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State-supervised daycares launch open-ended strike over work conditions

Tens of thousands of toddlers attend the facilities that will be shuttered Sunday due to strike; unions hit out at government

Staff clean a classroom at Emunah daycare in the city of Modiin, on May 7, 2020. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Staff clean a classroom at Emunah daycare in the city of Modiin, on May 7, 2020. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Saturday’s events as they happened.

State-supervised daycares launch open-ended strike over work conditions

Staff clean a classroom at Emunah daycare in the city of Modiin, on May 7, 2020. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Staff clean a classroom at Emunah daycare in the city of Modiin, on May 7, 2020. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Workers at state-supervised daycares have called for an open-ended strike starting tomorrow to protest their work conditions, in a move that will effect the tens of thousands of toddlers who attend these facilities.

“The harm to parents, children and the Israeli economy is because of the government’s refusal to sit with the workers for negotiations,” the unions representing them say.

Merav Michaeli returns after 1.5 months in US for birth of surrogate child

Merav Michaeli and her partner Lior Schleien are seen with their newborn, Uri. (Facebook photo)
Merav Michaeli and her partner Lior Schleien are seen with their newborn, Uri. (Facebook photo)

Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli returns to Israel after 1.5 months abroad.

Michaeli, who heads the Labor party, traveled to the US in August meet to her first child, born through surrogacy.

Biden mourns ‘painful milestone’ of 700,000 COVID deaths in US

WASHINGTON — US President Joe Biden mourns “the painful milestone” of 700,000 American deaths from COVID-19, a day after the US surpassed that mark.

The president says in a statement “the astonishing death toll is yet another reminder of just how important it is to get vaccinated.” He says that the nation has “made extraordinary progress” in the fight against the coronavirus in the past eight months because of vaccines.

Biden says that, thanks to vaccines, “hundreds of thousands of families have been spared the unbearable loss that too many Americans have already endured during this pandemic.”

Biden adds that vaccines “will help us beat COVID-19 and move forward, together, as one nation.”

3 workers died building Dubai Expo, officials acknowledge

French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves le Drian (3rd from left) takes part alongside Emirati Minister of State for International Cooperation Reem al-Hashimi (left), and French Trade Minister Franck Riester (2nd from left), in a call with a French astronaut aboard the International Space Station, from the Al-Wasl Dome at the Expo 2020, in the Gulf Emirate of Dubai, on October 2, 2021. (AFP)
French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves le Drian (3rd from left) takes part alongside Emirati Minister of State for International Cooperation Reem al-Hashimi (left), and French Trade Minister Franck Riester (2nd from left), in a call with a French astronaut aboard the International Space Station, from the Al-Wasl Dome at the Expo 2020, in the Gulf Emirate of Dubai, on October 2, 2021. (AFP)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Three workers died and more than 70 suffered serious injuries building Dubai’s Expo 2020 site, officials say, while insisting safety standards were “world-class.”

The figures are revealed after the European parliament called for a boycott of the six-month world fair, criticizing the United Arab Emirates’ human rights record and “inhumane” practices towards immigrant laborers.

More than 200,000 workers constructed the huge site on the outskirts of Dubai, which features hundreds of pavilions and other facilities on a showground twice the size of Monaco.

The UAE and fellow Gulf nation Qatar, host of next year’s World Cup, are frequently in the crosshairs of activist groups over their treatment of laborers, often from South Asia, who build their ambitious developments.

“Unfortunately, there have been three work-related fatalities, 72 serious injuries to date,” an Expo statement says, calling the welfare of laborers its “top priority.”

It says that 247 million work hours had been completed at the site, adding that the frequency of accidents was lower than Britain’s.

“We have established world-class policies, standards and processes that protect and support the health, safety, and wellbeing of everyone involved in Expo 2020 Dubai,” the statement says.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who visits the Expo today, says that France was “not part of” the European parliament’s resolution.

“Our relation with UAE is a strategic one, it’s very close, and we can say things in all transparency and if we need to say something to UAE government, well we do so but behind close doors,” he tells reporters.

US indicts Canadian jihadist who narrated videos for Islamic State

WASHINGTON — A Canadian jihadist who fought for the Islamic State group and narrated violent propaganda videos has been taken into custody by the United States and charged, the US Justice Department says.

Mohammed Khalifa, 38 and born in Saudi Arabia, was captured during a firefight in January 2019 by Kurdish-dominated Syrian forces allied with the US.

He was handed over “recently” to US authorities and charged in Virginia with conspiring to provide material support to IS resulting in death, says a Justice Department statement.

