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More than 140,000 killed by measles last year as number of cases rises | World News



An “unprecedented global measles crisis” caused more than 140,000 deaths last year, with most of those who died under five years old, new figures reveal.

Cases of measles are continuing to rise after more than doubling in 2018 compared with the previous year, according to a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Some countries which previously had high coverage rates or had eliminated the disease are seeing “devastating measles outbreaks” due to falling vaccination rates, Unicef said.

The charity added that although children in some areas are hard to vaccinate due to conflict or a breakdown in services, in other places some parents are not vaccinating their children “due to complacency, mistrust or misinformation about vaccines.”

Parents are being urged to vaccinate their children in places where vaccines are available, including the UK, while efforts are being stepped up in countries without ready access to the jabs.

The UK lost its measles-free status in August as cases rose sharply.

In 2017, the number of laboratory-confirmed cases in England was 259, but this more than tripled to 971 in 2018.

A further 532 cases were reported in England between January and June this year.

There has been a drop in vaccination rates for all nine vaccines given to children under the age of five in England, including the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab.

Measles cases have been rising in recent years. File pic
Measles cases have been rising in recent years. File pic

A charity leader has called the issue in the UK a “ticking time bomb” and said trust needs to be built with parents.

Liam Sollis, head of policy and advocacy at Unicef UK, said: “Vaccines are the safest and most effective preventative measures against highly infectious disease, but currently too many children are being put at unnecessary risk – with half a million children in the UK unvaccinated against measles.”

However, half of measles cases reported in 2018 were from five countries – the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Madagascar, Somalia and Ukraine.

MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 21:  University of Miami pediatrician, Judith L. Schaechter, M.D., gives an HPV vaccination to a 13-year-old girl in her office at the Miller School of Medicine on September 21, 2011 in Miami, Florida. The vaccine for human papillomavirus, or HPV, is given to prevent a sexually transmitted infection that can cause cancer. Recently the issue of the vaccination came up during the Republican race for president when Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) called the vaccine to prevent cervical cancer "dangerous" and said that it may cause mental retardation, but expert opinion in the medical field contradicts her claim. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, also a presidential contender, has taken heat from some within his party for presiding over a vaccination program in his home state. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

What’s behind the fall in vaccination uptakes?

Nearly 5,000 people have been killed by measles in the Democratic Republic of Congo so far this year, while close to a quarter of a million have been infected.

In recent weeks, more than 53 people have died in a measles outbreak in Samoa, 48 of whom were children.

The country declared a state of emergency on 20 November and has been placed on lockdown to contain the disease.

A one-year-old child is given a vaccine in Seattle, US
A one-year-old child is given a vaccine in Seattle, US

The director-general of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called the worldwide measles deaths an “outrage” and a “collective failure to protect the world’s most vulnerable children.”

It is estimated more than 19m children worldwide did not have the first dose of the measles vaccine by their second birthday in 2018.

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Russia ‘trying to denigrate Joe Biden’ in bid to meddle in US election, says top security official | US News



Russia is attempting to discredit Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden ahead of the US election, America’s counterintelligence chief has said.

William Evanina, director of the US National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said officials were also concerned about “ongoing and potential activity by China and Iran” in relation to the election.

He accused the Kremlin of conspiring against Mr Biden‘s bid for the White House, while Beijing and Tehran are said to want Donald Trump voted out of office.

Donald Trump says it is easy for other countries to meddle with postal votes

‘If Biden becomes president, China will own US’

In a statement released on Friday, Mr Evanina said officials believed Moscow is working to “denigrate” Mr Biden, who national polls suggest is in pole position to be elected in November.

“Many foreign actors have a preference for who wins the election, which they express through a range of overt and private statements, covert influence efforts are rarer,” he said.

“We are primarily concerned about the ongoing and potential activity by China, Russia and Iran.”

Mr Evanina added: “We assess that Russia is using a range of measures to primarily denigrate former vice president Biden and what it sees as an anti-Russia ‘establishment’.

“This is consistent with Moscow’s public criticism of him when he was vice president for his role in the Obama administration’s policies on Ukraine and its support for the anti-Putin opposition inside Russia.”

In the statement, he also referred to Andrii Derkach, a pro-Russia Ukrainian politician who has been active in levelling unsubstantiated corruption allegations against Mr Biden and his son Hunter.

