Armenia says one of its fighter jets was shot down by a Turkish jet, in a major escalation in the conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. A video made available by the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry appears to show an Azeri artillery strike towards the positions of Armenian separatists in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Photo: AFP / Azerbaijani Defence Ministry The Armenian foreign ministry said the pilot of the Soviet-made SU-25 died after being hit by the Turkish F-16 in Armenian air space. Turkey, which is backing Azerbaijan in the conflict, has denied the claim. Nearly 100 people, including civilians, have died in three days of fighting over the disputed mountainous region. The enclave is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, but has been run by ethnic Armenians since a 1988-94 war between the two former Soviet republics. Azerbaijan has repeatedly stated that its air force does not have F-16 fighter jets. However, Turkey does. The fighting that started three days ago now appears to be spilling out of Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia and Azerbaijan - which have already mobilised more soldiers and declared martial law in some areas - blame each other for starting the fighting. While Turkey is openly backing Azerbaijan, Russia - which has a military base in Armenia - has called for an immediate ceasefire. Armenian Defence Ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan said the Armenian SU-25 was shot down on Tuesday morning and the pilot "died heroically". In a Facebook post, she said the Turkish F-16 was 60km deep into Armenian air space. Turkey immediately denied the claim as "absolutely untrue". "Armenia should withdraw from the territories under its occupation instead of resorting to cheap propaganda tricks," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's aide Fahrettin Altun said. What's the background? In 1988, towards the end of Soviet rule, Azerbaijani troops and Armenian secessionists began a bloody war which left Nagorno-Karabakh in the hands of ethnic Armenians when a truce was signed in 1994. Tens of thousands died in fighting, and many ethnic Azerbaijanis were forced to flee their homes. It is now a de facto independent region, relying heavily on support from Armenia. But it is not recognised by any UN member, including Armenia. Swathes of Azeri territory around the enclave are also under Armenian control.Negotiations have so far failed to produce a permanent peace agreement, and the dispute in the region remains one of post-Soviet Europe's "frozen conflicts". Karabakh is the Russian rendering of an Azeri word meaning "black garden", while Nagorno is a Russian word meaning "mountainous". Ethnic Armenians prefer to call the region Artsakh, an ancient Armenian name for the area. Over the years both sides have had soldiers killed in sporadic breaches of the ceasefire. Landlocked Armenia has suffered severe economic problems due to the closure of borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan. Russia, France and the US co-chair the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's Minsk Group, which has been attempting to broker an end to the dispute. - BBC
How does one debate Donald Trump? The team behind the Democratic challenger Joe Biden will have spent the past few weeks devising a plan to answer this - ahead of this afternoon's first presidential debate. Joe Biden and Donald Trump Photo: AFP What makes it so difficult is how unconventional the president is, especially in his treatment of the truth. Four years ago, Hillary Clinton's approach to challenging Trump during their debate was to promote a website that fact-checked his comments in real time. Fact-checking is a job for the candidates, but more importantly, Biden's team will be telling him to stay on message, and to keep Trump on the defensive. The winner will ultimately be he who delivers the biggest moments that will be replayed online and on television for days, and years, to come. Four years ago, Trump arguably had more of these - such as his response to Clinton wondering what would happen if he were to bear responsibility for US law: "You'd be in jail," he replied. The official talking points for this afternoon's debate have been chosen, signalling the direction that moderator - Fox News' Chris Wallace - will take. They are the candidates' personal records, the Supreme Court, Covid-19, the economy, race and violence in US cities, and the integrity of the election. Yet both Biden and Trump will have their own agendas, and talking points they want to hit, and hit hard: Trump's taxes The biggest story of this week, and of the entire election race, is the revelation by The New York Times that Trump has avoided paying virtually any income tax over the past two decades. Throughout his political career, he has billed himself as a successful businessman capable of engineering an American resurgence. Instead, the article depicts a man who religiously practices tax avoidance to protect his worth. The Trump administration has already hit back, claiming the Times' reporting is inaccurate, yet yesterday the president tweeted that he is as entitled to tax credits as any other American. Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Michigan. Photo: AFP Biden is certain to attack Trump along these lines, perhaps even making jokes about the hundreds of millions of dollars in loans he reportedly owes, or the tens of thousands he has spent on hair styling. Whether this resonates with moderate voters remains to be seen. Biden's state of mind The president has frequently attacked Biden for his mental state, even suggesting, without evidence, that he has dementia, dubbing him "Sleepy Joe." Trump has even called for his rival to be drug-tested before the debate, again suggesting that he relies on some sort of medication to be able to speak coherently. Biden needs to put this to bed. He has spoken well at key times in the past few weeks, specifically for 25 minutes at the Democratic National Convention, but in the age of social media and viral videos, he's still managed to go viral for stumbling over his words when he's gone off-script. If the same thing happens this afternoon, Trump will smell blood in the water and attack. Biden is only two-and-a-half years older than the president, yet the cut-through of this perception could be very damaging. Healthcare More than 200,000 Americans have so far died due to the pandemic, vastly more than any other country, while more than seven million have been infected. The president has repeatedly claimed he's done an A+ job responding to the coronavirus, yet the facts paint a different picture. Right now, more than 20 states are seeing an increase in new infections, and the Trump administration's response over the past few months has been to defer responsibility to the states. Trump will likely point to his promise that a safe vaccine will be rolled out across the country in a matter of weeks - a claim that's yet to be backed up by science. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris confer on stage after Biden delivered his acceptance speech in Delaware. Photo: AFP Biden will need to clearly explain how he would have done a better job - something he's yet to do - and tell the American public that things didn't need to get this bad. Trump has also for years promised his own health care plan, and is yet to deliver. Law and Order This election will likely be determined by if, and how minority communities vote - as it has done throughout American history. Trump has several times claimed he's done more for African Americans than any leader since Abraham Lincoln - a quite incredible claim. Yet his term has seen some of the most significant racial unrest ever seen - massive protest movements like Black Lives Matter - which he's put down as simply the actions of rioters and looters. He has billed himself as the ultimate "law and order" president, striking fear into the hearts of voters that if he loses November's vote, things will get worse. Biden will try to depict his rival as an antagonist who has only stoked the violence and fanned the flames of unrest. Trump is yet to concede that America has a problem with racial inequality and profiling - Biden will need to show he is the person to solve such issues. Supreme Court The death of the liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg has sparked a fierce political battle that Republicans seem destined to win. Trump has named his nominee to replace her as the latest Supreme Court Justice - Amy Coney Barrett - and a successful vote in the Senate should come at the end of October. Democrats have accused the party of hypocrisy, saying four years ago Republicans argued such a vote must wait until after an election year. US President Donald Trump announces Amy Coney Barrett as his nomination for the Supreme Court. Photo: Getty Images Biden has already said Coney Barrett could represent an end to the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, and promised that if he is elected, he would nominate the first African American woman to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, when it's suited him, Trump has painted himself as the arbiter of conservative values - of Christian values - appealing to the Republican Party's base. When protesters were violently swept off the streets of the capital, he brandished a Bible outside a church, holding it aloft for cameras. It's entirely possible that the faith - and the devoutness of both candidates - is also debated.
