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Most Americans believe Russia targeted US soldiers, want sanctions in response: Poll

NEW YORK (REUTERS) – A majority of Americans believe that Russia paid the Taleban to kill US soldiers in Afghanistan last year amid negotiations to end the war, and more than half want to respond with new economic sanctions against Moscow, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday (July 8).

The national opinion poll conducted on Monday and Tuesday shows that the American public remains deeply suspicious of Russia four years after it tried to tip the US presidential election in Donald Trump’s favour, and most Americans are unhappy with how the president has handled relations with the country.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll follows a series of reports, including several by Reuters, that Russia had been rewarding Taleban-affiliated militants, possibly by offering them bounties, to attack and kill US troops in the region. Moscow denies the allegations.

The New York Times and Washington Post both reported that several American soldiers were believed to have died as a result of the bounties.

Mr Trump said last week he was not told about the reported Russian effort, because intelligence officials were uncertain about its veracity. The New York Times reported that the president received written briefings about the programme earlier this year, and it was also included in a widely read CIA report in May.

Overall, 60 per cent of Americans said they found reports of Russian bounties on American soldiers to be “very” or “somewhat” believable, while 21 per cent said they were not credible and the rest were unsure.

Thirty-nine per cent said they thought Mr Trump “did know” about Russia’s targeting of the US military before reports surfaced in the news media last month, while 26 per cent said the president “did not know.”

Eighty-one per cent of Americans said they viewed Russian President Vladimir Putin as a threat to the United States, including 24 per cent who saw him as an “imminent threat.” Only 35 per cent said they approved of Mr Trump’s handling of Russia, compared with 52 per cent who disapproved.

Fifty-four per cent said the United States should punish Russia with economic sanctions, while 9 per cent supported strikes on its military, another 9 per cent wanted to move on and try to improve relations with Russia, and 29 per cent said they were not sure.

NEW RE-ELECTION HURDLE

The Russia allegations appear to have become another hurdle for the president’s re-election campaign, which has already been hamstrung by Mr Trump’s uneven response to the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 133,000 Americans and dragged the economy into recession.

Mr Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee to face Mr Trump in the Nov 3 election, leads the Republican president by 6 percentage points among registered voters. Mr Biden’s lead, which had been as large as 13 points in June, has narrowed over the past few weeks as the number of undecided voters and the number who supported third-party candidates increased slightly.

Mr Biden has criticised Mr Trump’s handling of the reported allegations as a “dereliction of duty,” while Democrats in Congress called for the president to consider imposing new economic sanctions on Russia if the report was confirmed.

White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said Mr Trump would take “strong action” if the reports proved to be true, although the administration has yet to announce any specific actions in response.

In the latest poll, just 38 per cent of Americans said they approved of Mr Trump’s overall performance in office, while 57 per cent disapproved.

Reuters/Ipsos polling has shown the president has been shedding support among groups including independents, older voters and white men.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 1,114 adults and had a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 3 percentage points.

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China hires Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs to advise on pipeline asset transfers: sources

HONG KONG/BEIJING (REUTERS) – Top Chinese energy firms have mandated investment banks Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs to act as advisers for multi-billion dollar deals transferring oil and gas pipeline assets into a national energy infrastructure giant, four sources said.

Overseen by a government vice premier, underlining the project’s importance for Beijing, Beijing aims to complete the asset transfers and start operation of the new entity – valued by industry analysts at more than $40 billion – by the end of September, oil industry officials said.

“The timetable is a moving target but the goal was to complete the (asset) merger by end of July,” one person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

China announced in late 2019 that it would establish a National Oil and Gas Pipeline Company by combining pipelines, storage facilities and natural gas receiving terminals operated by China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), China Petrochemical Corp (Sinopec Group) and China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC).

The new entity – also known as PipeChina – was conceived by Beijing to provide oil and gas producers neutral access to energy infrastructure, and in so doing boost non-state investment in exploration of oil and gas.

Morgan Stanley has been selected to advise Sinopec, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the matter.

Goldman Sachs was selected for CNPC, two separate sources said.

It was not immediately clear if CNOOC had appointed an international adviser.

For the new pipeline group itself, China International Capital Corporation, or CICC, has been appointed as adviser, three separate sources said.

All of the people interviewed by Reuters requested anonymity because the matter was not public.

Sinopec declined to comment. PetroChina and CNOOC did not immediately comment.