It says that he left Canada in 2013 to join the IS group in Syria, and by the next year had become a key member of its propaganda team because of his fluent English and Arabic.

Khalifa allegedly served as a lead translator in Islamic State propaganda production and the English-speaking narrator on two violent recruitment videos.

This cell was behind videos showing the beheadings of foreigners including the US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, who died in 2014.

In an exchange of emails cited in the charge sheet, Khalifa defended these killings.

“Mohammed Khalifa not only fought for ISIS on the battlefield in Syria, but he was also the voice behind the violence,” says Acting US Attorney Raj Parekh for the Eastern District of Virginia, using another acronym for Islamic State.

“Through his alleged leading role in translating, narrating, and advancing ISIS’s online propaganda, Khalifa promoted the terrorist group, furthered its worldwide recruitment efforts, and expanded the reach of videos that glorified the horrific murders and indiscriminate cruelty of ISIS,” Parekh says.

This is the first known indictment of a foreign IS fighter in America since Joe Biden took power in January.

Police minister denounces ‘local militia’ who assaulted officers in Kafr Qasim

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev attends a ceremony at the National Headquarters of the Israel Police in Jerusalem, on September 5, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Public Security Minister Omer Barlev attends a ceremony at the National Headquarters of the Israel Police in Jerusalem, on September 5, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev describes the private security guards at the Kafr Qasim municipality who assaulted police officers as a “local militia,” in a statement expressing support for the cops.

“I’m proud of the officers,” Barlev writes on Twitter, “they acted exactly as is expected of a police officer in Israel.”

“The suspects who were arrested and anyone who thinks he can lift a hand against those in uniform will be brought to justice,” he adds.

Bennett: Violent crime in Arab communities has reached ‘insufferable point’

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and police chief Kobi Shabtai during an inauguration ceremony marking the opening of a new police station in Kiryat Ata, on August 11, 2021. (Roni Ofer/Flash90)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and police chief Kobi Shabtai during an inauguration ceremony marking the opening of a new police station in Kiryat Ata, on August 11, 2021. (Roni Ofer/Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett expresses his backing for police and says that violent crime in Arab communities has reached an “insufferable point” after several officers were assaulted by private security guards outside the Kafr Qasim municipality.

“We will fight [the violence] with all our strength,” he tweets. “I expect the Arab community, which is asking the state to intervene, to give police officers full backing and support.”

He also vows “we will bring to justice” to those behind the assault.

Far-right protesters in Romania rally against new restrictions amid COVID spike

A woman holds a banner during an anti-government and anti-restrictions protest organized by the far-right Alliance for the Unity of Romanians or AUR, in Bucharest, Romania, on October 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
A woman holds a banner during an anti-government and anti-restrictions protest organized by the far-right Alliance for the Unity of Romanians or AUR, in Bucharest, Romania, on October 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

BUCHAREST, Romania — More than 5,000 far-right protesters march in Romania’s capital of Bucharest to reject upcoming new restrictions that authorities hope will combat an alarming surge of COVID-19 infections.

Daily COVID-19 infections in the European Union nation of 19 million have skyrocketed from around 1,000 daily cases a month ago to 12,590 new cases today. That is Romania’s highest daily number of infections since the pandemic started.

The rise is putting the country’s hospitals under serious pressure as intensive care units reach near-capacity nationally.

Authorities have said that new restrictions will be implemented when an area’s infection rate exceeds 6 per 1,000 residents over a 14-day period. Bucharest’s infection rate today stood above 8 per 1,000 residents.

The mostly mask-less marchers block traffic, honk horns and chant “Freedom!” One placard reads: “Green certificates = dictatorship.” The demonstration was organized by Romania’s far-right AUR party.

The new restrictions — expected to take effect in the next few days — will require people to wear masks in public and make shops close at 10:00 p.m. Restaurants will remain open at half capacity, but only for people with COVID-19 passes.

The protest angers some medical workers.

Beatrice Mahler, hospital manager of Bucharest’s Marius Nasta Institute of Pneumology, says that protesters “believe their right to ‘freedom’ is above our right to health.”

“The situation in hospitals is serious,” she tells The Associated Press. “We have patients hospitalized in beds in the hallway — all with extremely severe forms of COVID-19.”

New Green Pass rules to take effect on Sunday

A sign at the entrance to a shop in Jerusalem, allowing entry to Green Pass holders only, and regulations concerning masks, social distancing, on August 4, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A sign at the entrance to a shop in Jerusalem, allowing entry to Green Pass holders only, and regulations concerning masks, social distancing, on August 4, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

New Green Pass rules are due to take effect tomorrow, with many Israelis set to lose their passes under the updated immunity guidelines.

