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The letter was intercepted by law enforcement before it reached the White House, officials said

A package containing ricin poison that was addressed to US President Donald Trump has been intercepted before it reached the White House, officials told US media.

The letter was discovered at a screening facility for White House mail earlier this week, the officials said.

They said a substance found inside the envelope was identified as ricin, a poison found naturally in castor beans.

The Trump administration is yet to comment on the reports.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Secret Service are investigating where the package came from and whether others have been sent through the US postal system.

“At this time, there is no known threat to public safety,” the FBI told CNN in a statement on Saturday.

One official told the New York Times that investigators believe the package was sent from Canada. Reports say the presence of ricin was confirmed after tests by the FBI.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said on Saturday it was working with the FBI to investigate the “suspicious letter sent to the White House”.

Ricin is produced by processing castor beans. It is a lethal substance that, if swallowed, inhaled or injected, can cause nausea, vomiting, internal bleeding and ultimately organ failure.

No known antidote exists for ricin. If a person is exposed to ricin, death can take place within 36 to 72 hours, depending on the dose received, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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Castor seeds, which are used to make the deadly ricin poison

The CDC said the poison – which has been used in terror plots – can be manufactured into a weapon in the form of a powder, mist or pellet.

The White House and other federal buildings have been the target of ricin packages in the past.

In 2014, a Mississippi man was sentenced to 25 years in prison for sending letters dusted with ricin to former President Barack Obama and other officials.

Four years later, in 2018, a former Navy veteran was charged with sending toxic letters to the Pentagon and White House.

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How UK protesters are taking the spark of Black Lives Matter back to their hometowns

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The outcry began in Minnesota, but campaigners spread the spark of the movement to towns around the world. In the UK, even as the coronavirus pandemic gripped the country, tens of thousands of demonstrators marched in the streets of its major cities.

Yet the movement also spread outside Britain’s big urban centers, as anti-racist campaigners challenged institutional racism in smaller towns and cities which have less ethnic diversity and are less known for their activism. The tragedy of Floyd’s death inspired ordinary people, thousands of miles away in the UK, to fight for institutional change in their communities under the banner of “Black Lives Matter” (BLM).

Six months later, here are some of the voices of those continuing to fight for racial equality outside of the global spotlight.

Maia Thomas

Equality activist, Exeter

Maia Thomas, 21, is an activist who campaigns for Black history and anti-racism to be taught in English schools.

In June, Thomas used social media to organize a peaceful protest and vigil for Floyd in Exeter, a small, historic city in the English county of Devon, around 170 miles southwest of London.

“People were shouting at me in the street ‘you’re pretty for a Black girl, you should use your looks instead of your voice,’ and ‘White supremacy will always win.’ I was threatened online by people saying they were going to attack, kill me and come after my family,” she told CNN.

Thomas said she was physically assaulted by a man in Exeter. After the protest she said she required security patrols in the city’s shopping center where she worked.

“I was given a key card to go through the back-exit doors just in case I was being followed,” she said. “At times my manager escorted me. It was serious.”

Despite the violence Thomas says she experienced, she regards the march as a success.

“There were more Black people at the protest than I’ve ever seen in the whole time that I’ve lived in Devon,” Thomas said.

Many parts of Britain are predominately White. In Exeter alone, out of an estimated 128,900 residents, around 93% are White according to the UK’s most recent census, in 2011.

Thomas’ views on education had an immediate impact. Scores of schools and other educational institutions have asked for the 21-year-old’s help to run equality workshops.

Activists are also pushing to diversify England’s national school curriculum, though this has caused a backlash.
Kemi Badenoch, a Black government minister, for example, criticized the influence of BLM on education in an October 2020 speech in parliament.

Thomas is also a part of “Black Lives Matter Somerset,” helping to produce Black History packs for schools and working to increase diversity within her local council. Next year she will attend a conference in Berlin as a UK delegate to speak about Britain’s BLM movement.

She has no intention of stopping anytime soon, but says campaigning can feel overwhelming: “Every organization, business, school and individual does not realize how draining it is to constantly relive trauma because no one has actually wanted to listen until now.

