7-31-20 Covid-19 news: Rising cases in England delay easing of restrictions
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Easing of restrictions tightened in northern England and delayed across the country. Further easing of restrictions in England are postponed for at least two weeks, due to recent increases in cases, UK prime minister Boris Johnson announced today. From 8 August, face coverings will become compulsory in more indoor settings, including museums and places of worship. Face coverings are already mandatory in shops, supermarkets and on public transport. “Higher risk settings” including bowling alleys, skating rinks and casinos were due to open tomorrow but will not do so until at least 15 August. Indoor performances and wedding receptions of up to 30 people will not be allowed to resume. The first death from covid-19 in Vietnam was recorded today, according to state media. Vietnam had not detected any new infections for more than three months until an outbreak in Da Nang started last week. 545 cases have been confirmed in Vietnam since the start of the pandemic. Hong Kong’s government has postponed parliamentary elections due to take place in September for a year, citing a recent rise in coronavirus cases. Opposition politicians are arguing that the government is using the pandemic to prevent people from voting.
7-31-20 Vietnam records first Covid-19 death
Vietnam has recorded its first Covid-19 fatality, in a devastating blow for a country proud of its zero deaths. The 70-year-old man was from the central city of Hoi An, state media said on Friday. No new infections had been reported for more than three months before an outbreak was reported in the nearby resort of Da Nang earlier this week. Vietnam, which has a population of around 95 million, has reported just 509 cases since the pandemic began. (Webmaster's comment: With a population of only 4 times that of Vietnam the US has had over 150,000 deaths!) Unlike many other countries, Vietnam acted before it even had confirmed cases, closing its borders early to almost all travellers, except returning citizens. Anyone entering the country must quarantine in government facilities for 14 days and undergo testing. And for a while, this approach appeared to be highly effective, with no new local transmissions reported since mid-April. The country received praise for both its timely efforts to contain the virus and for the care it was able to offer a Scottish pilot who spent two months in a coma after developing Covid-19. But earlier this week came the difficult news that new cases had been discovered in the popular resort of Da Nang. Tens of thousands of tourists from across the country were in the city at the time, many of whom believed the threat from coronavirus had passed. The government initially closed the city to visitors, before ordering a total local lockdown on Wednesday. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc warned that every province and city in the country following the outbreak in Da Nang. "We have to act more swiftly and more fiercely in order to control the outbreak," state media quoted him as saying. At first, Vietnamese mainstream newspapers cited coronavirus as the main cause of the man's death. But then, just a moment later, the story was deleted from most of the country's state media websites. The story only appeared again on their websites as the National Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control finally confirmed the news.
7-31-20 US election 2020: Obama calls for end to voter suppression
Former US President Barack Obama has sharply criticised what he described as Republican attempts at voter suppression in a speech at civil rights leader John Lewis's funeral. He said people in power were "attacking our voting rights with surgical precision" and called for wide reform. He also decried the police killing of George Floyd and the subsequent use of federal agents against protesters. Lewis died of cancer earlier this month aged 80. He was one of the "Big Six" civil rights leaders, which included Martin Luther King Jr, and helped organise the historic 1963 March on Washington. Mr Obama singled out the role of the US postal service in delivering postal votes amid the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier on Thursday Mr Trump suggested the 2020 presidential election in November should be delayed because he said - without providing evidence - that postal voting would enable large-scale voter fraud. Mr Obama also proposed a series of reforms to voting in the US, including: 1. making sure Americans are automatically registered to vote. 2. giving the vote to former prison inmates who had "earned their second chance" 3. creating new polling stations and expand early voting. 4.making election day a national holiday so workers who can't get time off can vote. He also called for people in Washington DC and Puerto Rico to have the same representation as other Americans, a long-cherished ambition of Democrats. Washington is a federal district and so does not have representatives in Congress, but only a delegate to the House of Representatives with limited powers. Puerto Rico is a US territory that does not have representation in Congress and Puerto Ricans cannot vote in presidential elections. And he called for an end to the filibuster - which requires 60 votes to pass legislation instead of a simple majority of 51. He described it as a "Jim Crow relic". Jim Crow laws enforced racial segregation in southern states until 1965 and were used to disenfranchise black people. "If all this takes eliminating the filibuster, another Jim Crow relic, in order to secure the God-given rights of every American, then that's what we should do," he said.
7-31-20 Republicans to Trump: You can't delay 2020 election
Top Republicans have rejected President Donald Trump's suggestion that November's presidential election should be delayed over alleged fraud concerns. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy both dismissed the idea. Mr Trump does not have the authority to postpone the election, as any delay would have to be approved by Congress. Earlier, the president suggested that increased postal voting could lead to fraud and inaccurate results. He floated a delay until people could "properly, securely and safely" vote. There is little evidence to support Mr Trump's claims but he has long railed against postal voting, which he has said would be susceptible to fraud. US states want to make mail-in voting easier because of public health concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. Mr Trump's intervention came as new figures showed the US economy had suffered the worst contraction since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Senator McConnell said no US presidential election had ever been delayed before. "Never in the history of this country, through wars, depressions and the Civil War, have we ever not had a federally scheduled election on time. We will find a way to do that again this November third," he told local Kentucky station WNKY. Mr McCarthy echoed him. "Never in the history of the federal elections have we ever not held an election and we should go forward with our election," he said. Trump ally Senator Lindsay Graham meanwhile said a delay was "not a good idea". However, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refused to be drawn on Mr Trump's suggestion. Quizzed by reporters on whether a president could delay an election, he said he would not "enter a legal judgement on the fly". The spokesman for Mr Trump's re-election campaign, Hogan Gidley, said Mr Trump had just been "raising a question".
7-30-20 US election: Does Trump have power to delay it?
President Donald Trump has generated a political firestorm after he sent a tweet raising the possibility of delaying November's general election. His message - structured in the form of a question - comes after the president has spent months alleging that mail-in voting, which a growing number of states are turning to due to risks of coronavirus exposure at in-person polling places, is susceptible to fraud. There's little evidence of widespread illegalities in mail-in balloting, even in the states that hold their elections exclusively by post. The president, however, is suggesting that fears about the practice, and about polling-place safety, could necessitate a delay. Such an outcome is extremely unlikely, but the coronavirus has already had a significant impact on US politics. Primary contests have been delayed or disrupted, with in-person polling places closed and absentee balloting processes thrown into doubt. Politicians have engaged in contentious fights over the electoral process in legislatures and the courts. In November, voters are scheduled to head to the polls to select the next president, much of Congress and thousands of state-government candidates. But what could Election Day look like - or if it will even be held on schedule - is very much the subject of debate. Under a law dating back to 1845, the US presidential election is slated for the Tuesday after the first Monday of November every four years - 3 November in 2020. It would take an act of Congress - approved by majorities in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and the Republican-controlled Senate - to change that. The prospect of a bipartisan legislative consensus signing off on any delay is unlikely in the extreme. What's more, even if the voting day were changed, the US Constitution mandates that a presidential administration only last four years. In other words, Donald Trump's first term will expire at noon on 20 January, 2021, one way or another. He might get another four years if he's re-elected. He could be replaced by Democrat Joe Biden if he's defeated. But the clock is ticking down, and a postponed vote won't stop it.
7-30-20 Conservative propaganda has crippled the U.S. coronavirus response
Why does the United States have the worst coronavirus outbreak in the developed world? Part of the answer is surely that our basic state functions have been allowed to rot, or been deliberately destroyed, over the years. State capacity and competence have been shown around the world to be a key factor in whether nations can get a handle on the pandemic. But another reason is conservative media. A small but nevertheless very loud and angry minority of Americans have had their ability to reason dissolved in a corrosive bath of crack-brained propaganda. The flood tide of conservative lunacy is so overwhelming that it can be hard to process or even notice. A dozen things that would be a major scandal in any other rich country, or the U.S. itself in previous ages, fly by practically every day. Let's review a few events just from the start of this week. 1. On Monday, President Trump retweeted a viral video in which crackpot doctors falsely asserted that hydroxychloroquine was a "cure for COVID," and that masks were not necessary to contain the virus. Among others, the video featured Dr. Stella Immanuel, who has previously claimed "gynecological problems like cysts and endometriosis are in fact caused by people having sex in their dreams with demons and witches," and "the government is run in part not by humans but by 'reptilians' and other aliens," reports The Daily Beast. 2. On Tuesday, Twitter temporarily suspended the accounts of Donald Trump, Jr., and Kelli Ward, a former doctor and the chair of the Arizona Republican Party, for sharing the same video. (Arizona currently has probably the worst coronavirus outbreak in the country.) The president defended Immanuel at a press conference that day. 3. On Wednesday, Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Texas), a frequent Fox News guest who has stubbornly refused to wear a mask while in the Capitol building, tested positive for COVID-19. He told his staffers the news in person, inside the House's Rayburn office building. An anonymous aide reported that workers in the office had previously been "berated" for wearing masks. And that is only a tiny portion of the radioactive sludge that has been pumping through the veins of the Republican Party and the conservative propaganda machine. For instance, Sinclair Media Group, an extreme right-wing media conglomerate that owns local TV stations reaching about 40 percent of the country, recently recorded an interview with another conspiracy crackpot, Judy Mikovits. She falsely alleged that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, had actually created the coronavirus, and that the same lab had created the Ebola virus that caused the 2014 outbreak. As journalist Judd Legum explains, the resulting outrage eventually pushed Sinclair into canceling the planned airing of the segment on its stations last week — but not before it had been widely published online. And that's just one of dozens of instances of Sinclair pushing dangerous coronavirus misinformation. In raw political terms, this is strange behavior indeed. Trump's catastrophic mishandling of the pandemic has badly harmed his approval rating — and he craves approval more than anything else — yet he keeps repeating conspiracy nonsense that will only enable the spread. He plainly can't help himself, and neither can the millions of propaganda-drunk followers who eagerly create, repeat, and share this stuff. On some level, it makes sense. Inflammatory accusations get attention. Narratives about some secret evil conspiracy are exciting and interesting, and also provide a more compelling explanation for vast events than boring, mundane reality. Perhaps most importantly for American conservatism, conspiracy hogwash is the only way to reconcile the belief that Donald Trump is the heroic savior of history with his monstrously incompetent performance — it must be because Deep State villains are undermining him at every turn.
7-30-20 Covid-19 news: 70 per cent of people wearing face coverings in the UK
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. 70 per cent of people in the UK say they are wearing face coverings. Wearing of face coverings has increased in the UK, according to a survey by researchers at King’s College London and Ipsos MORI, a UK market research firm. 70 per cent of people surveyed between 17 and 20 July said they had worn one in the last few weeks, up from 19 per cent in April. The majority of people – 81 per cent of those surveyed – said they believe that wearing a face covering helps to stop the spread of coronavirus. England had the highest levels of excess deaths of any European nation between late February and mid-June, according to an analysis from the Office for National Statistics. Although England had the second highest peak in death rates in Europe, after Spain, it had the longest period where deaths were above average and so had the highest level overall. At its worst, the death rate in England was almost 2.2 times higher than the five-year average – the equivalent figure for Spain was 2.5. But deaths returned to average levels more quickly in Spain than in England. The UK today extended the number of days of self-quarantine for people who test positive for coronavirus or have covid-19 symptoms. It increased from seven to 10 days, bringing the advice in line with World Health Organization (WHO) guidance. Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has died from covid-19 after being ill with the disease for a month. Cain had attended US president Donald Trump’s election campaign rally in Tulsa, a large gathering that raised concerns about its role in spreading the virus, although it isn’t clear where Cain became infected. Florida will suspend all coronavirus testing from today until Tuesday due to concerns about Tropical Storm Isaias, which is expected to make landfall on Friday. Australia reported a record daily increase in coronavirus cases and deaths yesterday, with 723 cases confirmed and 13 deaths. Restrictions have been tightened in the state of Victoria, where the majority of the new cases were detected, and include banning people from having visitors at home. Starting on Sunday, people will also be required to wear face coverings outside.
7-30-20 Coronavirus: US economy sees sharpest contraction in decades
The US economy shrank by a 32.9% annual rate in the April-to-June quarter as the country grappled with cut backs in spending during the pandemic. It was the deepest decline since the government began keeping records in 1947 and three times more severe than the prior record of 10% set in 1958. Reduced spending on services such as healthcare drove the fall. Economists have said they expected to see the sharpest drop in the second quarter, with recovery thereafter. But as virus cases in the US surge and some areas re-impose restrictions on activity, the rebound is showing signs of stalling. More than 1.4 million people filed new claims for unemployment last week, up slightly from the prior week for the second week in a row. Other data points to spending cuts and falls in confidence in July. Jerome Powell, the head of America's central bank, on Wednesday warned of renewed slowdown, describing the downturn as the "most severe in our lifetimes". He urged further government spending to help American households and businesses weather the crisis. That call was echoed by other business leaders on Thursday as the figures brought into focus the scale of the economic crisis facing the country. "The staggering news of the historic decline of the gross domestic product in the second quarter should shock us all," said Neil Bradley, chief policy officer at the US Chamber of Commerce, a business lobby group. "This jarring news should compel Congress to move swiftly." The International Monetary Fund has predicted that global growth will fall by 4.9% this year. On Thursday, Germany reported a record quarterly decline of 10.1%, while Mexico's economy also reported a double digit contraction. Compared with the same quarter a year ago, the US economy contracted 9.5%. Exports and imports were both down more than 20% from a year ago, while consumer spending - the main driver of the US economy - fell 10.7% year-on-year.
