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German President Summons Grand Coalition Partners For Talks

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BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) appeared close to dropping their opposition to renewing cooperation with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday, with a planned summit between the two camps seemingly offering a way out of a political impasse.

Germany’s Social Democrats agreed on Friday, under intense pressure, to hold talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel on renewing their outgoing coalition government, but pledged that party members would have the final say on any deal.

The about-turn by the center-left SPD, which had said it would go into opposition after suffering its worst result in 70 years in September’s election, could help avert a disruptive repeat vote in Europe’s economic and political powerhouse.

SPD leader Martin Schulz told a news conference the party leadership had reached the decision out of a sense of responsibility to Germany and Europe after Merkel’s attempt to form a government with the pro-business Free Democrats and environmental Greens smaller parties collapsed on Sunday.

“There is nothing automatic about the direction we are moving in,” Schulz said. “If a discussion results in us deciding to participate, in any form whatsoever, in the formation of a government, we will put it to a vote of party members.”

Schulz told 300 members of the party’s youth wing – who rejected another “grand coalition” at a conference in Saarbruecken – that nothing had been decided.

But he suggested that governing could offer better chances to achieve his primary goal of improving the lives of people in Germany and around the world.

“From which position is that best possible? What is more important? The radiance of our decisions, or the improvement of the everyday lives of people?” Schulz told the group.

He said he noted the group’s position and thanked them for their support in the September election. But he said he expected their loyalty and “constructive cooperation” with whatever path was ultimately decided by the party’s leadership.

Backing for a new government could mean forming a coalition, agreeing not to obstruct a Merkel-led minority government, or other options yet to be explored, SPD deputy leader Ralf Stegner told broadcaster ZDF.

Rainer Haseloff, the premier of the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt and a member of Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats (CDU), told Reuters: “I think opinion is moving in the direction of there being a grand coalition.”

He said conservatives would look at the SPD’s proposals, but the bloc would not agree to any move to replace Merkel.

QUESTION OF WHEN, NOT IF

Juergin Trittin, a senior Greens member, told Germany’s RND newspaper group it was “a question of when, not if” the SPD would agree to discuss another coalition with conservatives.

Stegner, who is skeptical about another grand coalition, told broadcaster ZDF the SPD would extract a price for any deal. “The SPD won’t go cheaply,” he said, without elaborating.

Merkel spoke with reporters after an event in Brussels, but declined to answer any questions.

A poll conducted on Monday, before the latest SPD comments, showed half of Germans supported the SPD’s initial rejection of a new grand coalition, while 44 percent would support renewing the coalition government that has ruled for the past four years.

Six out of 10 Germans would support a new election, the poll by infratest dimap for broadcaster ARD showed.


Sourced From: Reuters: World News

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Singapore Reports 931 New Coronavirus Cases, Taking Total To 13,624

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Singapore registered 931 new coronavirus infections, its health ministry said on Sunday, taking the city-state’s total number of COVID-19 cases to 13,624.

The vast majority of the new cases are migrant workers living in dormitories, the health ministry said in the statement. Fifteen of the new cases are permanent residents.

The number of new cases rose from 618 reported on Saturday.

The tiny country of 5.7 million people now has one of the highest infection rates in Asia, according to official figures, due to outbreaks in cramped dormitories housing over 300,000 mainly South Asian workers.


Sourced From: Reuters: World News

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Spain’s Kids Prepare For Freedom After Six-Week Lockdown

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Spain released guidelines on Saturday allowing children to go outside after six weeks living under one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns, as figures showed a daily coronavirus death toll of 378, up slightly on Friday’s 367, the lowest in the past month.

The total of fatalities rose to 22,902 and Spain’s Health Ministry said the overall number of coronavirus cases rose to 223,759 from 219,764 the day before.

Yet Spain sees enough evidence of the virus being under control to start easing its lockdown. Children were trying out their masks in anticipation of their first taste of fresh air since Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez declared a state of emergency on March 14.

