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More people have died from Covid-19 than in the past 5 flu seasons combined



U.S. Marine One, with President Donald Trump onboard, prepares to land on the South Lawn of the White House on October 5.
U.S. Marine One, with President Donald Trump onboard, prepares to land on the South Lawn of the White House on October 5. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The White House has declined offers from the Centers for Disease Control to help investigate the outbreak surrounding President Trump’s Covid-19 diagnosis, according to a federal health official.

The offer by the CDC to engage with such efforts as running contact tracing occurred  almost immediately after the president made public he had contracted coronavirus. Despite the concerns expressed by those at the CDC, including Dr. Robert Redfield, officials at the White House turned down the CDC’s offer to help, the official said. 

The offer was repeated in a phone call on Monday, according to the source.

But White House has shown little indication it is conducting a comprehensive effort to properly trace contacts from those exposed at events like the Supreme Court nomination ceremony where almost no masks were worn and there was no social distancing both at the outdoor event and an indoor reception.

Some attendees said they have had no outreach and others have said even when notified they were not asked the slate of questions typically used to document who else may have been exposed through contact.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said positive cases are taken seriously.

“The White House has plans and procedures in place that incorporate current CDC guidelines and best practices for limiting COVID-19 exposure and has established a robust contact tracing program led by the White House Medical Unit with CDC integration,” Deere said in a statement.

A WH official says a CDC epidemiologist has been detailed to the White House since March and is assisting.  

The DC government, where many of the attendees reside, has gotten no response from the White House despite multiple efforts by political and health officials to get information. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Monday there had been no “substantial contact.”

Mayor Bowser spokesperson Susana Castillo says there have been “multiple attempts” since Friday to contact the WH at both the political and public health levels.

This past weekend, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the White House would not be providing public information about how many staffers on the White House campus become sick, citing privacy concerns.

McEnany herself publicly announced yesterday she was infected. Two of her aides have also tested positive.


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Protesters gather in Bangkok after PM snubs call to resign



Demonstrators seeking to keep up pressure on the government ahead of Monday’s special parliament session.

Protesters have gathered in Bangkok, seeking to keep up pressure on the government one day ahead of a special session of Parliament called to try to ease political tensions.

The rally took place on Sunday at the busy Rajprasong intersection, in the heart of the capital’s shopping district, an area that usually draws large weekend crowds.

The rallies were called on Saturday night after Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha ignored the protesters’ deadline to step down.

The protesters’ core demands include a more democratic constitution and reforms to the monarchy.

Public criticism of the monarchy is unprecedented in a country where the royal institution has been considered sacrosanct.

The protesters charge that Prayuth, who led a coup in 2014 as the army chief, was returned to power unfairly in last year’s general election because laws had been changed to favour a pro-military party.

The protesters also say that the constitution, written and enacted under military rule, is undemocratic.

Prayuth’s government called parliament into a session – expected to start Monday and last two days – in an effort to defuse weeks of almost daily protests.

“The only way to a lasting solution … is to discuss and resolve these differences through the parliamentary process,” he said last week.

Prayuth also lifted a state of emergency on Thursday that he had imposed a week earlier that made the protest rallies illegal.

The protesters were not impressed by his efforts to appease them, declaring them insincere.

Several have noted on social media that the points of discussion submitted by the government for debate were not intended to deal with protesters’ concerns but were thinly disguised criticisms of the protests themselves.

The rallies were called Saturday night after PM Prayuth Chan-ocha ignored the protesters’ deadline to step down [Mladen Antonov/AFP]

Al Jazeera’s Tony Cheng, reporting from Bangkok, said the protesters are in full voice and reiterating their demands.

“There are thousands of protesters on the streets. The mood is more relaxed than we have seen in recent weeks. There are police here but they are standing back and directing traffic where they can. Authorities haven’t closed down the transport system, which they have done previously,” Cheng said.

Protest organisers have called for a march on Monday afternoon that will take them to the German Embassy in central Bangkok, far from the parliament complex which is on the outskirts of the city.

The march is apparently to draw attention to the protesters’ contention that King Maha Vajiralongkorn spends too much of his time in Germany.


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Nagorno-Karabakh: Fighting continues, Baku issues Russia warning



Armenia, Azerbaijan blame each other for continuation of the conflict as Aliyev warns Moscow not to get involved.

Fighting has continued on Sunday between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces over the mountainous enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh with both sides blaming each other for blocking a peaceful settlement to the conflict.

Armenia accused Azerbaijani forces of shelling civilian settlements on Sunday, a claim that Baku denied.

Azerbaijan said it was ready to implement a ceasefire provided Armenia withdrew its forces.

The clashes yesterday and today in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, a part of Azerbaijan populated and controlled by ethnic Armenians, came after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hosted foreign ministers of both countries in a new peace push on Friday.