“I realized in Zoom calls, assemblies and talks if it was any other subject, the school or council would pay for a speaker,” she added. “So why should we as activists and educators be doing this for free?”

Liza Bilal

All Black Lives UK branch founding member, Bristol

"Black people shouldn't have to be brutalized for White people to care."

Liza Bilal is a 21-year-old student and one of the most prominent faces in Britain’s BLM movement. In June, Bilal and five young activists arranged a protest in Bristol, a port city in southwest England that has strong historic links to the UK slave trade. Britain enslaved 3.1 million Africans between 1640 and 1807, transporting them to colonies around the globe, according to Historic England, a public body. Many of them left on ships from Bristol.

Bristol is now 78% White British with a growing Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic population at 16%.
An estimated 10,000 people marched in support of the BLM movement in Bristol on June 7. The peaceful protest culminated with demonstrators toppling the statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston and hurling it into the River Avon.
Their act of resistance became a focal point for protests in the UK. It ignited a national conversation on slave trader memorials, and Colston’s empty plinth was secretly occupied with the statue of a BLM protester. That was removed 24 hours later by the local authority.

The protests were a call to be heard, said Bilal. “People have been petitioning for the statue to come down for decades and were routinely ignored by the council.”

Bilal believes Floyd’s death forced people outside the US to reflect on their own issues with racism. She said the brutality of his death awakened “a lot of people that hadn’t really thought about systemic racism before.”

The backdrop to 2020 has also been a deadly pandemic, where Britain’s ethnic minorities are up to 50% more likely to die than White Brits, according to a recent government review. Bilal believes it’s time for the UK to address institutional racism.

“Black and Brown people have been disproportionately affected. We know that’s nothing to do with biology and everything to do with systemic racism,” she said.

In November, the UK Human Rights Committee said the coronavirus death rate disparity in the UK is in part due to “deep-seated inequalities.” The inquiry found that major factors include minority groups being more likely to work in frontline jobs and less likely to be protected with adequate PPE.

Yet the surge of protests has also had unintended consequences. Bilal fears the summer’s demonstrations have emboldened Britain’s far-right groups.

“In the summer I saw a group of White supremacists. I think there were maybe around 200-300 guarding the Cenotaph [war memorial] which is next to the plinth from which Edward Colston was torn down,” she told CNN.

UK security experts warn that far-right extremism in the UK is increasing. In June more than 100 people were arrested after violence broke out at a far-right counter-protest in London targeting BLM demonstrations. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the disruption as “racist thuggery.”

The backlash hasn’t halted the All Black Lives campaign’s mission. They continue to hold monthly protests and weekly panels.

“We have to have a resilience that is unbreakable in the face of something as pervasive as White supremacy,” said Bilal.

Graham Campbell

Scottish National Party councilor, Glasgow

"You can get rid of every statue, and every street name, and still have institutionalized racism."
Since Scottish National Party (SNP) councilor Graham Campbell moved from London to Glasgow 20 years ago, Scotland’s largest city has become increasingly ethnically diverse. Around 12% of Glasgow’s population is from an ethnic minority, according to the 2011 census, and more than one in five students in the city’s primary schools are from non-White backgrounds.
In 2017 Campbell became Glasgow’s first African Caribbean councilor. He’s determined to see the city’s growing diversity reflected in its workforce, citing the underemployment of qualified Black professionals.
A 2016 analysis of government data by the UK’s Trades Union Congress found that Black and ethnic minority graduates with a first degree were more than twice as likely to be unemployed as their White counterparts.

“They’re not getting interviewed. They’re not getting the breaks. There’s been a lack of awareness that something structural [has] to adjust,” Campbell told CNN.

In June, hundreds of people staged anti-racism rallies in the center of Glasgow. Campbell said the protests were the Black community’s demand for change.

“This generation has decided that the racism, daily microaggressions, and experiences of exclusion from a job market — they’re no longer prepared to tolerate it. They felt the George Floyd moment. They said no more,” Campbell said.

Since joining the local authority, Campbell has seen its ethnic minority workforce double. He wants to reach a proportionate level of employment by 2030. “Had we relied on the rate that we were going, I calculated it would take 107 years before we got a proportionate level of Black employment,” he said.

