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    Taliban’s ‘war on drugs’ put into action / RTDailyNews · 08:01 · 2 minutes

RT has got a sneak peek into the Taliban’s drugs war by talking to patients and doctors at a Kabul hospital. The group promised a ‘narcotics-free’ Afghanistan as it took power in mid-August and has since set some plans in motion.

Millions of Afghans are addicted to drugs. Up to 10% of the nation’s population – roughly 3.5 million people, including 800,000 women and children – take drugs, according to Ahmed Zahir Sultani, the head of a Kabul hospital responsible for the rehabilitation of drug addicts.

Massive drug addiction came as a legacy of the country’s tumultuous past. The Afghan drug industry has flourished since the 1980s, including through the decades of the US and NATO occupation. The Taliban itself did not shy away from profiting from the drugs trade in the past, but declared its own “war on drugs” after seizing power in August 2021.

Read more FILE PHOTO. Afghan farmers harvest opium sap from a poppy field. ©Omid Khanzada / Omago via Global Look Press The Taliban needs foreign help to eradicate opium trafficking, spokesman tells Russian media

Taliban fighters have searched slums under bridges, in parks, abandoned buildings and even graveyards in their hunt for addicts, most of whom had to be dragged to the Kabul hospital by force, according to some reports.

The hospital itself, built under the government of the ousted President Ashraf Ghani last year, has a capacity of 1,000 beds. Now, it has around 3,000 patients, Sultani told RT, describing this as a “great challenge” and pointing to the “shortage of food, medicines, beds and staff to care” for the patients.

The hospital conditions might be rough but some patients see it as a way out of their misery. One of them, called Syed Mustafa, said he was “thankful” to the Taliban for bringing him to the hospital. He hopes to reunite with his wife and children after rehabilitation. Another patient called Najeebullah had similar aspirations, explaining that he started taking drugs after being caught in one of the Taliban attacks and seeing his colleagues die.

However, not all of the patients are happy with their fate. One, called Gul Muhammad, told RT that his brothers had placed him in the hospital by deception, despite saying that he “does not take any drugs.”

Both the head of the hospital and some of the patients appealed to the world to help Afghans – and the Taliban government – in the fight against drugs. “I think people with more resources should come here to help,” Mustafa stated, while Sultani said he would “personally appeal to the world to help us.”

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    GoFundMe pulls plug on $5mn bail campaign / RTDailyNews · 07:44 · 1 minute

A crowdfunding campaign raising $5 million for a bail-paying non-profit was pulled by GoFundMe, possibly for being a scam. It drew attention because the amount equals the bail set for Christmas parade suspect Darrell Brooks.

The now-defunct campaign was launched days after GoFundMe banned another campaign specifically seeking to raise donations to set free Brooks on bail. It was written in the name of “Milwaukee Black Lives Matter, organized by Holly Zoller” on behalf of The Bail Project.

Read more Main Street in downtown Waukesha is seen blocked off with crime scene tape after a car plowed through a holiday parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, November 22, 2021 © Reuters / Cheney Orr CNN insists ‘a car’ killed six people at Wisconsin Christmas parade

It is a charity that seeks to disrupt the cash bail system in the US by posting bail for suspects who cannot afford it themselves. Zoller is listed as a key team member at the charity’s website.

However, the campaign may have been launched by someone with no connection to The Bail Project. Its press manager Joseph Pate wrote to RT, stating that the fundraiser was “fraudulent” and that the charity asked GoFundMe to take it down.

Brooks was charged last week with multiple counts of intentional homicide after driving an SUV through a crowd of Christmas revellers in the city of Waukesha, Wisconsin. The 33-year-old has a long criminal record and was released on bail in a domestic violence case days before the tragedy, which killed six and injured dozens.

GoFundMe forbids raising money on behalf of people accused of violent crimes. Last week, it banned a fundraiser to pay the $5 million bail the judge set for Brooks in the vehicular killings case. The non-specific bail campaign was perceived by many as an attempt to circumvent the platform’s rules.

Fueling the suspicion was Zoller’s past activities, which included allegedly supplying riot gear to protesters in Louisville, Kentucky last year.

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    Czech president appoints PM from inside big glass box / RTDailyNews · 06:05

Czech President Milos Zeman formally appointed Petr Fiala as the country’s new prime minister on Sunday. The ceremony was adjusted to follow strict health protocols after Zeman tested positive for Covid-19.

