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Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski said more than 100,000 people were in attendance, while protest organizers put the figure at 150,000.

Police detained 37 people Friday evening, the vast majority of whom were football hooligans, Sylwester Marczak, spokesman for the Warsaw Police headquarters, said Saturday morning. Taking into account the huge number of participants, it was a “very peaceful” protest, he added.

Demonstrations of this scale were last seen in the Solidarity movement of the 1980s in Poland which led to the collapse of the government, analysts say.

The protest in Warsaw was the culmination of nine days of nationwide protests since a court ruling on October 22 deemed abortion due to fetal defects to be unconstitutional. This meant abortion in Poland would only be legal in two scenarios — if the pregnancy threatened the mother’s life and health, or if a woman became pregnant following rape or incest.

Demonstrators also turned out in Gdańsk, Białystok, Poznan, Kraków, Wroclaw, Torun, Sczescin, Myślenice, Gorlice and Jasło on Friday.

According to local media, 430,000 people attended more than 400 demonstrations across the country against the ban on Wednesday. Online supporters are using the tag #ThisIsWar to show solidarity with those marching.

Polish women disrupt church services in protest at abortion ban

The protests have been taking place in defiance of a ban on gatherings of more than five people due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Aerial footage of the demonstration in Warsaw posted to social media showed the vast scale of the turnout there on Friday evening.

Protest organizers urged protesters to make their way towards the residence of Jaroslaw Kaczyński, the leader of the ruling right-wing Law and Justice Party Leader (PiS) who is widely seen as the de facto decision maker in Poland. The demonstration ended there at around 11 p.m. local time and organizers urged protesters to make their way home safely.

Kaczyński on Wednesday called the protesters “criminals” and said people taking part in mass gatherings were endangering people’s lives given the surge in coronavirus cases in Poland.

Thousands of protesters march towards the residence of ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski during the demonstration Friday in Warsaw.

Draft amendment

In an apparent softening of his stance, Polish President Andrzej Duda on Friday submitted a draft amendment to the controversial law which would legalize abortion in situations where the baby has “lethal defects” and would die soon after birth.

The amendment would mean abortion would remain legal in an event where “prenatal tests or other medical indications indicate a high probability that the child will be born still or burdened with an incurable disease or defect that will lead to the death of the child inevitably and directly,” according to a statement from Duda on Friday.

“It is an extremely delicate and painful situation for every mother, for every parent. In the case of lethal defects, the death of the child is inevitable. The protection of his life is therefore beyond human power,” the statement also said.

Duda had earlier clarified his stance on abortion in such cases in an interview with Polish radio station RMF FM. “You must clearly ask yourself whether anyone has the right to demand, or the law may require such a woman to… bear such a child in her womb and then bear the entire physical cost of birth,” Duda said.

Duda added that he did not think abortion should be legal in situations where a child has Down syndrome, for example, and the life of the unborn child is not at risk.

Poland moves to near-total ban on abortion, sparking protests

The ruling by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal removed one of the few remaining grounds for legal termination in the country, which already had some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe.

Abortions due to fetal defects comprised approximately 98% of all legal abortions carried out in Poland in 2019, according to data from the Polish Ministry of Health.

Asked about the ongoing protests across Poland over the controversial court ruling, Duda condemned the demonstrators who disrupted church services earlier this week.

“If we are talking about acts of physical or verbal aggression, if we are talking about invading churches, if we are talking about insulting religious feelings, profaning places of worship, I am sorry, but the boundaries are definitely exceeded here,” he said.

Abortion rights protest leaders have accused the populist PiS party of pushing the court to tighten abortion restrictions in order to please the party’s base, and the Church. Church leaders have denied influencing the change in law.

Covid warning

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Friday urged protesters not to go out on the streets as he announced further steps to try to limit the spread of Covid-19.

“I understand your anger, but I urge you to stay at home, especially for the sake of seniors,” he said.

The measures include closing cemeteries for three days, urging business owners to allow employees to work from home and urging older citizens to remain at home.

Health Minister Adam Niedzielski told Polish news channel TVN24 on Friday that he looked with “great concern” at the protests and urged people to isolate themselves from those taking part, saying they could be more exposed to Covid-19.

On Friday, Poland recorded 21,629 new coronavirus cases, marking another record high in the country, where case counts have tripled in less than a month. A further 202 deaths were also reported by the Polish Health Ministry, with the total number of confirmed infections in the country surpassing 340,000.

CNN’s Zahid Mahmood contributed to this report.

