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As Colombian presidential election looms, fears grow about fate of historic peace process

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Like Zapata, Cristian Madrigal, 20, an economics student in Medellín, does not trust Duque’s proposals to amend the process.

“Duque’s proposals to change the peace agreement are being influenced by Álvaro Uribe, who clearly has a hatred towards the Farc,” he said. “The deal isn’t perfect, but at least with the capture of Santrich, we know there is no impunity for the Farc.”

Duque has denied he wants to scrap the deal completely.

Rather, his campaign has sought to appease a broad section of Colombian society troubled by an agreement that could see ex-combatants escaping lengthy jail sentences.

As part of the transitional justice system, former guerrillas as well as members of the armed forces who own up to war crimes face five to eight years of “alternative sanctions”, which could include house arrest or community work.

A bill that guarantees the FARC, now a political party, five seats in each of the upper and lower houses of Congress through 2026 is also fueling opposition to peace.

“There is a complete imbalance,” Sebastián Velásquez, executive director of the Colombian Federation for Victims of the FARC (Fevcol), told NBC News. “Political participation is something that should come after prison sentences have been served.”

María Cecilia Robledo, 41, an engineer based in Medellín, agrees with this view. “I don’t really support any of the candidates, however I agree with Duque that those guilty of atrocities should pay for their crimes.”

Last month’s arrest of former FARC commander Jesús Santrich for allegedly conspiring to export tens tons of cocaine to the United States simply validated the widely held belief that the guerrillas cannot be trusted.

Patience is also wearing thin amid the sluggish pace of the peace process.

In a recent report, Notre Dame University’s Kroc Institute, which is monitoring the enforcement of the deal, said that just 17 percent of the 558 stipulations in the agreement had been fully implemented.

While the Institute praised demobilization, a lack of progress on tackling rural inequity, considered to be the root of the conflict, was “worrisome”, the report said.

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Australian Open: Quarantined British tennis star Heather Watson forced to train in hotel room | UK News

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British tennis player Heather Watson has been forced to train for the upcoming Australian Open in her hotel room, after a passenger on her plane to Melbourne tested positive for COVID-19.

The 28-year-old is among 47 players competing in the first grand slam of the year who must now quarantine for 14 days following positive coronavirus tests on two different chartered flights.

Watson shared a short video on Twitter, showing her repeatedly running between her hotel room door and window as she completed a 5km run in an attempt to keep up her training.

In a separate message she confirmed that one person on her flight from Abu Dhabi had tested positive for COVID-19 on landing, meaning that all passengers now needed to quarantine.

Sir Andy is due to fly to Australia
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Sir Andy was due to fly in the coming days but is still hoping to play in the event

Three people on another chartered flight from Los Angeles carrying 24 players also returned positive swabs upon their arrival in Melbourne. None of those who tested positive were players.

Grand slam champions Victoria Azarenka, Angelique Kerber, and Bianca Andreescu – whose coach Sylvain Bruneau revealed he was the source of one of the three positive tests – are also among those being forced to stay in their rooms.

El Salvador’s Marcelo Arevalo who was also on the LA flight shared a video showing him hitting shots against his mattress in his hotel room due to his enforced quarantine.

The world’s top players began arriving in Australia on a series of charter jets on Thursday ahead of a two-week quarantine period, during which they will be allowed out of their rooms to practice for five hours a day.

However, those players and support staff on the affected flights will now be confined to their rooms for a fortnight.

The players should be out of isolation before the week of warm-up events begins on 31 January, with the competition – which has already been pushed back three weeks – due to start on 8 February.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley has said players will be supported in any way possible, including with the delivery of exercise equipment to their rooms.

Reports have also emerged of a positive test among the cohort of top players and their practice partners who are quarantining separately in Adelaide.

Meanwhile, former world number 1 Andy Murray’s participation at the first major of the year remains in doubt after he tested positive for COVID-19.

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He had been due to fly to Australia on an official tournament flight but is now isolating at his home in Surrey.