On a Thursday night in early January, the disease that would become known as Covid-19 claimed its first victim, a 61-year-old man who succumbed to the newly identified coronavirus in the city of Wuhan, in the People's Republic of China. Nine months later, the pandemic took its millionth life. And while the vagaries of record-keeping mean we may never know who that victim was, the fact remains: Covid has killed a million people. Tens of millions of things undone. Daughters and sons unborn, works of genius uncreated. Pieces of communities — excised. Entire residential complexes filled with older people — ravaged. Human contribution melted away, with no way of ever knowing or chronicling what was lost. Accounting for what's missing when people die is never an easy task; now it is one multiplied by an entire million. Advertisement A new AP interactive map of the coronavirus' spread — represented by the lives it has claimed — blends data and geography in a way that forces us to see what has happened to the world. And what is still happening to it. The path of Covid-19 to a million deaths. Like so many things in the world, it started small. At first, the map shows only one splash of colour: China, the place where the coronavirus silently began its march. As it began to move around, the map evolved. Month by month, week by week, day by day, the coronavirus spread. Pandemic was declared. Hospitals girded. Cities and countries, shut down. The world changed so fast that its people could barely keep up. How did something so contained at first, so localised, upend the routines and activities of huge chunks of human civilisation? We all have watched it, lived through it, but the visual is striking. From a world largely unsullied by the virus to one merely touched by it to an entire planet feeling its effects. Some of the hardest hit countries. — March 18, 2020 China still leads the world in deaths. In the United States, President Donald Trump has just declared a state of emergency. The US has lost 191 people. The wide belief among Americans: This can still be contained. Advertisement — April 6, 2020Italy is being ravaged; 16,523 have been lost. China has dropped out of the top five when it comes to deaths. The US is second by now at 14,199 dead. — May 22, 2020The US has shot ahead of the rest of the world and sits on the cusp of 100,000 dead — 99,166. It, like the United Kingdom (35,440), Italy (32,616), Spain (28626) and France (28,292), is rendered in a darker forest green, along with Brazil. The march is accelerating. — July 26, 2020In the heart of the summer, the US remains the country with the most dead: 147,656. Brazil, whose president has just tested positive for coronavirus, is second at 87,004. Darker greens are starting to fill the map, including in India. In China, blamed by Trump for the virus in terms some deem racist, the hue is light after strict and protracted containment measures. — Sept. 27, 2020India is third in the world with 95,542 deaths. The United States, still No. 1 and criticised for its haphazard efforts at containment, has just passed the 200,000 mark. Brazil sits at 141,741, with no apparent detrimental political effect on its leader. Russia is now darker green. Africa, Australia and much of Asia are lighter, though swaths of Southeast Asia are showing higher death rates. Olivia Troye, a former adviser on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, recounts her "nightmare to tell," saying there was an organized effort to seek data to underplay the danger of coronavirus for certain populations, ages and demographics. https://t.co/Ep0fGPozYc pic.twitter.com/U0sRWpnQiK — Cuomo Prime Time (@CuomoPrimeTime) September 29, 2020 This map tells the story of an invisible virus that upended the world. It tells of first responses and fear and decisions good and bad. Stories of valiant women and men who tried to stop it, and were sometimes claimed by their efforts. It tells stories of leaders who measured up and leaders who didn't. And how simple human touch ended up killing. Advertisement Most of all, it tells of the one million dead and gone. These are the stories of the human beings who, had they been able to stick around, might have done things we'd all remember — or might have done things just as important that only a few people they loved would remember. The map contains their stories, too, and even amid the elegant lines of the map and the illuminating contours of the data they should not be forgotten. - Ted Anthony, director of digital innovation for AP, oversees the news organisation's coverage of the pandemic's ripple effect on society. - AP
The worldwide death toll from the coronavirus eclipsed 1 million today, nine months into a crisis that has devastated the global economy, tested world leaders' resolve, pitted science against politics and forced multitudes to change the way they live, learn and work. "It's not just a number. It's human beings. It's people we love," said Dr Howard Markel, a professor of medical history at the University of Michigan who has advised government officials on containing pandemics and lost his 84-year-old mother to Covid-19 in February. "It's our brothers, our sisters. It's people we know," he added. "And if you don't have that human factor right in your face, it's very easy to make it abstract." The bleak milestone, recorded by Johns Hopkins University, is greater than the population of Jerusalem or Austin, Texas. It is 2.5 times the sea of humanity that was at Woodstock in 1969. It is more than four times the number killed in the 2004 earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Advertisement Even then, the figure is almost certainly a vast undercount because of inadequate or inconsistent testing and reporting and suspected concealment by some countries. And the number continues to mount. Nearly 5000 deaths are reported each day on average. Parts of Europe are getting hit by a second wave, and experts fear the same fate may await the US, which accounts for about 205,000 deaths, or 1 out of 5 worldwide. That is far more than any other country, despite America's wealth and medical resources. Spencer Cushing, 29, tends to David Feinour, a 71-year-old Covid-19 patient, at St. Jude Medical Centre in Fullerton, California. Photo / AP "I can understand why ... numbers are losing their power to shock, but I still think it's really important that we understand how big these numbers really are," said Mark Honigsbaum, author of "The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria and Hubris". The global toll includes people like Joginder Chaudhary, who was his parents' greatest pride, raised with the little they earned farming a half-acre plot in central India to become the first doctor from their village. After the virus killed the 27-year-old Chaudhary in late July, his mother wept inconsolably. With her son gone, Premlata Chaudhary said, how could she go on living? Three weeks later, on August 18, the virus took her life, too. All told, it has killed more than 95,000 in India. "This pandemic has ruined my family," said the young doctor's father, Rajendra Chaudhary. "All our aspirations, our dreams, everything is finished." When the virus overwhelmed cemeteries in the Italian province of Bergamo last spring, the Reverend Mario Carminati opened his church to the dead, lining up 80 coffins in the centre aisle. After an army convoy carted them to a crematory, another 80 arrived. Then 80 more. Eventually the crisis receded and the world's attention moved on. But the pandemic's grasp endures. In August, Carminati buried his 34-year-old nephew. Advertisement Cemetery workers in protective clothing bury three victims of Covid-19 at the Vila Formosa cemetery in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Photo / AP "This thing should make us all reflect. The problem is that we think we're all immortal," the priest said. The virus first appeared in late 2019 in patients hospitalised in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the first death was reported on January 11. By the time authorities locked down the city nearly two weeks later, millions of travelers had come and gone. China's government has come in for criticism that it did not do enough to alert other countries to the threat. Government leaders in countries like Germany, South Korea and New Zealand worked effectively to contain it. Others, like US President Donald Trump and Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro, dismissed the severity of the threat and the guidance of scientists, even as hospitals filled with gravely ill patients. Brazil has recorded the second most deaths after the US, with about 142,000. India is third and Mexico fourth, with more than 76,000. The virus has forced trade-offs between safety and economic wellbeing. The choices made have left millions of people vulnerable, especially the poor, minorities and the elderly. With so many of the deaths beyond view in hospital wards and clustered on society's margins, the milestone recalls the grim pronouncement often attributed to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin: One death is a tragedy, millions of deaths are a statistic. Advertisement The pandemic's toll of 1 million dead in such a limited time rivals some of the gravest threats to public health, past and present. It exceeds annual deaths from Aids, which last year killed about 690,000 people worldwide. The virus' toll is approaching the 1.5 million global deaths each year from tuberculosis, which regularly kills more people than any other infectious disease. But "Covid's grip on humanity is incomparably greater than the grip of other causes of death," said Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University. He noted the unemployment, poverty and despair caused by the pandemic, and deaths from myriad other illnesses that have gone untreated. Cemetery workers place the coffin containing the remains of Jose de Arimateia, 65, who died from Covid-19 complications, into a niche at the municipal cemetery in Nova Iguacu, Brazil. Photo / AP For all its lethality, the virus has claimed far fewer lives than the so-called Spanish flu, which killed an estimated 40 to 50 million worldwide in two years, just over a century ago. That pandemic came before scientists had microscopes powerful enough to identify the enemy or antibiotics that could treat the bacterial pneumonia that killed most of the victims. It also ran a far different course. In the US, for example, the Spanish flu killed about 675,000. But most of those deaths did not come until a second wave hit over the winter of 1918-19. Up to now, the disease has left only a faint footprint on Africa, well shy of early modelling that predicted thousands more deaths. Advertisement But cases have recently surged in countries like Britain, Spain, Russia and Israel. In the United States, the return of students to college campuses has sparked new outbreaks. With approval and distribution of a vaccine still probably months away and winter approaching in the Northern Hemisphere, the toll will continue to climb. "We're only at the beginning of this. We're going to see many more weeks ahead of this pandemic than we've had behind us," Gostin said. - AP
The number of people worldwide who have died from Covid-19 has passed one million, researchers say, with many regions still reporting surging numbers of new infections. People wearing face masks, to curb the spread of Covid-19 in Nantes, western France. Photo: AFP According to a tally by Johns Hopkins University the death toll now stands at 1,000,555. The US, Brazil and India make up nearly half of that total. Experts caution that because of differences in recording deaths the true figure is probably much higher. The grim milestone comes nearly 10 months after news of the new coronavirus began to emerge in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The pandemic has since spread to 188 countries with more than 32 million confirmed cases. Lockdowns and other measures to try to stop virus spreading have thrown many economies into recession. Meanwhile, efforts to develop an effective vaccine are continuing - although the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the death toll could hit two million before one is widely available. The US has the world's highest death toll with about 205,000 fatalities followed by Brazil on 141,700 and India with 95,500 deaths. The US has recorded more than seven million cases - more than a fifth of the world's total. After a second wave of cases in July, numbers dropped in August but appear to be on the rise again now. The coronavirus has been spreading fast in India, with the country recording about 90,000 cases a day earlier in September. Confirmed infections in India have reached six million - the second-highest after the US. However, given the size of its population India has seen a relatively low death rate. Brazil has the highest number of deaths in Latin America and has recorded more than 4.7 million cases, the third highest in the world. Elsewhere in the region, newly confirmed infections are also rising quickly in Argentina, which now has more than 700,000 cases. - BBC
All Blacks coach Ian Foster is "bitterly disappointed" with the proposed Rugby Championship schedule that may force his team to quarantine through Christmas but remains hopeful a resolution can be reached with New Zealand's Sanzaar partners in the coming days. Foster fronted on Tuesday, as the All Blacks gathered in Hamilton for a three-day camp, for the first time since Sanzaar released the Rugby Championship draw without New Zealand Rugby's agreement. Wallabies coach Dave Rennie gives an insight into how the team is managing in quarantine. Video / Australian Rugby On Monday night Foster addressed his team to talk through the various options on the table and when he spoke publicly one day later, his frustrations with the process were clear. "There's still a lot happening in that space. There was a deal based on [December] 5th we feel Sanzaar has reneged on that so we've put some solutions forward and we're waiting on that. We have to fix it," Foster said. Advertisement "There's been set expectations and they haven't been delivered on so that's up to the game and Sanzaar to sort out in the next few days. "We've got to sort out this little hiccup and get on with it. Today would be great, but we'll accept tomorrow." All Blacks coach Ian Foster during a training session. Photo / Photosport Asked if the All Blacks were prepared to boycott the final Rugby Championship test against the Wallabies on December 12 to avoid having to quarantine through Christmas, Foster said: "I don't want to talk about that now. That's a headline I don't want to put out there but we're bitterly disappointed that what was proposed got changed. "We're not basing on any schedule now because the schedule that's been proposed is not one we agreed or accepted. "This is not about a Christmas issue. It's about players that have been playing and preparing to play through Covid and a whole lot of situations for a long, long time. At some point we've got to draw a line in the sand and say 'that's enough'." Foster would not go into specifics on alternative solutions but it essentially involves the prospect of moving the final All Blacks and Wallabies test forward, while allowing the Springboks and Pumas to play on December 12. "I don't think that's going to be helpful. At the end of the day there was a good solution at the start – six tests in five weeks was achievable. South