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Lawmakers to Biden: ‘Step it up’ on Cabinet diversity

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“We’re very, very concerned as a community, as a Latino community,” said Texas Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, who called last week for at least five Latinos to be appointed to Cabinet-level positions.

Asian American and Pacific Islander advocates and officials are warning the Biden administration, in writing, it will be “deeply disappointing if several AAPIs are not nominated” to Cabinet positions. They’re growing increasingly convinced the president-elect will not match President Barack Obama’s total of three Asian Americans in his first Cabinet.

Meanwhile, the Congressional Black Caucus is urging Biden to choose a Black Defense secretary and up the number of African Americans leading departments overall.

Together, the criticism highlights the challenges the Biden transition faces in satisfying expectations for a historically diverse Cabinet. And it underscores the growing demands for equal representation after a presidential election in which Asian Americans were difference-makers in Georgia, Latinos boosted Biden in Arizona, and Black voters propelled him to the nomination and ultimate victory.

But appeasing everyone may be a nearly impossible task, especially given the zero-sum reality of Cabinet jockeying and the limited slate of top-tier positions.

Latino lawmakers and outside groups, for example, are pushing New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for Health and Human Services secretary — but tapping her over former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who is Indian American, could anger Asian American advocacy groups.

“It’s no secret that as you look at the number of people that have been appointed … we don’t see too many Asian Americans there, do we?” said Bel Leong-Hong, chair of the Democratic National Committee’s AAPI caucus.

Those lobbying the transition team say there is still time for Biden to meet his lofty diversity goals. But some Democrats are pessimistic after seeing the first rounds of personnel picks.

Biden’s core White House team will be mostly white, including his chief of staff, communications director, press secretary, legislative affairs director and one of his top economic advisers. And two of the so-called “Big Four” Cabinet positions — atop the State, Treasury, Justice and Defense Departments — have already been filled by white candidates.

“A true way for Biden to make history would be to nominate a person of color for one or more of those ‘Big Four’ positions, and now they’re down to just two,” said Janet Murguía, the president of UnidosUS and a former adviser to President Bill Clinton. “So there will be enormous scrutiny from both the Black and Latino community for the remaining two jobs — DoD and Justice — and rightfully so.”

A Black House lawmaker, who requested anonymity to speak more freely as Biden fills positions, put it more bluntly. “He’s got to step it up,” the lawmaker said, noting that Kamala Harris’ selection as vice president doesn’t give Biden an excuse to appoint fewer African Americans to head key departments.

The Biden transition team says the president-elect will have a diverse administration when all is said and done. “His success in finding diverse voices to develop and implement his policy vision to tackle our nation’s toughest challenges will be clear when our full slate of appointees and nominees is complete,” a Biden-Harris transition official said in a statement.

It’s true that, as the transition official pointed out, Biden has “announced several historic and diverse White House appointments and Cabinet nominees.” He appointed an all-female senior communications team, for example, as well as the first woman of color to lead the Office of Management and Budget and the first female nominee for Treasury secretary.

But in 2020, the bar for diversity has been raised well beyond the seven women and 10 nonwhite officials in President Barack Obama’s first Cabinet.

Senior AAPI officials highlight huge increases in voter turnout among Asian American voters in the 2020 election — including in crucial battleground states he won, such as Georgia and Arizona — as one reason they should be well-represented throughout the administration. Early and absentee voting among AAPI voters rose nearly 300 percent in battleground states this year, according to the Democratic data firm Catalist.

The Biden transition announced Monday that Neera Tanden, an Indian American woman, will be nominated to lead the Office of Management and Budget. But some AAPI officials said they still fear Biden is unlikely to meet the benchmark set by Obama, who appointed three AAPI candidates to Cabinet positions at the start of his term.

“We just want to make sure that the Biden administration — and we’ve conveyed this from Day One — has a diverse representation, and that diversity includes AAPIs,” said Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), vice chair of the DNC. “That’s not always fully understood.”

The influential Congressional Hispanic Caucus has also mounted an active pressure campaign.

In phone calls and letters, the lawmakers pointed out the transition’s agency review teams are roughly 11 percent Latino and their COVID-19 Advisory Board is about 15 percent Latino — each less than the roughly 20 percent share of the U.S. population Latinos represent.

And though they cheered the nomination of Cuban American Alejandro Mayorkas to run Homeland Security — the first immigrant and first Latino to hold the position, if confirmed — it does not come close to representing the breadth of Latinos across the country, they say.