The fact the Australian Open has been allowed to go ahead has been hugely controversial given Victoria’s strict approach to tackling coronavirus and while thousands of Australians remain stranded overseas because of a limit on numbers allowed into the country.

So far Australia has seen 909 deaths with coronavirus, while the UK has the fifth highest death rate in the world with 88, 747 deaths.

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Donald Trump like a ‘mob boss’ but he shouldn’t be prosecuted, says ex-FBI boss Comey | US News

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Donald Trump needs the same level of affirmation as a toddler – but prosecuting him would only give him the attention he craves, says former FBI chief James Comey.

Mr Comey, who was controversially fired by the president in 2017, told Sky News launching a criminal case could lead to several more years of the “Donald Trump show”.

He said it could overshadow efforts by Joe Biden to unite America and is “probably what [Trump] would want the most”.

“I have never seen an adult with a greater hunger for affirmation than Donald Trump,” he told Sky News.

“I’ve seen it in two-year-olds and three-year-olds. Affirmation is like air, he needs it constantly.

“I’d like to see some of the lights go out and he can stand on the front lawn at Mar-a-Lago and shout at cars in his bathroom and none of us will hear it.”

James Comey and Donald Trump shake hands
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Donald Trump controversially fired Mr Comey as FBI director in May 2017

As president, Mr Trump is “constitutionally immune” from prosecution – but that ends in days, raising the possibility he could in future be charged if crimes were committed before or during his term.

Mr Comey agrees, though, with this week’s historic second impeachment of the president.

“I don’t think that anybody can disagree, there has to be the letter ‘i’ tattooed on him again, and ideally I’d like to see him convicted by the US Senate and barred from ever holding public office again,” said Mr Comey.

The 60-year-old was fired by the president while the FBI was investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election – and is now a vociferous critic of Mr Trump.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump leaves after giving an economic policy speech to the Detroit Economic Club, Monday, Aug. 8, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
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Mr Trump is the ‘dictionary definition of a demagogue’, says Mr Comey

He said the outgoing president was “the dictionary definition of a demagogue”, who “aimed not just to lie to people but really to destroy the notion that the truth exists”.

“There’s a menace to him in private that you don’t pick up in public,” added Mr Comey.

“But I have felt it sitting close to him, that constantly reminded me of a mob boss because I’ve known mob bosses and helped put them in jail.

“That menace coupled with that hunger for affirmation is a really dangerous recipe.”

Donald Trump supporters storm the US Capitol
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Mr Comey says law enforcement should have seen the riot coming

Mr Trump has just a few days left before Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday – but it has not stopped politicians voting to impeach him on charges of inciting the deadly riots at the US Capitol.

The storming of the building – the heart of US democracy – on 6 January caused widespread shocked America, with Trump supporters running amok and five people left dead.

Mr Comey told Sky News the danger remains and that he is worried about the potential threat from “armed, disturbed people” on inauguration day.

Many Trump supporters believe his unsubstantiated claims of fraud in November’s election and the FBI has identified more than 200 people threatening violence in “concerning online chatter”.

Mr Comey said the danger had “to be taken very, very seriously”, and that people involved in the previous chaos must be dealt with “swiftly and severely”.

Security has been ramped up at the Capitol building ahead of Joe Biden's inauguration
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Security has been ramped up at the Capitol building ahead of the inauguration

“I’m worried because there are armed, disturbed people who are in this state of mind where they believe their country is being taken from them,” said Mr Comey.

“So it’s a threat law enforcement in the States has to take very seriously.

“At the same time, I know that we have the capability, investigative and the tactical capability on scene, to protect these locations and so I am optimistic that the threat will be neutralised, but it has to be taken very, very seriously.”

The National Guard has also been descending on Washington to guard government buildings ahead of inauguration, when officials say 21,000 will be on hand.

Police were hugely outnumbered by the Capitol rioters and have been criticised over how it easy it was for the mob to seize control.