On the banks side, Morgan Stanley declined to comment, as did Goldman and CICC.

According to some industry insiders, the transfer of some of the assets, such as the Shaanxi-Beijing gas trunk line project and natural gas receiving terminals that involve joint venture partners and minority stakeholders, may take longer to complete.

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Airborne coronavirus spread: Five things to know

We answer some questions about the transmission of COVID-19 through the air, the risks and ways to protect yourself.

More than seven months after the new coronavirus was first detected, scientists and health experts are still trying to get a better understanding of how it spreads and how to curb the COVID-19 respiratory disease it causes.

The coronavirus is transmitted from person to person through “droplet transmission”, including direct contact with someone who has been infected, indirect contact with contaminated surfaces, droplets of saliva from coughing or discharge from the nose when sneezing, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Airborne transmission is also possible, but its effects and risks have recently sparked a scientific debate.

What is airborne transmission?

The WHO has long said the new coronavirus spreads mainly through small droplets released from the mouth and nose that fall from the air in a short period.

But some scientists and researchers are increasingly pointing out to evidence that the virus can also be transmitted by even smaller droplets called aerosols. Usually generated when people are shouting and singing, these remain suspended in the air for longer and can travel farther.

How is it different from droplet transmission?

The respiratory droplets sneezed or coughed out are larger in size – a diameter of five to 10 micrometres – and the range of exposure is one to two metres (three to six feet).

Aerosols, however, are less than five micrometres in diameter and travel beyond two metres from the infected individual.

“The new coronavirus can survive in both droplets and aerosol for up to three hours under experimental conditions, although this depends on temperature and humidity, ultraviolet light and even the presence of other types of particles in the air,” Stephanie Dancer, a consultant medical microbiologist in the UK, told Al Jazeera.

“Microscopic aerosols can project at least six metres in indoor environments, and possibly even further if dynamic air currents are operating. The distance depends upon how large the aerosol is.”

How is COVID-19 spreading through the air?

As in droplet transmission, aerosols can be released in several ways including, breathing, talking, laughing, sneezing, coughing, singing and shouting.

“Breathing would not offer much projectile force, but shouting, singing, coughing and sneezing project aerosol through the air with a range of different velocities,” said Dancer.

“Even if one individual particle does not contain enough virus to cause infection, if you carry on breathing in these particles over time, you will acquire enough in your mouth, nose and respiratory tract to initiate infection.”

Airborne transmission can also occur in certain medical procedures that involve the patient generating aerosols, putting healthcare workers particularly at risk.

“Coronavirus can be spread by aerosol under special circumstances if using nebulisers, bronchoscopy, intubation, dental and other oral procedures using suction and lavage,” said Naheed Usmani, president of the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA).

“This is particularly dangerous for healthcare workers who should only attempt these procedures wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE), including N95 masks,” she told Al Jazeera. 

Is airborne COVID-19 less contagious?

The extent to which the coronavirus can be spread by the aerosol route – as opposed to by larger droplets – remains disputed.

While the WHO has long maintained that the primary source of infection is through droplet transmission, it has acknowledged there was “emerging evidence” of airborne transmission.

“The possibility of airborne transmission in public settings – especially in very specific conditions, crowded, closed, poorly ventilated settings that have been described, cannot be ruled out,” Benedetta Allegranzi, the WHO’s technical lead for infection prevention and control, said in a news briefing this week.

This came after a group of 239 scientists from 32 countries and a variety of fields made the case in an open letter that there was a “real risk” of airborne transmission, especially in indoor, enclosed and crowded environments without proper ventilation.

Dancer, who was one of the signatories of the letter, said there is a lower risk of catching the virus the further you are from the source.

Jose-Luis Jimenez, a chemist at the University of Colorado, also told Al Jazeera the “virus loses infectivity over a period of an hour or so indoors”.

How can you protect yourself?

Wearing face masks properly and maintaining physical distancing are recommended at all times.

Experts also recommend avoiding crowded places, especially public transport and public buildings.

In closed spaces at schools, offices and hospitals, increasing proper ventilation with outdoor air by opening windows can also mitigate the risk of infection, Jimenez said.

“For spaces where ventilation cannot be increased, we recommend portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter air cleaners or possibly ultraviolet (UV) germicidal lights at the high end of need. We do not recommend other types of air cleaners.”

