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The Dutch government says it's holding Syria responsible under international law for “gross human rights violations,” in a process that could ultimately trigger a case at the United Nations’ highest court. The Dutch initiative Friday invokes the U.N. Convention against Torture. It's the latest attempt to hold President Bashar Assad's government accountable amid widespread reports it's mistreating its own citizens against the backdrop of the country’s grinding civil war. Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said "the Assad regime has not hesitated to crack down hard on its own population, using torture and chemical weapons, and bombing hospitals.” He said victims must have access to justice. Read more

The Kremlin has accused colleagues of opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Friday of hampering a Russian investigation by taking items from his hotel room out of the country. The colleagues revealed Thursday that the items they removed included a water bottle that had traces of the Soviet-era nerve agent German authorities said was used to poison Navalny. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that because of their actions, “Regrettably, what could have been evidence of poisoning was taken away." Navalny fell ill on an Aug. 20 and was transferred to Germany for treatment. A German military lab later determined that he was poisoned with a Soviet-developed Novichok nerve agent.   Read more

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Joe Biden’s campaign is unveiling a series of nationwide digital events targeting Black voters in swing states — a strategic move to further energize the key demographic as the race heads into its final weeks. The virtual events, which will commemorate Friday’s inaugural National Black Voter Day, will begin with a voter registration and early vote rally in North Carolina featuring vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris as part of the campaign’s “Turn Up and Turn out the Vote Virtual Bus Tour.”  Read more

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The European Commission has presented a series of measures aimed at tackling structural racism and discrimination, acknowledging a blatant lack of diversity among the European Union’s institutions. The bloc’s executive arm sets out its action plan for the next five years, which includes strengthening the current legal framework, recruiting an anti-racism coordinator and increasing the diversity of EU staff. The European Commission’s vice president for values and transparency said that recent anti-racism protests in the U.S. and Europe highlighted the need for action. All 27 EU commissioners appointed last year by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are white.   Read more

Due to the coronavirus pandemic the usually glamorous London Fashion Week is feeling decidedly lacklustre. With most designers showing their wares online only, style in the COVID era is largely limited to streaming fashion shows on an iPad from the couch. Luxury brand Burberry decamped its models to a forest clearing Thursday for a live-streamed show with no catwalk or physical audience.  The fashion industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and many say that has forced a sharp rethink about how the business works and how the traditional calendar of biannual fashion weeks is organized. Fashion insiders say it's time to do things differently, and after the pandemic technology like augmented reality will play an increasing role. Read more

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The U.S. will ban the use of WeChat Sunday to “safeguard the national security of the United States.” The Chinese app TikTok will also be banned by Nov. 12, but Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said early Friday on CNBC that access to that app may be possible  if certain safeguards are in place. The government previously said that using and downloading the app to communicate won’t be a banned transaction, although messaging on the app “could be directly or indirectly impaired” by the ban, and people who use it for messaging won’t be subject to penalties. Read more

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Fire tore through a large barn in Union Township, Berks County Friday morning. Read more

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Van Morrison is planning to release three new songs that take a swipe at the coronavirus restrictions imposed by the British government. In  “No More Lockdown,” the 75-year-old singer-songwriter says the curbs “enslave” people. He, effectively labels the government as “fascist bullies,” condemns celebrities for “telling us what we are supposed to feel” and accuses scientists of “making up crooked facts.” The Northern Irishman is also releasing “Born To Be Free” and “As I Walked Out.” The former is due to be released on Sept. 25, followed by the other two songs a month later. Morrison knighted in 2016 for his services to music and to tourism in Northern Ireland,  Read more

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PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 18, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- PREIT today highlighted new stores opening throughout its portfolio highlighted by an expanded, new prototype Apple store at Cherry Hill Mall. The store features Apple's latest store design elements, an outdoor seating area and exterior and interior accessibility. Cherry Hill Mall will also welcome new tenants, Jamba and Tempur-Pedic, in the fourth quarter. Read more

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Pope Francis gave his blessing Friday to a new Vatican think tank that is seeking to prevent the Mafia and organized crime groups from exploiting the image of the Virgin Mary for their own illicit ends.The Vatican’s Pontifical Marian Academy launched the think tank Friday at a conference entitled “Liberating Mary from the Mafia.” It was a reference to the historic relationship between the Italian mob and the Catholic Church, and the popular displays of Marian devotion by mobsters in Italy and beyond.In a message from the pope read out at the start of the conference, held at Rome’s Museum of Civility, Francis said the religious and cultural image and patrimony of the Madonna “must be preserved in its original purity.”   Read more

