complex that they don’t even follow it themselves.

According to that schedule, we should get water five days a week, some days during the morning, others during the night. Want to take bets on whether that’s true?

For the past three years, the area I live in only gets running water from Wednesday evening until early Sunday morning; sometimes it doesn’t arrive until Thursday or even Friday, but you can surely be certain that it’ll be gone before noon on Sunday.

The rest of the days we go by the building’s small water tank. It’s not a large one so we have to use it sparingly: only two hours per day. My biological clock is now based around our water rations.

I need to be ready before 8 p.m. because that’s when we have exactly one hour to use the toilet, shower, refill buckets, and do dishes.

There have been several times when we’ve run out of water. When that happens, we have to rely on the even smaller tank that’s meant for fire emergencies.

A knack for puzzle-solving and boundless creativity are invaluable perks in my limited skillset arsenal, perks that I’ve had to constantly employ to survive in whatever is left of this country. One of my ‘intelligent’ solutions to our water woes involves placing a bucket at the end of my air conditioner’s water pipe, slowly filling it overnight until – voilà! — an extra toilet flush that refills itself.

Following the severe shortages that started in March 2019, I’ve extended this wonder of Venezuelan engineering to the second air conditioner in our house, so now there are two buckets: up to four self-refilling toilet flushes now!

If three years of rigorous water rationing wasn’t enough, the collapse of our power grid made it all worse.

I am writing this paragraph amidst a widespread water shortage. The nation’s water pumps can’t function without power, and they require lots of it. The constant blackouts have disrupted their startup process as well — which complicates things.

TOPSHOT - A woman holds a placard reading "We Want Water and Electricity" as she shouts slogans during a protest for the lack of water and electric service during a new power outage in Venezuela, at Fuerzas Armadas Avenue in Caracas on March 31, 2019. - Living conditions are plummeting in the oil-producing Latin American nation, which is spiralling ever deeper into economic chaos during a protracted political crisis. (Photo by Federico PARRA / AFP) (Photo credit should read FEDERICO PARRA/AFP via Getty Images)

A woman holds a placard reading “We Want Water and Electricity” as she shouts slogans during a protest for the lack of water and electric service during a new power outage in Venezuela, at Fuerzas Armadas Avenue in Caracas on March 31, 2019. (FEDERICO PARRA/AFP via Getty Images)

We went from the early hours of March 24 to April 5 without water, stretching our reserves to the best of our ability. I never wanted a shower more badly than during those days.

The inevitable collapse of our power grid in March 2019 dialed the problems up to eleven and as a result, water distribution has been extremely erratic. Throughout the year, we’ve suffered through several days without water, sometimes over a week. Nowadays, we’re lucky if we get more than 36-48 hours of water per week. The excuses have been as absurd as it gets, from simple “low pressure issues” to “we haven’t been authorized to open the valves for that region yet.”

Power has become relatively stable in Caracas, with sporadic blackouts and fluctuations in power here and there – this is the capital, after all, the seat of power of this Socialist Revolution, and it must be kept afloat at all costs. Things are even direr and more inhumane outside this city’s borders; my father tells me that he only gets water for two days — every three months.

Daily blackouts that can last eighteen hours or more continue to plague other regions of the country with no end in sight. These public utilities woes have long since become part our daily bread and butter (well, it’s not like you can get those with ease every day here, but you get my point). It’s all been so tiresome and exasperating.

Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.



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George Conway Dares 'Weak and Scared' Trump to Testify…


George Conway, a prolific conservative critic of President Donald Trump, dared POTUS on Sunday to testify in the impeachment inquiry.

“Are you afraid, as you were with Mueller, that your stable genius couldn’t withstand cross-examination under oath?” Conway wrote in a tweet. “If the call with Zelensky was so ‘perfect,’ what’s there to be afraid of? Why are you so weak and scared?”

He is, incidentally, husband to Senior Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway. (Yeah, the optics on this relationship are…interesting.) Anyway, Trump faces an impeachment inquiry after asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and son Hunter Biden. POTUS allegedly did this as a quid pro quo for military aid. In other words, the president allegedly misused his office for personal ends.

He has denied wrongdoing. A memo of the July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky has been called a transcript, but it states that it is not a verbatim retelling of the conversation.

The president and his allies have taken to telling people to “read the transcript.”