7-30-20 Donald Trump suggests delay to 2020 US presidential election
Donald Trump has suggested November's presidential election be postponed, saying increased postal voting could lead to fraud and inaccurate results. He floated a delay until people could "properly, securely and safely" vote. There is little evidence to support Mr Trump's claims but he has long railed against mail-in voting which he has said would be susceptible to fraud. US states want to make postal voting easier due to public health concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. Under the US constitution, Mr Trump does not have the authority to postpone the election himself. Any delay would have to be approved by Congress. In a series of tweets, Mr Trump said "universal mail-in voting" would make November's vote the "most inaccurate and fraudulent election in history" and a "great embarrassment to the USA". He suggested - without providing evidence - that mail-in voting, as it is known in the US, would be susceptible to foreign interference. "The [Democrats] talk of foreign influence in voting, but they know that Mail-In Voting is an easy way for foreign countries to enter the race," he said. Mr Trump also said postal voting was "already proving to be a catastrophic disaster" in areas where it was being tried out. In June, New York allowed voters to vote by post in the Democratic primary poll for the party's presidential candidate. But there have been long delays in counting the ballots and the results are still unknown. US media report that there are also concerns that many ballots will not be counted because they were not filled in correctly or do not have postmarks on them that show they were sent before voting officially ended. However, several other states have long conducted votes by post. Whatever the reason, tweeting about an election delay is not the move of a candidate confident of victory - and could be a sign of more desperate moves to come.
7-30-20 Portland protests: Federal forces ready for phased pullout
The Trump administration is planning to withdraw some federal security forces from Portland, Oregon, after weeks of clashes with protesters. US Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said the pullout was conditional on local police protecting federal buildings, the focal point of unrest. Oregon Governor Kate Brown said federal agents would start leaving the state's biggest city from Thursday. Portland has been rocked by 62 consecutive days of demonstrations. In his statement, the US homeland security secretary set no timeline for a pullout. But he said he and the governor had "agreed to a joint plan to end the violent activity in Portland directed at federal properties and law enforcement officers". "That plan includes a robust presence of Oregon State Police in downtown Portland." He added that "state and local law enforcement will begin securing properties and streets, especially those surrounding federal properties, that have been under nightly attack". The governor tweeted on Wednesday: "They have acted as an occupying force & brought violence. Starting tomorrow, all Customs and Border Protection & ICE officers will leave downtown Portland." But she added that federal officers from the US Marshals Service and Federal Protective Service will stay at the courthouse, where they are usually based. Following the announcement, President Trump, a Republican, declared victory, tweeting: "If the Federal Government and its brilliant Law Enforcement (Homeland) didn't go into Portland one week ago, there would be no Portland. "It would be burned and beaten to the ground. If the Mayor and Governor do not stop the Crime and Violence from the Anarchists and Agitators immediately, the Federal Government will go in and do the job that local law enforcement was supposed to do!" Hours after the announcement on Wednesday night, hundreds of protesters gathered in the city centre near the courthouse building. (Webmaster's comment: Get rid of all Trump's Federal goon squads!)
7-30-20 Pelosi warns maskless lawmakers may be thrown out
The US House of Representatives has ordered all members and staff to wear masks as the nation's death toll from coronavirus passed 150,000. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned anyone who breaks the new rule faces being removed from the chamber. She took the decision after Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican often seen around the Capitol without a face covering, tested positive on Wednesday. He had been due to travel that day with US President Donald Trump. Mrs Pelosi, a California Democrat, said on the House floor on Wednesday evening that members would be allowed to remove their masks when addressing the chamber. "The chair expects all members and staff to adhere to this requirement as a sign of respect for the health, safety, and wellbeing of others present in the chamber and surrounding areas," she said. Mrs Pelosi said she would view "failure to wear a mask as a serious breach of decorum", warning the House Sergeant at Arms could kick out anyone who did not wear a mask. According to GovTrack.us, 10 members of Congress - three Democrats and seven Republicans - have confirmed they tested positive, or were diagnosed with coronavirus. Mr Gohmert, 66, discovered he was infected when he was routinely tested under White House travel protocol because he had been due to fly with President Trump to Texas on Wednesday. The eighth-term lawmaker returned to his office to inform his staff in person of the positive result. He wore a mask during the meeting, according to US media. He also gave an interview in which he pondered whether his mask was to blame for infecting him. "I can't help but wonder if by keeping a mask on and keeping it in place, I might have put some germs - some virus - on to the mask and breathed it in," he told Texas station KETK. He was one of a contingent of around two dozen Republicans often seen on the House floor without masks. On Tuesday, Mr Gohmert frequently removed his face covering during a nearly five-hour hearing with Attorney General William Barr. A photo on Twitter shows the two men in proximity, neither wearing masks. According to the Department of Justice, Mr Barr will be tested for Covid-19 as a result of the interaction. Despite mixed messages early in the pandemic, public health experts now agree that wearing face coverings greatly reduces the spread of Covid-19, and is vital to controlling the infection's spread.
7-30-20 How to convince teenagers to take COVID-19 seriously
This is not the time to be rebellious! s confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the U.S., it can be frustrating to see people dismiss the official advice for curbing the spread of the pandemic. And when the resistance is coming from within your own household, it's even more infuriating. Step forward Pandemic Teen — an even more irritating dependent than Regular Teen. It's natural for teenagers to push boundaries and question authority, of course. But if there's ever a time for them to skip the parties, stop sneaking out, and just do what you ask (i.e. wear the mask!), it's now. "Infection rates among teens are going up," says Carol Winner, MPH, public health expert and founder of social distancing brand Give Space. "States like Florida and California are seeing cases among those under age 18 on a rapid rise — California is at a rate of 8 percent infection in that age group." Indeed, recent research suggests that kids between ages 10 and 19 are catching and spreading COVID-19 at the same rate as adults. So how can parents get the message across to their teenagers that the pandemic is not to be taken lightly? Part of the problem is that teens are naturally inclined to break the rules and assert their individuality. Blame it on their brains. "This is their primary developmental task," says child and adolescent psychiatrist and author Gayani DeSilva, MD. "They're also developing higher cortical structures and the ability to make complex decisions. They may still be thinking in concrete terms, and not able to consider situations and decisions in abstract ways. This makes their decision making seem superficial, or immature. It is — but they can't help it." While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and most state leaders, have issued rules regarding face coverings, social distancing, and hygiene, often the guidelines simply aren't clear enough for teenagers to understand. There's also the problem of information and guidance changing constantly, often without warning. "The information teens get is confusing," Dr. DeSilva says. "They are natural risk takers, so unless they get clear messages about how to be safe, they will take risks and shun some good advice." Part of a parent's role during the pandemic is helping their teen make sense of those conflicting messages. Dr. DeSilva recommends sitting down with them and explaining the risks of the pandemic in simple, straightforward terms, then telling them in clear language the behavior expected from them. And simple really does mean simple. Try something like: "We want you to wear a mask at all times when you're in public." Like all productive conversations with a teenager, the key is to listen. "Ask them what they think. Ask them if they have concerns and what scares them. Ask them if they have questions about the pandemic and guidelines. Ask them what they want to do, and how they want to keep themselves safe," Dr. DeSilva says. Then, when you have their attention, tell them what's at the root of all this — you want them to be safe and healthy. It's also important to remind teens of the greater good. They may perceive wearing a mask as a weakness because it doesn't look "cool," so emphasizing the sense of collective responsibility might be more effective than making it about them personally. "Social research tells us that although we may think of teens as being more self-absorbed than adults, they can often demonstrate empathy in a willingness to change their behavior for the betterment of the community," Winner says. Regular reminders that the sooner the virus is controlled, the sooner their freedoms will return could also help get the message across.
7-30-20 Coronavirus: Australia's Victoria records huge case jump
Australia's virus-hit state of Victoria has reported its worst death toll and case rise, prompting fears that a six-week lockdown of state capital Melbourne is not working. The state confirmed 13 new deaths and 723 new cases on Thursday - a 36% jump on the case record set on Monday. There are fears now that Melbourne's lockdown, which began on 7 July, will need to be extended. The spike meant Australia overall had its deadliest day in the pandemic. A 14th person died late on Thursday but his death will be included in Friday's figures as it was announced after the government's briefing. Officials in Victoria renewed appeals for people with symptoms to get tested quickly. Last week, the Victorian government said sick people breaking isolation rules - or not getting tested in time - was leading to continued spread despite lockdown measures. "If you've got symptoms, the only thing you can do is get tested," said Premier Daniel Andrews. "You just can't go to work. Because all you'll be doing is spreading the virus." Thursday's figures dash hopes that recent lower case numbers indicated the state had turned a corner. Under Melbourne's second stay-at-home order, people cannot leave their home except for exercise, food shopping, work and care-giving. Melbourne has also become the first Australian city to make mask-wearing mandatory in public, and this will be extended to all of Victoria from Monday. Premier Andrews said the latest case numbers reflected the virus's hold in the city's nursing homes - with one in six cases linked to residents and staff. Elderly people have made up the majority of deaths reported in the past fortnight. When the numbers first leaked out this morning, I heard a reporter on air say he hoped his source was wrong. More than 700 cases - it is a crushing blow for Melbourne's five million people. Halfway through the second lockdown, everyone was hoping their hard work would start to pay off and that the tide would turn. But it does not look like things will get better any time soon - which means a longer lockdown could be likely.
7-29-20 Why the protesters should bow out of the fight with the feds
he protests that erupted two months ago and quickly spread around the country in the wake of George Floyd's death at the hands of the Minneapolis police were fully justified. They have also coincided with a polling surge in favor of progressive policy priorities, convincing many on the left that they have been a political boon. But that doesn't mean they should continue indefinitely. With President Trump using federal law enforcement officers to provoke greater unrest in order to set himself up as a champion of law and order as he heads into the November election, the unrest has outlived its usefulness. It's time for the protests to end. There has been little evidence, so far, that Trump's police-state tactics are paying off for him politically. Indeed, the president's inability to capitalize on two months of civic turmoil could well be a sign that all but the most hardline Republicans recognize that Trump himself, and not some ominous-sounding conspiracy of left-wing anti-American agitators, deserves the lion's share of the blame for fomenting the strife. Yet it would still be foolish for protesters to keep giddily taking the bait that Trump has begun dangling in front of them on the daily basis. That's because the demonstrations have already accomplished all the good they are likely to achieve — and from here on out, they will run a considerable risk of backfiring. The reason why is rooted in the complex mixture of motives at play in acts of protest and civil disobedience. At the most admirable level, there is a reaction to specific acts of outright injustice, as we saw in the first spontaneous protests after Floyd's death, as well as to evidence of its institutional and structural preconditions. Similar motives have also come into play more recently in demonstrations of outrage against the use of excessive force against protesters, as we have seen over the past week with the "Wall of Moms" who have showed up on the streets of Portland in reaction to Trump's deployment of well-armed federal officers. Such acts of civic defiance have mostly been productive — placing criminal justice reform high on the national policy agenda, for example, and highlighting the militarization of law enforcement in the hope of encouraging positive change. Then there are those who take to the streets for different reasons — to push into outright rioting, including the looting and burning down of stores and other businesses, either out of anger at property-owners or an urge to take advantage of an opportunity for free stuff. Either way, that's stealing and the destruction of property — hardly the worst of crimes, but certainly nothing commendable either, especially when it treats morally justified rage at injustice as a cover and excuse. We saw a lot of this in the first week or so of protests in late May and early June. Some of it was covered in the news at the time, but much of it wasn't. As reporting by independent journalist Michael Tracey has documented, the destruction in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota; Atlantic City, New Jersey; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Green Bay, Wisconsin; Olympia, Washington; and other midsized cities was significant, leaving many neighborhoods and minority-owned businesses in ruins. Yet another group of people is motivated to take part in protests by a sense of injustice that goes far beyond specific acts and institutions to fasten onto corruption in "the system" as a whole. Theirs is a shriek of anger and frustration at the perceived impossibility of undertaking any meaningful reform within the existing political order. This makes them revolutionary anarchists — and they overlap in often indistinct ways with a final group of people who just like to smash things for the sheer nihilistic joy of it. We've seen many examples of both in the Pacific Northwest over the past week, as the number of protesters has surged in response to Trump's provocations, like rogue troublemakers aiming live fireworks and hurling weapons at federal officers in Portland.
7-29-20 Social workers are masters at de-escalation. Here's what the police can learn from them.