Hunter Biden used to sit on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian natural gas company, which became a key focus of the impeachment trial against Mr Trump last year.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin’s administration has been critical of Mr Biden in the past

Russia was accused of helping Mr Trump win the 2016 election by discrediting rival Hillary Clinton.

Mrs Clinton’s campaign was targeted in an email hack just days before Americans were due to head to the ballots and cast their votes.

Mr Trump’s campaign was later accused of conspiring with Russia to win the election, which he denied.

Former special counsel Robert Mueller subsequently launched an investigation.

It concluded that Russian interference took place “in a sweeping and systematic fashion”, but “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government”.

Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, William Evanina
William Evanina says Russia is trying to ‘denigrate’ Mr Biden’s bid for the presidency

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In relation to Iran, Mr Evanina accused Tehran of trying to undermine US democratic institutions, divide America and discredit Mr Trump by “spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-US content”.

For China, Mr Evanina said the country views the president as “unpredictable” and does not want to see him re-elected, referencing Beijing’s criticism of how the US handled the COVID-19 pandemic and Mr Trump’s recent spat with social media company TikTok.

Mr Trump insists he is the “last person Russia wants to be in office” and has suggested China wants Mr Biden to win, claiming that Beijing would “own” the US if his main rival does come out on top.

The White House said it would “not tolerate foreign interference in our electoral processes” and it will “respond to malicious foreign threats that target our democratic institutions”.

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Belarus: Europe’s last dictatorship could be about to fall because of three women | World News



This is not the election that the long-time leader of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, had planned.

The last five were not hard fought. No need when the entire apparatus of the state is busily engaged engineering a slam-dunk majority for the incumbent.

This Sunday was set to be one more token polling day that would see Mr Lukashenko coasting towards his third decade in power.

Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko (C), seen in Moscow, is not used to having his hold on power challenged
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko (C), seen in Moscow, is not used to having his hold on power challenged

It has not turned out that way.

The remarkable charisma and campaign of his three female challengers may even mean this term turns out to be his last.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Veronika Tsepkalo and Maria Kolesnikova are the wives and campaign manager of three presidential candidates barred from running.

They have taken on the mission their menfolk cannot, uniting their efforts behind Ms Tikhanovskaya, a 37-year-old mother and housewife, to rally the ever-growing opposition behind one voice.

Ms Tikhanovskaya’s husband, Sergei, is a popular YouTube blogger. Maria’s boss, Victor Babariko, is a banker. Both were jailed during the campaign.

Veronika Tsepkalo’s husband, Valery, fearing arrest, fled to Moscow with the couple’s twin boys
Veronika Tsepkalo’s husband Valery, fearing arrest, fled to Moscow with the couple’s twin boys

Veronika’s husband, Valery, is a former ambassador to the US and key figure in the Belarusian IT sector.

He has had to flee to Moscow with the couple’s twin boys after they felt the state circling.

“When you receive information from two independent sources about plans to arrest you and to take your kids from you on the false charges that we were bad parents, we decided,” he told me as he took his sons to see the Kremlin for the first time.

The children of opposition candidates have been taken away before and put into state orphanages.

Ms Tikhanovskaya has also had to send her children to Europe to keep them safe.

Nothing is worth that risk.

Presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya waves to supporters at a rally in July
Presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya at a rally in July

Sky News was refused accreditation to cover the elections so we commissioned a film-maker inside Belarus to document the women’s campaign.

It is a fly-on-the-wall look at the spirit which drives them and which has so captured the hearts of their fellow countrymen.

“So many times in this campaign I was close to quitting,” Ms Tikhanovskaya told a crowd of tens of thousands in the city of Mogilev.

“I’m not a public person and I’m a weak person to face the actions of the government towards me as a mother and a wife.

“But just the belief that you people are together as a nation, you have helped me get through this.”

Supporters of presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya copy the three womns' hand gestures at a rally in the town of Maladzechna
Supporters of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya copy the campaign’s hand gestures

They have drawn crowds never before seen in post-Soviet Belarus: 60,000 in the capital Minsk last week, tens of thousands in each of the towns and cities they have toured.

It has been a gruelling schedule for political novices and the stress is clear to see.

But it is their emotional candour and resolve which has given hope to the millions in Belarus desperate for change.

“I am just the same, un self-confident person I was,” Ms Tikhanovskaya told Sky News.

“But this is my mission – I have to overcome all these difficulties and bring our country to a free future and become a mother and wife again.

“People say that usually women are weak. Maybe we are. But when there is need, when our duty calls us and we have to be strong, we are.”