Several National Guard members are pictured lying on the floor of the U.S. Capitol
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Some 21,000 members of the National Guard will be in Washington for the big day

Mr Comey told Sky News he was “sickened” by the violence and angry at the failure to defend the building, despite the obvious threat.

“I was angered by the apparent failure to defend a hill, it [the Capitol] sits on a hill with 2,000 officers assigned to it on a daily basis, the failure to defend the hill. It just mystifies and angers me.

“It is going to be important for our country to understand that failure.”

He added: “9/11 we were told was a failure of imagination, we didn’t anticipate the way the terrorists might come at us; this didn’t require imagination.

“This was all over the internet and the group literally walked slowly down Pennsylvania Avenue towards the Capitol so it was just a failure and we need to know why at all levels so that we don’t let it happen again.”

Mr Comey has just released a new book, Saving Justice: Truth, Transparency, and Trust, described as a “clarion call for a return to fairness and equity in the law”.

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COVID-19: US intelligence claims Wuhan lab researchers had coronavirus symptoms before first reported cases | World News

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The US says it has intelligence that researchers in a Wuhan lab became sick with COVID-19-like symptoms in autumn 2019 – before the first identified case of the outbreak. 

A new statement from the US Department of State accuses the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) of “deadly obsession with secrecy and control” and claims the Wuhan Institute of Virology had been conducting experiments with a virus genetically similar to the new coronavirus.

The first cases of the outbreak were identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan and were initially thought to have originated from a wet market.

Wuhan Institute of Virology
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The new claims centre around the Wuhan Institute of Virology

While most scientists believe the virus first transmitted naturally from animals to humans, others have raised the possibility it could have leaked accidentally from the secretive Wuhan lab.

The Trump administration has been particularly critical of China, especially since the new coronavirus outbreak.

According to the US government, researchers at the lab had been experimenting on RaTG13 – the bat coronavirus identified as the closest sample to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 – “under conditions that increased the risk for accidental and potentially unwitting exposure”.

Several researchers then fell ill with symptoms “consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses”, it claims.

However, officials admitted they did not know for sure where, when or how the virus initially transmitted to humans.

This photo taken on February 22, 2020 shows medical staff checking notes in an intensive care unit treating COVID-19 coronavirus patients at a hospital in Wuhan, in China's central Hubei province. - China on February 26 reported 52 new coronavirus deaths, the lowest figure in more than three weeks, bringing the death toll to 2,715. (Photo by STR / AFP) / China OUT (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)
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Medical staff check notes at an ICU in Wuhan

“We have not determined whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan, China,” the statement said.

“The virus could have emerged naturally from human contact with infected animals, spreading in a pattern consistent with a natural epidemic.

“Alternatively, a laboratory accident could resemble a natural outbreak if the initial exposure included only a few individuals and was compounded by asymptomatic infection.”

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Sky team stopped from investigating COVID origins

The lab has denied all claims of a leak, while China has also claimed in recent months the pandemic could have originated in another country.

The state has been accused of covering up the initial outbreak and delaying the release of crucial information which allowed the virus to spread.

It has also moved to silence some in China providing first-hand accounts of the outbreak, including doctors who shared information between each other about a new respiratory illness at the start of the epidemic.

Zhang Zhan, a citizen journalist who reported on the outbreak in Wuhan, was jailed in December for four years for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”.

A team from the World Health Organisation (WHO) has been sent to Wuhan to investigate the source of the pandemic, although there have been some concerns the trip will be heavily controlled by Chinese authorities.

 global team of scientists led by the World Health Organization arrived on Thursday (January 14) to China's central city of Wuhan, to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
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Members of the WHO team arriving in Wuhan

WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic told Sky News the team will “look into different aspects of the early days of the pandemic”.

Asked whether the team would investigate whether the virus was produced in a laboratory, he said: “We will follow wherever science leads us.

“The majority of scientists believe there is a natural origin of the virus, we know that bats are a natural reservoir of other coronaviruses, we really want to go and see and get the data.”

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