Knowing how to peacefully resolve conflict, rather than exacerbate it, can save lives. First responders are often portrayed as the heroes of our society. Medical professionals, police officers, and firefighters are lauded with admiration and praise for their life-saving efforts, and for good reason. But there's one group of first responders that gets overlooked: social workers. These unsung heroes immerse themselves within communities to address systemic problems and improve the well-being of society as a whole. Sometimes they're called to hospitals or homes in emergencies to help police resolve conflict peacefully. That's because social workers are masters at de-escalation. As America is embroiled in protests against law enforcement, and people continue to be killed in police custody, the value of this skill — the ability to resolve conflict, rather than exacerbate it — is becoming increasingly apparent. Indeed, it can help save lives. "I've seen too many times when police use intimidation, or they lack empathy," says Tracie Simpson, a social worker in New Jersey. This can actually make a confrontation worse, and even deadly. Lisa Tyson, another New Jersey social worker, mentions the case of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died last year after police put him in a chokehold and then injected him with ketamine, a sedative, which ultimately sent him into cardiac arrest. Tyson says that, if a social worker had been present, non-physical methods of addressing conflict like "empathy, active listening, and I statements" may have been used. "We have to defuse conflicts with individuals that are involved in domestic violence, human trafficking, individuals with cognitive or physical disabilities, substance abuse issues or individuals who have experienced severe trauma," Tyson says. Still, some may be skeptical of a social worker's ability to be truly effective without a gun and a badge. This skepticism may be rooted in sexism: Social work is overwhelmingly dominated by women, who make up 83 percent of the field. Conversely, police work is 87 percent male-dominated. Are we exercising implicit bias when we doubt that a female social worker could be capable of disarming, say, a 6-foot-tall, 200-pound man? Tyson says that if her de-escalation tactics work, she doesn't even need to use physical restraint. "I typically use basic problem-solving skills to de-escalate any situation, and I'm always aware of a person's verbal and non-verbal cues," she explains. This can be important, considering that mentally ill individuals are 16 times more likely to die at the hands of law enforcement. One in four killed by the police have undiagnosed mental illnesses, and one in five inmates suffers from a mental illness. Tyson acknowledges that police have a tough job, but stresses that, "when mental health is a factor, it may be necessary to involve a mental health professional to ensure the safety of all involved." She recalls one incident in which police were called to a scene where a teenager who appeared to have a cognitive impairment was trying to run into traffic. "The store's security guard appeared to be inexperienced, and become physically aggressive, then called the police," Tyson says. When she arrived, she spoke to the teenager calmly until his parents could be located. "He ended up being safe and had the opportunity to receive the help he needed without being harmed or further traumatized," Tyson says. The teenager was Black, she notes, "which in many situations could lead to a fatal ending."
7-29-20 Coronavirus: Trump sticks by unproven hydroxychloroquine
US President Donald Trump has again defended the use of hydroxychloroquine to ward off coronavirus, contradicting his own public health officials. He said the malaria medication was only rejected as a Covid-19 treatment because he had recommended its use. His remarks come after Twitter banned his eldest son for posting a clip promoting hydroxychloroquine. There is no evidence the drug can fight the virus, and regulators warn it may cause heart problems. Last month, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cautioned against using the drug to treat coronavirus patients, following reports of "serious heart rhythm problems" and other health issues. The FDA also revoked its emergency-use authorisation for the drug to treat Covid-19. The World Health Organization (WHO) says "there is currently no proof" that it is effective as a treatment or prevents Covid-19. Studies commissioned by the WHO, the US National Institutes of Health and other researchers around the world have found no evidence that hydroxychloroquine - when used with or without the antibiotic azithromycin, as repeatedly recommended by President Trump - helps treat coronavirus. Hydroxychloroquine was first touted by Mr Trump in March. Two months later he surprised journalists by saying he had begun taking the unproven medication to ward off the virus. On Tuesday the president told reporters at the White House: "I can only say that from my standpoint, and based on a lot of reading and a lot of knowledge about it, I think it could have a very positive impact in the early stages. "I don't think you lose anything by doing it, other than politically it doesn't seem too popular." He added: "When I recommend something, they like to say 'don't use it.'" On the wider situation in the US, the president said large numbers of masks and gowns were being produced and 55 million tests had been carried out - "more than anybody in the world".
7-29-20 Umbrella Man: Minneapolis suspect linked to white supremacists
Police in Minneapolis say a man known as "Umbrella Man", seen damaging property in the city during the Black Lives Matter protests, has links to white supremacy groups. People took to the city's streets following the death there in May of George Floyd, an unarmed black man. Police say Umbrella Man helped turn the largely peaceful protests violent. Footage of the man wearing a mask and carrying an umbrella while smashing shop windows went viral online. In the video, taken on 27 May, Umbrella Man can be seen breaking the windows with a hammer as people approach him trying to get him to stop. He then walks away from the scene. Police said he also sprayed a message on the doors of the store. It sparked questions as to who the man was and his motives. Violence broke out in the city during the protests and the National Guard were called in after looting was reported and buildings were set on fire. Police claim that the man's actions were a catalyst for the violence. The AutoZone store he was seen damaging in the video was later set on fire. Erika Christensen, Minneapolis police investigator, said in a search warrant affidavit filed on Monday: "This was the first fire that set off a string of fires and looting throughout the precinct and the rest of the city." The affidavit aims to get access to the man's mobile phone records for that day to establish where he was at the time of the incident. He has not been named by local media as he has not been formally charged with a crime. Minnesota police extensively searched through video footage of the violence to try to identify the man but had no luck. According to the Star Tribune, the man was identified following an email tip-off. The email claimed the man was a member of the Hells Angels biker gang. An investigation found that the man was also connected to the Aryan Cowboys, a prison biker / street gang. The Anti-Defamation League identifies them as a white supremacist group based primarily in Kentucky and Minnesota.
7-29-20 Turkey's MPs vote to tighten grip on social media
Turkey's parliament has passed a law to control social media platforms, a move human rights groups say poses a severe threat to freedom of expression. The law requires social media firms with more than a million Turkish users to set up local offices and comply with requests to remove content. If companies refuse, they face fines and may have data speeds cut. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have not yet commented. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has described social media sites as "immoral" and made no secret of his desire to see them tightly controlled. The bill was submitted by the ruling AKP and its partner the MHP, which together have a majority in parliament, and passed on Wednesday morning. In the past Turkish authorities have temporarily cut internet bandwidth to stop citizens using social media, after terror attacks. Under the new law, social media platforms face cuts of up to 95% of bandwidth, rendering them unusable. The internet remains a crucial tool for dissent in the country and critics say the move will lead to more censorship. The hashtag #SansurYasasinaDurDe (Say Stop to the Censorship Law) has been trending on Twitter since Tuesday. Amnesty International describes it as "the latest, and perhaps most brazen attack on free expression in Turkey". "The internet law significantly increases the reach of the government to police and censor content online, exacerbating risks to those who are already ruthlessly targeted by the authorities simply for expressing dissenting opinions," said the human rights group's Turkey researcher Andrew Gardner. Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin denied that the bill would lead to censorship, saying it was intended to establish commercial and legal ties with the social media platforms.
7-29-20 Young people 'may be driving' Europe virus spike
Young people could be driving spikes in coronavirus infections across Europe, the World Health Organization warns. Several countries are seeing a higher proportion of new cases among the young, the health body's Europe director says. The top US infectious diseases expert says the height of a pandemic is not the time to be distracted by political infighting. Speaking to the BBC, Dr Anthony Fauci has blamed the recent surge in cases on some states not following expert advice. Almost 1,300 virus-related deaths were reported in the US on Tuesday, the biggest daily increase since May. Heathrow boss calls for tests at airports to avoid quarantine rules, but a UK minister says this is not a "silver bullet". Scaled back Hajj begins in Saudi Arabia with international visitors banned. There have been nearly 16.7 million confirmed cases globally, and around 660,000 deaths.
7-28-20 Trump’s New Favorite COVID Doctor Believes in Alien DNA, Demon Sperm, and Hydroxychloroquine
The president is pushing the coronavirus theories of a Houston doctor who also says sexual visitations by demons and alien DNA are at the root of Americans’ common health concerns. A Houston doctor who praises hydroxychloroquine and says that face masks aren’t necessary to stop transmission of the highly contagious coronavirus has become a star on the right-wing internet, garnering tens of millions of views on Facebook on Monday alone. Donald Trump Jr. declared the video of Stella Immanuel a “must watch,” while Donald Trump himself retweeted the video. Before Trump and his supporters embrace Immanuel’s medical expertise, though, they should consider other medical claims Immanuel has made—including those about alien DNA and the physical effects of having sex with witches and demons in your dreams. Immanuel, a pediatrician and a religious minister, has a history of making bizarre claims about medical topics and other issues. She has often claimed that gynecological problems like cysts and endometriosis are in fact caused by people having sex in their dreams with demons and witches. She alleges alien DNA is currently used in medical treatments, and that scientists are cooking up a vaccine to prevent people from being religious. And, despite appearing in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress on Monday, she has said that the government is run in part not by humans but by “reptilians” and other aliens. Immanuel gave her viral speech on the steps of the Supreme Court at the “White Coat Summit,” a gathering of a handful of doctors who call themselves America’s Frontline Doctors and dispute the medical consensus on the novel coronavirus. The event was organized by the right-wing group Tea Party Patriots, which is backed by wealthy Republican donors. Immanuel, a pediatrician and a religious minister, has a history of making bizarre claims about medical topics and other issues. She has often claimed that gynecological problems like cysts and endometriosis are in fact caused by people having sex in their dreams with demons and witches. She alleges alien DNA is currently used in medical treatments, and that scientists are cooking up a vaccine to prevent people from being religious. And, despite appearing in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress on Monday, she has said that the government is run in part not by humans but by “reptilians” and other aliens. Immanuel gave her viral speech on the steps of the Supreme Court at the “White Coat Summit,” a gathering of a handful of doctors who call themselves America’s Frontline Doctors and dispute the medical consensus on the novel coronavirus. The event was organized by the right-wing group Tea Party Patriots, which is backed by wealthy Republican donors.
7-28-20 Covid-19 news: Signs of second wave in Europe, says UK prime minister
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Europe is starting to see signs of a second wave, says UK prime minister. A growing number of European countries are grappling with recent rises in coronavirus cases. Today the head of Germany’s public health agency, Lothar Wieler said he is very concerned by rising infections. “We don’t know yet if this is the beginning of a second wave but of course it could be,” Wielder said at a press conference. Belgium’s prime minister Sophie Wilmès announced a series of new restrictions on Monday, following a significant spike in infections and warned of a potential second lockdown. The “limited range” and lack of speed in translating the UK’s coronavirus guidelines into other languages is putting non-English speakers at risk, according to a joint letter sent to UK health minister Matt Hancock. The letter, coordinated by medical humanitarian organisation Doctors of the World has been signed by 30 local authorities, public health leaders and charities in the UK. The current social distancing guide for England published on 11 May has still not been translated from English by the government. Doctors of the World said it has also translated coronavirus guidance into more than 60 languages itself. Twitter has deleted several tweets shared by US president Donald Trump and his son, Donald Trump Jr, because they included clips of a video containing misinformation about hydroxychloroquine, a spokesperson for Twitter told the Washington Post today. The video features false and misleading claims about the coronavirus pandemic and has been removed by Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Emirates has become the first airline to offer coronavirus insurance to its customers. The airline will pay medical treatment, hotel quarantine and funeral costs for passengers who catch covid-19 while travelling.
7-28-20 US Attorney General defends deploying federal agents to Portland
US Attorney General William Barr has defended the deployment of federal agents to cities, saying they are needed to counter violent rioters. In heated testimony to Congress, Mr Barr said protesters in Portland, Oregon, are committing "an assault on the government of the United States". The Democrat-led hearing covered a wide range of controversial actions from Mr Barr's Department of Justice (DOJ). This was Mr Barr's first committee testimony in his 17 months on the job. Portland has been the scene of 61 consecutive nights of protests, sometimes violent, triggered by the killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, by police in May. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler was among the Democrats to accuse the DOJ of sending agents to an ongoing protest at a federal courthouse in Portland - as well other cities in an action dubbed "Operation Legend" by the White House - to aid Mr Trump's 2020 re-election campaign. Several mayors of major US cities have told the federal government to immediately withdraw from the targeted cities. "The president wants footage for his campaign ads and you appear to be serving it up to him as ordered," Mr Nadler said at the end of his five minutes of questioning. "Now you are projecting fear and violence nationwide in pursuit of obvious political objectives. Shame on you Mr Barr. Shame on you." The committee's top Republican Jim Jordan played an eight-minute video montage of news reports showing protesters violently clashing with police during ongoing nationwide protests against racism and police brutality. "We are on the defence," Mr Barr told the committee. "We are not out looking for trouble," he said, adding that federal police are not attempting to "suppress demonstrators". (Webmaster's comment: President Trump's chief thug defends actions of Trump goons!)