Africa and Argentina could play six in six weeks; it fitted a time zone. We've come up with a couple of ideas around that." The issue of quarantining through Christmas may affect the decisions of some players, particularly those with families, about whether they commit to the full nine-to-10 week Australian tour or not. Advertisement "There's a whole lot of things that could happen but let's not dwell on that. We think there's a good attitude to fix this up and it needs fixing." The Rugby Championship schedule continues an ever-evolving, uncertain rugby year but All Blacks hooker Dane Coles is attempting to set aside the latest issue to concentrate on the dual Bledisloe Cup tests, which start in Wellington on October 11. "There's so many scenarios going around," Coles said. "We've talked about plan A, B, C through to F. There's a process between New Zealand Rugby and Sanzaar to sort out and we've got no control over that so we'll let the top dogs have a few meetings and get it under control. "Hopefully things work out. It's not ideal, we don't want to spend Christmas in quarantine. "I'm not going to talk to my wife until I know what the plan is. Everyone will be in their different situations. There's no point going to all the new dads and partners and saying 'there's six situations' I can just imagine what would happen. "Once we get a solid plan then we can have those tough conversations with our loved ones. I've spent a huge amount of time away from my family with rugby. My wife knows that, and we've got great support, so when it happens we'll have a yarn and see what the best thing is for us and the All Blacks." Advertisement As Bledisloe preparations ramp up, Hurricanes midfielder Ngani Laumape, Crusaders captain Scott Barrett and Otago hooker Liam Coltman have joined the All Blacks camp in Hamilton. Laumape (broken forearm) and Barrett (toe) will have their respective injuries assessed but both are expected to be among the 11 players added to the original 35-man squad, along with Wellington midfielder Peter Umaga-Jensen who is in line to replace the injured Braydon Ennor, for the Rugby Championship. Coltman has been called in to cover Asafo Aumua who is recovering from a head knock sustained while playing for Wellington. Beauden Barrett is also back the squad following the birth of his first daughter, Billie Rose. "It's been an exciting time for Beauden and Hannah and we congratulate them and little Billie Rose but he's back into work today and excited about that too," Foster said. "Ngani is still a way off. His is an easier assessment because it's a bone whereas Scott is progressing well but we need to factor in what is his timeline to get into full contact."
A Delaware judge has rejected a challenge by the state Republican Party to the constitutionality of a new law allowing universal voting by mail in this year's elections. The judge on Monday denied the GOP's request for an injunction to prevent vote-by-mail ballots from being counted in the November election. The judge said the General Assembly's decision to use its emergency powers to declare that voting by mail was necessary to protect public health and ensure the continuity of governmental operations during the coronavirus epidemic was not "clearly erroneous." US Capitol Building in Washington DC. Photo / Brandon Bourdages "Legislation enjoys a presumption of constitutionality," wrote Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock III, noting that he was not a legislator, "let alone a super-legislator charged with perfecting the laws of the state." The GOP filed a lawsuit last month arguing that lawmakers in the Democrat-controlled legislature exceeded their constitutional authority in invoking emergency powers to pass the measure. In passing the bill, Democrats asserted that voting by mail is "necessary and proper for insuring the continuity of governmental operations" amid the coronavirus epidemic. They also declared that conforming to the requirements of Delaware's constitution, including its explicit limitations on absentee voting, "would be impracticable." Advertisement At the time lawmakers passed the bill, Delaware was in "phase 2" of its coronavirus economic reopening, with indoor gatherings of up to 250 people allowed, businesses authorised to double occupancy limits, and convention centres and meeting facilities allowed to open. Julia Klein, an attorney representing the GOP, said the law impermissibly expanded the constitutional allowances for casting absentee ballots. She cited a 1972 opinion in which the Delaware Supreme Court said that it was "beyond the power of the legislature, in our opinion, to either limit or enlarge upon the... absentee voter classifications specified in the constitution for general elections." State attorneys, meanwhile, argued that courts are required to give deference to decisions of the General Assembly. They also said that, even though all polling places will be open and there is no prohibition against in-person voting, not allowing universal voting by mail could interfere with the "free and equal" elections guaranteed by the constitution. Glasscock said that the constitutional provision authorising the General Assembly to exercise emergency powers acted as a "safe harbour" allowing it to authorise "general absentee voting," that otherwise would be prohibited under the state constitution. "Amending the Delaware constitution to provide for remote voting in response to an epidemic, before Election Day 2020, would be not only impractical, I note, but impossible," he wrote. The judge noted that the plaintiffs' challenge to the law could not stand unless they were able to demonstrate clearly and convincingly that the legislature's finding that the law is necessary was either false or unwarranted. "On the facts of record, the plaintiffs do not come close to meeting that standard," he wrote. Advertisement The legislature, in the face of an epidemic of airborne disease and in light of the health emergency declared by the Governor, has made a determination that vote-by-mail is necessary for the continued operation of governmental functions, and that it would be impracticable to address this problem other than by otherwise-extraconstitutional means," the judge concluded. "These finding are not clearly erroneous. " - AP
United States President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court has close ties to a charismatic Christian religious group that holds men are divinely ordained as the "head" of the family and faith. Former members of the group, called People of Praise, say it teaches that wives must submit to the will of their husbands. Federal appeals judge Amy Coney Barrett has not commented publicly about her own or her family's involvement, and a People of Praise spokesman declined to say whether she and her husband are current members. But Barrett, 48, grew up in New Orleans in a family deeply connected to the organisation and as recently as 2017 she served as a trustee at the People of Praise-affiliated Trinity Schools Inc., according to the nonprofit organisation's tax records and other documents reviewed by AP. Only members of the group serve on the schools' board, according to the system's president. Advertisement Judge Amy Coney Barrett applauds as President Donald Trump announces Barrett as his nominee at the White House. AP also reviewed 15 years of back issues of the organisation's internal magazine, "Vine and Branches," which has published birth announcements, photos and other mentions of Barrett and her husband, Jesse, whose family has been active in the group for four decades. On Saturday NZT, all editions of the magazine were removed from the group's website. People of Praise is an intentional religious community based in charismatic