World Trade Organization member states have trimmed a list of candidates vying to become its next director-general from eight to five by ejecting applicants from Egypt, Mexico and Moldova. The WTO’s General Council ruled out Jesus Seade Kuri of Mexico, Tudor Ulianovschi of Moldova and Hamid Mamdouh of Egypt. They had been hoping to lead the Geneva-based trade body that has become a lightning rod of criticism for Trump administration. Aspirants from Britain, Kenya, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and South Korea made the cut. The previous WTO director-general, Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo, left the job a year early at the end of August after citing a “personal decision” to leave.  Read more

Here are a few things to know about the day’s news from The Associated Press. Minnesota will feel like a genuine battleground when President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, campaign there to mark the beginning of early voting. Students have contracted COVID-19 at schools like the centuries-old Sorbonne University in Paris, an experience that is a warning to other European universities that are preparing to reopen. Rescuers across southern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle are using boats and high-water vehicles to reach people cut off by floodwaters in the aftermath of Hurricane Sally. Read more

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The pandemic was not just the main topic of the night — it was the cause of the unusual format of the event: a drive-in with 35 cars outside PNC Field. Read more

Prince Joachim, the younger son of Queen Margrethe of Denmark, who underwent an emergency surgery in France in July for a blood clot in his brain, says he is “eager to get started” as he arrived for his first work day at the Danish Embassy in Paris. The 51-year-old prince spoke to reporters outside the Danish mission where he will be defense attache. Joachim was rushed to the Toulouse University Hospital on July 24. He is sixth in line to Denmark’s throne after his elder brother, Crown Prince Frederik, and his brother’s four children. Read more

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It happened just before 10:30 p.m. Thursday in the 400 block of Washington Street. Read more

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Police on the Greek island of Lesbos have resumed relocating migrants rendered homeless when fires ravaged the country’s largest refugee camp amid a local COVID-19 outbreak. Officials reported that of the 5,000 people moved to a new army-built camp on the island, 135 so far have tested positive for the coronavirus. The emergency on Lesbos occurred as the European Union prepares to issue proposals to a major overhaul of the bloc’s migration policies. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis discussed the proposals and EU aid for Lesbos migrants with the president of the EU's executive commission and Germany's chancellor.  Read more

Satellite images indicate that North Korea is preparing for a massive military parade in its capital to mark the 75th anniversary of its ruling party next month. The images show thousands of people assembled in formation near Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Square and rehearsing for a military parade. The anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party is on Oct. 10.  North Korea often holds military parades on state anniversaries to bolster unity and intimidate enemies. But the parade rehearsal comes as North Korea continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic. Read more

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Expect the last weekend of summer to feel more like we expect an October weekend to feel, with highs only in the mid 60s and overnight lows deep down into the 40s.  Read more

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Two of Spain’s biggest banks have announced their merger, pushed together by a need to weather tough economic times that likely will cost thousands of jobs. The tie-up between CaixaBank and Bankia will create the largest lender in the country, with assets of more than 664 billion euros ($787 billion). The deal requires approval by shareholders and regulators, and is expected to be concluded in the first quarter of next year. The Spanish government had welcomed the possibility of a merger, saying the sector needs to consolidate. The deal comes as Europe's financial sector struggles with low interest rates and a steep economic downturn. Read more

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South Africa's chief medical adviser says the country should know its true toll from the coronavirus pandemic within a few weeks, as it prepares to almost fully reopen its economy. The first surge in cases was brought under control. Salim Abdool Karim says in an AP interview that the country's official death toll from COVID-19 is more than 15,700 but the real number is likely more than 30,000 when deaths not recorded at hospitals are taken into account. He hopes a nationwide survey for the presence of antibodies to the virus will show results soon. Similar surveys are beginning in other countries across Africa. Read more

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A representative of Belarus, backed by Russia, China and Venezuela, has tried and failed to limit speeches as the U.N.‘s top human rights body holds an urgent debate on alleged rights violations by Belarusian authorities under President Alexander Lukashenko. The president of the Human Rights Council put an end to Friday's repeated interruptions of speakers by the four countries, which argued a breach of procedural rules. The speakers decrying a string of alleged rights violations in Belarus included Lukashenko’s main challenger in the country's disputed presidential election. After the former candidate told the council that peaceful protesters were being beaten and raped and some “have been found dead,” the Belarusian ambassador broke in to object.  Read more

