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Venezuela’s Maduro invites UN, EU observers to December elections

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The Venezuelan government of President Nicolas Maduro said Wednesday it had invited the leaders of the United Nations and European Union to send observers to monitor parliamentary elections in December

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Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said on Twitter that a letter had been sent to UN chief Antonio Guterres and EU top diplomat Josep Borrell, outlining "the broad electoral guarantees agreed for the upcoming parliamentary elections," and inviting them to send observers.

The move came a day after Maduro pardoned more than 100 lawmakers and associates of opposition leader Juan Guaido "in the interests of promoting national reconciliation" ahead of the polls.

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Guaido dismissed the move as a ploy to try to legitimize the upcoming elections, which the main opposition has said it will boycott.

Last month, Borrell called for the elections to be postponed saying that "the conditions for a transparent, inclusive, free and fair electoral process" did not exist.

Neither were there sufficient guarantees "for the European Union to be able to deploy an electoral observation mission," he said.

However, Borrell indicated on Tuesday that the release of prisoners "is good news and a sine qua non condition to continue advancing in the organization of free, inclusive and transparenRead More – Source

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French expats in US say Covid-19 testing policy violates their right to return

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French citizens living in the United States are furious about Covid-19 testing requirements that France has imposed on travelers, complicating their return home.

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France issued an order in late July requiring travelers coming from four countries, the United States, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Panama, to show a negative Covid-19 test result at the airport before boarding their plane. The test must be taken less than 72 hours before the flight.

Five French citizens, including a New York-based lawyer, Pierre Ciric, filed a lawsuit against the French government in mid-August, saying the policy violated their constitutional "right to return", as it is difficult to receive test results in such a short time in the US.

A French court agreed that restricting a citizen's ability to return to his or her home country was a constitutional violation, but the policy was not reversed.

Instead, the court gave permission for travelers to seek a medical exemption from the French consulate instead of providing a negative Covid-19 test result, though such exemptions are not easy to obtain.

Olivier Guibert, a French retiree living in Arizona, sRead More – Source

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50,000 Americans will get overdue stimulus checks in September

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The IRS announced last week that 50,000 Americans who had their stimulus checks wrongfully withheld can expect to receive their funds in early- to mid-September. The mistake arose because a CARES Act provision enabled the federal government to garnish stimulus checks to pay past-due child support. Unfortunately, that resulted in the government accidentally withholding stimulus checks from the spouses who were owed the past-due child support as well.

If thats your situation, there’s no need to do anything to claim your stimulus check. The government will automatically send you a check for the amount that was wrongfully applied toward your spouse’s past-due child support.

You can track your stimulus check and see how the government is planning to deliver it to you using the Get My Payment tool on the IRS website. Payment status is updated overnight, so there’s no need to check more than once per day.

Note that some stimulus checks that say they’re arriving as paper checks actually show up as debit cards. These arrive in a plain envelope from Money Network Cardholder Services, so keep an eye out for one of these as well. If you have any other questions about your stimulus payment, visit the IRS’s Economic Impact Payment Information Center.

This issue first came to light back in May, but it took some time to sort out. The government will be issuing checks in the next few weeks to spouses owed child support who submitted IRS Form 8379 – Injured Spouse Allocation – with their 2019 tax return (or with their 2018 tax return, if this was used to calculate their stimulus check eligibility).

If you didn’t file Form 8379 but your stimulus check was withheld due to your spouse’s past-due child support, you’re not out of luck. However, youll have to wait a little longer. The IRS is aware of this issue and is working to ensure these individuals also receive the money they’re owed. As of the publishing of this article, they don’t have a time frame for when these checks will go out. You don’t have to fill out Form 8379 or take any other action to get your check, though.

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US Covid-19 cases surpass 6 million as Midwest, schools report outbreaks

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U.S. cases of the novel coronavirus surpassed 6 million on Sunday as many states in the Midwest reported increasing infections, according to a Reuters tally.

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Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota have recently reported record one-day increases in new cases while Montana and Idaho are seeing record numbers of currently hospitalised Covid-19 patients.

Nationally, metrics on new cases, deaths, hospitalisations and the positivity rates of tests are all declining, but there are emerging hotspots in the Midwest.