Campbell helped create an employment working group that monitors diversity in council departments. He worries that without enforcing inclusive hiring initiatives, equality would remain a pipe dream.

According to Campbell, changing place names and removing statues isn’t enough to fight racism in Britain. Instead, he believes consciously challenging racism is necessary.

“People in Scotland too often presumed that you are anti-racist by default. In a racist society, especially one with a colonial history like Britain, you have to be actively anti-racist,” said Campbell.

“It’s the unconscious biases, that translate into institutional practices, that discriminate against non-White people.”

Robert Walcott & Robert Cotterell

Director and chairman, Sheffield and District African Caribbean Community Association, Sheffield

"Black Lives Matter needs to matter to us as Black people. A lot of it seems to be trying to convince White people -- if they don't know by now, they never will." -- Robert Walcott
Sheffield is one of Britain’s biggest cities, with a population of 575,400 in 2016 and around 20,000 Black residents, according to the 2011 census.
The Sheffield and District African Caribbean Community Association (SADACCA) provides a space for the local African and Caribbean communities to socialize in the northern English city.

Robert Walcott, a director of SADACCA, believes BLM should primarily help Black people in their day-to-day lives, rather than educating White audiences.

“I want to focus on what we are doing after the protests. I’d like to see more of what we’re doing to support ourselves as opposed to trying to raise the issue to a White audience,” he told CNN.

Walcott’s mother is a part of the Windrush generation, the Caribbean immigrants who moved to the UK from the late 1940s at the invitation of the government.

The Windrush generation was invited to Britain to rebuild the country after World War II. They comprised the UK’s first large wave of Caribbean migration and were named after the Empire Windrush passenger liner that carried some of them across the Atlantic.

The cruel consequences of tougher immigration policies implemented from 2012 were revealed five years later, in what came to be known as the Windrush scandal.

Those who had arrived decades earlier, without papers to prove their legal status as citizens as such documentation wasn’t needed before, had been denied government services, wrongly detained or even deported.

“I think there is a slight disconnect between the Windrush elders because they don’t fully understand why there is such hostility from young people towards the situation,” he said.

Walcott said that “racism was a fact of life” for the Windrush generation, who see younger Black people as currently having more opportunities than they did. “There have been more opportunities for Black people [created] in their lifetime,” he added.

“There is a fragility of people who are still refusing to accept that racism is the world’s number one pandemic. Still people don’t even know what racism is or about England’s major role in the slave trade,” said Robert Cotterell, SADACCA chairman.

BLM grabbed headlines in 2020 but the movement has been active since 2012, when Trayvon Martin’s death sparked the hashtag. The deaths of several African Americans at the hands of police have kept protesters marching since.

Before the protests “there were no conversations at all from institutions and key players in the city,” said Cotterell.

SADACCA has continued discussions with authorities and institutions in Sheffield that “traditionally have had, and still have, issues around institutional structural racism.”

Despite the growing interest in hearing Black voices, Cotterell says anti-racism activists aren’t fairly compensated for their time and work.

“They can’t keep using us as the experts because if we were White, we’d be getting paid for our knowledge,” Cotterell told CNN. “If we were White, we would become consultants, we’d be getting paid… £1,500 a day.”

A CNN/Savanta ComRes poll this year found that Black Britons’ experiences with racism differ from other ethnic groups. “Black people are considerably more dissatisfied with race relations in Britain than other ethnic minorities,” said Chris Hopkins, associate director of Savanta ComRes.

Nadia Thomas

BLM activist, Chepstow

"I had to block a relative because he would constantly send me negative memes, articles and videos of Black people."

Nadia Thomas, 25, says she was forced to cut ties with a close family member after receiving relentless offensive messages due to her supporting BLM.

While 95.6% of the population of Wales is White, in Chepstow, a small town near the border with England, that figure is 98.1%.

“My relative sent me a meme from the film ‘Zulu’ where all the British soldiers took over South Africa and knelt, about to go into battle. It said, ‘me and the boys, hashtag taking the knee,'” Thomas told CNN.

