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Foreign Office boss apologises for Golden Mosque gaffe

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A top official at the Foreign Office has been forced to apologise after confusing one of the world’s most revered Sikh temples with a mosque.

Sir Simon McDonald admitted “I was wrong” after inadvertently referring to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India, as the “Golden Mosque”.

The gaffe was made on Twitter, where the Foreign Office permanent secretary referred to a picture of the spiritual building being presented to the UK’s deputy high commissioner.

Bhai Amrik Singh, chairman of the Sikh Federation, called the error “totally unacceptable”.

He said: “It demonstrates a remarkable level of ignorance from someone in his position.

“In our view, a public apology and admitting the mistake is not enough.

“What we need is a commitment from the UK Government and senior civil servants to root out such ignorance and discrimination or we will continue to face hate, abuse and threats of violence.”

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson gives evidence to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, flanked by the Foreign Office's permanent under-secretary Sir Simon McDonald and the UK's new permanent representative to the United Nations Karen Pierce, in Portcullis House, London.
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Sir Simon McDonald (left) mistakenly called the Sikh temple a mosque

Sir Simon posted a correction 10 hours after the original tweet, writing: “I was wrong: I am sorry. I should of course have said the Golden Temple or, better, Sri Harmandir Sahib.”

The mistake is particularly sensitive given the suspicions about the extent of UK involvement in the Indian Army’s 1984 raid of the Golden Temple.

It came as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn pledged to launch an independent inquiry into the assault, which is said to have left thousands of people dead.

Former prime minister David Cameron said after an investigation in 2014 that there was “absolutely no evidence” of UK government involvement in the raid.

The finding was met with “disappointment” by British Sikh groups – with the Sikh Federation saying the then cabinet secretary’s review was “limited in scope”.

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Coronavirus: Trump says 200,000 US deaths is ‘a shame’ | US News

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Donald Trump has referred to the death of 200,000 people from coronavirus in the US – the highest figure of any country in the world – as “a shame”.

The president insisted the number of Americans who had died from COVID-19 could have been far higher had it not been for the actions of his administration, without providing evidence for his claim.

Live updates on coronavirus from UK and around world

Mr Trump leaves Washington for an election rally in Pennsylvania
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Mr Trump leaves Washington for an election rally in Pennsylvania

Mr Trump had initially ignored a question from the media about the US death toll as he was leaving the White House for an election rally in Pennsylvania.

He then said: “I think it’s a shame. I think if we didn’t do it properly and do it right, you’d have 2.5 million deaths. You could have a number that would be substantially more.

“It’s a horrible thing. Should have never, ever happened.”

He also repeated his previous criticisms of China, where the coronavirus first emerged at the end of 2019.

He said: “China should have stopped it at their border. They should have never let this spread all over the world. It’s a terrible thing.”

Mr Trump has been criticised for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, having repeatedly sought to downplay the disease as it began to spread through the US.

There are continuing fears among health experts that the high level of infections in the country will make the virus more difficult to control during the winter months.

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According to Johns Hopkins University, the US has seen nearly 6.9 million cases and 200,818 deaths.

The figures account for more than 20% of the cases worldwide, despite the US having just over 4% of the world’s population.

Brazil has the second worst toll with 138,105 recorded deaths. The global figure for deaths from the coronavirus is 971,483.

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Ex-traffic cop who claims to be reincarnation of Jesus arrested in Russia | World News

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A former traffic police officer who claims to be the reincarnation of Jesus has been arrested by Russian security forces.

Prominent mystic Sergei Torop and other leaders of the Church of the Last Testament sect were held in a remote part of Siberia on Tuesday.

They are accused of “damaging their followers’ health”.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said in a statement that the religious group had used psychological pressure to extract money from its followers and caused serious harm to their health.

Sergei Torop
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The cult leader is a former traffic policeman

Torop, known to his followers as Vissarion, set up the Church of the Last Testament in the Krasnoyarsk region in 1991, the year the Soviet Union broke up.

The operation to detain him, as well as group leaders Vadim Redkin and Vladimir Vedernikov, involved the police as well as members of the Federal Security Service.

The men could face up to 12 years in jail if found guilty, the RIA news agency reported.

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Luis Suarez faces investigation after ‘cheating’ on Italian citizenship test | World News

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Police in Italy have opened an investigation after Luis Suarez, one of the most controversial players in world football, was accused of cheating on his Italian citizenship test ahead of a move to the country.

The Uruguayan, who has previously faced bans for biting opponents and making racist remarks, took the exam in Perugia last week to facilitate a transfer from Barcelona to Juventus.

But prosecutors allege the former Liverpool striker, 33, knew what was going to be in the paper and that his mark had already been decided.

Luis Suarez leaves the University for Foreigners in Perugia after taking an Italian citizenship test
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Luis Suarez leaves the University for Foreigners in Perugia after taking an Italian citizenship test

The Perugia public prosecutor’s office said in a statement: “Some irregularities have emerged in the exam of certification of Italian, sat on September 17 by Uruguayan football player Luis Alberto Suarez Diaz, needed to obtain the Italian citizenship.

“From the investigation, it emerged that the topics in the exam had been agreed in advance with the applicant and that the relative mark had been attributed even before carrying out the exam, regardless of the fact that an elementary proficiency of the Italian language had been verified during remote classes carried out by lecturers of the University for Foreigners.

Suarez (left) was handed an eight-match ban over the incident
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Luis Suarez was banned for eight matches ban for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra (R)

“Today, the Italian financial police are moving forward to capture the documents at the university offices, to verify the actions described beforehand and notify the information assurances for the crimes of revelation of professional secrecy, false representation committed by public officials in official documents and other acts.

Juventus have no places left in their squad for non-EU players, meaning Suarez had to obtain Italian citizenship to join the club.

And the proposed move appears to have fallen through, with the Italian champions now set to re-sign Alvaro Morata from Atletico Madrd.

Suarez, who has been told he can leave Barcelona, now seems set to replace Morata in the Spanish capital.

Luis Suarez battles for possession
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Luis Suarez is a Uruguayan international

Republicca reported a local official as saying on Monday: “He [Suarez} does not speak a word of Italian.

“He does not conjugate verbs, he only speaks using the infinitive. If journalists would ask him some questions, he’d be lost. He earns €10million a year, he needs to pass this exam.”

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