Follow Saba Aziz on Twitter: @saba_aziz


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Formula One: Double champion Fernando Alonso to make F1 comeback with Renault

LONDON (REUTERS) – Double world champion Fernando Alonso will make a Formula One comeback with Renault, the team he won his titles with, in 2021 after two years out of the sport, the French team announced on Wednesday (July 8).

“Renault DP World F1 Team is pleased to confirm Fernando Alonso alongside Esteban Ocon in its driver line-up for the 2021 season,” Renault said in a statement.

The Spaniard, also a double Le Mans 24 Hours winner who turns 39 in July, won his championships in 2005 and 2006 and most recently raced for McLaren in the 2018 season.

More to follow…

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Coronavirus crisis: Inside the staggering cost of COVID-19 – What does it mean for you?

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The coronavirus crisis brought havoc to large sectors of the British economy to a crashing standstill. The Government has spent billions on support packages to help businesses, workers, organisations and families through the pandemic. But how has this help been funded and what will it cost you?

How much will the coronavirus crisis cost in total?

According to statistics from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the Government’s economic policy response to the crisis was estimated to have cost £132.6bn as of June 19.

It is still early on in the crisis and the recovery path, but economists suggest the final cost could be in the region of £300bn or more for the 2020/2021 financial year alone.

Before the crisis, the Government anticipated borrowing for the year to be circa £55bn, but the true figure is likely to be at least five times more.

The Government, in fact, borrowed more than £100bn in the first two months of the financial year alone.

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What has the Government paid for throughout the crisis?

The Government has provided a raft of public spending initiatives to help people through the pressures of the crisis.

Bailouts have included help for furloughed employees and the self-employed which is likely to cost more than £100bn in total.

In addition, the Government is likely to raise less tax than it hoped because of the crisis given unemployed and furloughed workers will pay less income tax, businesses will also pay less tax as their profits are lower and shoppers are paying less VAT because they are buying less.

How has the Government paid for these schemes so far?

The Government borrows money because it spends more than it receives in revenue which is money mainly collected through taxation.

Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the Government has undertaken more borrowing than usual.

The Government borrows in the financial markets by selling bonds, which are promises to make payments to whoever holds the bonds on a certain date.

Interest is also paid on the bonds in the interim.

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When will the Government have to pay back this borrowing?

The repayment periods for bonds differ massively between each agreement.

Some borrowing will need to be repaid in a month, while others lending may have a repayment period of up to 55 years.

The minimum borrowing period is just one day, while some bonds can be paid back over 55 years.

How will the UK pay back this borrowing?

Many economists fear the recovery period after the lockdown is lifted fully will take longer than expected.

This means the Government will bring in less money through taxes than expected and will have to spend more to support people and the economy.

The gap between the Government’s spending plans and revenue is known as the deficit and this leaves the Government with three options to raise money:

  • Increase borrowing
  • Raise taxes
  • Reduce spending.

Most likely, the Government will use a mixture of all three options to cut the cost of the crisis.

What impact could this have on you?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak may have no option but to raise taxes in the autumn to cover the huge amount of state financial assistance during the COVID-19 crisis.

Raising taxation would mean Mr Sunak breaks pledges made in the Conservative manifesto to raise rates on income tax, National Insurance and VAT.

But in order to reduce the mounting deficit, the UK will likely review and potentially alter the following taxes:

  • Income tax and National Insurance
  • VAT and corporation tax
  • Self-employed taxes
  • Triple-lock on pensions
  • Wealth tax.

If taxes are raised, people will have less money to spend and likely the cost of living will increase leading to even more financial hardships for people.

If spending is reduced, this could lead to worsening public services.

Some areas are protected such as healthcare, but it will likely put healthcare systems under even more pressure.

State Pensions have also been mentioned as another means by which the Government may seek to cut costs.

State Pensions are protected by the triple lock system which guarantees at least a two percent increase each year and by pausing this guarantee, the Government could be spared millions.

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Mike Tindall’s blunt message to Meghan Markle exposed: ‘She knows what she’s doing’

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Meghan and Harry have relocated to California, LA, in recent months, after declaring their decision to step back from their lives as senior royals. After weeks of discussion, the couple agreed with the Palace that they would spend the majority of their time in North America and no longer use their HRH statuses. In her statements on the shocking royal news, the Queen claimed she supported the Sussexes’ decision — yet, reports of a rift between the Duke and Duchess and the rest of their UK-based family continue.

