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Republicans warned of ‘blue wave’ after liberal wins Wisconsin court race

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MADISON, Wis. — Liberal judge Rebecca Dallet’s runaway victory in a Wisconsin Supreme Court race cheered Democrats eager for more evidence their party is ready for a winning fall in midterm elections.

And Dallet’s hammering of conservative judge Michael Screnock on Tuesday prodded Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who had endorsed Screnock, to warn his fellow Republicans that more losses could be coming.

“Tonight’s results show we are at risk of a #BlueWave in WI,” Walker, who is up for re-election in November, tweeted. “Big government special interests flooded Wisconsin with distorted facts & misinformation. Next, they’ll target me and work to undo our bold reforms.”

President Donald Trump won the state by less than 1 percentage point in 2016, while Dallet thumped Screnock by double digits.

Dallet won by nearly 12 points with unofficial results nearly complete.

Although the race was viewed by some as a bellwether, results of past Supreme Court elections have not consistently proven to be predictive of what will happen in November.

Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairwoman Martha Laning said the win was a warning shot to Walker, calling it a “huge loss” for him because his “endorsement, philosophy and politics were on the ballot.”

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One of the Democratic challengers to Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin, immediately tried to raise money off the Dallet win. Randy Bryce called the result “a rallying cry for working folks.”

Dallet’s victory follows a surprising Democratic win in January in a special election for a state Senate seat held by Republicans for 17 years — an outcome that Walker said then was a “wake-up call” for his party.

Two other special legislative elections are coming this June, giving Democrats more chances to build momentum heading into the fall.

The race for a 10-year seat on the court was nonpartisan in name only, with millions in ad spending and public endorsements from the likes of Joe Biden, Eric Holder and the National Rifle Association.

Dallet said her victory, which Democrats quickly seized on as another sign of momentum, was a rejection of special interest influence on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court.

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“The candidate with the most experience in our courts and standing up for the fairness of our courts won,” she said. “I think people are tired of what’s been going on in our state in terms of the money coming in to buy these elections and people spoke out tonight.”

Screnock said he was proud of his campaign, in the face of “tremendous outside influence from liberal special interest groups that were willing to say and spend anything to elect their preferred candidate to the bench.”

Screnock, a Sauk County circuit judge, was endorsed by Walker and backed by about $400,000 from the state GOP.

Dallet’s victory narrows conservative control of the court from 5-2 to 4-3. She also will become the sixth woman on the court. And it’s the first time a liberal candidate has won a race for an open seat on the court since 1995. The court has been a reliable ally of Walker and Republicans who have controlled the governor’s office and Legislature since 2011.

Dallet, 48, has been a Milwaukee County circuit judge since 2008 and previously worked 11 years as a prosecutor. She will join the court in August.

Screnock, 48, was appointed judge by Walker in 2015. Before that he was part of a team that defended Walker’s Act 10 law that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers.

Both candidates argued the other couldn’t be trusted to serve as an independent voice on the state’s highest court because of the partisans supporting their campaigns.

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Kabul: Imam among 12 worshippers killed in Afghanistan mosque bombing during Friday prayers | World News

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A bomb ripped through a mosque in Kabul during Friday prayers, killing 12 worshippers including the imam, Afghan police have said.

A further 15 people were wounded – including at least one child according to eye witnesses – in the explosion which happened in Shakar Dara district, in the north of the capital.

The imam, named as Mofti Noman, may have been a target, an initial police investigation suggests, said Afghan police spokesman Ferdaws Faramarz.

The bombing happened on the second of a three-day ceasefire announced by the Taliban to mark the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr.

Journalists filming and taking pictures in the aftermath of the explosion Pic: AP
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It is the latest in a surge in violence as US and NATO troops begin their final withdrawal from the war-torn country. Pic: AP

The Afghan government also agreed to abide by the truce.

No one has immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing.

But it is the latest in a surge in violence as US and NATO troops begin their final withdrawal from the war-torn country, after two decades of conflict.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid condemned the mosque attack and denied any insurgent connection.

Security personnel arrive at the explosion site in Kabul Pic: AP
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Security personnel arrive at the explosion site in Kabul. Pic: AP
A witness inspects debris from the explosion Pic: AP
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No one has immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing. Pic: AP

He accused Afghanistan‘s intelligence agency of being responsible for the blast.

One worshipper, Muhibullah Sahebzada, said he had just arrived at the building when the explosion happened.

He told of how he heard children screaming as smoke filled the mosque and described seeing several bodies on the floor.