7-28-20 Why Trump's invasion of Portland is textbook fascism
President Trump has settled on a tactic for his re-election campaign, it seems: stoking violence in American cities. Portland was the first victim, but there will be others. Already forces from Customs and Border Protection — who have become a de facto Trumpist paramilitary squad — are being sent to cities like Albuquerque and Chicago. The obvious intended purpose is stir up disorder and unrest so that Trump can run as the candidate of "law and order." This is, plainly and simply, a classic tactic of fascism. It's important to be clear about both the order of events and the scale of what is happening. As of early July, the Black Lives Matter protests in Portland had dwindled to a relative handful of people, some of whom had done some vandalism here and there, mainly in and around the federal courthouse downtown. Locals reported that many Portlanders had begun getting rather tired of the protests, viewing them as more self-indulgent than something with an identifiable goal. But then Trump sent in his paramilitary goons — dressed like Call of Duty cosplayers without identifying markings — who started grabbing people off the street and stuffing them into unmarked vehicles. The protests were instantly revitalized. The vandalism was, at worst, a minor nuisance, and a great many ordinary Portlanders were outraged at the sight of a paramilitary gang kidnapping people over the objections of the city's mayor, the governor of Oregon, and most of the state's congressional representatives. Thousands of people poured in, including the now-famous moms dressed in yellow. CBP thugs naturally responded with extreme violence — spraying chemical weapons willy-nilly, beating a 53-year-old Navy veteran with a club and breaking his hand in two places, and shooting a man in the head with an "impact weapon" that fractured his skull. One of the moms reports that on July 25, while merely standing near the courthouse, she also was shot in the head with a rubber bullet, opening a deep gash between her eyes that took seven stitches to close. However, it's also important to note the vast majority of Portland has remained calm and peaceful. The protests have been confined to a few blocks around the federal courthouse. The plain fact is that, contrary to Trump's hysterical lies about "50 days of anarchy," there is no actual mass unrest in the city — and insofar as there has been any unrest at all, CBP paramilitaries are primarily responsible for instigating it, and have committed virtually all of the actual violence. This cannot possibly be an accident. All fascist movements have relied on political violence — to suppress the left, intimidate moderates, and create an impression of chaotic disorder to justify an extreme response. Adolf Hitler had his Sturmabteilung, and Mussolini had his Squadristi. Hitler portrayed the Weimar Republic as the result of a Marxist revolution that would inevitably have destroyed Germany, and justified his seizure of power as the only thing that could have stopped a Communist coup. "Beginning with pillaging, arson, raids on the railway, assassination attempts, and so on — all these things are morally sanctioned by Communist theory," he said in a speech on the 1933 Enabling Act (formally titled the "Law to Remedy the Distress of People and Reich"), which granted him dictatorial powers. "Only by means of its immediate action was the Government able to ward off a development which would have shaken all of Europe had it proceeded to its disastrous end."
7-28-20 Portland protests: Ban federal agents from cities, Democratic mayors say
Six Democratic Party mayors have urged the US Congress to block the Trump administration from sending federal law enforcement agents to their cities. In a letter, the mayors argue that the agents' presence, against the request of local authorities, is unlawful. Among the signatories is the mayor of Portland, where federal agents have clashed with anti-racism protesters. It comes as US Attorney General William Barr is set to defend their deployment during congressional testimony. Mr Barr is to say that the Department of Justice's decision to send security forces to the city of Portland, Oregon, was justified following attacks on federal buildings there. Portland has seen 61 consecutive days of protests, which escalated after federal officers arrived this month. The Portland protests began as part of the nationwide racial justice rallies triggered by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in May. US President Donald Trump has said he may send forces to other cities to defend federal buildings from what he called anarchists and agitators. (Webmaster's comment: Those who the police want to murder with impunity.) Mr Barr, who was appointed by Mr Trump and has defended the president's campaign team over the Russia report, has been accused by Democrats of politicising the justice department. The mayors of Portland, Chicago, Seattle, Albuquerque (New Mexico), Kansas City (Missouri) and Washington DC signed a letter on Monday accusing the Trump administration of "egregious use of federal force". "We call on Congress to pass legislation to make clear that these actions are unlawful and repugnant," the letter, sent to the leaders of both parties in the Senate and House of Representatives and tweeted by Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, added.
7-28-20 Two in Three Americans Support Racial Justice Protests
About two in three Americans (65%) support the nationwide protests about racial injustice that followed the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in late May. Half say they feel "very" (23%) or "somewhat connected" (27%) to the protests' cause. Black Americans, young adults and Democrats are among the most likely groups to support and feel connected to the protests. The latest results are based on a June 23-July 6 survey conducted by web using the Gallup Panel, a probability-based panel of U.S. adults, in English. Learn more about the findings from this survey and others at the Gallup Center on Black Voices. Majorities of most subgroups support the protests, with Republicans (22%) a key exception. Republicans are also least likely to report feeling connected to the protests, with 14% saying they feel very or somewhat connected to the cause. While small majorities of White Americans and adults aged 50 and older support the protests, fewer in these groups report feeling connected to them. U.S. adults are mixed in their reports of how the demonstrations have affected their views on racial justice and equality. A slim majority say the protests have changed their views on racial justice "a lot" (21%) or "a little" (33%), while nearly half (47%) say the protests haven't changed their views "at all." The groups most likely to report being influenced include Asian Americans (74% a lot/a little), adults under the age of 30 (66%) and Democrats (66%). While most Republicans say their views haven't changed as a result of the protests, about one in three (36%) say they have.
- Most say protests have changed their views on racial justice
- Half report feeling connected to the protests' cause
- More than one in four young adults have participated in a protest
7-28-20 Coronavirus vaccine hope rises after a flurry of positive results
AMID rising global numbers of daily coronavirus infections, a fresh flush of vaccine trial results is offering hope for the longer run. There are more than 160 coronavirus vaccines in development around the world. About 140 of these are at the preclinical stage, meaning they are still being looked at in laboratories and in animal tests. Another 25 are already being tested in people. The rate at which the tally has risen to 160-plus is unusually fast. “What is phenomenal is the numbers changing over the past few months. The amount of research is incredible,” says Sheuli Porkess at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry. As the candidates advance, the World Health Organization (WHO) last month started to convene a working group to prioritise the most promising vaccines. “Practical realities will require a process that focuses global efforts on a small handful of candidates that may have the highest impact,” the WHO said. Four vaccines have made big steps in development in the past few weeks. Initial trials show that they can trigger an immune response and appear safe – but it is too early to say if they will protect against coronavirus and whether they will work across many different groups of people, including older individuals and those with chronic health issues. On 20 July, a team led by Sarah Gilbert at the University of Oxford and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca showed that their ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine produced the desired immune responses without showing sworkerious adverse reactions. That was in a combined phase I/II trial of 1077 volunteers. It is now being tested in many thousands more people. Six days earlier, US company Moderna and the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases revealed that 45 people had received their mRNA-1273 vaccine and shown an antibody response. On Monday, they began a phase III trial intended to have 30,000 participants. The other two most promising candidates are from CanSino Biologics in China, which published encouraging phase II trial results on the same day as the Oxford team, and another from German company BioNTech with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which published a promising preliminary report on 14 July.
7-28-20 Coronavirus: German officials 'very concerned' by rising cases
The head of Germany's public health agency has said he is "very concerned" by rising infections in the country. "We are in the middle of a rapidly developing pandemic," Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), told reporters. Mr Wieler said Germans had become "negligent" and urged people to wear masks and respect social distancing and hygiene rules. In the past week the country has recorded 3,611 new infections. The warning comes as countries across Europe grapple with new infections and the problem of travellers moving across the continent for the summer holidays. On Tuesday Germany issued a travel warning for three regions in Spain - Aragón, Catalonia and Navarra - which have seen a recent spike in infections. It comes after the UK imposed a 14-day quarantine on all arrivals from Spain - a move Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez called "unjust". Germany announced on Monday a programme of free, mandatory coronavirus testing for travellers returning from a list of high-risk countries. The list currently includes Brazil, Turkey and the US, and officials said it will be updated daily. At a press conference on Tuesday, Mr Wieler asked people for the first time to wear a mask outdoors if they cannot maintain a physical distance of at least 1.5 metres (5ft). Previously the guidance had been to wear masks indoors in public. The head of the RKI said Germans must stop the virus once again spreading "rapidly and uncontrollably" by following hygiene and distancing measures. "We don't know yet if this is the beginning of a second wave but of course it could be," Mr Wieler said. "But I am optimistic that if we follow the hygiene rules we can prevent it, it's up to us." Overall, Germany has recorded 206,242 cases and 9,122 deaths. These numbers - in particular the death toll - are lower than many other European states, and Germany has won praise domestically and internationally for its rapid response to the pandemic and its mass testing programme.
7-27-20 Republicans introduce $1tn pandemic recovery plan
US Senate Republicans have proposed spending an additional $1tn (£776bn) to address the economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The plan includes $100bn for schools and issuing stimulus payments of up to $1,200 to most Americans. But it would reduce a $600 boost to unemployment benefits introduced during the pandemic. The proposal sets the stage for negotiations with Democrats who have called it "totally inadequate". The US has already spent more than $2.4tn on virus relief measures, sending billions of dollars in aid to businesses and individual households. But economists have warned since the spring that more would be necessary. Senator Mitch McConnell said Republicans wanted to see how existing programmes were working, but had now produced a "tailored and targeted draft" to address the economic fallout of the pandemic. The proposal would reduce the $600 weekly unemployment benefit supplement to $200 until states can set up a more targeted system that replaces 70% of a person's previous wage. The reduction reflects worries that the current benefits discourage workers from returning to work, since an estimated two thirds of recipients are getting more from unemployment than they did working. Mr McConnell said Republicans "want to continue" the unemployment supplement, which expires this week. "But we have to do it in a way that does not slow down reopening." As well as money for direct payments to families and to help schools, Republicans said they want to put in place legislation to shield businesses from workers' coronavirus health claims. Senator Chuck Schumer, who leads Democrats in the Senate, said the proposal was "too little, too late". The US has lost roughly 15 million jobs since February and the recovery remains on shaky ground as virus cases rise and some places reimpose restrictions. Nearly one in five US workers is collecting unemployment benefits and more than half of adults live in households that have seen a drop in income, according to a survey by the US census. "This is a serious, serious crisis," Mr Schumer said. "We're running out of time." He said the Republican plan amounted to a "30% pay cut" at a time when most workers do not have jobs to return to and switching to a new system will be near "impossible" for states to execute. He pointed to problems that have plagued the programme so far. "It will delay benefits for weeks, if not months, as we slide into a greater degree of recession," he said.
7-27-20 Covid-19 news: This is the "most severe" health crisis ever, says WHO
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Covid-19 is “most severe” global health emergency ever, says WHO director-general. Covid-19 is “easily the most severe” global health emergency the World Health Organization (WHO) has ever declared, said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during a press briefing today. More than 16 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed globally and there have been more than 648,000 deaths from covid-19 recorded since the pandemic began. It has been almost six months since the WHO declared covid-19 a public health emergency of international concern at the end of January. “Covid-19 has changed our world,” said the director-general, adding that the pandemic “has shown what humans are capable of – both positively and negatively.” Restrictions are being reintroduced across Asia, as countries attempt to control new waves of coronavirus infections. In China, 61 new cases were confirmed today, the highest number of daily new cases there since April. Over the weekend, Hong Kong, South Korea, India and Australia all hit new records for daily new cases since the start of the pandemic. Officials in Hong Kong announced a tightening of restrictions today including banning gatherings of more than two people. On Sunday, North Korea reported a case of coronavirus for the first time. In Vietnam, 80,000 people in Danang, mostly domestic tourists, are being evacuated to 11 other cities in the country after three residents tested positive for the coronavirus over the weekend. The new cases in Vietnam are the first recorded there in more than three months.
7-27-20 Coronavirus: Second wave hits Asia as global cases continue to soar
The world is facing a resurgence of covid-19 cases as the pandemic continues to accelerate, the World Health Organization has warned. Cases hit a new daily high of around 300,000 globally on 27 July, with more than half occurring in the Americas – the US alone has been reporting a seven-day average of 67,000 since 21 July. The coronavirus is also spreading rapidly in India, Brazil and South Africa, which haven’t yet suppressed their first peaks. There has also been a worrying uptick of cases in Asia. On 26 July, China, where the coronavirus outbreak began, saw its highest number of daily cases since March. The following day, Hong Kong announced new restrictions to curb infections, as did the city of Danang in Vietnam, which reported the country’s first community transmission since April. Speaking during a WHO press conference on 27 July, Maria Van Kerkhove said the global picture is complicated, but countries where transmission is growing fall into two camps. “Many countries are really in the thick of it, they are really seeing intense transmission. Other countries which have already passed through their first peak, many of them are keeping transmission low. [However] in some of those countries they’re starting to see a resurgence, clusters of cases and outbreaks in certain geographic areas or areas associated with certain types of industries, such as nightclubs,” she said. Epidemiologists have previously warned that each time suppression measures are relaxed, there is likely to be a pattern of rising transmission and temporary restrictions in response. Worldwide, the cumulative number of cases has roughly doubled in the past six weeks, which WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cited as a sign the pandemic is continuing to accelerate. In total, there have been more than 16 million cases and nearly 650,000 deaths. The US is approaching the milestone of 150,000 deaths.