“When we talk about diversity, we also need to talk about diversity within the Hispanic community,” said California Democratic Rep. Raul Ruiz. “The vast majority of Hispanics in the U.S. are Mexican Americans, so it would be important and helpful to have them represented in nominations. The Puerto Rican and Cuban American and Dominican American experiences are also important and should also be reflected.”

Gonzalez, the Texas Democrat, said he’s warned Democrats about the surge in support for Republicans among Mexican American communities in South Texas and other battleground states.

“When Republicans are coming into our districts saying, ‘what have the Democrats done for you?’ And we have a Democratic president with a low showing or low representation of Latinos in his Cabinet and government, it is a tough response,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t want to have to defend that.”

In addition to Lujan Grisham, Latino lawmakers support either DNC Chair Tom Perez or California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to lead the Justice Department. Ruiz’s name has also been floated by some members of the Hispanic Caucus as a potential addition to a Biden administration, given his health care background as a physician.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have been pressuring Biden’s transition team on an individual level, according to multiple members. Many take their cues from Clyburn, who is pushing for Ohio Democratic Rep. Marcia Fudge to be selected as the first Black female Agriculture secretary.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) said he’s keeping a close eye on who Biden names to lead Housing and Urban Development, pointing out that Democrats have not nominated a Black man to lead HUD since 1965, when the department was created by President Lyndon Johnson. And he echoed other CBC members who are saying former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson’s “name needs to be in the mix” for Defense Secretary.

“I’m not ready to panic,” Cleaver said of representation within the administration, adding that members see Biden as someone who understands their demands and the “delicacy” of keeping a diverse party happy.

“The philosophy of those of us who’ve been in the civil rights movement is that even if it’s friends, you know, you don’t let up in your expressions of anticipation,” said Cleaver. “We’re anticipating that he does the right thing.”

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Everything You Need To Know About #ScotchEggGate And “Substantial Meals”

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The vexed issue of whether a scotch egg constitutes a ‘substantial meal’ has consumed the political discourse in recent days (PA)


8 min read

As the second lockdown ends and England enters the new tier system of coronavirus restrictions, the government has found itself embroiled in a bizarre row about scotch eggs and whether they constitute a “substantial meal”.

That is not a sentence anyone would have expected to have read this time last year, but for pub landlords and bar owners struggling to stay afloat amid the pandemic it is serious business.

The rules, which are due to come into force on Thursday, say that any hospitality venue placed into Tier 2, which will cover 57.3% of the country, can only serve alcohol if it is alongside “substantial meals”.

But just what that entails has become a massive source of contention, which despite Number 10’s repeated assertions that it has made it clear, continues to cause confusion.

The Question Of Cornish Pasties

1606884949 432 Everything You Need To Know About ScotchEggGate And Substantial Meals

If all this sounds familiar, then that is because it was first raised as an issue when the previous tier system was introduced earlier this autumn.

The communities secretary Robert Jenrick suggested a Cornish pasty would not count as a substantial meal unless it was served with chips and a side salad.

“If you would expect to go into that restaurant normally, or pub, and order a plated meal at the table of a Cornish pasty with chips or side salad or whatever it comes with, then that’s a normal meal,” the minister said.

That did not clarify things entirely, but as the country soon went back into lockdown and hospitality was closed altogether the matter drifted out of the discourse.

The reason it matters though is that many pubs in tier 2, of which there are more than 20,000, cannot simply re-tool as full restaurants, and unless they can serve full meals they will have to remain closed in the crucial pre-Christmas period and potentially much beyond that.

They therefore need to know with a great deal more clarity than there has been so far on what they can serve to customers and fulfil the requirements in the regulations and remain in operation.

And crucially without that clarity it puts the onus on local councils and the police in each area to decide what constitutes a full meal, meaning a pub on one street in one borough might get away with serving a scotch egg, while one street over into a different borough another pub might face a fine for doing the same.

This exact issue played out in Manchester back in October, when pubs were forced to serve a substantial meal with alcohol when the city was placed in the old tier 3.

Staff at Common bar say police told them serving single slices from a 22-inch pizza didn’t count, only to later backtrack and deem that it was sufficient to be a full meal.

It’s co-owner Jonny Heyes said at the time: “It’s just a bit of a joke. I don’t want to say anything bad about the officers because they had obviously been sent round to check everyone was serving food and adhering to the guidelines.

“But they don’t have any information about what actually constitutes a substantial meal. They’re just winging it.

“As far as I can tell there is no proper guidance. The government policy is just so woolly, there’s no clarity.”

So with less than 48 hours until pubs and bars can re-open their doors it has roared back into the news, kicked off by a question to environment secretary George Eustice on Monday morning about the now infamous scotch egg.