With a mixed-race background and having both White and Black parents, Thomas was shocked by her White relative’s insensitivity. The relative had worked for her Antiguan father for many years.

“It’s an awakening and it goes beyond ignorance,” she said.

In June this year Thomas and a group of friends organized a BLM protest. “At first, I couldn’t take part, I didn’t even want to turn on the TV,” she said.

As Thomas watched the cause spread globally she became less skeptical.

She felt responsible for confronting the racism within her own town — no matter how small or rural. “Since Brexit, [Donald] Trump and Boris [Johnson]… people aren’t afraid to be racist. I always thought it was a passive ignorance in this country and now I see blatant racism. It’s clearly always been here and it’s now allowed by people in power,” Thomas told CNN.

In post-Brexit Britain, overt racism appears to be growing. Last year a report found that 71% of people from ethnic minorities in the UK had reported experiencing racial discrimination, an increase of 13 percentage points since the 2016 Brexit vote.

Thomas is working on ways to tackle racism in Chepstow. “I’ve got a meeting with the Labour Party and my constituency to do with Black history and diversity workshops in school curriculums,” she told CNN.

“Nationally, this needs to be addressed. I don’t want to just protest. I want to shake up the world.”

Khady Gueye

Local Equality Commission founder, Gloucestershire

"A lot of people in the UK don't acknowledge racial violence. They think this is a US problem. Actually, racism is rife in the UK."
When Khady Gueye co-organized a BLM protest in Lydney, Gloucestershire, a small town in southwest England, she didn’t know it would come with controversy. Members of the local council wrote an open letter demanding the demonstration be canceled, two local councilors resigned in protest due to the letter, and Gueye began to feel unwelcome in her hometown, though the event eventually went ahead.

“We were followed home. We were threatened. We were told people were coming to find us. I moved out of my house for a few weeks just because someone followed me home,” said Gueye who is mixed-race Senegalese-British.

In response to the backlash, she founded the Local Equality Commission, a racial equality group that runs workshops to challenge racism in rural areas.

“The main aim of that was to try and suture some of the divides that occurred because of the protests that we organized,” Gueye told CNN. “We wanted to reaffirm to people that this isn’t a problem that’s going away.”

According to Gueye, education on racism is needed most in rural areas: “The UK doesn’t seem to understand how the BLM movement in the US resonates with the UK. In rural areas we don’t have the exposure to diversity. There is no exposure to this knowledge.”

The voices of Gueye and others in small towns demonstrate the power of protest, education and allyship. As the national focus on BLM dies down, Gueye aims to keep the conversation alive in Gloucestershire.

“George Floyd’s murder is the perfect example of the police brutality that happens frequently throughout the world, throughout the US, throughout the UK. We are in a system that is failing Black people,” said Gueye.

“Everything that has happened over the past six months has been a trajectory towards change,” she added. “It’s about trying to engage with people who don’t necessarily understand or empathize with what we’re trying to fight for.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described Khady Gueye as the co-founder of the Local Equality Commission. She is the founder of the group.

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Democrats elect Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney to lead campaign arm

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As incoming DCCC chief, Maloney will have one of the trickiest jobs in Washington after the Democrats’ down-ballot trouncing at the polls last month that left Republicans between five and seven seats away from the majority. He will have to convince dozens of new candidates to run in a potentially unfavorable environment and in districts that have yet to be drawn.

Maloney will be immediately inserted into the center of an ideological debate that has gripped House Democrats since Nov 3., with the caucus’s warring factions pointing fingers at each other over exactly why they’re staring down a shrunken majority come January.

Many moderate Democrats — who largely supported Maloney for his ability to win in a Trump-won district — are demanding a new party message that veers starkly away from the GOP’s attacks on socialism and progressive slogans like “defund the police.”

Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, are dissecting the internal gears at DCCC, arguing that the operation needs to rely on more diverse staff and consultants, devote more resources to get-out-the-vote efforts and completely rethink its digital operations.

Many progressives, particularly lawmakers of color, had flocked behind Cárdenas, who proved to be a prolific fundraiser and organizer as he built the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s campaign arm, BOLD Pac, from the ground up. And he staked his campaign on a vow to Democrats’ increasingly apparent struggles with Latino. The party suffered surprising losses in heavily Latino seats in Florida, Texas and California.