Massive crowds, like this one in Minsk in July, have turned out to supporters presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya
Massive crowds, like this one in Minsk in July, have turned out to support presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya

Their agenda is simple: free the political prisoners and, if Ms Tikhanovskaya wins, hold free and fair elections within six months.

Since early May, the human rights group Viasna estimates about 1,300 people have been detained for protesting against the regime.

Scenes of entirely unjustified police brutality make it clear why Belarus still deserves the name Europe’s last dictatorship.

At a rally in the city of Babrysk, a schoolteacher gave her summary of what it is to live in Belarus.

She had spent a year and a half in detention on false charges, she said, but had no hesitation about speaking out.

“It’s a country of total deception. On TV they say one thing and in reality it’s different,” she said.

“In Babrysk all the factories stopped working, people have no money to live – the hunger will bring them to the streets.

“That’s how we live and we don’t want to live like this.”

(L-R) Veronika Tsepkalo, presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and Maria Kolesnikova campaigning in Minsk in July
(L-R) Veronika Tsepkalo, presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and Maria Kolesnikova campaigning in Minsk in July

COVID-19 has exacerbated the discontent.

Mr Lukashenko first denied its existence, advocating vodka and banyas (steam baths) as treatment while his people died, only to admit recently he’d had an asymptomatic case himself.

Civil society has stepped in where the state would not, delivering supplies to hospitals across the country. It has made people realise they can make a difference.

The president appears increasingly desperate.

In a strange incident last week, 33 alleged mercenaries from the Russian private military company Wagner were arrested in a sanatorium outside Minsk.

According to the Belarusian KGB, they had raised suspicions because they were not drinking alcohol as regular Russian tourists would.

Moscow says they were in transit. Mr Lukashenko claims they are part of a plot to foment a colour revolution in Minsk.

He told a Ukrainian journalist on Friday that he would take up arms against “hybrid aggression” if all other options were exhausted.

It is unlikely to come to that. Ms Tikhanovskaya’s team has no desire to provoke unrest.

Alexander Lukashenko (pictured here with Vladimir Putin) is against imposing strict coronavirus measures
Alexander Lukashenko (pictured here with Vladimir Putin) was against imposing strict coronavirus measures

Moscow has neither the will nor the wherewithal to involve themselves in a power grab in Minsk.

Mr Lukashenko’s imagination seems to be running wild as he realises his popular support has vanished.

But that does not mean a polling defeat. The members of local electoral committees across the country have jobs to keep and families to look after.

Reporting the true voting tally risks all that.

Furthermore, the elites are entrenched in Belarus. They will not allow for this election to end in anything other than a foregone conclusion even if the winds of change are beginning to blow.

The fairytale has a few more hours to run before polls close on Sunday evening.

The people of Belarus recognise there will be no happy ending this time round.

But they know too that something in the stagnant politics of the last two decades has shifted, thanks to three brave women who refuse to let an old school autocrat break their families or their country.

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Policeman tracks down man who shot him in the stomach – 46 years after his escape from prison | World News



A policeman shot in the stomach in 1971 has tracked down the man who did it – 46 years after he escaped from prison.

Luis Archuleta, 77, was arrested in Espanola, New Mexico on Wednesday – 49 years after he shot police officer Daril Cinquanta in Denver, the FBI said.

Archuleta, also known as Larry Pusateri, shot the officer after he was pulled over to check his ID and the two got into a fight.

Two years later, he was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and sent to prison, but he escaped from the Colorado Department of Corrections facility in 1974.

A warrant was put out for his arrest in 1977 but he was never found. It expired in 2018.

Mr Cinquanta never stopped investigating – constantly making phone calls and knocking on doors in a bid to trace the man who shot him.

Recently he got a phone call from an anonymous tipster who said: “I’ve thought about it, and I’m gonna tell you where the guy is who shot you”, he told KUSA-TV.

An arrest warrant was put out for Archuleta and police found him living 20 miles from Santa Fe under the name Ramon Montoya – an alias he had been using for about 40 years.

He is now being transferred to a prison back in Colorado, where Mr Cinquanta hopes to meet him.

The former police officer said: “I would love to sit down and talk to him. He may or may not talk to me. Who knows?”

Michael Schneider, FBI Denver special agent, added: “This arrest should send a clear signal to violent offenders everywhere: The FBI will find you, no matter how long it takes or how far you run, and we will bring you to justice.”

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