[Image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]



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Republican moderate breaks with party over identifying whistleblower…


Some allies of President Donald Trump have agitated for the whistleblower, whose complaint this summer sparked the series of events leading to the ongoing impeachment inquiry, to come forward publicly, arguing the president deserves the chance to confront his accuser. They also argue the identity of the whistleblower is necessary to ascertain whether they have any political bias against the president, though the inspector general for the intelligence community found that despite an “arguable” bias, the whistleblower was still credible.

The whistleblower is on a list of witnesses Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee want to see testify this week and submitted to Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) this weekend, though Schiff has veto power over those requests and shut that notion down late Saturday.

While Republicans have clamored for the whistleblower’s public testimony, arguing that most of what the complaint contained is hearsay, nearly every accusation in the complaint has been independently confirmed over weeks of closed-door testimony from Trump administration officials.

Right-wing media outlets have been circulating a name they claim is the whistleblower’s, prompting an outcry from lawyers representing the whistleblower and concerns about the whistleblower’s safety.

But while Hurd strayed from his party in calling for the continued protection of the whistleblower’s identity, he echoed their calls for another potential witness whose appearance Schiff suggested he would deny: Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden whose foreign business interests were at the root of Trump’s Ukraine pressure campaign.

“I would love to hear from Hunter Biden, I would love to hear from other Americans that served on the board of Burisma,” Hurd said, referring to the Ukrainian natural gas company that Biden sat on the board of. “I’m curious to know of someone who doesn’t have any experience in Ukraine nor experience in a natural gas company comes on board of a natural gas company in Ukraine.

“We also need to hear and understand the corruption. We know corruption in the Ukraine is an issue,” Hurd continued, pointing to the testimony of numerous State Department officials. Trump and his allies, in a crusade led by Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, have asserted that Hunter Biden was hired by Burisma in 2015, while his father served as the U.S. point person on corruption in Ukraine, because of his family ties. There is no evidence indicating Hunter Biden had any influence on U.S. policy because of his position.

Schiff swatted down this request from Republicans on Saturday, saying the impeachment inquiries “will not serve, however, as a vehicle to undertake the same sham investigations into the Bidens or 2016 that the President pressed Ukraine to conduct for his personal political benefit.”



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NOTHING WAS DONE WRONG!


Washington (AFP) – Donald Trump faces the prospect of becoming only the third US president to be impeached when open hearings begin this week into his alleged effort to bolster his re-election hopes by pushing Ukraine to find dirt on a Democratic rival.

Having survived special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Trump now faces potential removal from office for pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden, a leading candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Democrats have amassed evidence — from a whistleblower complaint to the rough transcript of Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky and testimony from a dozen witnesses — that the president abused his office by withholding aid and a requested White House meeting to force Zelensky into helping his personal political agenda.

“This is a very simple, straightforward act. The president broke the law,” Democratic Representative Jackie Speier said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” program.

“This is a very strong case of bribery, because you have an elected official, the president, demanding action of a foreign country, in this case… and he is withholding aid,” said Speier.

The hearings begin on Wednesday in the House Intelligence Committee, with the first witnesses two officials who have already provided evidence against Trump in private testimony: Bill Taylor, the top American diplomat in Ukraine, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent.

– Risks for both sides –

On Sunday, Trump repeated his charge that the investigation is a “witch hunt” and that he did nothing wrong.

“The call to the Ukrainian President was PERFECT. Read the Transcript!” he tweeted.

“Republicans, don’t be led into the fools trap of saying it was not perfect, but is not impeachable. No, it is much stronger than that. NOTHING WAS DONE WRONG!”

But Democrats say the evidence against him is strong.

Once the coming Intelligence Committee hearings are complete, the Judiciary Committee can draw up articles of impeachment, or formal charges, against Trump.

Those would then be voted on by the full House of Representatives, reportedly before the end of the year.

Impeachment would likely pass the Democratic-controlled House. The case would then be sent for trial in the Senate, where Republicans dominate and support for Trump remains firm.

Coming just one year before national elections, and broadcast live, the impeachment hearings carry great risks for both parties and no certain reward, with the US electorate deeply divided and weary of Washington infighting.

Polls show a slim majority of Americans favor impeaching the president. But they also show that Trump’s sizable voter base, which delivered his shock victory in 2016, is so far impervious to the allegations.

Republicans who disapprove of Trump’s behavior suggest they will continue to support him.