7-27-20 US Senator Tom Cotton defends slavery remarks
A senator for the state of Arkansas is defending comments he made on slavery in the United States. Republican Senator Tom Cotton said US founders viewed slavery as a "necessary evil upon which the union was built". His comments were criticised as an attempt justify the slavery of black people. He is introducing legislation to ban federal funds for a project by the New York Times newspaper, aimed at revising the historical view of slavery. The project's founder expressed outrage at the remarks. Senator Cotton told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that he rejects the idea that the US was a systemically racist country to its core. "We have to study the history of slavery and its role and impact on the development of our country because otherwise we can't understand our country. "As the Founding Fathers said, it was the necessary evil upon which the union was built, but the union was built in a way, as [Abraham] Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction." On Thursday Senator Cotton introduced the Saving American History Act, aimed at stopping funding for 1619, an initiative which bases US history teaching around the first arrivals of slave ships in the US in August of that year. The project won the Pulitzer prize for commentary for its founder, New York Times journalist Nicole Hannah-Jones, but it has been criticised by many US conservatives as an attempt to shift focus from American independence to slavery. After five prominent historians wrote to the Times to flag historical inaccuracies, the newspaper corrected the article with two words; the phrase "some of" was added to describe the number colonists who wanted to secede from Britain in order to preserve slavery. "The entire premise of the New York Times' factually, historically flawed 1619 Project… is that America is at root, a systemically racist country to the core and irredeemable," Senator Cotton said, calling the project "left-wing propaganda".
7-27-20 What Tom Cotton's 'necessary evil' comment says about America
Does the GOP see human beings as a means to an end rather than inherently valuable? Sometimes the culture wars are a distraction from the problems facing America. Sometimes they illuminate the underlying causes of those problems. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) has offered an example of the latter phenomenon. Last week, Cotton introduced a bill to prohibit federal funds from being used in schools to teach "The 1619 Project," which posits that slavery was embedded in the country's very foundation. Over the weekend, the senator explained his thinking to the Arkansas Democrat, a newspaper in his home state: "We have to study the history of slavery and its role and impact on the development of our country because otherwise we can't understand our country," Cotton conceded. But, he added: "As the Founding Fathers said, it was the necessary evil upon which the union was built, but the union was built in a way, as Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction." It is breathtaking in the year 2020 to hear a United States senator use the term "necessary evil" to describe slavery. But it is important to note that Cotton's comments came in a context: Millions of Americans are waiting on Congress to pass another economic relief package, lest they lose their homes and ability to feed their families. But Senate Republicans haven't taken action yet — in part because some of them worry that unemployment benefits are too generous. There is a direct link between Cotton's comments and this execrable present state of affairs. Let us back up, first, and examine what he said more closely. Rather ominously, Cotton's comments echoed America's original enslavers, who justified themselves by saying slavery was needed to build the south's economy — and to maintain white supremacy. Cotton, however, seemed to argue on Sunday that he meant only to refer to the Founders' views that the actual process of making a union — that is, bringing the states together under the Constitution to form the United States — required northern states to compromise in order to bring southern slave states into the fold. (Twitter pundits spent Sunday parsing Cotton's grammar to understand his statement.) Even viewed in that light, Cotton's statement is troubling, because it endorses the notion that the lives, bodies, and freedom of Black slaves were an acceptable down payment to build this country. The idea is abhorrent — and, for many Americans, was abhorrent at the time the time of the founding. The antifederalists rejected the idea that it was worth accommodating slavery in order to achieve the union. Some recognized America's leaders wouldn't be willing to endure the evil they deemed necessary to inflict on others. "Where is the man, who under the influence of sober dispassionate reasoning, and not void of natural affection, can lay his hand upon his heart and say, I am willing my sons and my daughters should be torn from me and doomed to perpetual slavery?" a trio wrote for a Massachusetts newspaper in 1788. "We presume that man is not to be found amongst us: And yet we think the consequence is fairly drawn, that this is what every man ought to be able to say, who voted for this constitution." There are some necessary evils in the world. Life can be messy. But all too often — and certainly in the case of slavery — such evils are a burden to be suffered by minorities, the poor, and other disadvantaged people, while a privileged few derive the benefits. Whenever the term "necessary evil" is used, it should be questioned: Necessary to whom? Evil for whom? And for what purpose? Is the evil truly justified, or merely convenient?
7-27-20 The millions 'hanging by a thread' as coronavirus aid expires
When Brandon Humberston's weekly unemployment benefits finally kicked in after months of waiting, the $750 (£586) cheque was a "godsend". Suddenly the 19-year-old, who worked as a cook at Mexican restaurant chain Chipotle until the pandemic cost him his job, could pay rent and buy groceries - even save a little. Now much of that income is set to disappear. The $600 a week additional payment that the US approved to top up unemployment benefits during the pandemic will expire on 31 July. In many states, recipients have already received their last cheque. "It's pretty dire," says Mr Humberston, whose benefits will be cut to $150. "My generation is hanging on by a thread". When the US approved more than $2.4tn in spending this spring to try to shield its economy from damage caused by coronavirus, economists warned more would be necessary. Lawmakers in Washington have yet to act. While Democrats have proposed another $3tn in spending, Republicans have rejected that plan and been divided about how much more aid - if any - is warranted. The fate of the unemployment benefits that Mr Humberston - and an estimated 30 million other Americans rely on - is giving the debate a sense of urgency. When Congress boosted the payments by $600 a week in March, it nearly tripled the average benefits payment. The move meant recipients could claim roughly the equivalent of the country's median wage of about $975. Republicans are now pushing to reduce the temporary bonus set to expire at the end of the month. They say it is discouraging people from going back to work, pointing to research that shows more than two-thirds of current recipients - most of them in low-paid jobs - now earn more on unemployment than they did when they were working.
7-27-20 Robert O'Brien, key Trump adviser, tests positive for Covid-19
President Donald Trump's national security adviser, Robert O'Brien, has tested positive for coronavirus, the White House has confirmed. Mr O'Brien, 54, has been self-isolating and working from home. The aide has mild symptoms and there was no risk of exposure to Mr Trump or Vice-President Mike Pence, a statement said. Mr O'Brien is the highest-ranking official in Mr Trump's administration known to have tested positive. It is not clear when he and the president last met, but they appeared together two weeks ago on a trip to Miami. The White House statement read: "He has mild symptoms and has been self-isolating and working from a secure location off site. There is no risk of exposure to the president or the vice-president. The work of the National Security Council continues uninterrupted." One source told Bloomberg that Mr O'Brien had been out of his office for a week and that the adviser had contracted the virus after a family event. Anyone near the president is tested regularly for Covid-19. A number of people in and around the administration have tested positive, including a military member who works as a White House valet, Mr Pence's press secretary Katie Miller, and a helicopter squadron Marine. Mr O'Brien travelled to Paris this month to discuss foreign policy issues with European counterparts, and gave a speech in Arizona in June comparing Chinese President Xi Jinping with Soviet leader Josef Stalin.
7-27-20 Coronavirus: Spain races to save tourism as cases surge
Spain is fighting to save its embattled tourism industry after the UK government imposed a 14-day quarantine on all arrivals from the country. Government officials insist the virus is under control and want certain areas to be exempt from the UK self-isolation order, including the Balearic Islands. About 18 million Britons travelled to Spain in 2019 - almost a quarter of all arrivals in the country. But junior health minister Helen Whately has defended the quarantine. Ms Whately told the BBC that after all the "sacrifices" made during the lockdown, the UK could not take the risk of going back to a situation of rising virus rates across the country. Spain's rate of infection has jumped in recent days. While the outbreak remains under control in many parts of Spain, certain areas - in particular Catalonia in the north-east and the neighbouring region of Aragón - have seen a huge spike in infections. According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the country recorded 39.4 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the last two weeks. The UK and neighbouring France both have a figure of 14.6 infections per 100,000 residents. Local authorities have issued stay-at-home orders for some four million residents in Catalonia, including in the regional capital Barcelona. On Monday, Catalonia's President Quim Torra said even stricter lockdown measures could be imposed if infection numbers did not improve in the next 10 days. "We are facing the 10 most important days of summer," he said. The region recorded 5,487 infections last week compared to 3,485 the week before, Mr Torra told reporters, adding that the situation was "very critical". But Mr Torra also assured people that the region remained safe for tourists. Speaking in English, he said that "measures had been taken" and people "can visit most of the region safely".
7-27-20 Coronavirus: Vietnam alarm after first cases in months
Vietnam has closed Da Nang to tourists after four new locally transmitted coronavirus cases were recorded there - the first in the country since April. Tourists cannot enter the city for 14 days and up to 80,000, mostly domestic, visitors are to be flown home. Vietnam has been lauded as a success story of the pandemic having acted early to close borders and enforce quarantine and contact tracing. It has recorded just over 400 cases and no deaths. But nearly 100 days after its last locally transmitted case, four new cases emerged in Da Nang, a central coastal city popular with domestic tourists. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on Monday ordered Da Nang residents to re-implement social distancing and close all non-essential services. He said the response had to be "decisive" but that he was not yet ordering a total lockdown of the city. The first new case - patient 416 - was a 57-year-old man who sought medical care on 20 July for flu symptoms. He is now on a ventilator and, according to doctors quoted in local media, in a critical condition. Contact tracing identified more than 100 people who had interacted with the man, but all returned negative tests. However over the weekend, three more cases were confirmed, including one 17-year-old from neighbouring Quang Ngai province who had travelled home on a coach with people who had been at the Da Nang C Hospital. It is not clear how the four became infected or whether they are connected. The cases have raised fears that a full outbreak could be under way in Da Nang. Da Nang C Hospital sealed its doors in response to the first diagnosis. With international travel largely impossible, Da Nang had been promoted as a holiday destination for Vietnamese people. Officials say up to 80,000 domestic tourists are in the city, so extra flights are being laid on to take them home. People may be asked to quarantine on their return, according to media reports. Hospitals across the country have also stepped up preventative measures, while the capital, Hanoi, has begun urging people to wear masks in public again. Domestic football matches were also suspended on Sunday.
7-27-20 Covid 'most severe health emergency' WHO has faced
Covid-19 is "easily the most severe" global health emergency the World Health Organization (WHO) has ever declared, the agency has said. The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases reaches more than 16 million - up by a million in just four days. Spain is fighting to save its tourism industry after the UK imposed a 14-day quarantine on arrivals from the country Hong Kong has reported 145 new cases, setting a new daily record - hours after announcing its toughest measures yet to contain the spread. Clusters in China lead to 61 new cases recorded on Monday - the highest daily figure since April. A pet cat has become the first animal in the UK to test positive for Covid-19. Australia also records its biggest daily spike, with more than 530 new cases in Victoria state. Vietnam has closed the city of Da Nang to tourists after four new locally transmitted coronavirus were recorded - the country's first since April. Spain insists it is a safe for tourists after the UK ordered people coming from the country to quarantine.
7-26-20 Seattle protest: Police and anti-racism demonstrators clash at march
Police in the US city of Seattle clashed with crowds marching in support of anti-racism protests, in one of the most tense of several rallies held across the country on Saturday. Officers used stun grenades and pepper spray, as protesters set a fire and broke windows. The march was in support of ongoing protests in Portland. Forty-five people were arrested while 21 officers were injured. In Austin, Texas one man was killed during a Black Lives Matter march. Police said initial reports suggested the victim might have been carrying a rifle and approached a vehicle, from where a person shot and killed him. The suspect has been arrested and is co-operating with officers. The demonstrations have been given renewed energy by violent clashes in Portland between protesters and federal agents deployed by President Donald Trump despite opposition from local and state leaders. In Seattle, thousands of protesters had initially gathered peacefully, carrying signs such as "Feds go home" and "We are living in a police state", and shouting chants of "No justice, no peace". A group then set fire to the construction site for a youth detention facility before smashing windows of a courthouse and nearby businesses, police said. Authorities said rocks, bottles, fireworks and mortars were thrown at officers, and one of them was taken to hospital with a leg injury. Police declared the demonstrations a riot and said they were investigating whether an explosive device was used against a police station. No injuries were reported. Like Portland, Seattle has seen extended protests against racism and police brutality since the death of George Floyd in police custody in May. But after a police-free protest zone in the city was dismantled earlier this month following a series of shootings, demonstrations had waned. A car drove through a crowd in Aurora, Colorado but there were no reports of injuries. At the same march, a person was injured after a protester "decided to fire off a weapon", police said. The person is reportedly in a stable condition in hospital. Demonstrators in the city also remembered Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old black man who died last August after being stopped by police.