Under the new rules, anyone can receive a Green Pass a week after getting a coronavirus booster shot. Those who have received two vaccine doses will have their Green Pass for six months after getting the second shot.

Any person who had COVID will also have a Green Pass for six months after recovery, but must get a vaccine shot after that to maintain their status.

Someone who is neither vaccinated nor recovered from COVID can also submit a recent negative coronavirus test result to access venues and events that require a Green Pass.

According to Channel 12 news, some 2 million Israelis will lose their Green Pass status tomorrow due to the new requirements.

4,855 new COVID infections confirmed over weekend, serious cases at 586

Health Ministry figures show that 4,855 new coronavirus cases have been recorded over the weekend, including 3,585 yesterday and another 1,270 since midnight.

There are 44,390 active cases, including 587 people hospitalized in serious condition with COVID-19 complications.

Since the pandemic began, there have been 1,287,977 confirmed infections and 7,778 fatalities since the pandemic began.

The ministry also reports 6,126,931 Israelis have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, and 5,646,429 have gotten two doses. Another 3,464,502 have received a booster shot.

Trump files suit to be allowed back on Twitter

Former US president Donald Trump speaks at a rally, on September 25, 2021, in Perry, Georgia. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images/AFP)
Former US president Donald Trump speaks at a rally, on September 25, 2021, in Perry, Georgia. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images/AFP)

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump has filed suit asking a court to reinstate his account on Twitter and restore the online voice he lost for allegedly instigating the Capitol Hill riot.

Twitter and other social media banned the former president from their platforms after a mob of pro-Trump supporters assaulted the US Congress building on January 6.

They were riled up by a speech hours earlier in which Trump hammered away at his false claims that the election he lost to Joe Biden was stolen from him.

Twitter said at the time that Trump tweets leading up to his removal violated its policy against glorifying violence and were likely to cause people to mimic what happened on January 6.

In the filing in a Florida federal court, Trump argues that the platform that served as his main megaphone for reaching his millions of conservative followers was “coerced” into suspending him by members of the US Congress.

At the time he was banned, Trump had more than 88 million Twitter followers.

Twitter, the filing argues, “exercises a degree of power and control over political discourse in this country that is immeasurable, historically unprecedented, and profoundly dangerous to open democratic debate.”

The suit notes that the Taliban, in power in Afghanistan now and still considered a terrorist organization by the United States, is allowed to have a Twitter account.

Banning Trump but not the Taliban amounts to “ludicrous incongruity” on the part of Twitter, the suit alleges.

Contacted by AFP, Twitter declines to comment on Trump’s move.

Police chief condemns assault on officers at Kafr Qasim municaplity

Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai denounces the recent assault on police officers by private security guards outside the Kfar Qasim municipality.

“We won’t accept a situation in which police officers are harmed while carrying out their duties,” Shabtai says.

Qatar wraps up voting in first legislative election

Qatari election officials count ballots at a polling station in the capital Doha, on October 2, 2021, after the polls closed on the country's first ever legislative vote. (Karim Jaafar/AFP)
Qatari election officials count ballots at a polling station in the capital Doha, on October 2, 2021, after the polls closed on the country's first ever legislative vote. (Karim Jaafar/AFP)

DOHA, Qatar — Qatar wraps up its first legislative election with reports of a solid turnout, even though the vote is not expected to shift power away from the emir.

The vote is for 30 members of the 45-strong Shura Council, a body with limited powers that was previously appointed by the emir as an advisory chamber.

The count got underway straight after the close of polls. Results are expected before 11 p.m. local time.

More than a third of the 101 candidates dropped out of the race by this afternoon, state television reported, apparently to support rival candidates.

“Where candidates realized that they have no shot to win a seat, they decided to endorse other candidates,” says King’s College London associate professor Andreas Krieg.

After the withdrawals, there were 183 candidates in contention for the 30 elected seats.

The remaining 15 will be appointed by the emir, although it is not known when they will be announced, or when the council will meet.

Bennett says ‘too early to celebrate’ amid fall in serious COVID cases

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says that it’s “still too early to celebrate” amid a decline in serious morbidity and other signs that the current wave of COVID-19 is waning.

“We are at a critical stage,” he says in a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, noting that schools are getting back to routine after the High Holidays.

He also calls for adopting further testing in place of mass quarantines when a student contracts COVID-19.

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