“I believe it’s inappropriate for a president to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival,” Republican Representative Mac Thornberry said Sunday on ABC’s “This week.”

“I don’t believe it was impeachable,” he said.

“Most Republicans have said that would be a violation of the law,” another Republican lawmaker, Will Hurd, told “Fox News Sunday.”

However, he said, they “have to truly consider whether impeachment is the right tool or not.”

– Fiery hearings expected –

The hearings are likely to be fiery, with Republicans determined to paint witnesses as biased against Trump.

They are prepared to disrupt testimony and shift the subject to the allegations Trump raised with Zelensky: that Biden protected his son Hunter’s allegedly corrupt relationship with a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, and that Ukraine helped Democrats in the 2016 race.

No evidence has surfaced to support either claim, but transcripts from earlier testimony show Republicans pressing witnesses on both counts.

In closed-door testimony, the Intelligence Committee chairman, Adam Schiff, a veteran prosecutor, proved able to fend off disruptions and maintain a focus on the allegations against Trump.

But that could change in front of a national television audience. Republicans are moving one of their wiliest and most agile counter-attackers, Jim Jordan, to the committee to joust with Schiff over control of the narrative.

On Saturday, Republicans said they want to call a number of witnesses relevant not to the charges against Trump, but to Burisma and 2016, including Hunter Biden.

Schiff made clear he will use his power as committee chairman to reject them.

“This inquiry is not, and will not serve… as a vehicle to undertake the same sham investigations into the Bidens or 2016 that the president pressed Ukraine to conduct for his personal political benefit,” he said in a statement Saturday.

Republicans will also stress that Democrats have sparse direct evidence of abuse of power by Trump.

Snubbing House subpoenas, the White House, citing Trump’s executive privilege, blocked his top aides from testifying, and has withheld documents related to Ukraine policy.

That has the executive and legislative branches in a constitutional showdown over their relative powers, with Schiff threatening to add obstruction to the impeachment charges against Trump.



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BAD HEALTH: KAISER PERMANENTE CEO dies unexpectedly at 60…


FILE PHOTO: Bernard J. Tyson, Chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, speaks at the 2019 Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., April 29, 2019. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

(Reuters) – Bernard J. Tyson, chairman and chief executive officer of not-for-profit health insurer Kaiser Permanente, died unexpectedly in his sleep on Sunday, aged 60, the company said in a statement.

Tyson, who held the top job since 2013, was Oakland, California-based Kaiser Permanente’s first black chief executive and a strong proponent for affordable and accessible healthcare.

The company did not give a cause of death. A company spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A day earlier on Saturday, the San Francisco native took to Twitter to post about “high-tech and high-touch” healthcare.

Tyson was described by colleagues in a company statement as “an outstanding leader, visionary and champion for high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans.”

Kaiser’s annual operating revenue as of June was nearly $80 billion, up from about $53 billion in 2013 when Tyson took over as CEO, according to the company’s website.

The company, which serves more than 12 million people across the United States and was founded in 1945, named Gregory Adams, executive vice president, as interim chairman and CEO.

Reporting by Melissa Fares in New York; editing by Richard Pullin

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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Hong Kong police shoot two pro-democracy protesters…


A Hong Kong police officer shot a masked protester at point blank range in a shocking skirmish broadcast on Facebook Live on Monday morning.

The outbreak of violence happened at a blockaded junction in Sai Wan Ho during rush hour as a police officer attempted to arrest a masked man during a wild scuffle in the city’s 24th straight weekend of pro-democracy demonstrations.

Footage showed the policeman drawing his sidearm as a second man moved towards the officer in an attempt to liberate his comrade.

The protester appeared to take a swipe at the officer’s pistol and just moments later he opened fire, hitting the masked demonstrator in the torso.

As shrieks pierced the air, other demonstrators rushed at the officer who quickly fired another two rounds.

The masked demonstrator he had originally tried to collar broke free in the struggle but another man went to ground as the shots were fired. 

Police could later be seen detaining the two men on the ground. The first man had a pool of blood next to him, his body limp and his eyes wide open as officers moved him around and tried to tie his hands.

The second man was conscious and talking.