It appeared that an explosive device was hidden inside the pulpit at the front of the mosque, Mr Sahebzada said.

People gather at the scene of the explosion in Shakar Dara district Pic: AP
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People gather at the scene of the explosion in Shakar Dara district. Pic: AP
A man holds a blood-stained turban and cap after the explosion Pic: AP
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A man holds a blood-stained turban and cap after the explosion. Pic: AP

“I was afraid of a second explosion so I came immediately to my home,” he added.

It comes just days after a powerful car bomb attack claimed dozens of lives including many students.

The Taliban has denied involvement and condemned the attack.

Earlier this week, US troops left their southern Kandahar air base, where some NATO forces still remain.

More than 30,000 American soldiers were stationed in the region, the Taliban heartland, during the peak of the war.

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COVID-19: The three days in April that may have fuelled UK outbreak of Indian coronavirus variant | UK News

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If the new Indian variant does install itself as the main variant of COVID-19 in this country; if it does lead to more cases and in turn more deaths – and both of those remain big ifs – the question of how this happened is likely to focus on three days in April.

And the spotlight will likely fall not just on the scientists advising the prime minister, but on Boris Johnson himself.

For the decision to delay putting India on the red list of countries, from which travel is heavily limited, and the decision to implement this not immediately but with a gap of just over three days – during which thousands of travellers from India entered the country amid a surge of demand for flights – happened in the shadow of one of the biggest of all political and economic stories of recent decades: Brexit.

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Boris Johnson had been determined to visit India and seal a trade deal

One of the overarching ambitions of this country since leaving the European Union and ending the transition period at the end of last year, has been to seal as many trade deals as possible with as many of the world’s leading economies.

With the arrival of Joe Biden in the White House, ambitions of agreeing a trade deal with the US any time soon were scaled back (the working ambition is now “at some point before the US mid-term elections”) and attention swung to other major economies.

India has long been a promising target for those at the Department for International Trade.

It is not just former colonial ties which make it attractive: Indian companies are now among the biggest investors in the UK and Britain has something of a trump card in these talks: visas.

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How concerning is Indian COVID variant?

The Indian government has often sought to increase the number of visas available to Indian citizens to travel, work and study in the UK. Any travel restrictions remain a sore point. There are other low-hanging fruit too, including a long-standing dispute over Scotch whisky which the EU’s negotiators have failed to resolve in recent years.

Sealing a deal, even a provisional one, with one of the world’s fastest growing and dynamic economies, has long been a goal for the prime minister.

The fact that he might be able to declare victory in the battle over Scotch, and the tantalising prospect of agreeing a deal before the EU – which is also in parallel trade discussions with India – only added to the allure.

All of which is why Mr Johnson had been so determined to make India the destination for his first major foreign visit as prime minister. The trip had originally been slated for January, but was delayed as the UK faced a sharp increase in COVID cases.

It was rearranged for late April, with Mr Johnson due to fly out for meetings and negotiations on April 25.

The working plan was that Mr Johnson would be able to announce that early discussions were now under way about a deal – and that formal negotiations would begin in the autumn. There would be talk of more visas for Indian migrants and of resolving the long-standing impasse on Scotch.

A woman receives oxygen support for free outside a Sikh temple in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, India
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People have been forced to desperately source their own oxygen during India’s COVID surge

It was to be one of the early “wins” for the PM as he sought to underline the economic opportunities that lay outside the EU.

Yet as the date of the visit approached, the epidemiological data coming out of the Indian subcontinent began to deteriorate. Cases of COVID-19 had been rising fast throughout March, causing concern amid the global public health community.

Data on cases and deaths in India has never been as reliable as the numbers in Europe, with many epidemiologists suspecting vast undercounting of infections and deaths both last year and this. But even this likely undercounted data had begun to show a significant uptick in cases by late March.

By 2 April there was enough disquiet that the UK added the two countries neighbouring India on its east and west, Pakistan and Bangladesh, to its “red list”. Foreign travellers from countries on the list cannot travel to this country; UK and Irish citizens and residents can enter, but must stay in a government-assigned hotel for a 10 day quarantine period.

The goal of this policy is to prevent the entry to the country of any dangerous variants of the disease – and the South African and Brazilian variants were known to be circulating in these countries.

Yet even as Bangladesh and Pakistan were added to the red list (the implementation took place on 9 April), questions were being asked about why India was not joining them.

In early April there were stories about the country’s cemeteries being overwhelmed. In the days following 2 April the number of new cases of COVID-19 rose beyond an average of 100,000 a day, and then over 200,000 a day. Still India remained off the red list.