Catholicism, a movement that grew out of the influence of Pentecostalism, which emphasises a personal relationship with Jesus and can include baptism in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. The group organises and meets outside the purview of a church and includes people from several Christian denominations, but its members are mostly Roman Catholic. Barrett's affiliation with a conservative religious group that elevates the role of men has drawn particular scrutiny given that she would be filling the high court seat held by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a feminist icon who spent her legal career fighting for women to have full equality. Barrett, by contrast, is being hailed by religious conservatives as an ideological heir to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, a staunch abortion-rights opponent for whom she clerked as a young lawyer. In this June 11, 2011 photo, then-University of Notre Dame law professor Amy Coney Barrett speaks to Trinity at Greenlawn graduates at the Trinity People of Praise Centre in South Bend, Indiana. In accepting Trump's nomination on Sunday, the Catholic mother-of-seven said she shares Scalia's judicial philosophy. "A judge must apply the law as written," Barrett said. "Judges are not policy makers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold." Advertisement Barrett's advocates are trying to frame questions about her involvement in People of Praise as anti-Catholic bigotry ahead of her upcoming Senate nomination hearings. Asked about People of Praise in a televised interview last week, Vice-President Mike Pence responded: "The intolerance expressed during her last confirmation about her Catholic faith I really think was a disservice to the process and a disappointment to millions of Americans." But some people familiar with the group and charismatic religious groups like it say Barrett's involvement should be examined before she receives a lifelong appointment to the highest court in the nation. In this page from the May 2006 issue of Vine and Branches produced by People of Praise, Amy Coney Barrett is seen at left at a People of Praise Leaders' Conference for Women in 2006. "It's not about the faith," said Massimo Faggioli, a theology professor at Villanova University, who has studied similar groups. He says a typical feature of charismatic groups is the dynamic of a strong hierarchical leadership, and a strict view of the relationship between women and men. Several people familiar with People of Praise, including some current members, told AP that the group has been misunderstood. They call it a Christian fellowship, focused on building community. One member described it as a "family of families," who commit themselves to each other in mutual support to live together "through thick and thin." But the group has also been portrayed by some former members, and in books, blogs and news reports as hierarchical, authoritarian and controlling, where men dominate their wives, leaders dictate members' life choices and those who leave are shunned. Advertisement AP interviewed seven current and former members of People of Praise, reviewed its tax records, websites, missionary blogs and back issues of its magazine to try to paint a fuller picture of an organisation that Barrett has been deeply involved in since childhood. In this April 2, 2014, photo, then-Indiana Governor Mike Pence, speaks at Trinity School at Greenlawn. People of Praise was founded in South Bend, Indiana, in 1971 as part of the Catholic Pentecostal movement, a devout reaction to the free love, secular permissiveness and counterculture movements of the 1960s and early '70s. Many of the group's early members were drawn from the campus of nearby Notre Dame, a Catholic university. The group has roughly 1800 adult members nationwide, with branches and schools in 22 cities across the US, Canada and the Caribbean. All members are encouraged to continue to attend church at their own parishes. After a period of religious study and instruction that lasts from three to six years, people involved in People of Praise can choose to make a lifelong covenant pledging love and service to fellow community members and to God, which includes tithing at least 5 per cent of their gross income to support the group's activities and charitable initiatives, according to a statement on the group's website. People of Praise's more than 1500 word covenant, a copy of which was reviewed by AP, includes a passage where members promise to follow the teachings and instructions of the group's pastors, teachers and evangelists. Advertisement "We agree to obey the direction of the Holy Spirit manifested in and through these ministries in full harmony with the church," the covenant says. It's unclear whether Barrett took the covenant. But members of the organisation and descriptions of its hierarchy show that members almost invariably join the covenant after three to six years of religious study or they leave, so it would be very unusual for Barrett to continue to be involved for so many years without having done so. A 2006 article in the group's magazine includes a photo of her attending a People of Praise Leaders' Conference for Women. The magazine also includes regular notices when members are "released from the covenant" and leave the group. AP's review found no such notice of Barrett's or her husband's departure. Sen. Kamala Harris is uniquely positioned as a Democratic vice presidential nominee and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which offers recommendations on Supreme Court nominees before the Senate holds a vote. https://t.co/lM689M6ZTT — ABC News (@ABC) September 28, 2020 A request to interview Barrett made through the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, where she currently serves as a judge, was declined. Jesse Barrett did not respond to voicemail or email sent through his law firm in South Bend. People of Praise spokesman Sean Connolly declined to discuss the Barretts or their affiliation with the group. "Like most religious communities, the People of Praise leaves it up to its members to decide whether to publicly disclose their involvement in our community," Connolly said by email. "And like most religious communities, we do not publish a membership list." Advertisement Several people familiar with the group told AP that, unlike some other charismatic movements, People of Praise has a strong commitment to intellectualism, evidenced in part by the schools they have established, which have a reputation for intellectual rigor. On the GOP agenda before Election Day: Confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.Can they do it in 36 days? Well, they’re certainly going to try. pic.twitter.com/4EyiyFNQo6 — The Recount (@therecount) September 28, 2020 Barrett's father, Michael Coney snr, has served as the principal leader of People of Praise's New Orleans branch and was on the group's all-male Board of Governor's as recently as 2017. Her mother, Linda Coney, has served in the branch as a "handmaid," a female leader assigned to help guide other women, according to documents reviewed by AP. "One of the key principles of People of Praise is freedom, the exercise of our own freedom in following the Lord and in following our own – what we believe, what we think is right," Michael Coney, 75, said in an interview with AP. Americans by a nearly 20-point margin say the next Supreme Court justice should be left to the winner of the presidential election and a Senate vote next year, a new @ABC News/WaPo poll found. https://t.co/cv45wUm6O4 — ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 28, 2020 Joannah Clark, 47, grew up in People of Praise and became a member as an adult. She acknowledged that