A Hong Kong police officer (pictured opening fire) shot at masked protesters on Monday morning - hitting at least one in the torso - during clashes broadcast live on Facebook

A Hong Kong police officer (pictured opening fire) shot at masked protesters on Monday morning – hitting at least one in the torso – during clashes broadcast live on Facebook

Police could later be seen detaining the two men on the ground. The first man (face blurred) had a pool of blood next to him, his body limp as officers moved him around and apparently tried to tie his hands, while the second man was conscious and talking

Police could later be seen detaining the two men on the ground. The first man (face blurred) had a pool of blood next to him, his body limp as officers moved him around and apparently tried to tie his hands, while the second man was conscious and talking

Police officers detaining the two protesters in the aftermath, the man who was shot in the torso appeared to be unconscious

Police officers detaining the two protesters in the aftermath, the man who was shot in the torso appeared to be unconscious

The demonstrator is bent double after being shot as the police officer continues to scuffle with the policeman, his hand over his face

The demonstrator is bent double after being shot as the police officer continues to scuffle with the policeman, his hand over his face

The police officer fires two more rounds, the man in the white hooded jumper has broken free (centre), another man falls to the ground (left), while the man shot in the midriff appears to be in agony on the road

The police officer fires two more rounds, the man in the white hooded jumper has broken free (centre), another man falls to the ground (left), while the man shot in the midriff appears to be in agony on the road

The officer first gets hold of a masked man in a white hooded top, this man later escapes but not before the policeman shoots one of his comrades who attempts to liberate him

The officer first gets hold of a masked man in a white hooded top, this man later escapes but not before the policeman shoots one of his comrades who attempts to liberate him

The black-clad masked man who will, within a split second be shot in the torso, rushes towards the police officer as he tries to free the man he is detaining

The black-clad masked man who will, within a split second be shot in the torso, rushes towards the police officer as he tries to free the man he is detaining

Further footage on social media showed a police motorbike attempting to ram black-clad protesters in a running battle through the streets.

Other officers chased them off with batons while the motorbike sped dangerously towards the demonstrators, appearing to be totally out of control. 

A police source, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed to AFP that live rounds were fired at more than one protester in Sai Wan Ho and that a statement would be issued.

Police said in a statement radical protesters had set up barricades at multiple locations across the city and warned the demonstrators to ‘stop their illegal acts immediately’.

The police officers can be seen detaining the men on the ground, it is not clear from the footage whether the conscious man had been shot

The police officers can be seen detaining the men on the ground, it is not clear from the footage whether the conscious man had been shot

They did not comment immediately on the apparent shooting.

Services on some train and subway lines were disrupted early on Monday, with riot police deployed near stations and shopping malls. Many universities cancelled classes on Monday and there were long traffic jams in some areas.

Activists blocked roads and trashed shopping malls across Hong Kong’s New Territories and Kowloon peninsula on Sunday during a 24th straight weekend of anti-government unrest. 

Tensions have soared in recent days following the death on Friday of a 22-year-old student who succumbed to injuries sustained from a fall in the vicinity of a police clearance operation the weekend before. 

Protesters block roads in Wong Tai Sin district, as they call for a general strike, in Hong Kong on Monday morning

Protesters block roads in Wong Tai Sin district, as they call for a general strike, in Hong Kong on Monday morning

Police officers direct residents as pro-democracy protesters block major roads in Hong Kong on Monday morning

Police officers direct residents as pro-democracy protesters block major roads in Hong Kong on Monday morning

A traffic jam is seen as roads are blocked by pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong

A traffic jam is seen as roads are blocked by pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong

Protesters set up barricades to block a road in Wong Tai Sin on Monday

Protesters set up barricades to block a road in Wong Tai Sin on Monday

The city has seen four days of consecutive protests since the student’s death as well as tens of thousands attending mass vigils.

Using online messaging forums, activists had called for a general strike on Monday morning.

Flashmob protests sprung up in multiple districts during the morning commuter period, with small groups of masked protesters targeting subway stations and building barricades on road junctions.

Even before the shooting in Sai Wan Ho, tear gas had been fired in at least two other locations. 

A view of graffiti at Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong on Monday

A view of graffiti at Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong on Monday

People react after a tear gas canister fired by police lands amongst them during a standoff with protesters and residents in the Tsuen Wan district of the New Territories in Hong Kong on Sunday night

People react after a tear gas canister fired by police lands amongst them during a standoff with protesters and residents in the Tsuen Wan district of the New Territories in Hong Kong on Sunday night

Monday’s shooting is the third time protesters have been shot with live rounds by police. 