“I think a Scotch egg probably would count as a substantial meal if there were table service,” he said.

“And often that may be as a starter. But yes, I think it would.”

The Thin Line Between Snack And Dinner1606884949 986 Everything You Need To Know About ScotchEggGate And Substantial Meals

Asked to clarify if that was the case, Downing Street only served to blur the issue by failing to set out the where the line is between a snack and a dinner.

“It’s a principle that’s well established in the hospitality industry and it’s something they’ve been applying for some time,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said.

“We introduced the rule that you can only provide alcohol along with a substantial meal along with the first set of tiering. That remains the case under this set of tiering.”

But so far nobody in government can point to anything in the Licensing Act or any other legislation, either during Covid or pre-pandemic, which defines what exactly is substantial or not.

The Licensing Act 2003 contains a clause which permits 16- or 17-year-olds to consume beer, wine or cider with a table meal if they are accompanied by an adult, infamously depicted in an episode of the TV show The Inbetweeners.

It goes on to define a “table meal” as a “meal eaten by a person seated at a table, or at a counter or other structure which serves the purpose of a table and is not used for the service of refreshments for consumption by persons not seated at a table or structure serving the purpose of a table.” 

This is the same definition adopted by Parliamentary Counsel which drafted the tier system, but while the regulations say pubs “remain open where they operate as if they were a restaurant – which means serving substantial meals, like a main lunchtime or evening meal”, there is nothing to say what size “a main lunchtime or evening meal” is.

Pork Pies and Ploughman’s

It led to the PM’s spokesman being pressed on whether the new rules extended to sausage rolls, pork pies, or a ploughman’s lunch counting as a substantial meal, to which he said: “I’m obviously not going to get into the detail of every possible meal.

“But we’ve been clear: bar snacks do not count as a substantial meal but it’s well established practice in the hospitality industry what does.”

That sounded rather like Number 10 was coming down on the snack side of the debate, which appeared to be backed up my Michael Gove this morning, who told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “As far as I’m concerned it’s probably a starter.”

Later on LBC he appeared to harden his stance on scotch eggs, the Cabinet Office minister saying: “A couple of scotch eggs is a starter as far as I’m concerned.”

But by the time he spoke to ITV News shortly afterwards Mr Gove appeared to have performed a volte face, he said: “A scotch egg is a substantial meal.”

Pressed on whether it was actually a bar snack, he replied: “I myself would definitely scoff a couple of scotch eggs if I had the chance, but I do recognise that it is a substantial meal.”

But the issue of whether under law it really is a meal, and crucially, whether a pub can serve it with a pint and not be in breach of the legislation and face racking up thousands of pounds-worth of fines, remains undefined.

And the issue over lots of other things a pub may be able to serve without having to upgrade or instal a kitchen, and all the regulations that entails, is also unclear and seems to be placed in the hands of publicans to make the call themselves and risk falling foul of the law.

Perhaps even more bizarrely, this is far from the first time this particular issue has been raised, with the previously obscure 1965 legal case of Timmis v Millman thrust into the public eye.

That involved the defendant and a friend caught in a hotel bar at 11.30pm consuming light ale and stout outside of permitted drinking hours.

But the-then Lord Chief Justice decided their meal of a “substantial sandwich” served with pickles and beetroot constituted a “table meal”, and not just a “bar snack”, which allowed them to stay within rules which allowed for an extra hour after the end of the ordinary permitted drinking time as long as it was for finishing their supper meal.

And that built on the court ruling in Solomon v Green a decade earlier, where sandwiches and sausages on sticks were found to constitute a meal.

Whether any enterprising landlord will attempt to use such case law to justify serving cocktail sausages on toothpicks to thirsty drinkers remains to be seen, but if they do then the obliqueness of the current rules may work in their favour.



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Delhi sees deadliest month amid raging pandemic

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India has the second highest number of Covid cases in the world. November was the deadliest month for the capital Delhi, which has been struggling to contain the virus, with more than 100 deaths on some days.

The death toll has overwhelmed the Indian capital’s crematoriums, where many families say goodbye to their loved ones in ancient rituals.

A lack of social distancing at the city’s markets has been blamed for the recent uptick. Some hospitals have run out of ICU beds – with pollution and cold weather adding to the burden.

Cases are starting to fall, but doctors warn that if people don’t take care, the situation could get worse again, as the BBC’s South Asia correspondent Rajini Vaidyanathan reports.

Produced by Kunal Sehgal, Shalu Yadav and Greg Brosnan.

Filmed and edited by Varun Nayar.

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