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Chemical watchdog confirms novichok poisoned Sergei Skripal

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Independent chemical weapons scientists have confirmed that “high purity” novichok was used in the attempted murder of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

Tests carried out by experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) showed the nerve agent was found in environmental samples collected in Salisbury.

Blood tests also revealed that the chemical was found in blood samples taken from the Skripals and Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, the police officer who first attended the scene.

The report from the OPCW says the chemical was “high purity” with a complete absence of contaminants.

Foreign secretary Boris Johnson called the results “conclusive”.

“There can be no doubt what was used and there remains no alternative explanation about who was responsible – only Russia has the means, motive and record,” he said.

The tests were carried out by four independent laboratories affiliated with OPCW and samples were transported under a “full chain of custody”, the report said.

It did not name novichok directly but said: “The results of the analysis by the OPCW designated laboratories of environmental and biomedical samples collected by the OPCW team confirms the findings of the United Kingdom relating to the identity of the toxic chemical that was used in Salisbury and severely injured three people.”

Tests by military experts at the Porton Down laboratories in Wiltshire found that novichok, one of a group of deadly chemical compounds developed by the Soviet government in the 1970s and 1980s, was responsible for the poisoning.

Russia has strongly denied involvement in the Skripal’s poisoning and challenged the UK assessment that novichok was to blame.

The OPCW was tasked with identifying the chemical, not with attributing its origin or ascertaining blame for the poisoning.

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Jacob Blake: Children of man shot by police scream whenever they see a patrol car | US News

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The family of Jacob Blake, the man shot seven times by US officers in front of his children, has told Sky News how the traumatised youngsters scream in fear at the sight of a police car.

Jacob Blake Snr said: “It’s burning their little minds. One of them, who’s eight – his question constantly is: ‘Papa, why did they shoot my dad so many times?’

“And I say: ‘Son, they shouldn’t have shot your daddy at all’.”

Jacob Blake has released a video from his hospital bed after being shot by police on 23 August. Pic: @AttorneyCrump/ Twitter
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Jacob Blake was shot by police on 23 August. Pic: @AttorneyCrump/ Twitter

“We were on the highway going to my daughter’s house and he saw a police car and he just started screaming,” he added.

“I said: ‘What is going on in the backseat?’ And his older brother said he saw a police car.”

Jacob Blake Jnr remains in hospital, paralysed from the waist down.

He was shot by officer Rusten Sheskey after police were called to an address in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

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Flares go off in front of a Kenosha Country Sheriff Vehicle as demonstrators take part in a protest following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, U.S. August 25, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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Demonstrators take part in a protest following the shooting

His father said he learned his son had been shot after receiving a phone call and, shortly afterwards, he watched video of the shooting which had been posted on the internet.

He said: “Seeing the man pull my son, his shirt.

“Continuing to fire when he had his shirt in his hand. When he began to shoot, he kept shooting.

“Because one shot, you’re like ‘okay well he was overzealous. Two shots, you start wondering. By the third shot you know he’s trying to kill him.”



Shooting







Video shows moments before shooting

Jacob’s sister Letetra Widman added: “I just couldn’t believe what I was watching on the video because I’ve seen it so many times but it was my blood brother that it happened to.

“I am angry and disgusted and anybody who isn’t angry, to some degree, or disgusted by the actions that they gave in that video – you need to examine yourself, examine your heart.”

Officer Rusten Sheskey has been placed on administrative leave Pic: Kenosha Police Department
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Officer Rusten Sheskey has been placed on administrative leave Pic: Kenosha Police Department

“I almost feel guilty that Jacob is getting so much attention,” she added.

“I’ve learned so many names of so many other people that has this has happened to, and they didn’t get so much attention. So it’s a bittersweet feeling because I’m glad that there’s an opportunity to speak out about it.”

The family also revealed that the incident on 23 August is not the only time Jacob Blake survived a multiple shooting.

In July 2016, he was shot three times as the victim of an attempted robbery.

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Coronavirus: ‘Fragile generation’ being hit as Marseille doctors deal with ‘alarming’ second wave | World News

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Go to any hospital in the southern French city of Marseille and you will see the impact a second wave of COVID-19 is having.

Intensive care units are either full or about to reach saturation. More bed capacity is desperately needed but staffing is an issue.

Hospitals here have issued an urgent appeal for doctors, nurses and laboratory technicians from across France to come to Marseille to help.

A man wearing a face mask walks on a pier on the Vieux-Port of Marseille
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The city of Marseille is experiencing a second wave of COVID-19

This is the scenario the UK is desperate to avoid.

