January 21, 2021

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COTABATO, Philippines (AP) — Dozens of militants aligned with the Islamic State group opened fire on a Philippine army detachment and burned a police patrol car in a southern town but withdrew after troops returned fire, officials said Friday.

There were no immediate reports of injuries in Thursday night’s brief attack by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Datu Piang town. Nevertheless it sparked panic among residents and rekindled fears of a repeat of a 2017 militant siege of southern Marawi city that lasted for five months before being quelled by government forces.

“We are on top of the situation. This is just an isolated case,” regional military commander Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr. said in a statement.


Security officials gave differing statements on the motive of the 30 to 50 gunmen. Some said the militants targeted Datu Piang’s police chief over a feud but others speculated that the militants wanted to project that they are still a force to reckon with by attacking the army detachment in the center of the predominantly Muslim town.

Officials denied earlier reports that the militants managed to seize a police station and burn a Roman Catholic church.

When reinforcement troops in armored carriers arrived and opened fire, the militants fled toward a marshland, military officials said.

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters is one of a few small armed groups waging a separatist rural insurrection in the south of the largely Roman Catholic nation. The groups opposed a 2014 autonomy deal forged by the largest Muslim rebel group in the south with the Philippine government and have continued on and off attacks despite being weakened by battle setbacks, surrenders and factionalism.

The armed groups include the Abu Sayyaf, which has been blacklisted by the United States and the Philippines as a terrorist organization for kidnappings for ransom, beheadings and bombings.

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GEMBLOUX, Belgium (Reuters) – The exotic animals are confined to small paddocks, the acrobats have been grounded, and the clowns aren’t able to make an audience laugh anymore.

Floye Dubois, 19, a juggler at the Zavatelli Circus owned by the French family Dubois, practices in a parking lot where the circus, together with two other Armanzo and Anderland, also owned by the same family, has been maintained under lockdown for about a year, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Gembloux, Belgium November 26, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman

The coronavirus has brought the curtain down on the Zavatelli Circus, at least for the time being.

Unable to travel or perform across Europe, the French family-run operation is waiting out the pandemic in a car park in the southern Belgium town of Gembloux – and quickly running out of funds to feed its animals.

“For us, the confinement is very difficult because we are not working. We have no cash flow,” said circus director Kevin Dubois.

The Zavatelli Circus typically pitches its 600-seater Big Top in 30 cities each year. But since March, when COVID-19 cases began rising in Europe, it has only been able to perform with a reduced capacity, or not at all during Belgium’s spring and autumn lockdowns.

The show features jugglers and acrobats, a conjuror, clowns and a tightrope-walker, and a menagerie including camels, llamas, buffaloes and ponies.

Now the staff are living in trailers in the car park, stopping their skills from going rusty with outdoor pratice sessions in the crisp Autumn air.

The animals are kept in enclosures under red-and white striped awnings, with straw strewn over the car park’s ground.

“Frankly, it is becoming an issue because we have 60 animals to feed,” Dubois said.

The cost of food for the animals runs to about 500 euros ($600) per week. There are also 23 circus staff to support.

“We don’t know how to make ends meet,” he said.

The Zavatelli Circus is one of three family operations that date back to 1800 and was once known as the Cirque de Paris.

The two others, Armanzo and Anderland, owned by the same family, are also on the rented site in Gembloux, about 50 km (30 miles) south of Brussels.

While the circus could return home to France, it would not be permitted to perform there either.

Belgium, like France, is under its second lockdown since the coronavirus epidemic hit Europe in February. Although shops are expected to reopen soon, cultural operations such as circuses in Belgium must remain closed until further notice.

Dubois lamented the lack of state financial support.

“We have not received any financial assistance (from the authorities). A lot of people gave us bread, carrots, they bring us seeds, hay. But in terms of money, we did not get anything,” Dubois said.

Writing by Robin Emmott; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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By Yves Herman



a man holding a sign posing for the camera: French circus Zavatelli under lockdown amid COVID-19 pandemic, in Gembloux


© Reuters/YVES HERMAN
French circus Zavatelli under lockdown amid COVID-19 pandemic, in Gembloux

GEMBLOUX, Belgium (Reuters) – The exotic animals are confined to small paddocks, the acrobats have been grounded, and the clowns aren’t able to make an audience laugh anymore.

The coronavirus has brought the curtain down on the Zavatelli Circus, at least for the time being.



a dog that is standing in front of a sign: French circus Zavatelli under lockdown amid COVID-19 pandemic, in Gembloux


© Reuters/YVES HERMAN
French circus Zavatelli under lockdown amid COVID-19 pandemic, in Gembloux

Unable to travel or perform across Europe, the French family-run operation is waiting out the pandemic in a car park in the southern Belgium town of Gembloux – and quickly running out of funds to feed its animals.