Cárdenas was vocal about reforming some of DCCC’s practices, including ending a contentious policy that banned the organization from hiring any consultant that has helped a primary challenger of a sitting Democrat — a practice that enraged progressives.

Maloney has acknowledged concerns with messaging and said he would reconsider the DCCC blacklist, though he has been mostly restrained — both publicly and privately — in his assessment of DCCC’s miscalculations.

“The smart thing for the DCCC chair to do is to say, I don’t know what happened until I’ve really had a chance to dig into the numbers,” Maloney said in a recent interview.

As chair, Maloney will have an additional task of shepherding members through the decennial redistricting process, which is fraught with politics and internal bickering, particularly in states that are on track to lose a seat. Adding to the uncertainty is the fact that the Census Bureau will almost certainly not be able to release its reapportionment data in December, delaying states ability to draw new maps.

It’s entirely possible that redistricting alone creates enough red-friendly seats to place Republicans in the majority in 2022. The GOP has total control of the process in many key states, including Texas, Florida and North Carolina, which could have a combined total of 82 seats.

Heather Caygle contributed to this report.

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Students May Not Be Allowed To Return To University For Five Weeks After Christmas To Prevent Spreading Coronavirus Round Campus

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Many students can only begin to return to campus at the end of January, and some not until 5 week into the spring term

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Students who go home for Christmas may have to wait five weeks into the spring term before they can return to campus.

That is according to new government coronavirus guidance, which says the measure “is to minimise transmission risks from the mass movement of students”.

The plan says those on practical or medical courses should be allowed to come back on a staggered basis over three weeks from 4 January.

But for those who do not have work, clinical or practical placements or on “courses requiring access to specialist or technical equipment”, they should not begin to go back until 25 January at the earliest, and should be spread out over a fortnight until 7 February.

As most universities plan to end their spring term after 12 weeks on 26 March, some students may be away from campus for almost half of that time.

And with the education department guidance on going home for Christmas stating people should return between tomorrow and 9 December, some students may be off-campus for more than two months.

Professor Glen O’Hara, who teaches modern and contemporary history at Oxford Brookes university criticised the plans, tweeting: “It is a total joke and an insult to hard-working lecturers and students. 

“It is badly-written, badly-planned and a complete mess. Disgusting.”

The document to higher education providers, published this afternoon, states: “The government is committed to prioritising education and wants to enable all students, including those who have travelled home for the winter break, to return to university and resume blended learning. 

“While we are confident that the face-to-face teaching element of blended learning can be done in COVID-secure environments, the mass movement of students across the country poses a greater risk for the transmission of infection between areas.

“It is important that measures are taken to manage the return to university carefully, to protect students, staff and local communities, while reducing disruption to education. 

“This guidance sets out how we will support HE providers to enable students to return as safely as possible following the winter break, by staggering this process and to facilitate testing for all.”

Providers are advised that: “The return of students should be staggered over 5 weeks – this is to minimise transmission risks from the mass movement of students.”

It also states universities must offer “asymptomatic mass testing to all students on their return”, and says if they are using lateral flow tests then they should be tested twice, the second one three days after their arrival.

The guidance on who can return says “from 4 January to week commencing 18 January 2021 HE providers should allow those students on practical courses to return to campus in line with their planned start dates”.

It adds: “The remaining courses should be offered online from the beginning of term so that students can continue their studies from home. 

“HE providers should plan for students to return gradually from 25 January, over a 2-week period.”

Students are also told to “use private transport wherever possible and only use public transport if they have no other option”, and universities should encourage people to “avoid car sharing with anyone outside their household or support bubble”.

Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said:   “The health and wellbeing of students, staff and local communities is always our primary concern and this plan will enable a safer return for all students. But we must do this in a way which minimises the risk of transmission.

“I know students have had to make sacrifices this year and have faced a number of challenges, but this staggered return will help to protect students, staff and communities.

“It is so important students have the support they need to continue their education, which is why we are providing up to £20m funding for those facing hardship in these exceptional times.”

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