7-26-20 Lupe Fiasco: America's influence in the world is 'dwindling'
Lupe Fiasco has never been one to hold his tongue. It's why he jokes he's "already dead", having been cancelled - way before we ever called it that - for calling President Barack Obama the "biggest terrorist" in an interview in 2011. Lupe's comment became a huge story, and he admitted a few years later to being "immediately blackballed" in the backlash. "I lost a lot of friends… Board members of my foundation stepped down. I lost a lot of sponsorships. I had people threaten me," he recalled in 2014. Some things haven't changed since Lupe made those comments - the United States is still at war in many of the same countries as it was in 2011. But in 2020, Lupe thinks his country's influence around the world is "dwindling". "There's definitely the theoretical America and then America in reality. Back then there was the expectation that the theoretical America 'knew better'," the rapper tells Radio 1 Newsbeat. "But what you've started to see is that America's not like that. America is very much the world leader in not getting it together - just with Covid-19 for example." Lupe says countries "don't want to be like America, where the police are killing people for nothing… where these people won't even wear a mask". He predicts that in coming decades America will "fall behind the times in a very real way as other countries start to outpace, out-develop, or just ignore America to a certain extent". Some of these themes are explored on Lupe's latest release, his five-track EP House, which he made in lockdown after waking up one morning, opening Twitter and spotting a tweet he'd been mentioned in. "Get this to @LupeFiasco somehow" a user had written below a video of producer Kaelin Ellis crafting a beat. A few hours later Lupe had screen-recorded the song, put it through Garage Band, written some lyrics and uploaded a version to Instagram. "That was literally, 'What can I do in an hour?' Stream of conscious, reference some COVID-19 things, use it as a platform to tell people to wear a mask and stay in the house." When he connected properly with Kaelin, both in their respective homes, and heard more of his music, Lupe began thinking more about what concepts he'd want to feature on a joint album.
7-26-20 Coronavirus: Spain says outbreaks under control after UK orders quarantine
Spain has said outbreaks of new Covid-19 cases are isolated and under control after the UK abruptly ordered people coming from the country to quarantine. Infections have risen sharply in Spain recently as restrictions were eased. Some regions have now imposed measures including making face masks mandatory. "Spain is safe for Spaniards and for tourists," the foreign minister said. Contagion among young people, who have been gathering in larger numbers, appears to be a particular worry. France and Germany have also both seen new cases rise, as nations grapple between staving off fresh outbreaks and reopening economies. The UK's move to require arrivals from Spain to self-isolate for 14 days came into effect on Sunday, just hours after the change was announced, angering travellers and travel operators. The airline industry reacted with dismay, calling it a big blow. The UK's biggest tour operator, Tui, has cancelled all mainland Spanish holidays until 9 August. British Airways is still operating flights, but said the move was "throwing thousands of Britons' travel plans into chaos". However, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab defended the "swift" decision. Spain has more than 272,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases and some 28,400 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University research, and is one of the European countries worst-affected by the virus. The number of cases there has tripled in two weeks, with more than 900 new infections reported on Friday. Its rate of cases per 100,000 people is currently at 39.4, according to the European Union's European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). This compares with the UK's rate of 14.6. Spain is now comparable with Sweden and Portugal, but rates there are falling while Spain's is on the rise. Romania (59.7) and Bulgaria (44.8) are considerably higher. Luxembourg is far higher, but the number there may be skewed by its small population. As seen in other countries reporting a spike in infections, the majority of new cases in Spain seem to be restricted to a few regions, including Catalonia, where Barcelona is located, and Aragon.
7-26-20 Coronavirus: Why won't India admit how Covid-19 is spreading?
Rajesh Kumar, 45, started coughing in early June. Within days, he was running a high fever. He didn't get tested for coronavirus. Instead he took anti-fever medication for five days. But the fever persisted, and soon he had difficulty breathing. His family asked him to get tested, but he refused. His rationale was that there was no way he could have contracted Covid-19 because he had hardly stepped out of his house in Delhi, and he had not met anybody who had the virus or was even suspected of having it. Eight days after the symptoms first appeared, his condition deteriorated. He was rushed to hospital, where he tested positive. "I survived, but doctors told me that any more delay in hospitalisation could have cost me my life," he says. Mr Kumar hasn't been able to track the source of his infection and is still unsure how he caught it. Experts say there are many such cases - proof that "full-blown" community transmission is happening in India. But the government refuses to accept that community transmission has begun, saying there is no clear definition of the term, and each country can define it based on local conditions. So far, Kerala and West Bengal are the only two states to accept that they have entered this stage. But global understanding on the subject is simple: when the source of infection can't be traced in a large number of cases, it's safe to define it as community transmission. The WHO's guidelines say the same: "community transmission is evidenced by the inability to relate confirmed cases through chains of transmission for a large number of cases". This is certainly happening in India, according to Dr Arvind Kumar, chairman of the Centre for Chest Surgery at Delhi's Sir Gangaram Hospital. He says that more and more patients are turning up at hospitals whose source of infection cannot be traced. And, he adds, the rising case numbers support this. India has recorded more than 1.2 million cases and nearly 29,000 deaths.
7-25-20 Amazon, Google and Wish remove neo-Nazi products
Amazon, Google and Wish have removed neo-Nazi and white-supremacist products being sold on their platforms following an investigation by BBC Click. White-supremacist flags, neo-Nazi books and Ku Klux Klan merchandise were all available for sale. Algorithms on Amazon and Wish also recommended other white-supremacist items. All three companies told the BBC that racist products were prohibited on their platforms. Oren Segal from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an anti-hate organisation, said the companies needed to "constantly be on top of what the algorithm is recommending". He said algorithms had to be "taught to be responsible". One of the items found for sale on Amazon was a white-supremacist flag featuring a Celtic Cross. The ADL said the image featured on the flag was "one of the most common white-supremacist symbols" One shopper had left a "review" of the product in June, stating: "This is a neo-Nazi flag. Amazon should not be profiting from this." However, another reviewer said the flag would be "good for use in parades" and thanked Amazon for "making it happen". Amazon's algorithms recommended another controversial flag that shoppers had "frequently bought together". Both symbols were worn by the Christchurch gunman when he killed 51 people in 2019. Other products featuring a burning rainbow flag, similar to the one used by the LGBT community, were also found on Amazon. All of these products have now been taken down by Amazon. Online retailer Wish has also taken down Ku Klux Klan-themed products, after being contacted by the BBC. On the page for a KKK-themed cartoon, Wish recommended "related items" including a hood and a Celtic Cross. Products related to the Boogaloo movement were also found for sale on Amazon, Google and Wish. The Boogaloo group is a far-right libertarian militia in the US. Several people linking themselves to the group have been charged with terrorism offences, and the murder of state officials in the US.
7-25-20 America is coming apart. Europe is coming together.
What lessons can America's disjointed union take from the EU's newfound cohesion? Why do some societies, like some couples, fall apart under pressure, while others band together? If a crisis brings them together, will that make them stronger in the future? And if they come apart, is that a sign that they should never have been together in the first place? This week's exemplar for "banding together" is the European Union, whose leaders agreed to extraordinary new measures to promote a broad economic recovery in the wake of the novel coronavirus. The agreement represents an about-face from the stance the EU took in the wake of the financial crisis of the last decade, which emphasized austerity rather than stimulus. More importantly it broke two key structural taboos: the European Commission will, for the first time, be authorized to borrow significant sums of money; and a large portion of that sum will be disbursed to member governments in the form of grants. Those structural changes set a precedent that could be a foundation for a much stabler European governmental edifice. A key problem with the setup of the EU has been that it is a monetary union with no comparably unified fiscal policy. As a consequence, in times of recession, member states are constrained (much as individual American states are) by their inability to print money or to run up unlimited debt — but they had no equivalent to the federal government to turn to for fiscal assistance. Now, they do. Moreover, because the debt is being incurred at the level of the European Commission, the agreement creates pressure for further fiscal integration — particularly in the form of Europe-level taxation. If the EC wants to avoid endless squabbling among member states about how to share the burden of repayment, it will need the authority to levy taxes on its own. And that's the kind of authority of which states are built. The deal may not have been a "Hamiltonian moment" — there are many hedges included to placate northern-European member states who were reluctant to write blank checks to Italy and Spain — but it is a meaningful step down Hamilton's road. This is a notable turnaround, not only from the response to the financial crisis but from the situation only four months ago. At that time, some commentators (including myself) wondered whether the manifest lack of intra-European solidarity on display in the face of the virus — only 21 percent of Italians felt at the time that membership in the EU was beneficial — might not deal the Union its final death blow. How did things change so much so quickly? The simple answer is that France and Germany were in broad agreement on what needed to be done, and that when the two giants of the EU agree it is difficult to build a blocking coalition. One might also say that even the most reluctant member states understood that this is a time when, if they did not hang together, they would surely hang separately. But, in fact, they did not all hang together. One key member, the U.K., had formally walked out only in January, just as the viral storm was breaking.
7-25-20 Profit and risk in race for a vaccine
There's big money in creating the first COVID-19 vaccine. What will that mean for its safety? More than 100 separate labs are competing to develop the first COVID-19 vaccine, said Stephanie Baker at Bloomberg Businessweek, and a partnership between the University of Oxford and the pharma giant AstraZeneca is leading the race. A team of researchers at Oxford's Jenner Institute reported positive results this week from an early-stage human trial with more than 1,000 participants, and the stock market leaped at the news. The Oxford lab's vaccine is adenovirus-based; such vaccines have a small but critical "advantage over other candidates: They need only to be kept chilled rather than frozen." That could make worldwide distribution easier for AstraZeneca, which struck a manufacturing deal with Oxford — assisted by Bill Gates — "in about 10 days through a flurry of Zoom calls." After that deal was announced, "big money followed." The biggest patron: The United States' pandemic drug authority, BARDA, which handed AstraZeneca more than $1.2 billion; a test of 30,000 people in the U.S. is scheduled to start next month. The U.S. biotech upstart Moderna has also shown promising preliminary results, said Peter Loftus and Gregory Zuckerman at The Wall Street Journal, but "skepticism has dogged it since its creation in 2010." As its name suggests, the Cambridge, Massachusetts, biotech firm uses a novel process involving the creation of synthetic RNA. But while it has "more than 20 experimental drugs and vaccines" in development, "none are close to being commercially available." Since Moderna's COVID vaccine entered human trials, its stock has risen more than 230 percent. That has let some Moderna executives profit, even though their vaccine has been tested on just a few human subjects, said Christopher Rowland and Carolyn Johnson at The Washington Post. CEO Stéphane Bancel and other executives have "picked up the pace" of their stock selling as the share price rises, and chairman Noubar Afeyan's venture capital firm sold $68 million of Moderna stock. The selling has continued even as Securities and Exchange Commission head Jay Clayton cautioned Moderna to "avoid even the appearance of impropriety." Also raising questions is a $1.6 billion federal contract awarded to Novavax, a company that has "never brought a vaccine to market," said Katie Thomas and Megan Twohey at The New York Times. The Trump administration wanted to "invest in a variety of vaccine technologies," and Novavax's approach holds out the possibility of faster vaccine production than some others. But critics see a second-tier player that has repeatedly "boosted its stock by promising vaccines for new outbreaks, yet never delivering." "Trump did promise America First," said The Economist, and his administration has "turned on the federal money hose" to achieve it. The U.S. has already cut deals for priority access to COVID treatments, causing alarm in countries that worry the U.S. will expect the same preference after "stumping up a lot of cash" in the vaccine race. Another concern is that the FDA will "cut corners" to make a vaccine ready before the election. The agency says that won't happen, but it's already been blasted for giving emergency approval as a COVID treatment to hydroxychloroquine "to avoid embarrassing the president," who endorsed the drug.
7-25-20 Donald Trump acts to cut prescription drug prices in US
President Donald Trump has signed four executive orders aimed at cutting prescription drug prices in the US. "The four orders I'm signing today will completely restructure the prescription drug market," said Mr Trump, who has long criticised "astronomical" prices. The measures would allow discounts and import of cheaper drugs from abroad. Mr Trump will meet pharmaceutical bosses on Tuesday, but some industry analysts have criticised the move, saying it would not have much effect. "This administration has decided to pursue a radical and dangerous policy to set prices based on rates paid in countries that he [President Trump] has labelled as socialist, which will harm patients today and into the future," Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said in a statement. It said Mr Trump's move was "a reckless distraction that impedes our ability to respond to the current [coronavirus] pandemic - and those we could face in the future". President Trump's administration has been criticised for its response for the worsening Covid-19 crises, as the number of confirmed virus-related deaths in America has now topped 145,000. Since taking office, Mr Trump has made repeated attacks against those who set drug prices and has pledged to take radical steps to reduce them. But with the presidential election just several months away, industry experts have voiced doubts that any major decisions could come into force before the 3 November vote. They also say that the White House has limited power to implement drug pricing policies. Executive orders do not have any automatic legal force and can also be challenged in court. According to a 2019 report by the OECD group of industrialised nations, the US spends roughly twice the average amount spent by other member countries on pharmaceuticals per head.