On 1 October a student was struck in the chest as he and a group of activists attacked an officer with sticks and poles. He survived his wound and is being prosecuted.

Days later a 14-year-old boy was shot in the leg when a policeman in plainclothes fired his gun after his car was attacked by a crowd. He also survived and was arrested. 



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FINGERPRINT TEST CAN TELL IF SOMEONE HAS USED DRUGS, EVEN AFTER WASHING HANDS…


Advanced technology that can tell whether a person has used heroin even if they wash their hands could help police identify drug users and dealers.

A forensic test developed by scientists in the UK is able to distinguish between those who have taken the Class A drug or unintentionally come into contact with it by shaking hands with someone else who has handled it.

Researchers from the University of Surrey were able to build the tool using fingerprint samples from 10 patients seeking treatment at a drug rehabilitation clinic who had used heroin or cocaine in the previous 24 hours.

Participants were asked to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water before putting on disposable gloves for ten minutes to make their hands sweat and provide another fingerprint sample.

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The same process was carried out with 50 volunteers who declared themselves as non-drug users, allowing scientists to differentiate between substances from each group.

“Our team here at the University of Surrey believes that the technology we are developing will make our communities safer and shorten the route for those who need help to beat their addictions,” said Dr Melanie Bailey, co-author of the paper published in The Journal of Analytical Toxicology.

“We also believe the technology has scope in other areas, such as confirming whether a patient is taking their medication.”

Fellow researcher Catia Costa added: “Our results have shown that this non-invasive and innovative technology is sensitive enough to identify Class A drugs in several scenarios – even after people have washed their hands using varying methods.

“Crucially, our study shows that the process of hand washing is important when trying to assess whether someone has used a Class A drug.”

The team has previously applied similar technology to uncover signs of cocaine use.

In August, the National Crime Agency made the largest ever seizure of heroin in Felixstowe, nearly 1.3 tonnes with a street value of more than £120 million.



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AOC and Bernie Star in Their Own Iowa Buddy Movie…


Ocasio-Cortez’s star power was put to the test in Middle America this weekend — and she and Sanders drew thousands of excited fans to three stops across Iowa. Audience members donned purple shirts emblazoned with the Bronx congresswoman’s name and shouted “I love you!” to her.

The raucous crowds demonstrated that Ocasio-Cortez can boost excitement and win media attention for Sanders’ campaign in the early-voting states, even if she comes with the downside of turning off some moderate voters. All three stops this weekend were larger than any Sanders had previously held in Iowa this year, bringing between 2,000 and 2,400 people each, according to the campaign. Sanders aides said the Council Bluffs rally drew more people than any other presidential campaign event in the state in 2019.

“Some campaigns struggle to make 1,000 face-to-face contacts in a week,” boasted Misty Rebik, Sanders’ Iowa state director. “We just tripled that in 24 hours.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s reception in the first-in-the-nation caucus state also fueled hopes among her supporters that she will run for president herself in the not-so-distant future.

Sanders’ aides worked to convert the excited rally-goers into dedicated volunteers and caucus-goers, passing around volunteer sign-up sheets at each stop this weekend. The campaign told POLITICO that it registered more than 3,000 new volunteers at the events as well as about 500 people to help out specifically on the night of the caucuses.

Sanders’ team believes that Ocasio-Cortez’s endorsement will excite the base and turn out young and progressive Democrats. But some of Sanders’ aides and allies hope it will also persuade new voters to give him a look.

“She’s going to do both,” said Stacey Walker, Sanders’ Iowa campaign co-chair, adding that “there is a generation of young political activists that see AOC as the future of the party” and “we will see an expanded turnout among the Latino community.”

But some Democratic officials doubt that the nod by Ocasio-Cortez, a democratic socialist, will pull in new voters for Sanders. Others said it could backfire among centrist caucus-goers.

“Western Iowa isn’t exactly New York City,” said Scott Punteney, leader of the Pottawattamie County Democratic Party, in explaining concerns about Ocasio-Cortez he’s heard from other officials. “Some of her ideas might not sit well with a lot of more moderate Democrats, which is kind of what we have in the area.”

The Council Bluffs rally was about a 10-minute drive from Omaha, Nebraska, and some in the crowd said they were residents of the Cornhusker State.