The government said under 14s will from Sunday be allowed up to one hour of supervised outdoor activity per day between 9am and 9pm, staying within one kilometre of their home.

Adults can accompany up to three children, who will not be allowed to use playparks and must adhere to social distancing guidelines, remaining at least two metres from other people.

The government has not yet said when confinement measures will be eased for older children.

In Pineda de Mar, northeast Spain, volunteer seamstresses were hard at work making face masks for children ahead of the deconfinement measure.

“More than 100 people are making protective equipment,” the town’s mayor Xavier Amor told Reuters. “We started with masks and then we followed the demand of hospitals, health centres, and nursing homes.”

As bars and restaurants eye a gradual reopening one company is devising safety measures to encourage wary clients to return.

Leganes-based LlenaTuBar, whose name translates as fill up your bar, is fitting dining tables with clear plastic screens to protect customers and installing thermal cameras to detect any patrons with a fever.

“It’s a critical situation for the hospitality sector and if we’re locked down much longer, people will struggle to reopen their businesses,” owner Manuel Gil told Reuters.

As the economic fallout from the virus continues to build, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez reiterated calls for a pan-European response.

“The depth of the economic downturn and the risk that its effects will persist after the health emergency requires that a foundation be laid for a rapid, balanced, environmentally sustainable and socially just recovery,” Sanchez wrote in a piece for newspaper Expansion on Saturday.

The Health Ministry on Friday changed the methodology for logging cases of the virus. It will no longer count antibody tests and will only include positive results from PCR tests.

Discounting antibody tests puts Saturday’s total number of cases at 205,905 and Friday’s at 202,990.


Sourced From: Reuters: World News

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Putin Exploits Coronavirus To Justify Centralized Russian Power

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MOSCOW —The coronavirus pandemic has given Russian President Vladimir Putin a fresh opportunity to drive home for worried Russians a recurring theme of his long reign: Western liberal democracies are weak, globalism is fragile and the Russian model of centralizing power in a strong leader is superior in times of crisis.

Throughout much of the pandemic, the Kremlin leader has sought to project strength and calm, assuring his people that the spread of the new coronavirus is under control in Russia, even as it has killed 14,000 and likely more.

Sourced From: NewsPrime.Org

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Bill Gates Spends $200m On Toilet Turning Human Waste To Fertilizer

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Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates unveiled a futuristic toilet Tuesday that doesn’t need water or sewers and uses chemicals to turn human waste into fertilizer.

It is the brainchild of research projects funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s biggest private philanthropy organization.

There are multiple designs of the toilet but all work by separating liquid and solid waste, Reuters said.

“The current toilet simply sends the waste away in the water, whereas these toilets don’t have the sewer,” Gates said. “They take both the liquids and solids and do chemical work on it, including burning it in most cases.”

He compared the change from traditional toilets to waterless models as similar to development in computing around the time he founded Microsoft in the mid-1970s.

“In the way that a personal computer is sort of self-contained, not a gigantic thing, we can do this chemical processing at the household level,” he said.

Poor sanitation kills half a million children under the age of five annually and costs $ 200 billion a year in healthcare costs and lost income worldwide, according to the foundation.

Gates’ foundation has committed roughly $ 200 million to the toilet project and expects to spend the same amount again before the toilets are viable for widespread distribution.

During a speech at an event in Beijing, Gates held up a clear jar of human faeces to illustrate the importance of improving sanitation.

“It’s a good reminder that in (the jar) there could be 200 trillion rotavirus cells, 20 billion Shigella bacteria, and 100,000 parasitic worm eggs,” he said.
Gates said the next step for the project is to pitch the concept to manufacturers, saying he expects the market for the toilets to be over $ 6 billion by 2030.

The billionaire also lauded the globalized and free trade systems that made the toilet technology possible.

“I honestly believe trade allows every country to do what it’s best at,” he told Reuters in an interview. “So when I talk about components of this toilet being made in China, others in Thailand, others in the United States, you really want to be bringing together all of that IQ so that you’re getting that combination.”

 

Sourced From: Tribune

 

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