7-24-20 Christopher Columbus statues temporarily removed in Chicago
Two statues of Christopher Columbus have been temporarily removed in Chicago. It comes a week after protesters attempted to topple a statue of the Italian explorer in the city. Although temporary, they are the latest monuments to be removed amid an ongoing backlash against perceived symbols of racial bias and imperialism in the US. The movement has been sparked by the death in police custody of African American George Floyd. His death in Minneapolis has led to protests in the US and internationally against police brutality and racial inequality. The office of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement that the Columbus statues - in Grant Park and Arrigo Park - had been "temporarily removed... until further notice" on her orders. The decision came after protesters clashed with police as they attempted topple the statue of the explorer in Grant Park last week. "It feels great seeing the statue come down," resident Brenda Armenta told the AFP news agency while watching the removal of the Grant Park monument on Friday morning. There had been heated confrontations between protesters and supporters of the statue hours before. In June a 3m (10ft) bronze statue of Columbus was toppled in Saint Paul, Minnesota, while another in Boston, which stands on a plinth at the heart of town, was beheaded. Many people in the US celebrate the memory of the explorer, who in many textbooks is credited with discovering "the New World" in the 15th Century. But Native American activists and others have long objected to honouring Columbus, saying his expeditions led to the colonisation and genocide of their ancestors. (Webmaster's comment: Columbus (crucified) nailed 13 indians to crosses at a time for not giving him their gold. He was a murderous monster!)
7-24-20 Covid-19 news: England to offer more flu vaccines to ease NHS burden
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Free flu vaccine for everyone over 50 in England. To try to avoid health services being overwhelmed in the winter, free flu vaccination will be offered to more people in England than usual, including everyone over 50 and those with medical conditions such as diabetes. Discharging people from hospitals into care homes without testing led to many avoidable covid-19 deaths in England, The Guardian reports. In submissions to a coronavirus inquiry, the Age UK charity said older people were “catastrophically let down”, and the British Medical Association said the government’s testing and tracing approach let the virus “spread unchecked.” India has reported a record 49,000 cases in a single day, along with 740 deaths. Only the US and Brazil are reporting more daily cases. Vietnam has banned trade in live wildlife and wildlife products to prevent new pandemics. China has also pledged to do the same. Some of the earliest coronavirus infections in Wuhan, China were found in people who had been exposed to wild animals at a market.
7-24-20 The coming Republican power grab on the Supreme Court
With a deadly pandemic rampaging across the country and the president threatening to deploy armed federal agents to quash protests in numerous cities over the objection of local elected officials, it's understandable that there's been relatively little attention paid to the possibility that Republicans may soon attempt an unprecedented and dangerously antidemocratic power grab on the Supreme Court. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the high court's four liberals, was recently hospitalized with what was described as a possible infection. Three days later, the 87-year-old justice announced that she has been diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy. (Ginsburg was treated for colon cancer in 1999, pancreatic cancer in 2009, and lung cancer in 2018. Her current diagnosis concerns a recurrence of pancreatic cancer in her liver.) If Ginsburg dies between now and Election Day, the Trump administration and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will face a momentous choice. One possibility is that they will follow the principle McConnell enunciated in 2016 to justify blocking hearings and a vote on Merrick Garland, Barack Obama's choice to replace conservative stalwart Antonin Scalia, who died in February of that year. In that case, the party would wait for voters to have their say on Nov. 3. If Republicans maintain control of the executive branch and the Senate, then President Trump would go ahead and nominate a conservative justice to Ginsburg's seat and the Senate would presumably confirm the nominee. But if Trump goes down to defeat and Republicans lose control of the Senate, the seat on the high court would remain vacant until a new president got a chance to fill it. That's how Trump himself ended up naming conservative Neil Gorsuch to succeed Scalia. But there's another and far more ominous possibility — one that Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) laid out in a recent interview. In the event that Ginsburg dies while Trump remains president and Republicans maintain control of the Senate, they would work together to nominate and confirm a conservative justice — even if this involves the president making his nomination after losing the election and the Senate holding a vote during its lame-duck session, just prior to handing over power to a new Democratic majority. Not only would this demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt what pretty much everyone has assumed from the start, which is that McConnell's high-minded rationale for blocking the Garland nomination (that it came too close to Election Day to proceed without giving voters a say) was just power politics dressed up with an ad hoc pretext of principle. It would also show that, far from deferring to the will of the voters, the contemporary Republican Party displays outright contempt for democratic public opinion when it fails to deliver conservative outcomes. It would be hard to imagine anything more damaging to the civic health of the nation. We spend too much time debating the procedural rights and powers of elected officials and not enough thinking through the wisdom or folly of them making specific choices with the rights and powers they clearly possess. Can Trump and McConnell push through a high court nomination in December, in blatant defiance of public opinion, if they wish? The answer is probably yes. But it's far more important to understand why they shouldn't do such a thing — and what is likely to follow if they do.
7-24-20 Trump scraps Republican convention in virus 'flare-up'
President Donald Trump has cancelled the pre-election Republican party convention in Florida, blaming the coronavirus "flare-up". "It's not the right time for that," he said, adding that he would still give a convention speech in a different form. It comes as the number of cases of Covid-19 in the US passed four million. Part of the convention will go ahead in North Carolina, where Mr Trump will be formally nominated as the Republican presidential candidate. The event, shortened to half a day, will be held on 24 August in the city of Charlotte, the original venue for the convention. Mr Trump switched the location to Jacksonville, Florida after the Democratic governor of North Carolina insisted in May on limiting the crowd size at the convention, on the grounds of social distancing. Mr Trump told Thursday's White House coronavirus briefing that safety was his main concern in calling off the four-night convention. "It's a different world, and it will be for a little while," the president said, adding that he "just felt it was wrong" to put potentially tens of thousands of attendees at risk. "We didn't want to take any chances," he told reporters. "We have to be careful and we have to set an example." The sheriff in Jacksonville warned this week the city was not ready for next month's event. Traditionally four days long, the national nominating conventions of both Republicans and Democrats are the highlights of the internal party contests in the lead-up to the November polls. There, delegates from across the country vote for their preferred candidate. Historically these events attracts tens of thousands of people and are held in a festive-like atmosphere. Florida - a state crucial to the president's re-election hopes - is behind only California and New York in total cases. Opinion polls suggest Mr Trump is facing an uphill battle for a second term in office amid criticism of his handling of the pandemic.
7-24-20 What will it take to stop India's police brutality?
Two cases - the custodial deaths of a father and son in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu and a Muslim youth who died after being beaten by police in the capital Delhi - have once again highlighted the issue of police brutality in India. A recent report by a consortium of NGOs against torture said that as many as five people a day died due to police brutality all over the country. However, the outrage against these methods is minimal. So what will it take for Indians to demand police reform? (Webmaster's comment: What will it take to stop it in America?)
7-23-20 Reopening US schools 'makes our kids guinea pigs'
As Covid-19 cases surge in Florida, the governor's decision to reopen all brick and mortar schools in August has caused a backlash among teachers.
7-23-20 Covid-19 news: Contact tracing failings risk second wave in England
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Risk of second wave in England because of contact tracing failings. New figures out today show England’s covid-19 testing and contact tracing system is still failing to reach large numbers of people, sparking warnings from health leaders of a second wave of infections this winter. Coronavirus testing in England could be boosted by new walk-in testing centres by the end of October. Several hundred are planned, the BBC reports. The French city of Lyon, meanwhile, has begun testing with a machine similar to a breathalyser, which could return tests in seconds. Elsewhere, an international team has identified the antibodies that appear to be the most potent in neutralising the coronavirus. The researchers, whose study is published in Nature, said they believe some of them may be “promising candidates” for devising treatments or preventing infection. From tomorrow, face coverings will be mandatory in shops in England, a measure which Scotland had already adopted. Guidance published today shows they will also need to be worn in banks and post offices, but will not be required in restaurants, pubs, hairdressers, leisure centres or cinemas. From 1 August, people who have been shielding in Scotland will no longer have to do so, the Scottish government announced.
7-23-20 Speaking of pandemics: The art and science of risk communication
Public health messages should be loud and clear, so that everyone listens and stays safe. But that's easier said than done — especially with a case as complex as COVID-19. nfectious disease expert Anthony Fauci. Coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx. County health officials across the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the emergence of a new set of household names: those in the media spotlight who are charged with helping the public understand what is happening, what is likely to happen next, how to behave to reduce the pandemic's spread, and why. Through these health officials, millions have heard about social isolation, flattening the curve, mask-wearing, vaccines, antiviral drugs, and more. The footing is tricky: Downplay a threat and the public might not react strongly enough; overdo it and they might not listen next time. And how can officials remain trustworthy when scientists' understanding of a new virus is changing by the week? Deborah Glik, a health-communication researcher at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, has spent decades studying the art and science of informing the public during health emergencies, a topic she wrote about back in 2007 in the Annual Review of Public Health. Over the years, Glik has helped the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention develop communications plans for a wide range of health hazards, including bioterrorism agents such as botulism and plague. Knowable Magazine spoke with Glik about the key principles that guide public health officials in their messaging, with special attention to the current pandemic. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. The goal is to get as much information as possible out to as many people as possible, as quickly as you can. That means the messages themselves have to be simple. However, in risk communication a lot of the messages are not simple — they rely on technical concepts like "flattening the curve" or "contact tracing" that some people may not understand at first. Therefore, the initial messages generally focus on what is happening, what to do, how to do it, where to find information, and who's doing what. Once that "what" is out there circulating, then the "why" can be integrated in. We have a technique — actually, it comes out of public relations and politics but it was adapted about 20 years ago in crisis and emergency risk communication — of "talking points." Prior to official release, a group of people in charge decide the central ideas they want to communicate to the population. Generally, the rule of thumb is, if you're talking about basic survival issues, you want no more than three or four points at a time. You back it up with evidence. If you're saying to wear a mask, your evidence would be that studies have shown that people wearing masks are less likely to spread the coronavirus. If you're saying to wash your hands, it's that this prevents the spread of germs. The idea is, you have basic messages, but you weave in the explanations for why you're doing it. "Wash your hands" and "wear a mask" are simple messages. Social distancing gets a little more complicated, but it's still reasonably simple. But now let's get to a less simple concept, "flattening the curve." Understanding why you would do that assumes, first of all, that you know what a curve is, so you have to use graphs and explain what they represent. Then there's the issue of hospital surge. Unless you're a student of public health or disasters, you wouldn't understand what that means. That's why we wait on the more complex ideas until people are fully invested in the simpler ones. It's taken a lot of energy and effort to help people understand that much of what's being done right now, in terms of public health, not only reduces transmission and cases but also avoids overwhelming hospital systems. (Webmaster's comment: Dr. Fauci equivocates all the time. He can't seem to say how bad it REALLY is and what we MUST do!
7-23-20 Trump to send 'surge' of hundreds of federal agents to cities
President Donald Trump is to send "a surge" of federal security forces to US cities in a crackdown on crime. Chicago and two other Democratic-run cities are being targeted in the Republican president's move, amid a spike in violence. But federal deployments in Portland, Oregon, have proved controversial. Local officials say they have raised tensions amid ongoing protests. Law and order has become a key plank of Mr Trump's re-election bid in November. Since the death on 25 May of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota, there have been protests - sometimes descending into civil disorder - in scores of US cities. Meanwhile, gun violence has spiked in metropolitan areas including New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago and Milwaukee. In Portland, which has seen more than 50 days of demonstrations, Mayor Ted Wheeler was tear-gassed by federal agents while attending the city's protest on Wednesday night. Speaking to a New York Times reporter, he said the tear-gassing was "an egregious overreaction" by federal officers, and that he had seen "nothing that provoked this response". The operation announced by President Trump is named after a four-year-old boy, LeGend Taliferro, who was shot dead while sleeping in his family home in Kansas City in June. The boy's mother joined the president at Wednesday's announcement. The operation will see agents from the FBI, Marshals Service and other federal agencies work with local law enforcement, according to the US Department of Justice. Mr Trump - whose opinion poll numbers have been slumping amid a coronavirus-crippled US economy - said: "This rampage of violence shocks the conscience of our nation." The president, who accuses Democrats of being weak on crime, said: "In recent weeks there has been a radical movement to defend, dismantle and dissolve our police departments." He blamed this for "a shocking explosion of shootings, killings, murders and heinous crimes of violence". He added: "This bloodshed will end." (Webmaster's comment: Brace yourselves! Here come Trump's murderous goon squads! Known in Germany as Hitler's brown shirts!)