In interviews with nearly 20 voters at Sanders’ events this weekend, about half said Ocasio-Cortez’s endorsement made no difference to them. But women, in particular, said it was meaningful.

“Definitely,” Diana Bolinger, a middle-aged mother, said when asked if it’s a part of her considerations about whom to support. She said she is eyeing Sanders, Buttigieg and Kamala Harris. Ocasio-Cortez is “on top of things,” Bolinger said.

Ocasio-Cortez made a pitch for Sanders that was similar to the remarks she gave at a rally with him in New York City last month. That event drew about 26,000 people, according to Sanders’ campaign, which would make it the biggest event of the cycle.

“When my parents struggled with being able to have health insurance, let alone me, Bernie was fighting for them,” Ocasio-Cortez said in Iowa. “He fought for me when I didn’t have health care as a waitress. He fought for me when I graduated with over $20,000 in student debt.”

Ocasio-Cortez also took jabs at some of Sanders’ rivals. She made a thinly veiled dig at Pete Buttigieg’s “Medicare for All Who Want It” plan, saying “we’re not going to get there with Medicare for some.” She said change comes “not through a technocratic policy proposal, but through a political revolution,” which some on social media interpreted as a contrast with Elizabeth Warren, though Ocasio-Cortez has repeatedly praised her and was initially eyeing Warren and Sanders when deciding whom to potentially endorse.

Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who are also part of the so-called “Squad,” have held well-attended rallies with Sanders in their home states. Faiz Shakir, Sanders’ campaign manager, said they will stump for Sanders in the early-voting states “soon.”

Ocasio-Cortez knocked on voters’ doors in Des Moines during her swing through Iowa. One woman promised to caucus for Sanders, while a former party leader she ran into on the street told her that Sanders was his second choice after Joe Biden.

“Having knocked a lot of doors in New York City, knocking doors in Iowa is a much nicer thing. In New York, they’re like, ‘I don’t want to change my cable. Leave me alone,’” Ocasio-Cortez joked at a rally in Coralville. “But in Iowa, you just knock on a door and people are just open for a conversation. It’s really amazing and it’s beautiful.”



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HIV on rise among older women…


HIV is on the rise among older women as they remain sexually active without using protection.

There has been a five-fold increase in women aged between 45 and 56 receiving care for HIV in the past ten years, a study has found.

 HIV is on the rise among older women as they remain sexually active without using protection

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HIV is on the rise among older women as they remain sexually active without using protectionCredit: Getty – Contributor

Experts put the increase down to the rising divorce rate and a more liberal attitude to sex in general — yet this group is often left out of HIV prevention, education and research.

People who have come out of long marriages or been through bereavement may have had unprotected sex without considering the risks.

They are also less likely to have been screened for STDs or infections picked up through an act of infidelity.

The PRIME study (Positive Transitions Through the Menopause) is one of the largest studies of HIV and ageing in women globally.

It looked at the impact of the menopause on the health and well-being of women living with the virus.

Sometimes women had difficulty distinguishing menopausal symptoms from HIV-related symptoms.

Dr Shema Tariq, who was the lead researcher said: “HIV treatment has advanced to the point where people are living long and healthy lives with HIV.

“If you look at women in particular, over the last decade we’ve seen a five-fold increase in the number of women living with HIV in their 40s and 50s.”

HIV is treated with antiretroviral medication, which works by stopping the virus replicating in the body.

This means viral loads are reduced to undetectable levels – protecting a person’s health and preventing the infection from being passed on.

What are the symptoms of HIV?

Most infected people experience a short illness, similar to flu, two to six weeks after coming into contact with HIV.

These symptoms, which 80 per cent of infected people experience, are a sign that their body is trying to fight HIV. They include:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Body rash
  • Tiredness
  • Joint and/or muscle pain
  • Swollen glands

After this illness, which normally lasts one to two weeks, HIV sufferers will have no symptoms for up to 10 years – during which time they will look and feel well.

However, the virus will continue to cause progressive damage to a person’s immune system.

Only once the immune system is already severely damaged will the person show new symptoms. These include:

  • Weight loss
  • Chronic diarrhoea
  • Night sweats
  • Skin problems
  • Recurrent infections
  • Serious, life-threatening illnesses
​Dr ​Hilary​ Jones​ explains the latest scientific breakthrough in the fight against HIV and AIDS​



 



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