the board of governors consists of all men, but said that is not a reflection on the "worth or ability of women," but rather the approach the group has chosen for that level of leadership. "In a marriage, we look at the husband as the head of the family. And that's consistent with New Testament teaching," said Clark, who is the head of Trinity Academy in Portland, Oregon. Advertisement "This role of the husband as the head of the family is not a position of power or domination. It's really quite the opposite. It's a position of care and service and responsibility. Men are looking out for the good and well-being of their families." Clark said she had previously served as a "handmaid." The term was a reference to Jesus' mother Mary, who called herself 'the handmaid of the Lord.' The organisation recently changed the terminology to "woman leader" because it had newly negative connotations after Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel A Handmaid's Tale was turned into a popular television show. Republicans in Pennsylvania have asked the Supreme Court to halt a major state court ruling that extended the deadlines for mail-in ballots to several days after the election.https://t.co/BX3PaoyZEd — Axios (@axios) September 28, 2020 Clark said the woman leaders in People of Praise do things like provide pastoral care and organise help for community members, such as when people are sick or need other help. "They're also in a role of advising, so the men will ask the women leaders' advice on issues that affect the patterns of life within the community, certainly issues that affect women and families," Clark said. Advertisement Barrett, in accepting Trump's nomination at the White House, put particular emphasis on the equality of her own marriage, saying she expected from the start the she and her husband would run their household as partners. "As it has turned out, Jesse does far more than his share of the work," she said. "To my chagrin, I learned at dinner recently that my children consider him to be the better cook." Though People of Praise opposes abortion, those familiar with the group said it would be a mistake to pigeonhole their politics as either left or right. While socially conservative in their understanding of family and gender, some members are deeply committed to social justice in matters of race and economics, they said. Barrett's parents are both registered Democrats, according to Louisiana voter registration records. Mitch McConnell has said there's precedent for the speedy Supreme Court confirmation process Republicans are planning for Amy Coney Barrett.But that data skips over 45 years of recent history.https://t.co/7DWNHme9hA — BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) September 28, 2020 Tax records and other documents show that as recently as 2017 Barrett sat on the board of Trinity Schools, a campus of which was recently designated by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as a National Blue Ribbon School. The schools are coed, but most classes are segregated by gender. Advertisement The school's website says the group sees men and women "created by God equal in dignity but distinct from one another." "We seek to uphold both that equality and appropriate distinction in our culture," it goes on. Similarly, People of Praise meetings are often segregated by gender. And as they become adults, members frequently live together in same-gender communal houses sometimes owned by the group, or they are invited to live with a family within the community. Articles in the People of Praise magazine frequently note when young single members get married to each other. Multiple birth announcements often follow. The group's magazine also offers insights into the group's views on marriage, community and members' finances. A 2007 issue discusses how the 17 single women who live together in a household, called the Sisterhood, had their pay direct deposited into a single bank account. One member said she had "no idea" what the amount of her pay was. Advertisement The pooled money was managed by one woman, who budgeted for everyone's clothing and other expenses, including US$36 weekly per person for food and basics like toilet paper. All women were expected to give 10 per cent of their pay to People of Praise, another 1 per cent to the South Bend branch and additional tithes to their churches. Married couples and their children also often share multi-family homes or cluster in neighbourhoods designated for "city building" by the group's leaders, where they can easily socialise and walk to each other's houses. 36 days until election.How long it took to confirm:RBG 50Gorsuch 66Roberts 72Sotomayor 72Breyer 77Kagan 87Kavanaugh 89Alito 92Thomas 106The average confirmation time for a Supreme Court nominee, from 1975 to present, is 70 days (per CRS). — ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) September 28, 2020 As part of spiritual meetings, members often relay divine prophecies and are encouraged to pray in tongues, where participants make vocal utterances thought to carry direct teachings and instructions from God. Those utterances are then "interpreted" by senior male leaders and relayed back to the wider group. A 1969 book by Kevin Ranaghan, a co-founder of People of Praise, dedicates a chapter to praying in tongues, which he describes as a gift from God. "The gift of tongues is one of the word-gifts, an utterance of the Spirit through man," Ranaghan wrote in Catholic Pentecostals. "Alone, the gift of tongues is used for prayer and praise. Coupled with the gift of interpretation it can edify the unbeliever and strengthen, console, enlighten or move the community of faith." Advertisement In a blog entry on the group's website from March of this year, a mother described taking her children to pray in tongues as the coronavirus pandemic took hold. The GOP strategy is to turn Amy Coney Barrett into a vessel for their base's feelings of victimhood, so they have to invent a fictitious anti-Catholic campaign against her: https://t.co/J6OSnVqOie — Paul Waldman (@paulwaldman1) September 28, 2020 While People of Praise portrays itself as a tightknit family of families, former members paint a darker picture of that closeness. Coral Anika Theill joined People of Praise's branch in Corvallis, Oregon, in 1979, when she was a 24-year-old mother of 6-month-old twins. "My husband at the time was very drawn to it because of the structure of the submission of women," recounted Theill, who is now 65. Theill, who converted to Catholicism after getting married, said in her People of Praise community women were expected to live in "total submission" not only to their husbands, but also the other male "heads" within the group. In a book she wrote about her experience, Theill recounts that in People of Praise every consequential personal decision – whether to take a new job, buy a particular model car or choose where to live – went through the hierarchy of male leadership. Advertisement Members of the group who worked outside the community had to turn over their paystubs to church leaders to confirm they were tithing correctly, she said. Theill says her "handmaid," to whom she was supposed to confide her innermost thoughts and emotions, then repeated what she said to the male heads, who would consult her husband on the proper correction. "There'd be open meetings where you just have to stand for the group and they'd tell you all that was wrong with you," Theill recounted to AP last week. "And I would ask questions. I was a critical thinker." When she told her husband she wanted to wait to have more children, Theill said, he accompanied her to gynecological appointments to ensure she couldn't get birth control. "I was basically treated like a brood mare," she