The supposed fallout has hit the headlines again this week, after Meghan’s lawyers suggested she felt “unprotected” from negative media during her time on the royal frontline.

However, this claim appears to contradict Mike Tindall’s public advice to the newcomer just days before her May 2018 wedding.

Former England rugby union captain Mike wed the Queen’s granddaughter Zara Phillips in 2011 — and he spoke to Good Morning Britain about his thoughts on how she would cope within the royal fold.

He said: “I think she’ll [Meghan] be nervous, but coming from her background in TV she’s used to the public spotlight.

“Not quite as much probably has gone on this week [in the lead-up to the wedding] but she’ll be fine and I think she’s experienced enough to know that all she can do is enjoy the day.

“The best thing about the Royal Family is that they are so lovely and they’ll spot the people who are looking a little bit nervous and go straight over and take away all of that tension straight out of the room.

“And it’s a special day for them both, and as long as they get a quiet moment during the day and actually have enjoyed the day that’s what I wish for them, and hopefully they’ll live happily ever after.”

He also said the royals are “amazing” at helping anyone who looks on edge — as they did with his own family during his 2011 wedding.

Mike explained: “Then suddenly you’re in the family and they welcome you with open arms.”

However, this appears to contradict Meghan’s recent claims in her ongoing court case against Associated Newspapers.

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Legal documents have revealed she felt “unprotected” by the “institution” of the Royal Family during her pregnancy, when negative stories about her were published.

Her lawyers said she felt “prohibited from defending herself” against the stories, presumably in line with the ‘never complain, never explain’ mantra of the Firm.

This is the latest saga in the reported feud between the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the Royal Family.

Additionally, Lady Colin Campbell shocked royal fans when she claimed that the first divisions between the Sussexes and the rest of the royals began just days after their 2018 wedding.

She alleged that at Prince Charles’ garden party to celebrate his 70th birthday, Meghan had been “bored” and asked Harry if they could leave the event.

Fans then pointed to footage from the garden party which appears to show the Duke and Duchess of Sussex leaving early after a quick — and potentially tense — exchange with Charles and Camilla.

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Prince William heartbreak: Devastating reason Duke ‘in no rush’ to be next King exposed

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Prince William is currently second in line to the throne after his father, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales. The Duke of Cambridge has taken on an increasing number of duties over the past few years to better prepare for his future job but is reportedly “in no rush” to succeed both the Queen and his father. True Royalty TV founder Nick Bullen suggested William is set to respect the succession order and would be devastated for any immediate shifts up the order because of the implications of the change.

Mr Bullen told Fox News: “William is in no rush to be the King.

“It is this weird thing you have with royals. I spoke to the Prince of Wales about this – to get that top job, you are essentially wishing your parent or grandparent to be dead.

“But if you’re in no rush to get that job because for Charles to be King his mother would have to die, for William to be King his father would have to die – nobody wants that.

“It’ll happen in due course and William is in no rush for it.”

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Mr Bullen also dismissed suggestions the Queen may opt to pass on the crown to the Duke of Cambridge directly, thus bypassing the Prince of Wales.

The royal expert insisted Her Majesty is set on respecting the pecking order and Prince Charles will become the next King.

He continued: “You can say it as much as you like but it’s never going to happen.

“Prince Charles, should he still be alive when the Queen very sadly dies, will be the King. There is no discussion.

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“That’s what the Queen wants, that’s what the Prince of Wales wants and I know that’s what William wants.”

While the throne is still years away for William, the Duke of Cambridge is believed to have begun preparations to take over Charles’ management of the lucrative Duchy of Cornwall.

The Duchy generates an estimated £1billion a year and is traditionally used by the Prince of Wales to fund the private costs of his heirs.

It was originally established under Edward III in 1337 and has since expanded to cover 21 counties across the southwest of England.

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Royal commentator Charlie Proctor told The Daily Star Online in February: “Just like Prince Charles is preparing to become King, William is already preparing to become Prince of Wales ready for the duties and responsibilities he will have to take on.

“As an example, William recently left his job as an air ambulance pilot to become a full time working royal.

“As time goes on his presence becomes ever more important meaning he has to commit all of his working time to royal duties.”

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Sterling clings to three-week highs ahead of British budget plan

LONDON (Reuters) – Sterling was steady at $1.2545 GBP=D3 and at 89.96 pence against the euro EURGBP=D3 on Wednesday, a day after hitting three-week highs against both currencies, ahead of expected British moves to prevent a full-blown unemployment crisis.