During the ceremony at the Lany Chateau, the summer residence of Czech presidents, Zeman sat in a wheelchair inside an acrylic glass box. Both Zeman and Fiala were masked as the new PM was sworn in.

Zeman wished the PM “success” in his new position and promised to start meeting with candidates for ministerial posts on Monday.

The Czech president has been self-isolating after testing positive for Covid-19 on Thursday. Zeman had just been discharged from a hospital in Prague, where he spent more than six weeks fighting an unspecified illness.

The Prague Morning news website quoted the hospital as saying that the president’s health had improved significantly during his stay there. The outlet quoted doctors as saying that he had been treated for a liver condition.

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    Woman sets Covid quarantine hotel on fire / RTDailyNews · 04:08 · 1 minute

A woman has been arrested and charged with arson in Queensland, Australia after she reportedly set fire to a hotel where she and her two kids were forced to quarantine for two weeks.

The blaze engulfed the top floor of the Pacific Hotel Cairns on Sunday morning, forcing an evacuation of more than 160 ‘guests’.

There were no injuries, but the damage to the building was “significant” and forced authorities to relocate people to other Covid-19 quarantine facilities.

Authorities said a 31-year-old woman lit a fire underneath her bed, after spending only a “couple of days” of the mandatory two-week quarantine inside the hotel after crossing to Queensland from another state. Before the incident she also reportedly had caused other unspecified troubles to the staff during her stay.

Read more Amsterdam Airport Schiphol Military police raid plane to arrest couple trying to flee quarantine

Her two children were taken under police protection, while the woman was charged with arson and willful damage, and was due to appear in court on Monday.

Over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic Australia has recorded just around 2,000 deaths as it resorted to some of the world’s most draconian lockdown and quarantine measures, affecting not only international but also interstate travel, in a bid to keep the infections as low as possible until the majority of the population is vaccinated.

Just as the country was finally preparing to reopen borders to skilled migrants and students on December 1, first cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant were detected in travelers from southern Africa to Sydney, potentially derailing the plan.

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    Omicron strain reaches North America / RTDailyNews · 01:50 · 1 minute

Two cases of the Omicron strain have been confirmed in Canada, while President Biden weighs US response to the heavily-mutated Covid-19 variant, even as it remains unclear if it is more dangerous than other variants.

“Today, the province of Ontario has confirmed two cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in Ottawa, both of which were reported in individuals with recent travel from Nigeria,” Ontario province government said in a statement on Sunday.

Read more Dr. Anthony Fauci waits to testify before a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, November 4, 2021 © Reuters / Elizabeth Frantz Fauci reveals plan to prepare Americans for Omicron

Canada already banned flights and shut its borders to foreign travelers who had visited seven Southern African nations over the past two weeks, but Ontario health officials Christine Elliott and Kieran Moore called for a harsher approach to contain the disease.

“We continue to urge the federal government to take the necessary steps to mandate point-of-arrival testing for all travelers irrespective of where they’re coming,” they said.

The Ontario cases are the first reported Omicron infections in North America, even though White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said he “would not be surprised” if the new variant is already in the United States.

The US stopped short of banning flights from Africa, but barred entry of foreigners who had been there within the last 14 days. President Biden met with Fauci in person on Sunday to draw up an update on his administration's anti-pandemic response, expected to be announced on Monday.

Read more Schiphol Airport after authorities said 61 people who arrived in Amsterdam from South Africa tested positive for Covid-19 Keep borders open despite Covid variants, WHO pleads

Amid fears that the new variant may prove resistant to existing jabs, Fauci insisted in multiple interviews that getting vaccinated and getting boosters remain the best available defense.

In the meantime, Mexican authorities called travel restrictions and border closures “not very useful measures,” saying that such measures “affect the economy and well-being of people” more than they help to curb the spread of the virus. The World Health Organization also warned countries against border closures and “unnecessarily invasive or intrusive” restrictions to prevent a “heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.”

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    Military police stop plane to arrest couple trying to flee quarantine / RTDailyNews · 00:14 · 1 minute

A married couple who fled a quarantine hotel for suspected Omicron strain carriers in the Netherlands have been removed from a flight by the Dutch military police just as their plane was about to take off.