said, using the term for a female horse used for breeding. During her 20-year marriage, Theill had eight children from 11 pregnancies. Theill, who says she declined to take the covenant, described being dominated and eventually shunned because of the doubts she expressed about the group. Advertisement Clark, a current member in Oregon, said she had never heard of members being shunned. "At any point, a community member can decide to leave and is free to do so," Clark said. She said she has friends who have left the community. "These are people I've maintained a good friendship with and people who've maintained friendships with other people in community." But Theill isn't the only former member to describe forced subjugation of women within People of Praise or shunning of former members. Among People of Praise's very first members in South Bend were Adrian Reimers and his wife, Marie. The couple was active for more than a dozen years before he said he became disillusioned and was "dismissed" from the group in the mid-1980s. Reimers, who teaches philosophy at Notre Dame, went on to write detailed academic examinations of the group's inner workings and theological underpinnings. Advertisement In a 1997 book about People of Praise and other covenant communities, Reimers wrote that fundamental principle of the group was St Paul's stipulation from the Bible that the husband is the "head" of his wife and that the wife is to "submit in all things." "A married woman is expected always to reflect the fact that she is under her husband's authority," Reimers wrote. "This goes beyond an acknowledgment that the husband is 'head of the home' or head of the family; he is, in fact, her personal pastoral head. Whatever she does requires at least his tacit approval. He is responsible for her formation and growth in the Christian life." The good news for Trump is that he’s been able to change the conversation from the coronavirus to the Supreme Court (at least before that tax story).The bad news: He's once again on the wrong side of public opinion https://t.co/FgI5n8x7tM — Mark Murray (@mmurraypolitics) September 28, 2020 Though women are allowed to serve in some administrative roles within the community, Reimers wrote that no woman is allowed to hold a pastoral position of leadership in which she would oversee or instruct men. "People who leave these communities are often shunned by other members and are spoken of as no longer brothers and sisters in Christ or even no longer Christian," he wrote. Reimers declined to expand on his experience with People of Praise, saying he doesn't know Amy Barrett and didn't want to get drawn into a political fight. But he said he stands by his prior account. "To quote Pontius Pilate, 'What I have written, I have written,'" he said last week, referring to the Roman official in the Bible who signed the order condemning Jesus to be crucified. Advertisement Lisa Williams said her parents joined the Minnesota branch of People of Praise in the late 1970s, when she was a fourth grader. She chronicled her experience in a blog called "Exorcism and Pound Cake," a reference to how she knew as a child that it was a meeting night because of the smell of baked goods coming from the kitchen. "I remember my mother saying a wife could never deny sex to her husband, because it was his right and her duty," said Williams, 56. "Sex is not for pleasure. It's for as many babies as God chooses to give you. ... Women had to be obedient. They had to be subservient." Corporal punishment of children was common, Williams told AP. When she was insufficiently obedient to her father, she was beaten with a belt and then required to kneel and ask forgiveness from both him and God, she said. She recalled People of Praise meetings held in her parent's living room where members prayed in tongues to cast out demons from a person writhing on the floor, rituals she described as exorcisms. When her parents, from whom she is now estranged, decided to leave People of Praise when she was a junior in high school, she remembers the leaders said her family would be doomed to hell and they were shunned. "Nobody would talk to you," she recalled. Steven Hassan, a psychologist who counsels people who have left fundamentalist authoritarian religious groups, said the culture within People of Praise as described by Theill and Williams, including the practice of shunning former members, creates fear so that people are dependent and obedient. Advertisement "A person who is in one of these groups has to suppress their own thoughts, feelings, desires that doesn't align with the dogma," Hassan said. He cautioned, however, that Theill's and Williams' experiences were from decades ago and not necessarily illustrative of how the group now operates. And current members of People of Praise interviewed by AP strongly disputed those characterisations. "There's a high value on personal freedom," said Clark, the Trinity School director in Oregon. She said she had never heard of some of the practices the former members detailed to AP, such as micromanaging finances or handing over pay. She grew emotional when she recounted the sacrifices people in the group make for each other as part of their covenant, like the case of a man known for helping his fellow members move, who was in turn cared for by group members as he died. Advertisement "I've never been asked to do anything against my own free will," said Clark, a member of the group for 25 years. "I have never been dominated or controlled by a man." Thomas Csordas, an anthropology professor at University of California San Diego, has studied the religious movement that includes People of Praise. He said such communities are conservative, authoritarian, hierarchical and patriarchal. But, he said in his view, the group's leaders are unlikely to exert influence over Barrett's judicial decisions. Coney, Barrett's father, said the culture of female submission described by some former members was based on misunderstandings of the group's teachings. "I can't comment on why they believe that. But it is certainly not a correct interpretation of our life," he said. "We're people who love each other and support each other in their Christian life, trying to follow the Lord." And, as a lawyer himself, he rejected the notion that his daughter's religious beliefs will unduly influence her opinions if she is confirmed to the high court. Advertisement "I think she's a super lawyer and she will apply the law as opposed to any of her beliefs," he said. "She will follow the law." - AP
Computer systems across a major hospital chain operating in the US and Britain were down on Monday (US time) due to what the company termed an unspecified technology "security issue". Universal Health Services Inc (UHS), which operates more than 400 hospitals and other clinical care facilities, said in a short statement posted to its website that its network was offline and doctors and nurses were resorting to "back-up processes" including paper records. The Fortune 500 company, with 90,000 employees said "patient care continues to be delivered safely and effectively" and no patient or employee data appeared to have been "accessed, copied or misused". UHS provided no details, but people posting to an online Reddit forum who identified themselves as employees said the chain's network was hit by ransomware overnight on Sunday. The posts echoed the alarm of a clinician at a UHS facility in Washington, DC, who described to The Associated Press a mad scramble, including anxiety over determining which patients might be infected with the virus that causes Covid-19. Advertisement John Riggi, senior cybersecurity adviser to the American Hospital Association, called it a "suspected ransomware attack", adding that