French circus Zavatelli under lockdown amid COVID-19 pandemic, in Gembloux


© Reuters/YVES HERMAN
French circus Zavatelli under lockdown amid COVID-19 pandemic, in Gembloux

“For us, the confinement is very difficult because we are not working. We have no cash flow,” said circus director Kevin Dubois.

The Zavatelli Circus typically pitches its 600-seater Big Top in 30 cities each year. But since March, when COVID-19 cases began rising in Europe, it has only been able to perform with a reduced capacity, or not at all during Belgium’s spring and autumn lockdowns.



a man standing in front of a graffiti covered wall: French circus Zavatelli under lockdown amid COVID-19 pandemic, in Gembloux


© Reuters/YVES HERMAN
French circus Zavatelli under lockdown amid COVID-19 pandemic, in Gembloux

The show features jugglers and acrobats, a conjuror, clowns and a tightrope-walker, and a menagerie including camels, llamas, buffaloes and ponies.



a man standing in front of a tent: French circus Zavatelli under lockdown amid COVID-19 pandemic, in Gembloux


© Reuters/YVES HERMAN
French circus Zavatelli under lockdown amid COVID-19 pandemic, in Gembloux

Video: No money, 25 people and 60 animals to feed without being able to stage a show in nine months: the Zavatelli circus, a travelling circus that usually moves around Belgium and northern France, is starting to feel the strain of the coronavirus pandemic (AFP)

No money, 25 people and 60 animals to feed without being able to stage a show in nine months: the Zavatelli circus, a travelling circus that usually moves around Belgium and northern France, is starting to feel the strain of the coronavirus pandemic

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Now the staff are living in trailers in the car park, stopping their skills from going rusty with outdoor pratice sessions in the crisp Autumn air.

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The animals are kept in enclosures under red-and white striped awnings, with straw strewn over the car park’s ground.

“Frankly, it is becoming an issue because we have 60 animals to feed,” Dubois said.

The cost of food for the animals runs to about 500 euros ($600) per week. There are also 23 circus staff to support.

“We don’t know how to make ends meet,” he said.

The Zavatelli Circus is one of three family operations that date back to 1800 and was once known as the Cirque de Paris.

The two others, Armanzo and Anderland, owned by the same family, are also on the rented site in Gembloux, about 50 km (30 miles) south of Brussels.

While the circus could return home to France, it would not be permitted to perform there either.

Belgium, like France, is under its

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Nov. 23 (UPI) — Officials in a Canadian town are posting signs with a very important instruction for local drivers: “Do not let moose lick your car.”

The signs, posted in Jasper, Alberta, ask drivers to keep their vehicles a safe distance from moose to make sure the animals don’t get a taste of the road salt that inevitably ends up covering the sides of cars driving through the alpine town.

“They’re obsessed with salt, it’s one of the things they need for the minerals in their body,” Jasper National Park spokesman Steve Young told CNN. “They usually get it from salt lakes in the park, but now they realized they can also get road salt that splashes onto cars.”

Young said letting moose discover that they can get salt from licking vehicles causes the animals to lose their fear of cars, which can lead to dangerous incidents on the road.

“Moose and cars are not a good mix. If you hit the moose with your car, you take the legs out from under it and it’s going through your windshield,” Young said.

He said people should keep their cars, and themselves, a safe distance away from moose. He said the population of moose has been rising in the area.

“We’ve been seeing a lot more moose lately. The wolf population is decreasing, which means there’s fewer predators and the moose population is going up as a result,” Young said. “This also means people need to be respectful and give them space.”

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HOWARD COUNTY, MD — Howard County Executive Calvin Ball hosted a virtual transportation town hall Wednesday to discuss transportation safety, Complete Streets, future projects and more. The panel of speakers addressed current trends in transportation safety and commuting and shared the status of many priority projects to improve intersections and complete sidewalks. The Regional Transportation Agency noted record capital investments to improve the vehicle fleet and the implementation real-time bus arrival information allowing customers to see nearby routes based on their location, a trip planner and service alerts.

“Throughout this year, many of our residents have shifted to working from home and are spending more time in our neighborhoods and our community,” Ball said in a statement. “The impact on transportation has been profound, with massive changes for travel, work, and school patterns. Some of these changes may be long lasting, and some will not, but no matter what this pandemic has highlighted the urgency of our transportation projects and priorities.”

Since 2017 there has also been an additional $775,000 in bus stop improvements including:

  • ADA landing pads
  • Sidewalk and curb ramp connections
  • Continued coordination with Complete Streets efforts
  • New shelter design with improved access and integrated solar lighting

“During the past year, the Transit System serving Howard County residents has been challenged by changes in funding, difficult operating conditions for our drivers and a dramatic dip in ridership but has also benefited from a focus on technology with new real time bus information and upcoming implementation of a mobile payment system,” said Cristin Tolen, general manager for the Regional Transportation Agency. “These improvements and the county’s record level of investment in vehicles continue to ensure that RTA service is more accessible and convenient.”