The collapse of two Russia-brokered truces had already dimmed the prospect of a quick end to fighting that broke out on September 27 over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Blame game

Officials in Nagorno-Karabakh said Azerbaijani forces fired artillery on settlements in Askeran and Martuni in the night, while

Azerbaijan said its positions had been attacked with small arms, mortars, tanks, and howitzers.

“I am absolutely confident in the effectiveness of the peace negotiations but this also depends on the will of the Armenian side to take part in them,” said Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev.

“Why can Azerbaijani and Armenian people live together in Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, and other countries but not in Nagorno Karabakh?” he added in a Fox News interview reprinted by the Azertag News Agency.

Armenian President Armen Sarkissian accused Baku of being “aggressively stubborn and destructive”.

On Sunday, the defence ministry of the Nagorno-Karabakh region said it had recorded another 11 casualties among its forces, pushing the military death toll to 974 since fighting with Azeri forces erupted.

World powers want to prevent a wider war that draws in Turkey, which has voiced strong support for Azerbaijan, and Russia, which has a defence pact with Armenia.

Differences over the conflict have further strained relations between Ankara and its NATO allies, with Pompeo accusing Turkey of fuelling the conflict by arming the Azerbaijani side. Ankara denies it has inflamed the conflict.

Armenian call for Russian involvement

Sarkissian, in comments reprinted by the Armenpress news agency, called on “global players” to step in immediately to help negotiate a ceasefire.

“In the context of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Russia is a trusted and pro-active mediator between the conflicting sides. Russia plays a crucial role here,” he said.

Azerbaijan’s Aliyev said it was “very hazardous” for Armenia to want Russian military support in the conflict and that third parties should not get involved militarily.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he hoped that the US would help Moscow broker a solution to the conflict.

Azerbaijan says 65 Azerbaijani civilians have been killed and 298 wounded but has not disclosed its military casualties.

About 30,000 people were killed in a 1991-1994 war over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenians regard the enclave as part of their historic homeland; Azeris consider it illegally occupied land that must be returned to their control.


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American Voter: Tom Noll



US President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden are battling for the presidency in a sharply divided United States.

Trump has been focusing on “law and order”, Biden has been trying to strike a conciliatory note. The Black Lives Matter movement and whether Trump will release his taxes are among the many issues Americans will consider when choosing their president.

As the hotly contested election approaches, Al Jazeera has been speaking to voters across the US asking nine questions to understand who they are supporting and why.

Tom Noll

Age: 67
Occupation: Retired machinist
Residence: Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania
Voted in 2016: Donald Trump
Will vote in 2020: Joe Biden
Top election issue: Coronavirus pandemic

Will you vote? Why or why not?

“I always vote. I never miss any elections … The primary was the first one we did mail-in ballots, because of COVID-19. When I was 18 I started. My parents always (voted) and I always did, too.

“I can’t remember ever missing one unless I was sick or something, but I don’t remember ever missing one. Even in local elections, when half the time there’s nobody running, I usually make it through to vote.”

What is your number one issue?

“I’m a Democrat my whole life and then last election I voted Republican for Trump. I was tired of the Clintons and all that.

“This election I don’t know what I’d say the top priority would be. I hope they fix this COVID-19 thing. One of them has to do something, whoever gets in there.”

Who will you vote for?

“I was undecided, but now I’ve voted for Biden.”

Is there a main reason you chose your candidate?

“I had leaned towards Biden because he’s a local man. And he’s probably the only Democrat that could beat Trump.

“I didn’t like some of the stuff Trump was saying. Four years ago I voted for him, now I’m voting for Biden, it’s as simple as that. I think Biden’s gonna win, but it’s gonna be a close election and anything could happen.”

Are you happy with the state of the country?

“Except for the pandemic, yeah.”

What would you like to see change?

“I hope the Democrats or Republicans start getting along and we get some bills passed for the people, instead of always fighting over so many things. They’re always just fighting.

“The Democrats hate Trump and basically that’s it, they don’t like him. They don’t want him in there. I don’t know. They gotta live with it.”

“You know, a lot of presidents are not liked when they come in … I’d like to see more cooperation with Congress and the Senate. It seems like real quick they got along with this pandemic, and they gave out that stimulus money … But they didn’t get along real well after that.”

Do you think the election will change anything?

“I don’t think there’s gonna be much. I’m hoping there is, but I don’t think there’s gonna be much. They have to change the whole structure out there in Washington. Get new people in there, new blood. They’re just all power-hungry people. They’re all millionaires. I mean all of them. All the congressmen. All the presidents through history.”

What is your biggest concern for the US?

“My immediate concern is this pandemic. I mean, it has the country half shut down. They gotta hopefully get some kind of vaccine or something, that’d be the immediate concern.”

“Once people get settled down, once people get back to work, it’ll solve the other problems with the unemployment. And also the Black Lives Matter, you know, [George Floyd] getting killed … They have to settle these race issues and the COVID-19.”


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