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An official with Poland’s conservative governing party says the country’s right-wing coalition has collapsed. The official said Friday that the Law and Justice party will continue to run Poland as a minority government and that “our former coalition partners should be packing up their desks.” Law and Justice has governed Poland with the support of two small parties since 2015. The news of coalition's collapse came after the justice minister and his party members refused to vote for an animal welfare bill proposed by the powerful leader of Law and Justice, Jarosław Kaczyński. It was not immediately clear if the announcement of the collapse was final or the news amounted to a tactical power play. Read more

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Fears of a too-tough U.S. Open were drowned in a sea of red numbers during  the first round at Winged Foot. A total of 21 playes limboed under the par-70 bar, taking advantage of calm weather, soft fairways, and easy pin positions on the roller-coaster greens. Justin Thomas, one of the golfers most worried about being embarrassed, turned in one of the best rounds he's ever played _ firing 65 to lead by a shot. But he expects the course to strike back.“As great of a round and fun as it was, it’s over with now, and I need to get over it.” Read more

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Israel went back into a full lockdown to try to contain a coronavirus outbreak that has steadily worsened for months as its government has been plagued by infighting. The three-week lockdown, which began at 2 p.m. (1100 GMT) on Friday, will include the closure of many businesses, strict limits on public gatherings, and will largely confine people to within a kilometer (0.6 miles) of their homes. The closures coincide with the Jewish High Holidays, when people typically visit their families and gather for large prayer services. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that even stricter measures may be needed to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. Read more

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Global shares are mixed as investor attention shifts again to the uncertainties in global economies amid the coronavirus pandemic. European indexes are lower on Friday and Wall Street futures are barely changed. Japan's benchmark finished higher Friday, and shares also rose in China and South Korea. Investors were disappointed somewhat after the U.S. Federal Reserve declined to signal more stimulus. Signs of a potential second wave of the virus is weighing on market sentiment. Read more

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Taiwan's defense ministry says China flew 18 warplanes including fighter jets near Taiwan in an unusually large show of force as a U.S. envoy held talks with officials on the self-governing island. The trip by Under Secretary of State Keith Krach is the second by a high U.S. official in two months. He held talks Friday with Taiwan’s minister of economic affairs and vice premier, and is to have dinner with President Tsai Ing-wen. In response to Krach’s visit, China's military conducted combat exercises near the Taiwan Strait, in at least the second round of war games this month aimed at intimidating supporters of the island’s independent identity. Read more

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Donald Trump almost won Minnesota in 2016 and sees it as a state he can peel away from Democrat Joe Biden in November. That could potentially help insulate him in case he loses any battlegrounds that backed him four years ago. But Minnesota — which hasn’t voted Republican in a presidential race since 1972 — has steadily moved farther away from the president since then. And polls suggest Biden has built a consistent lead as both he and Trump visit the state on Friday, when early voting opens.  Read more

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Joe Biden is deriding President Donald Trump for his handling of COVID-19, calling his downplaying of the pandemic “criminal” and his administration “totally irresponsible.” Speaking Thursday about Trump’s admission that he publicly played down the impact of the virus while aware of its severity, Biden declared: “He knew it and did nothing. It’s close to criminal.” The pandemic is responsible for the unusual format of the event. It's a drive-in of 35 cars parked outside PNC Field, and audience members are watching Biden onstage as they listen from outside their cars or from radios inside their cars. Read more

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The Australian government has announced a $3.7 million grant to the national news agency as part of pandemic-related assistance to regional journalism. Communications Minister Paul Fletcher says Australian Associated Press is critical to media diversity and has consistently demonstrated its commitment to accurate, fact-based journalism, including a strong contribution to regional news. AAP provides services to more than 250 regional news mastheads across Australia. AAP executives welcomed the funding as an endorsement of AAP's role in providing a key piece of Australia’s democratic infrastructure.   Read more

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The U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan is warning that extremist groups are planning attacks against a variety of targets, but are taking particular aim at women. The warning didn't specify which organizations were plotting the attacks. But it comes as the Taliban and government-appointed negotiators are sitting together for the first time to try to find a peaceful end to decades of relentless war. A Taliban spokesman on Friday denied his group is planning any such attacks. The peace negotiations began last weekend and are in the initial stages, with participants still hammering out the items on the agenda. Washington's peace envoy says spoilers exist on both sides. Read more