The dramatic incident unfolded at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport on board a flight that was set to depart for Spain at around 6.00pm Sunday, the Netherlands armed forces confirmed in a statement.

The Royal Netherlands Marechaussee at Schiphol has arrested a couple this evening who had fled from a quarantine hotel… The arrests took place in a plane that was about to take off.

The identities of the detained couple were not released, and it is unclear if they are were infected or just being held in quarantine as a precaution. The military turned them over to health officials to be sent to another quarantine facility.

Read more FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker takes a swab sample from a traveler at the Ben Gurion International Airport in Israel, October 13, 2021. Israel introduces world’s strictest bans to contain Omicron strain

The country is on high alert after over a dozen cases of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant were discovered among airline passengers who recently came to the Netherlands on flights from South Africa. Some 61 people tested positive for Covid-19 out of a total of 624 passengers, so the Dutch National Institute for Health (RIVM) warned that “the new variant may be found in more test samples.”

All arrivals into the Netherlands from South Africa as well as from Botswana, Malawi, Lesotho, Eswatini, Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe are now required to be tested and to go into quarantine until their results are known, even if they are vaccinated.

“We will control whether they keep to those rules,” Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge declared on Sunday, just hours before the escape attempt.

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    France refuses to be ‘hostage’ to British politics / RTDailyNews · Yesterday - 22:49 · 1 minute

France will not be held hostage to Britain’s domestic politics over the Channel migrant crisis, the country’s interior minister has said, signaling, however, readiness to negotiate with London.

The remarks were delivered by Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Sunday, following a meeting with his Belgian, German and Dutch counterparts in the northern French city of Calais.

“Britain left Europe, but not the world. We need to work seriously on these questions... without being held hostage by domestic British politics,” Darmanin told reporters.

Read more FILE PHOTO. Migrants in a dinghy wearing life jackets illegally cross the English Channel from France to Britain on September 11, 2020. © AFP / Sameer Al-DOUMY UK asylum claims soar to record high

The UK itself is to blame for the flow of migrants, seeking to reach British shores and taking a daring voyage across the English Channel, the minister claimed. The migrants are “attracted by England” and its labor market in particular “which means you can work in England without any identification,” he added.

Britain must take its responsibility and limit its economic attractiveness.

Britain was ultimately left out of the Calais meeting, with Darmanin notifying his UK counterpart Priti Patel of canceling her invitation on Friday. The move came over an open letter published by the UK PM Boris Johnson, who urged Paris to simply take all the illegal migrants back. Paris has rejected any possibility of this happening.

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    Prepare for not-so-jolly Christmas tree prices, trade group warns / RTDailyNews · Yesterday - 22:31 · 1 minute

Artificial and real trees will be far more expensive in the US this year thanks to shortgages and supply chain issues, the Christmas tree industry has warned Americans.

The American Christmas Tree Association (ACTA), which represents artificial tree producers, has released statements recommending people order their trees early as supply chain issues could lead to long delays, as well as price increases.

According to the ACTA, artificial tree shipping costs could triple over last year, thanks to artificial trees from countries like China needing to be rerouted to east coast ports, as west coast ports have been overwhelmed for months. This rerouting can also double delivery times, the association has warned.

Read more Dr. Anthony Fauci waits to testify before a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, November 4, 2021 © Reuters / Elizabeth Frantz Fauci reveals plan to prepare Americans for Omicron

The National Christmas Tree Association, meanwhile, told the Washington Post recently that live trees will also likely be averaging 5-10% higher than last year, due to rising transportation costs, as well as environmental factors, like wildfires in the Pacific northwest, which is the largest regional producer of Christmas live trees for the holidays.

Over 90 million households had Christmas trees in 2020, according to ACTA data, and approximately 85% of those households used artificial trees. With some artificial trees reportedly running upwards of $1000, it’s likely more people will turn to live trees, which typically cost less than $100, and this could create a potentially worse shortage issue as there may not be enough supply to meet the demand.

The price hikes on the tree industry follows Americans already dealing with record inflation and rising gas and food prices, including on many of the typical dishes, like turkey, used for the recent Thanksgiving holiday.

ACTA has promised that despite issues plaguing the industry, “Christmas is not canceled,” though a spokesperson warned the Post that if people do not shop early, “your tree may not be the tree you’re looking for.”

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