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Wed, 21 Oct 2020
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Italy fears up to 1.5 million North African migrants as revolution takes terrifying turn in Libya

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© REUTERS
A Tunisian woman crosses into Tunisia at the Ras Jdir border crossing, after fleeing unrest in Libya
Up to 1.5 million refugees from North Africa could try to flee across the Mediterranean, Italy warned on Thursday as the government begged for help from the EU in dealing with the potential exodus.

Roberto Maroni, Italy's interior minister, said the worst case scenario could see 1.5 million migrants trying to escape countries like Libya, Tunisia and Egypt - a prediction that dwarfed concerns expressed by Rome earlier this week that 300,000 might seek to enter Europe.

"We cannot be left alone," Mr Maroni, Italy's interior minister, told his EU counterparts at a meeting in Brussels which was convened to address the looming crisis.

He said the arrival of so many refugees would represent "an invasion" which would bring Italy "to its knees".

"I ask Europe to settle all the necessary measures to deal with a catastrophic humanitarian crisis," in Libya.

Italy, Greece and Malta fear that if the Gaddafi regime falls, the floodgates will be opened to the estimated 1.5 million sub-Saharan Africans who live and work in Libya.

Heart - Black

1000s die in Libya, reports of poison gas

gaddafi

Libya's deputy ambassador to the UN says thousands of people have been killed during protests, as unconfirmed reports have come in claiming the regime has used poison gas on demonstrators.

Ibrahim Dabbashi, who has turned against the Gaddafi regime, said the death toll is expected to rise as Muammar Gaddafi continues his bloody crackdown against the opposition.

"There are already thousands of people who have been killed, we expect more. They are gathering all the bodies and they are taking them to the desert or somewhere. No one knows where are the bodies of the victims," AFP quoted Dabbashi as saying.

Arrow Down

Record plunge in disposable income

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© Unknown
Families' disposable income dived by a record £9 a week during January as inflation continued to outstrip wage growth, research has indicated.

The average family had £174 a week left to spend after meeting all of their essential outgoings, down from £183 a week in January last year, according to supermarket group Asda.

It was the 13th consecutive month during which people suffered a year-on-year fall in their disposable income, while it was also the biggest drop recorded since Asda first began collecting the data in January 2007.

The group said the continued decline in spending power seen during 2010 and into 2011 was caused by the price of essential goods and services rising faster than net incomes.

Inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index rose to 4% in January, but average incomes rose by just 2.4% during the previous 12 months.

Arrow Down

Public sector workers could see their 'gold-plated' pensions halved

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© Reuters
Proposals: Chancellor George Osborne will publish plans that could see public sector workers transferred to less generous pensions
Public sector workers could see their 'gold-plated' pensions slashed to make it easier to transfer services to private firms and charities.

Payments due to hundreds of thousands of nurses, doctors and bin collectors could be cut to less than half under proposals being considered by the Treasury.

The Government wants providers other than the State to take over the running of some services as part of David Cameron's 'Big Society' plan.

But ministers fear the generous final salary schemes paid out to public sector workers would deter all but the biggest firms from doing so.

Last night unions said the proposal was 'extremely provocative' and could lead to a fresh round of strikes if enacted.

Public sector workers have their pensions protected, even if another provider takes over the service, under 'fair deal' rules agreed by Labour in the late 1990s.

Arrow Down

Crisis of Middle class who can't afford to retire

Middle Class Britons are facing retirement in poverty, with millions expected to see their income fall by more than half.

An alarming study has found that their low savings will leave them exposed to an "acute squeeze" on their standard of living - with many families now retiring seeing take-home income drop by 57 per cent to an average of just £13,713.

The stark report also predicts that five million lower-middle class households will have to survive on little more than the state pension, even though they may have been saving for decades.

Roughly a third of those will be left with even less, having to survive each year on just £11,000.

It could force millions to stay on at work till their late 60s or even 70s following a change in the law this autumn which is expected to end compulsory retirement at 65.

Competition for jobs will also be fierce, at a time when youth unemployment is soaring.

Control Panel

Dirty air triggers more heart attacks than cocaine

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© Unknown
Air pollution triggers more heart attacks than using cocaine and poses as high a risk of sparking a heart attack as alcohol, coffee and physical exertion, scientists said on Thursday.

Sex, anger, marijuana use and chest or respiratory infections and can also trigger heart attacks to different extents, the researchers said, but air pollution, particularly in heavy traffic, is the major culprit.

The findings, published in The Lancet journal, suggest population-wide factors like polluted air should be taken more seriously when looking at heart risks, and should be put into context beside higher but relatively rarer risks like drug use.

Tim Nawrot of Hasselt University in Belgium, who led the study, said he hoped his findings would also encourage doctors to think more often about population level risks.