criminals have been increasingly targeting the networks of health care institutions during the coronavirus pandemic. Ransomware is a growing scourge in which hackers infect networks with malicious code that scrambles data and then demand payment to restore services. Increasingly, ransomware purveyors are downloading data from networks they infiltrate before encrypting targeted servers, using it for extortion. Earlier this month, the first known fatality related to ransomware occurred in Duesseldorf, Germany, after an attack caused IT systems to fail and a critically ill patient needing urgent admission died after she had to be taken to another city for treatment. UHS itself may not be a household name, but its hospitals are part of communities from Washington, DC, to Fremont, California, and Orlando, Florida, to Anchorage, Alaska. Some of its facilities provide care for people coping with psychiatric conditions and substance abuse problems. The company based in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, did not immediately respond to emails seeking more information, such as whether patients had to be diverted to other hospitals. The Washington clinician described a high-anxiety scramble to handle the loss of computers and some phones starting Sunday. The person, involved in direct patient care, was not authorised to speak publicly and described the chaotic situation on condition of anonymity. The loss of computer access meant that medical staff could not easily see lab results, imaging scans, medication lists, and other critical pieces of information doctors rely on to make decisions. Phone problems complicated the situation, making it harder to communicate with nurses. "These things could be life or death," the clinician said. Advertisement The facility has a "downtime protocol" in which everything is supposed to be done with paper and pencil, the staffer added, "but no one was expecting to have to use it". Lab orders had to be hand-delivered. There was a lot of concern about how to determine whether or not patients had been exposed to the coronavirus. The clinician said no harm came to any of the 20 or so patients they attended to. However, anxiety reigned during the entire shift. Handing off a patient to another department, always a delicate task because of the potential for miscommunication, became especially nerve-wracking. "We are most concerned with ransomware attacks which have the potential to disrupt patient care operations and risk patient safety," said Riggi, the cybersecurity adviser to hospitals. "We believe any cyberattack against any hospital or health system is a threat-to-life crime and should be responded to and pursued as such by the government." Ransomware attacks have crippled everything from major cities to school districts, and federal officials are concerned they could be used to disrupt the current presidential election. Last week, a major supplier of software services to state, county and local governments, Tyler Technologies, was hit. In the US alone, 764 healthcare providers were victimised last year by ransomware, according to data compiled by the cybersecurity firm Emsisoft. It estimates the overall cost of ransomware attacks in the US to $9 billion a year in terms of recovery and lost productivity. The only way to effectively recover, for those unwilling to pay ransoms, is through diligent daily system data backups. Advertisement In an apparently unrelated cyberattack affecting a US medical facility, Nebraska Medicine hospital in Omaha suffered an outage last week that led to the postponement of appointments for patients with elective procedures or other non-critical health concerns, The Omaha World-Herald reported. The hospital said emergency rooms remained open, and no patients were diverted to other hospitals. It said no records were deleted or destroyed thanks to the system's back-up and recovery processes. The statement did not include any further information about the attack. - AP
The Black Caps have two more months to wait before the return of international cricket with their summer schedule revealed today. Kane Williamson's side haven't played in any format since their ODI series in Australia was cancelled in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic. New Zealand Cricket today revealed the Black Caps and White Ferns summer schedule which begins with a Twenty20 series between the Black Caps and the West Indies, starting on November 27. Pakistan, Australia and Bangladesh will also face the Black Caps while the White Ferns can also look forward to a busy summer of international cricket, with the England women's side confirmed to visit in February and March, and discussions ongoing regarding a visit from the Australia women. Advertisement The West Indies open the summer schedule when they play three Twenty20s and two tests. The opening test will be at Seddon Park starting December 3, followed by the second test at the Basin Reserve eight days later. Black Caps paceman Neil Wagner celebrates a wicket. Photosport Pakistan will also play two tests and two ODIs including a Boxing Day test at Mt Maunganui's Bay Oval. Christchurch's Hagley Oval will hold the second test starting January 3. Last summer the Black Caps played in Australia's traditional Boxing Day test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the previous year New Zealand hosted one for the first time since 2014 against Sri Lanka. The Black Caps will host Australia in a five-match Twenty20 series. Their first ODI of the summer won't be until March 21 when Bangladesh visit for three ODIs and three Twenty20s. That means it will be more than a year between ODI internationals for the World Cup finalists. With back-to-back Twenty20 World Cups played in 2021 and 2022 the shorter format has taken precedent. The Black Caps' last test match was on March 2 when they wrapped up a series win over India. A gap in the international schedule between January 7 and February 22 will see international players available for the Super Smash competitions. While the Government has so far granted approval for the first two incoming teams (West Indies and Pakistan), New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White was confident the other inbound tours would receive the green light. Advertisement "I'm thrilled to be making this announcement today, given the uncertainty and difficulties over the past six or seven months," he said. "We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the New Zealand government for helping us navigate this complex process."Hosting these tours is incredibly important to us for two reasons: international cricket brings in revenue that funds the entire game of cricket in New Zealand and, also, it's crucial that we look after the fans of the game and sport in general, especially during these difficult times." White said NZC was aware of the challenging circumstances in which many New Zealanders had found themselves in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis and would be cutting the price of a GA adult ticket by almost half, to acknowledge this. "It might sound counter-intuitive to be lowering ticket prices at a time of great additional cost and expense to the game, but we think it's the right thing to do". White said he was extremely grateful to Cricket Australia for seeing fit to send its men's T20 side to New Zealand at a time when its international calendar was so congested. "We've worked very closely with Cricket Australia in what is, really, a unique set of circumstances – and we can't speak highly enough of their commitment to the global game. Advertisement "The same goes for the West Indies, Pakistan, Bangladesh and England - right across the board in cricket there's been a real spirit of cooperation."