It is at this period that the UK started to detect an influx of positive COVID-19 cases from India. According to data from Public Health England, of the 3,345 people arriving from India between 25 March and 7 April, 4.8% tested positive for COVID-19. At that stage, the percentage of people in England with COVID-19 was 0.1%.

It was also at this stage that Public Health England began to pick up arrivals of three Indian variants around the UK.

In particular, the most worrying of all those variants, B1.617.2, which is the variant which is spreading most quickly and has now claimed at least four lives, was first detected in tests carried out on travellers arriving from India on the week ending 29 March.

According to PHE data, at least 122 passengers arriving from Delhi and Mumbai between late March and 26 April were carrying this variant, now designated a “variant of concern”. All but a handful of these travellers would have been allowed, under the rules then in place, to leave the airport and travel home, where they were asked to self-isolate.

Even as cases of the new variant were arriving in the UK, concern was growing in Whitehall about why India had still been left off the red list. There is little publicly released data or methodology on most of these decisions, which are technically in the hands of the Joint Biosecurity Centre.

It says it considers a variety of factors, including the prevalence of the disease in given countries and the quality of the infrastructure there. During this period many in the epidemiological community voiced concern about the omission. Some wondered why the government was taking so long.

Two weeks on from the decision to put Pakistan and Bangladesh on the list, there came an answer of sorts.

On the morning of 19 April, Downing Street announced that the prime minister’s trip to India was cancelled. A few hours after news of the cancellation of the prime ministerial visit, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons that India would also be added to the red list.

By then – the afternoon of 19 April – the daily number of new cases in India had surpassed a quarter of a million. Within a couple of days the official numbers – themselves widely believed to be an undercount of reality – would mean this was officially the biggest outbreak in any country during the entire pandemic.

However, the UK’s decision to place India on the red list was not immediate. Instead, three full days and nights would go by before it would be implemented.

These delays are not unusual during the short history of COVID travel restrictions. Invariably when a country is added to the list it is given a period of time – often up to a week – for travellers to make the necessary plans in advance.

However, there is nothing to stop ministers imposing these restrictions far sooner. Indeed, when the hotel quarantine scheme was first announced, Downing Street briefed journalists that countries could be added to the list “at a few hours’ notice”. That did not happen with India.

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23 April: Travellers from India rush back to UK

In the following three days demand for flights between India and the UK shot through the roof.

Travel website Skyscanner reported a 250% leap in searches for flights from India to the UK. There are typically 30 such flights a week.

In those days, four airlines requested to operate an extra eight flights from India due to the surge in demand ahead of the implementation of the hotel quarantine. The requests were turned down, but thousands of passengers nonetheless travelled into the UK.

Even before this three-day period, the proportion of cases of B 1.617.2 imported from India had been on the rise. But between 4 April and 2 May, this variant rose from 4.9% of all cases detected among travellers, to 40.9%.

The single biggest increase in these weekly numbers was the week which included the three and a half days between the afternoon of 19 April and the early morning of 23 April.

It is worth underlining that it is still much too early to say whether the B 1.617.2 will indeed change the course of the pandemic in the UK. It is certainly spreading faster than any other variant of concern since the famous Kent variant which established itself as the dominant strain of the virus in the winter.

However it remains a small fraction of the total of cases, which are themselves small in comparison with recent months.

People line up outside a mobile vaccination centre, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Bolton, Britain, May 13, 2021. REUTERS/Phil Noble
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Surge testing is under way in towns where the variant has taken hold

As of 5 May, the percentage of people in England with any variant of COVID-19 had dropped to just 0.07%, the lowest level since early September, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. Hospitalisations, deaths and case numbers remain low.

However, cases are growing fast in a few areas where the Indian variant seems to have established itself, including Bolton, Blackburn and Leicester. By contrast, a cluster of cases in London seems to be under control.

It is too early to tell whether this presages the beginning of another spread throughout the country.

However, one factor is decisively different from the winter or indeed last year: the majority of UK citizens have now received a first dose of a vaccine, and the early evidence suggests, tentatively, that these vaccines provide adequate protection against this new variant.

Outside of India, there are few countries other than the UK that have quite so many confirmed cases of B1.617.2 – though this may owe itself partly to the fact that this country carries out more gene sequencing than any other country.

Even so, if the Indian variant establishes itself as the dominant strain in the UK, jeopardising the sacrifices and suffering during a third period of lockdown, the prime minister will come under increased scrutiny to answer why the decision was left so late to impose restrictions on travel from India, why travellers were given an extra three and a half days to come to the UK and why the rationale on which country is on or off these travel lists remains so murky.

