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Church Of Nativity In Bethlehem Reopens After Coronavirus Closure

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The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem has on Tuesday reopened after more than two months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The church which houses the spot where Christians believe Jesus was born, is one of Christianity’s most sacred shrines.

On Tuesday morning, a handful of priests from different Christian denominations stood watch as the door to the church was opened as part of an easing of restrictions across the occupied West Bank announced by the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Once inside, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Bethlehem, Bishop Theophylactos, kissed an icon while a priest sprayed holy water in the grotto of the church, the spot where it is believed Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus.

In a joint statement from the churches that control the site said initially only a crowd of not more than 50 will be allowed in the church at one time and visitors must wear face coverings and observe social distancing.

In the West Bank, Palestinian Authority has reported some 400 cases of the coronavirus with two deaths. Most of the cases were traced to Palestinians who worked inside Israel where more than 16,700 coronavirus cases have been confirmed with 279 fatalities, also more than 14,000 have recovered.

Health News

General: COVID-19 Vaccines Will Be Ready For Delivery 24 Hours After FDA Authorization

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Four-Star general Gustave Perna who is leading the U.S. government’s operation warp speed, the crash program to develop, produce, and distribute enough COVID-19 vaccine doses to inoculate 300 million Americans, says he is confident vaccines will be “on the streets 24 hours after being authorized by the food and drug administration.

The operation is stockpiling anticipated vaccines made by six different drug makers.

While the first two vaccines to be distributed will likely be from Pfizer and Moderna, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Affairs, Alex Azar, described the news from Astra zeneca’s clinical trials as “very promising” and noted that the company’s vaccine is already being produced in the country so it too can be ready for distribution once authorized by the FDA.

Azar confirmed the drugmaker is already producing mass quantities of the vaccine in the U.S.

Last week, Pfizer applied for authorization from the FDA and a hearing date was set for mid-December.

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Formal Transition Of U.S. Power To Biden Begins After Lengthy Delay

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US president-elect Joe Biden has been informally introducing his cabinet choices as formal transition begins.

Many of the choices, already announced, are Biden’s colleagues from his years in the Obama administration.

Former secretary of state, John Kerry, will be climate envoy, while foreign policy veteran Antony Blinken is nominated for secretary of state.

Avril Haines has been nominated for the post of director of national intelligence.  If confirmed, she will be the first female to hold that position.  Alejandro Mayorkas is named as homeland security boss.  If confirmed, she would be the first Latino in that job.

President-elect Biden has highlighted the need to rebuild alliances, as well as tackling coronavirus and climate change.

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Jamal Khashoggi Killing: Turkey’s Trial Of Saudi Suspects Resumes

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The trial has resumed in turkey of the men accused in the murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul two years ago.

Twenty Saudi officials, who are not in turkey, are being tried in absentia.

Khashoggi, a prominent critic of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, was said to have been suffocated to death, and then dismembered allegedly by a team of Saudi agents inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

The defendants include two former aides to the prince, who have both denied any involvement.

Egyptian political dissident Ayman Noor, a close friend of Khashoggi, told the court the journalist felt threatened by people close to crown prince Mohammed.

The trial has now been adjourned until march.

Saudi arabia, which rejected turkey’s extradition request, convicted eight persons last year over the murder.  Five of them were sentenced to death for directly participating in the killing, while three got prison sentences for covering up the crime.

The 59-year-old journalist, who went into self-imposed exile in the us in 2017, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in October 2018 to obtain papers he needed to marry his fiancee.

The Saudi government said the journalist was killed in a “rogue operation” by a team of agents.

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