At the Laveran Military Hospital, doctors fear a return to the situation earlier this year when the health service was overwhelmed by the numbers.

The hospital takes in civilian patients and most ICU beds are now occupied by people with COVID-19. The hospital has turned over an entire ward to less seriously ill COVID patients.

Doctor Pierre-Yves walks along the line of doors to ICU bedrooms, pointing and saying: “That one, that one, that one.”

These are the rooms where patients with the virus are kept isolated from others.

Protective garments are required before we can enter one, and inside Dr Pierre-Yves tells me this is a seriously ill 79-year-old woman.

She is a diabetic who contracted COVID over the summer – it is thought at a family party.

She has been placed on her stomach to help her breathing.

ICU care is both professionally and logistically challenging, and Dr Pierre-Yves tells me if those who flout social distancing rules in the city could come to the hospital and see what was happening it would open their eyes.

Most ICU beds in Laveran hospital are now occupied by people with COVID-19
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Most ICU beds in Laveran hospital are now occupied by people with COVID-19

This is a potentially deadly illness, he says, and it is time everyone finally starts to take it seriously.

The number of coronavirus cases has been rising day on day for the last month here in Marseille, leading to tougher restrictions for its citizens.

Private meetings are limited to 10 people, bars and restaurants must close just after midnight and face masks are now a requirement in public spaces.

And yet watch people passing along the port side and you will see many who have decided to forego face masks. Many are young – the age group being blamed here for sowing the seeds of what is the rapid spread of COVID.

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Sebastien Debeaumont, deputy director of the Regional Health Services, tells me the current situation is “difficult, alarming and serious”.

Like officials in other European cities, he points the finger at young people socialising in recent months for the virus now heading in the wrong direction.

He says over that period it was mostly people between the ages of 20 and 40 who were affected, with few symptoms and few consequences, but they have mingled with older family members.

He added: “Now, that age group is less affected than earlier in the summer and now it’s the older, more fragile generation that is being hit.

“And it’s these people we are seeing in the ICU and in hospital. The challenge is to make the younger generation understand that they have a responsibility to themselves and above all to others.”

Those who repeatedly flout the rules on face coverings and social gatherings in Marseille could now face fines of thousands of euros and several months in prison.

A man wearing a face mask walks in front of a graffiti in Marseille
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A man wearing a face mask walks in front of a graffiti in Marseille

But Mr Debeaumont is simply hoping people take their personal role in fighting COVID seriously and he has a message for the UK government and citizens if a second major wave is to be avoided.

“The lesson to be learnt from the first wave here is that, above all not to wait, and to take measures and find a balance between acceptable measures for all that are efficient,” he said.

“Wear a mask, wash hands and allow distance. It’s not something our culture is used to, but it needs to be factored into our lives whilst this virus is active.”

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Botswana: Deaths of more than 300 elephants caused by bacteria in water | World News

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Bacteria found in water is believed to have caused the deaths of more than 300 elephants in Botswana.

Scientists fear toxins being produced by tiny organisms in water and soil could be occurring more frequently due to climate change driving up temperatures.

The dead elephants were found in Okavango Delta, Botswana
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The dead elephants were found in Okavango Delta, Botswana

However, they admit there are still “many questions” which need answering because other animals in the same areas as the elephants appear to have been unharmed.

In July, it was revealed 281 elephants had mysteriously died in Okavango Delta, Botswana – but that figure has now risen to 330.

It comes as investigations continue into the deaths of 25 elephants in Zimbabwe who are also thought to have died from bacterial infections.

Veterinary officer Mmadi Reuben, of Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks, said: “Our latest tests have detected cyanobacterial neurotoxins to be the cause of deaths. These are bacteria found in water.

“However, we have many questions still to be answered such as why the elephants only and why that area only? We have a number of hypotheses we are investigating.”

Some cyanobacterial blooms are the most powerful natural poisons known, posing serious health risks for people and animals.

Scientists are increasingly concerned about their potential impact as climate change leads to warmer water temperatures, which allows most cyanobacteria to form.

Patricia Glibert, a professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, has studied cyanobacteria and said: “It amounts to having the right conditions, in the right time, in the right place and these species will proliferate.

Botswana elephant
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Climate change could increase the risk of water infections for animals, including elephants

“These conditions are coming together more often, in more places, so we are seeing more of these toxic blooms around the world.”

In neighbouring Zimbabwe, the carcasses of about 25 elephants were found near water sources.

The animals still had their tusks, ruling out poaching and deliberate poisoning. It is believed the elephants could have ingested the bacteria while searching for food.

Africa’s elephant population is declining due to poaching, but Botswana has seen its numbers grow to around 130,000.

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