Many of the new cases in Iowa are in the counties that are home to the University of Iowa and Iowa State University, which are holding some in-person classes. Colleges and universities around the country have seen outbreaks after students returned to campus, forcing some to switch to online-only learning.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Sunday said his state was sending a "SWAT team" to a State University of New York (SUNY) campus in Oneonta in upstate New York to contain a Covid-19 outbreak. Fall classes, which started last week at the college, were suspended for two weeks after more than 100 people tested positive for the virus, about 3% of the total student and faculty population, SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras said.

"We have had reports of several large parties of our students at Oneonta last week, and unfortunately because of those larger gatherings, there were several students who were symptomatic of Covid," Malatras said.

Across the Midwest, infections have also risen after an annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota drew more than 365,000 people from across the country from Aug. 7 to 16. The South Dakota health department said 88 cases have been traced to the rally.

More than eight months into the pandemic, the United States continues to struggle with testing. The number of people tested has fallen in recent weeks.

Paternity leave is ignored by corporate America — and that’s a problem for women

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Corporate America has a gender problem when it comes to parental leave, with a new study finding that Fortune 500 companies are far likelier to provide paid leave to mothers than fathers.

Ironically, thats a problem not only for men, but for women seeking equality in the workplace, experts say.

Among Fortune 500 companies, 72%offer some sort of paid parental leave, but fathers are generally considered secondary to mothers, according to the study from Ball State sociology professor Richard Petts, and Davidson College sociology professor Gayle Kaufman. For example, one-third of those companies offer twice as much leave to mothers as to fathers, their analysis found.

Paternity leave has long taken a back seat to the debate over paid maternity leave, a benefit thats mandated by the governments of all developed countries except the U.S.

But the pandemic is bringing a sharper focus to gender equality in the workplace as millions of mothers and fathers struggle with juggling working from home or continuing to commute to work while their children are remote schooling.

Moms are often bearing the brunt of that shift, with the Boston Consulting Group finding that women are shouldering an additional 15 hours of domestic work per week than men during the crisis.

Paternity leave has a role to play in equalizing gender norms both at home and in the workplace, Petts says. Currently, the norm is for men to take a day or two off after the birth of a child, but anything longer than one or two weeks is uncommon, he adds.

“If you give equal amount of time for both mothers and fathers, then you avoid emphasizing that women are different — that they will mostly do most of the childcare — and the consequences that come from that,” Petts says.

Petts says he was drawn to the topic of paternity leave after the birth of his child more than 7 years ago. When he asked to take time off, he says he was told he could take a couple days , but if he wanted more than that, hed need a doctors note to say that his wife was unable to care for their child.

“I was floored,” he recalls.

Democrat Joe Biden to campaign in person in key swing states

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Joe Biden said Thursday he will soon campaign in person in battleground states that could decide the US presidential election, a change of course for the Democrat who has largely hunkered down during the coronavirus pandemic.

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The new events, expected to begin next month, would be the first substantial campaign stops for Biden since March when he, Democratic nomination rival Bernie Sanders and President Donald Trump abruptly suspended in-person campaigning due to the health crisis.

“Im going to be going up into Wisconsin, and Minnesota, spending time in Pennsylvania, out in Arizona, but were going to do it in a way that is totally consistent with being responsible,” the 77-year-old former vice president told reporters.

Biden, speaking during a virtual fundraising event, said he would get out and meet people in communities and local businesses, but not at “irresponsible rallies”, a likely reference to the large campaign gatherings that Trump has hosted in recent months in defiance of the Covid-19 threat.

“Im a tactile politician. I really miss being able to, you know, grab hands, shake hands,” said Biden, who is known for his blue-collar roots and thrives on personally connecting with voters on the campaign trail.

“You cant do that now. But I can in fact appear beyond virtually, in person, in many of these places.”

Biden made clear he would adhere to local guidelines and arrange to host events “without jeopardizing or violating state rules about how many people can in fact assemble”.

He said the first excursion into swing states—where polls show Biden holding slight leads over Trump—would occur “after Labor Day”, which is observed on September 7.