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Israel-Gaza violence: Six Palestinians killed by Israeli army in the West Bank amid protests over violence | World News

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Six Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli army in the West Bank in a new wave of violence between the two sides.

Five were killed after protesters started throwing stones at Israeli troops, while the sixth was shot after ramming his car into a military post and then trying to stab a soldier, officials said.

Most of the deaths occurred after live fire by troops, they added.

Separately, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said seven had been killed and more than 500 injured throughout the territory.

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A Palestinian demonstrator hurls back a tear gas canister fired by Israeli forces in the West Bank

Dr Mustafa Barghouti, an independent Palestinian politician, told Sky News 60 similar protests were taking place across the West Bank on Friday.

Speaking in Ramallah, he described this week’s fighting as a “really unprecedented uprising” and said those killed were “just participating in protest and demonstrations”.

It comes after five days of airstrikes and rocket fire between Israel and Hamas that continued heavily through Friday.

Pic: AP
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Palestinian protesters throw tyres to block Israeli soldiers near Ramallah. Pic: AP
Pic: AP
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An Israeli bulldozer storms through roadblocks set up by protesters in the West Bank. Pic: AP

Key developments:

  • 122 Palestinians have died, including 31 children and 20 women, 900 people have been injured
  • Eight Israelis have died, including two children and a soldier
  • Israeli forces assembled 9,000 troops along the Gaza border, as well as infiltrating Hamas tunnels
  • Lebanon fired three rockets towards Israel into the Mediterranean Sea in a show of solidarity to Palestinians
  • Hamas have fired thousands of rockets into Israel, with hundreds falling short and landing in Gaza
  • Israel launched its heaviest bombardment yet on Friday, destroying buildings in Gaza City
  • Mob fighting continued between Arabs and Jews in ‘mixed’ Israeli towns, with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin describing it as “senseless civil war”

Amid the widespread West Bank protests, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) fired warning shots at a group of demonstrators who had crossed the border from Lebanon to take part in the rallies.

The army said that the group of youths damaged the border fence and set fire to the area before fleeing back to the Lebanese side.

One person was injured in the incident according to Al-Manar TV, which is run by Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group.

Israeli soldiers assemble with their tanks at the Gaza border
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Israeli soldiers assemble with their tanks at the Gaza border

Lebanon had fired three rockets towards Israel late on Thursday, in an apparent show of solidarity to the Palestinians in the occupied territories, but they landed in the Mediterranean Sea and caused no damage.

On Friday, a pre-dawn offensive saw Israeli forces use tanks, artillery units and 160 aircraft to unleash its heaviest attack on Gaza so far.

Smoke and flames rise during an Israeli air strike, amid a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence, in Gaza City May 14, 2021. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
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Date: 14/05/2021 15:58
Dimensions: 2348 x 1565
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Category: I
Topic Codes: POL MEAST VIO
Fixture Identifier: RC2QFN900F8K
Byline: MOHAMMED SALEM
City: GAZA CITY
Country Name: Palestinian Territories
Country Code: PSE
OTR: GAZ
Credit: REUTERS
Source: REUTERS
Caption Writer: SAL/
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An explosion after an Israeli airstrike on Gaza City
Israel insists that only militants in Gaza are targeted
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Buildings obliterated in Gaza City
The Israeli city of Lod was targeted in overnight strikes.
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The Israeli city of Lod after widespread rioting

A military spokesman said it was focusing on underground tunnels, which they believe are used by Hamas militants.

Hamas and smaller Palestinian terror group Islamic Jihad, continued to launch rockets from the strip into Israel on Friday.

Dr Barghouti told Sky News correspondent Mark Stone in Ramallah that “Hamas and others are saying they are ready immediately for a ceasefire, but Israel is refusing”.

In a video statement on Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “I said we would extract a heavy price from Hamas.

“We are doing that, and we will continue to do that with heavy force.”

Hamas military spokesman Abu Obeida said the group was not afraid of an Israeli ground invasion, which would be a chance “to increase our catch” of Israeli soldiers.

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Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti told Sky News Palestinians have been protesting against Israel’s ‘system of discrimination and oppression’

Despite Egyptian and other international attempts at mediation, fighting is also ongoing in ‘mixed’ Israeli towns where Arabs and Jews live side-by-side.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin described the rioting as “senseless civil war”.

French President Emmanuel Macron has also spoken to Mr Netanyahu urging a return to peace in the region.

Security sources said neither side appeared to be backing down, but a Palestinian official claimed negotiations intensified on Friday.

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