In his new budget speech, due at 1130 GMT, British finance minister Rishi Sunak is expected to include a 2 billion-pound fund to create six-month work placement jobs for unemployed 16-24 year-olds.

Sunak is also expected to cut property purchase taxes which could jump-start the housing market and to allocate 3 billion pounds to improve the energy efficiency of homes which would support more than 100,000 jobs.

Jordan Rochester, Nomura’s forex strategist, said only fundamental growth enhancing reforms, such as the change to Stamp Duty on property, might have an impact on the British currency, given that forex investors are in a growth mindset.

“It’s an event worth watching out for but not clear if it’s a fundamental game change for the direction of the currency,” Rochester said of the likely impact on the pound, with the market also focused on renewed Brexit talks this week.

British and European Union negotiators kicked off the talks on Tuesday, with the top EU official saying he wants a deal, “but not at any price”.

Last week’s talks were cut short with both sides saying they had yet to overcome the gulf in positions that could see Britain leaving a status-quo transition period at the end of this year without a trade deal.

Britain is prepared to leave the EU on the same terms as Australia has with the bloc if it cannot agree on a future trading deal, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Germany’s Angela Merkel in a telephone call on Tuesday.

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European shares slip as virus cases surge; HSBC, Nokia slump

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July 8 (Reuters) – European shares opened lower on Wednesday, with banks and energy firms leading the declines as surging coronavirus infections globally dimmed the prospect of a swift economic recovery.

The pan-European STOXX 600 fell 0.5% by 0714 GMT. Banks and energy firms slid more than 1%.

London-listed HSBC fell 3.5% after a report said U.S. President Donald Trump’s top advisers weighed proposals to undermine the Hong Kong currency’s peg to the U.S. dollar. The proposal could possibly limit the ability of Hong Kong banks to buy dollars.

Market sentiment soured overnight on Wall Street as the U.S. coronavirus outbreak crossed a grim milestone of over 3 million confirmed cases on Tuesday, while the World Health Organization acknowledged “evidence emerging” of the airborne spread of the coronavirus.

Finland’s Nokia slumped 6.7% after JPMorgan downgraded its stock to “neutral” on indications of a potential loss of business with U.S. telecoms company Verizon.

Europe’s home appliance maker Electrolux jumped 5.1% after saying that it would report a smaller loss than previously anticipated for the second quarter due to sales growth in June and cost mitigation actions. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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Man quit coke, ket and gambling to go hill walking and now he's addicted

Lockdown has given us all the opportunity to pause and re-evaluate, perhaps take up new hobbies or make personal changes that we’ve always pined for.

For Rhys Sinclair, it forced him to swap ‘cocaine and ket’ for hill walking – and he says it has changed his life.

Rhys, 23, is celebrating ‘not having a sore head or feeling sick’ all the time after swapping nights out for days spent enjoying the great outdoors.

He ditched drugs, alcohol and gambling while in quarantine and said he is thriving thanks to ‘no more hangovers or comedowns’.

Rhys, from Leith in Edinburgh, made a New Year’s resolution to kick his addictive habits but struggled to stick to it until the pandemic put a stopper on all his plans.

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Instead, he took up walking as an opportunity to get his one form of exercise in and said it has kept him sober ‘to stay fresh for the hills’.

Rhys told Metro.co.uk: ‘I think the biggest change apart from feeling healthier has been my overall mood, I feel a lot happier in general not having a sore head or feeling sick.

‘It definitely improved my mental state and my relationships with my friends.’


He has now been relying on an app called Nomo which creates personalised sobriety clocks to keep track of his progress.

He has so far clocked up 25 days without gambling, 32 days ketamine free, 31 days cocaine free, and 31 days alcohol free.

Rhys shared his achievements on social media, saying: ‘I stand by that a healthy body makes a healthy mind from there on, it’s simple.

‘To be honest I’m not too fussed about drinking, I just don’t see the appeal at the moment but this will definitely help me cut back.

‘But the drugs – I definitely hope that is me for life.’

He admitted the most difficult part was ‘sticking to your word’ without giving in to the ‘excuses’ of having a good time or being down ‘as a reason to use drink or drugs’.

Rhys said: ‘Doing hill walking is a fitting substitute to satisfy both those reasons.’

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