Covid-19 in Colombia: FRANCE 24 reports from hard-hit Bogota as lockdown ends

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Colombia will enter a period of 'selective' quarantine when its official five months of national coronavirus lockdown finishes at the end of August. The number of Covid-19 cases has skyrocketed there in the past two months, but working life has already resumed for many. FRANCE 24 meets healthcare workers in hard-hit Bogota and discovers Read More – Source

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UN Security Council rejects US move to trigger ‘snapback’ sanctions on Iran

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The United Nations on Tuesday blocked a controversial bid by the US to reimpose international sanctions on Iran, with the Security Council saying it could not proceed with the disputed move.

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In a video conference on the Middle East, he cited the lack of consensus in the UN's highest body on the US strategy as the main reason.

The Trump administration accuses Tehran of failing to comply with the terms of the historic 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and is demanding the Security Council reimpose sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Washington insists on its legal right to trigger the disputed procedure, called "snapback" — despite pulling out of the deal two years ago.

The move threatens to torpedo the Iran accord and plunge the Council into crisis, while widening the gulf between the US and almost every other member on Iran policy.

Thirteen of the 15 Council members had written to the Indonesian presidency to reject its validity.

The US "is alone" in their approach, and "their ultimate goal is to destroy the nuclear agreement when they have already imposed (national) sanctions on Iran," one diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity told AFP.

Another said that, with the sound rejection of the US bid by almost the entire Council, "normally the matter is closed."

Sheriff says two dead in clashes on third night of unrest following police shooting of Wisconsin Black man

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A third night of street protests over the police shooting of a Black man erupted into gun violence late Tuesday and early Wednesday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, killing two people and wounding one, police said.

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Social media videos showed people screaming amid close-up images of gunshot wounds after a night of skirmishes, with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets, had appeared to ease.

Crowds chased a man running down the street with a rifle after they believed he had shot another man. One pursuer took a flying kick at him after he fell to the ground, and another tried to grab his weapon. He appeared to be shot at close range and fell to the ground.

The shooting that broke out shortly before midnight killed two people and wounded a third who was expected to survive, the Kenosha Police Department said in a statement.

The city of Kenosha has been rocked by protests since Sunday, when police shot Black American Jacob Blake in the back at close range as he walked away from two officers and opened his car door, according to a bystander video that went viral. Three of his young sons were in the car, witnesses said.

Blake, 29, was hit by four of the seven shots fired and left paralysed and "fighting for his life", his family and lawyers said on Tuesday, hours before the latest round of civil unrest broke out in the lakefront city between Milwaukee and Chicago.

Anti-racism protesters also clashed with police in Portland, Oregon, and Louisville, Kentucky on Tuesday night, part of a wave of national Black Lives Matter protests that have continued since the May 25 death of a Black man in Minneapolis, George Floyd, who was pinned to the street under the knee of a White police officer.

Police arrested more than 60 people in a protest march in Louisville, Kentucky organised for Breonna Taylor, a Black woman killed in March by police officers who burst into her apartment.

'Like a vigilante group

Twin hurricanes head for US after deadly storm hits Haiti, Dominican Republic

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Two hurricanes are expected to slam into the US Gulf Coast in the coming days, forecasters said Sunday, as Tropical Storm Laura killed at least 12 people when it struck Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

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US media said twin hurricanes were unprecedented in the Gulf of Mexico since records began 150 years ago.

Tropical Storm Marco strengthened into a hurricane with winds of 75 miles (120 kilometers) per hour, and is forecast to hit the state of Louisiana on Monday.

Tropical Storm Laura hammered Haiti and the Dominican Republic with heavy rain, killing at least 12 people — 9 in Haiti and three in the Dominican Republic.

It was set to become a hurricane on Tuesday that could hit the US coastal region on Wednesday.

Energy companies have suspended some oil and natural gas production in the Gulf as the weather deteriorates.

The US National Hurricane Center said Storm Laura was "bringing torrential rainfall and life-threatening flooding" to Haiti, which shares Hispaniola island with the Dominican Republic.

The storm killed three people in the Dominican Republic's capital Santo Domingo, said Juan Manuel Mendez, head of the country's Center of Emergency Operations.

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