Howard County and the RTA are planning upcoming improvements that include:

  • Real-time bus arrival information allowing customers to see nearby routes based on their location, a trip planner, and service alerts
  • Mobile ticketing, removing the need for cash
  • Automated bus stop annunciators, improving access for riders with visual and/or hearing impairments

“Creating a safe and efficient multimodal transportation system is a team effort as evidenced by presentations offered by the office of transportation, police department, department of public works and Regional Transit Agency representatives at our second annual transportation town hall,” said Bruce Gartner, office of transportation administrator. “The past year has been a difficult one but the dedication of everyone involved in these efforts has been apparent with the accomplishments highlighted this evening and our plans for the years to come.”

DPW’s Bureau of Highways also shared the 2020 resurfacing projects that were completed:

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a group of people standing in front of a bicycle


© Copyright (c) Daily Maverick , All Rights Reserved


On Saturday morning, I found myself surrounded by bicycles on a small street of Khayelitsha listening to the story behind the Ekuphumleni Community Action Network (CAN). The street had effectively shut down and turned into a small stage where people listened attentively and mingled while observing physical distancing rules.

A few cars made their way through the crowd slowly and with patience, understanding that in this context, they were not the priority and that respecting the majority of users of the space was the only way to get through. At that point, Sindile Mavundla, who would then lead us on a social bicycle ride, joked that they shut down the street regularly for different functions and that “drivers are used to it”.

Sindile then gave us some basic instructions for the group ride: “Try to stay in a single file, listen to the marshals, and remember we all have a right to cycle on the street.” And with that, over 60 bicycles with people of all ages and shapes got on the road and began a social ride to connect, enjoy and claim our right to the road.

This reminded me of the concept of cycling “colectivos” in Bogotá, Colombia, which for the past decade or so have grown in size and diversity. They emerged as a grassroots effort to promote cycling, some with a strong political agenda (feminist, environmentalist groups, and so on), others with a geographic identity based on their neighbourhood, but all in all, wanting to cycle together because they love bicycles (and because in a city like Bogota, it is much safer to ride in groups).

What I am seeing emerge in places like Khayelitsha and Langa is the kind of activism that seemed a far away dream in the early 2010s when I entered the bicycle advocacy space. Back then, the big ride that made the headlines was Moonlight Mass in Sea Point and the CBD of Cape Town. Connecting to other parts of the city seemed impossible, because, in a literal sense, it was. Apartheid planning succeeded in cementing barriers through highways and forced displacements. Cycling across the city was not a realistic goal despite dreams and efforts trying to prove the contrary.

During lockdown, we have had no choice but to look closer to our neighbourhoods and it turns out that looking inwards is what is required to connect with the rest of the city. In other words, promoting those “collective” efforts and energy that respond to a local desire and a growing demand turns out to be the recipe to garner the much-desired “critical mass”. Moreover, it turns out that bicycles do not only help movement, but also nurture other forms of expression and communication.

That was clear and palpable during the social Community Action Network (CAN) ride on Saturday 14 November between Ekuphumleni and Tafelsig — with some of us cycling from Langa

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A town centre business has moved location to allow them to expand.

Custom Bicycles Ltd in Stone sell all types of bikes, accessories, clothing and tools along with servicing and repairing all bikes including ebikes.

After 28 years of being based on Radford Street, with four different owners during that time, the business has now relocated to The Boat Yard.

Owner Kane Barber was always in the shop growing up but only bought the business around two years ago.

The 24-year-old, from Stone, explains: “I took the shop over from a guy called Matt who owned the shop for 10 years. I used to be a good customer to Matt when I was a child and always went there for any parts I needed.

The new Custom Bicycles Ltd owner store

“Over the years I made good friends with him and when he spoke to me regarding selling the business I jumped at the opportunity. It was a dream come true.”

Now Kane has moved the business less than a mile away, to a building that is ten times the size of the old shop.

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He said: “I have been in the bike trade most of my life on and off and I felt it only natural to progress to owning my own shop. I have always been a very passionate person and always thinking of new ideas and ways to improve.

“We had been struggling for space in the old shop for around a year and we also wanted to offer more to our customer which we could only do with a bigger shop.

“We wanted to stay in Stone because it has a great sense of community and opened our new shop on Saturday, November 7.

“The grand opening will have to wait until all of this is over but we will remain open to the public during lockdown.

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“We have a lot more to offer including more bikes, accessories, clothing, tools and more and we are very excited that the new shop allows us to take in more work at one time. We will also have a bike stand outside soon and we are hiring out bikes for a daily rate from next year.

“I have loved biking since I can remember and owning my own bike shop has been a dream of mine since I was a kid.

“Unfortunately owning my own business means I can’t get out much on my own bike but I wouldn’t trade for the world.”

Lockdown opening hours are Monday to Friday 9-6pm and Saturday 9-5pm and they are operating a one in

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