"Physicians are always looking at individual patients -- and low risk factors might not look important at an individual level, but if they are prevalent in the population then they have a greater public health relevance," he said in a telephone interview.

Newspaper

Georgia, US: Crying Toddler 4 Hours in Shut Bank Vault

Conyers - A 14-month-old girl who wandered away from her mother and grandmother spent several tense hours trapped inside a time-locked bank vault and authorities pumped fresh air through vents to the crying child until a locksmith freed her, police said.

The locksmith pried the toddler unharmed from the vault Friday night about four hours after she went missing while visiting a grandparent who worked at a Wells Fargo bank branch in the greater Atlanta suburb of Conyers, police said.

Authorities say police and firefighters couldn't free the toddler and feverishly summoned the locksmith after the child apparently strayed into the open vault as the bank was closing Friday - before an employee shut the vault door for the day.

Conyers Police Chief Gene Wilson told reporters it was a "very tense scene" as authorities stood by along with the relatives, and rescue workers pumped fresh air into vents leading to the vault.

Ambulance

Many Locked-In Syndrome Patients Happy

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© Unknown
Glasgow University Tower
London - You are awake, aware and probably unable to move or talk - but you are not necessarily unhappy, says the largest study of locked-in syndrome ever conducted.

A surprising number of patients with the condition say they are happy, despite being paralyzed and having to communicate mainly by moving their eyes. Most cases are caused by major brain damage, often sustained in traumatic accidents.

As part of the study - published in the online journal BMJ Open on Wednesday, Dr. Steven Laureys of the Coma Science Group at the University Hospital of Liege in Belgium and colleagues sent questionnaires to 168 members of the French Association for Locked-in Syndrome, asking them about their medical history, their emotional state and views on euthanasia.

Sixty-five patients used a scale to indicate their sense of well-being, with 47 saying they were happy and 18 unhappy. They were also asked a variety of questions about their lives, including their ability to get around or participate in social functions, or if they had ever considered euthanasia.

Only a handful of patients said they often had suicidal thoughts. The patients responded to questions largely by blinking.

Wall Street

Iran Reports a Major Setback at a Nuclear Power Plant

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© Majid Asgaripour/AFP/Getty Images
The reactor building at the Bushehr nuclear plant in Iran. Operation of the long-anticipated facility has been delayed.
Iran told atomic inspectors this week that it had run into a serious problem at a newly completed nuclear reactor that was supposed to start feeding electricity into the national grid this month, raising questions about whether the trouble was sabotage, a startup problem, or possibly the beginning of the project's end.

In a report on Friday, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran told inspectors on Wednesday that it was planning to unload nuclear fuel from its Bushehr reactor - the sign of a major upset. For years, Tehran has hailed the reactor as a showcase of its peaceful nuclear intentions and its imminent startup as a sign of quickening progress.

But nuclear experts said the giant reactor, Iran's first nuclear power plant, now threatens to become a major embarrassment, as engineers remove 163 fuel rods from its core.

Iran gave no reason for the unexpected fuel unloading, but it has previously admitted that the Stuxnet computer worm infected the Bushehr reactor. On Friday, computer experts debated whether Stuxnet was responsible for the surprising development.

Russia, which provided the fuel to Iran, said earlier this month that the worm's infection of the reactor should be investigated, arguing that it might trigger a nuclear disaster. Other experts said those fears were overblown, but noted that the full workings of the Stuxnet worm remained unclear.

Newspaper

Robert Fisk with the first dispatch from Tripoli - a city in the shadow of death

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© AP
A fire burns in a street in the Libyan capital Tripoli in the early hours of yesterday morning
Gunfire in the suburbs - and hunger and rumour in the capital as thousands race for last tickets out of a city sinking into anarchy

Up to 15,000 men, women and children besieged Tripoli's international airport last night, shouting and screaming for seats on the few airliners still prepared to fly to Muammar Gaddafi's rump state, paying Libyan police bribe after bribe to reach the ticket desks in a rain-soaked mob of hungry, desperate families. Many were trampled as Libyan security men savagely beat those who pushed their way to the front.

Among them were Gaddafi's fellow Arabs, thousands of them Egyptians, some of whom had been living at the airport for two days without food or sanitation. The place stank of faeces and urine and fear. Yet a 45-minute visit into the city for a new airline ticket to another destination is the only chance to see Gaddafi's capital if you are a "dog" of the international press.

There was little sign of opposition to the Great Leader. Squads of young men with Kalashnikov rifles stood on the side roads next to barricades of upturned chairs and wooden doors. But these were pro-Gaddafi vigilantes - a faint echo of the armed Egyptian "neighbourhood guard" I saw in Cairo a month ago - and had pinned photographs of their leader's infamous Green Book to their checkpoint signs.