7-23-20 The lawlessness of Trump's 'law and order'
The Trump administration is now arguing their federal agents can disregard the First Amendment. resident Trump's deployment of federal agents to Portland and, soon, Chicago and beyond is rightly raising alarms — and legal challenges. Militarized, anonymized squads with improper training who are sent in without invitation from local authorities and violently sweep away protesters into detention of uncertain legal status are utterly unsuited to an ostensibly free society. Some pushback has already begun. The feds' modus operandi is egregious enough that even the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney for the District of Oregon Billy Williams has requested investigation of their actions in Portland. But here's something that would make this bad situation worse: the same federal agents raiding protests without independent scrutiny from journalists and legal observers. This is precisely what the administration sought in court filings in Portland on Tuesday. If that argument wins, it will be a serious blow against the rule of law, farcically struck in the name of "law and order." The Trump administration's lawyers, of course, do not characterize their demand that way. "Simply put, the federal government has the legal obligation and right to protect federal property and federal officers, and the public has a compelling interest in the protection of that property and personnel," wrote Department of Justice attorney Andrew I. Warden. "The press is free to observe and report on the destruction of that property, but it is not entitled to special, after-hours access to that property in the face of lawful order to disperse." Any injury to journalists, Warden claimed, was accidental, a rare and unintended externality of lawful efforts to prevent further destruction of federal buildings. Warden's language conjures a picture of pesky journalists poking around vandalized buildings while weary officers try to close shop after a long night. But that's not what's happening. The ACLU of Oregon-led class action lawsuit to which Warden is responding alleges local police and federal agents in Portland have targeted journalists with "flash-bang grenades, rubber bullets, and tear gas merely for seeking to cover the protests" and "assaulted [legal observers] with batons, rubber bullets, and tear gas simply for watching how [officers] were treating demonstrators." If these allegations have any basis in fact — and the complaint includes video evidence — law enforcement in Portland aren't innocently catching media and neutral observers in the line of duty. They're deliberately warding off public answerability.
7-23-20 US approaches four million coronavirus cases
A total 69,707 new virus cases were reported in the US on Wednesday, as the country inches closure to 4m cases. US jobless claims rise for the first time in months, as new restrictions force businesses to shut. Official guidance on revised rules for face coverings in England has been published. Network of coronavirus-testing walk-in centres is to be set up across England. More than 10,000 health workers have tested positive for coronavirus in sub-Saharan Africa, the WHO says. The cost of the pandemic has pushed Australia into its biggest budget deficit since World War Two. Globally there have been 15 million cases of Sars-Cov-2 and more than 622,000 deaths.
7-23-20 Belarus election: Snatched from the streets in Europe's 'last dictatorship'
Activists and journalists are being rounded up and jailed in Belarus ahead of next month’s elections. People say it’s the most brutal crackdown the country has ever known. President Alexander Lukashenko has been in power for more than a quarter of a century, but opposition to the authoritarian leader is growing. Our Europe correspondent Jean Mackenzie has been given rare access to the country often described as Europe’s "last dictatorship".
7-23-20 Israel: 'Gay conversion' therapy ban bill passed by MPs
Israeli MPs have taken steps to outlaw the practice of "gay conversion" therapy by psychologists - the first Middle East country to do so. A bill passed its first stage in parliament, after two parties in the coalition government joined the opposition to vote in favour. Last year, Israel's then-education minister endorsed the therapy, triggering a backlash. The bill risks a political crisis, with religious parties unhappy at the move. After the vote, the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism (UTJ), which is part of the fragile national unity government, threatened to introduce bills which the centrist Blue and White - also a member of the government - would find objectionable. The bill must still pass two more readings before it becomes law. The term "conversion therapy" refers to any form of treatment or psychotherapy which aims to change a person's sexual orientation or to suppress a person's gender identity. The practice is widely opposed on logical, ethical and moral grounds. Earlier this week, UK PM Boris Johnson called the supposed method "absolutely abhorrent", saying that plans to ban it in the UK would be brought forward. Opposition Meretz party leader Nitzan Horowitz, who co-authored the bill, said its preliminary passage marked "historic change" in Israel. Blue and White leader and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz welcomed the result. "Conversion therapy was born in sin and its place is outside of the law and the public norm," he tweeted. "We will make sure that everyone, from every background and sexual orientation in Israel, has free choice and security over their identity." Last year, then-Education Minister Rafi Peretz sparked outrage when he publicly condoned "gay conversion" therapy. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called his remarks "unacceptable".
7-22-20 Facebook: Trump posts misleading ad using Ukraine photo
A post by Donald Trump's official Facebook account purports to show violence in the US but is in fact of an event in another country. The advert shows one image of Mr Trump in a calm setting talking to police officers beside another of a security official being surrounded by protesters, saying: "Public safety vs chaos and violence". However, the image is a photo from a pro-democracy protest in Ukraine in 2014. Facebook have told the BBC they won't be taking any action against the post but gave no further comment. The post reads "Evangelicals For Trump are ready to help re-elect President Donald J Trump." On the image on the right, the officer is wearing a badge on his shoulder. However, it is an insignia not recognisable as one US police wear - it's a Coptic cross seen in countries which practice Orthodox Christianity. Using a reverse image search shows that the image is actually from Ukraine and was first posted in 2014, during the revolution that overthrew the government. The security official pictured is in fact not a US police officer. That badge was worn by members of the "Internal Troops of Ukraine", a now disbanded section of the national military that also assisted with policing. The image is also on the Wikipedia page about the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution, and says it shows events in February 2014 when security officials clashed with anti-government protesters. The old photo in the advert was picked up by a former Hillary Clinton staffer Jesse Lehrich in tweet that has been widely shared. President Trump's Facebook page has more than 30 million followers. The imagery appears to have been made by campaign group "Evangelicals for Trump" and has mostly reached users in Florida and Texas who are older than 55, according to Facebook's estimates. Social media companies Facebook and Twitter have taken steps in recent months to label posts by public officials.
7-22-20 Canada court rules US 'not safe' for asylum seekers
Canada's federal court has ruled that an asylum agreement the country has with the US is invalid because America violates the human rights of refugees. The Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), in place since 2004, requires refugee claimants to request protection in the first safe country they reach. But on Wednesday, a judge declared the deal unconstitutional due to the chance that the US will imprison the migrants. The ruling marks a major victory for Canadian immigration activists. Lawyers for refugees who had been turned away at the Canadian border had challenged the agreement, arguing that the US did not qualify as "safe" for asylum seekers. Nedira Jemal Mustefa, one of the refugees forced to remain in the US, told the court her time in US solitary confinement was "a terrifying, isolating and psychologically traumatic experience," according to the court ruling. "We're all too familiar with the treatment that the US metes out to asylum seekers," Maureen Silcoff, president of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, told Reuters news agency. The 5,525 mile (8,891 km) US-Canada border is the longest border between two countries in the world. The Safe Third Country Agreement is a policy implemented to better manage refugee claims and to avoid so-called "asylum shopping" between countries. But it is also driving asylum seekers to make what the Canadian government calls "irregular" crossings to avoid being turned back at official border points. Since 2017, when President Donald Trump took office promising a crackdown on immigration, some 58,000 people have crossed into Canada from the US in that manner to make subsequent refugee claims. Canada had been processing their claims until the coronavirus pandemic, when the Canadian government said they would be turned back. There have been calls in Canada to suspend or renegotiate the agreement with the US. (Webmaster's comment: The US government cares nothing about human life!)
7-22-20 Covid-19 news: Care home visits set to be allowed to resume in England
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Visits to care homes in England allowed to resume subject to approval. Visits to some care homes in England will be allowed to resume subject to approval by local authorities and public health officials, according to new government guidance. Previously, visits to care homes were restricted. “I know how painful it has been for those in care homes not being able to receive visits from their loved ones throughout this period,” said the UK’s health minister Matt Hancock. An estimated 6 per cent of coronavirus infections in England between 26 April and 7 June were among care home residents, according to a report by Data Evaluation and Learning for Viral Epidemics – an independent group of international researchers convened by the Royal Society. The updated government guidance suggests that the number of visitors be limited to one per resident and that visitors wear a face covering. Australia recorded its highest number of daily new coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic. 502 new cases were recorded nationally on Tuesday, with 484 in the state of Victoria alone. People in the greater Melbourne area and Mitchell Shire will be required to wear face masks in public from Thursday. The coronavirus pandemic is showing “no signs of slowing down” in the Americas, said Carissa Etienne, the director of the Pan American Health Organization, during a virtual briefing on Tuesday. Etienne said that because of the high burden of infectious diseases and chronic conditions in the Americas, about 30 per cent of people across the region are at an increased risk of developing severe covid-19. There have been approximately 900,000 new coronavirus cases and almost 22,000 deaths reported in the region over the past week, with the majority in the US, Brazil and Mexico.
7-22-20 Trump declares war on America
Is Trump a tyrant? Or does he just play one on Twitter? The debate over these questions goes back to the earliest days of the Trump administration. Though I've gone back and forth during the past three and a half years, I've usually sided with the skeptics. Trump talks (and tweets) like an autocrat. He clearly would love to control the country like a dictator. He may well be preparing a sizable segment of the population for an authoritarian future. But Trump himself is, if anything, an unusually weak president, with very few accomplishments, most of them enacted with executive orders that quite often get ignored by executive branch departments and agencies or shot down by the courts, and all of which will be vulnerable to reversal by Trump's successor. Yet the case has always been a complicated one, for one thing because the words a president uses matter a great deal. But beyond that, it's complicated because, despite Trump's feebleness and ineptitude, he practices a style of politics that actively short-circuits liberal democratic norms, pushing presidential powers beyond normal boundaries in order to provoke a reaction on the part of his ideological opponents that will, in turn, advance his own political prospects and justify further unprecedented authoritarian acts. Call it a slow ratchet in the direction of dictatorship. The most blatant example of the Trump presidency is happening right now — with the Department of Homeland Security deploying on the streets of American cities (Portland in recent days, perhaps Chicago and elsewhere by next weekend) what The New York Times calls "officials from a group known as BORTAC, the Border Patrol's equivalent of a SWAT team, a highly trained group that normally is tasked with investigating drug smuggling organizations." These federal agents — driving unmarked vans, wearing battle fatigues without badges, lacking training in crowd control, sometimes responding to protesters with violence — sweep up people on the street and lock them in vehicles without arrest or explanation. It would be one thing if local elected officials had asked for federal help in restoring order. But they haven't. In fact, they've said the opposite — that actions that look an awful lot like the imposition of martial law are making the disorder worse, as more protesters show up to demonstrate against police-state tactics by the feds. But this isn't something that concerns either the president or Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of homeland security, both of whom have declared their intent to continue deploying a quasi-military force against American citizens on the streets of American cities. As Wolf said on Fox News on Monday, "I don't need invitations by the state, state mayors, or state governors to do our job. We're going to do that, whether they like us there or not." Those words — spoken by an unelected official who, like so many members of the Trump administration, has been appointed by the president in an "acting" capacity in order to circumvent the process of Senate confirmation — should send chills down the spines of every American. But they should also be seen as cover for the true intent of the policy. One possibility is that the Trump campaign has decided that the president's base will be thrilled by the sight of federal officers dressed in combat fatigues messing with dirty hippies in deep-blue cities like Portland (now a "right-wing boogeyman") and Chicago. But there's another possibility as well — that Trump and his advisers think that provoking protesters to more radical acts of disorder will make the left look more dangerous and thereby enhance the president's re-election prospects. Which would mean that recent actions by federal agents are intended to provoke the very unrest they've supposedly been deployed to quash.
7-22-20 COVID-19 vaccines by Oxford, CanSino and Pfizer all trigger immune responses
Volunteers who got the vaccine candidates made antibodies and T cells against the coronavirus. More coronavirus vaccine candidates have passed initial safety tests and induce immune responses that might protect against the virus. All volunteers in a small clinical trial who were given an experimental vaccine developed by researchers at the University of Oxford made antibodies against a protein the virus uses to break into cells. Those participants also produced immune cells called T cells that are important for long-lived immunity, the researchers, working with the global pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, report July 20 in the Lancet. Levels of neutralizing antibodies, which can block viral entry into cells, were at levels on par with those from people who have recovered from COVID-19. No serious side effects were seen, particularly when volunteers took acetaminophen after getting an injection. “The results so far are encouraging,” says Mark Poznansky, a vaccinologist who directs the Vaccine & Immunotherapy Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston who was not involved in the study. The researchers won’t truly know whether the vaccine is safe and effective until many more people get it. Work on other viruses suggests that neutralizing antibodies and T cells in people’s blood should offer protection against infection or serious illness. But “a fundamental point about COVID-19 is that we don’t yet know what constitutes a protective [immune] response to the virus,” Poznansky says. “We’re not yet 100 percent clear about how those antibodies contribute to protection in the context of a vaccine.” The AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine starts with a chimpanzee adenovirus engineered so that it cannot replicate itself, making it safe to use. The virus can infect human cells, and delivers DNA instructions for making the coronavirus’ spike protein — the knobby protein studding the virus’s outer shell. Once inside a human cell, the DNA integrates, and the cell produces the spike protein, which the immune system then gears up to attack by producing antibodies and training white blood cells known as T cells to recognize the coronavirus.
7-22-20 Trump concedes pandemic to 'get worse before it gets better'
President Donald Trump has warned the US pandemic may "get worse before it gets better", as he revived his virus briefings with a more scripted tone. Mr Trump also asked all Americans to wear face coverings, saying "they'll have an effect" and show "patriotism". The president, who was not wearing a mask at the briefing, has previously disparaged them as unsanitary. His aides have reportedly pressed him to adopt a more measured approach as virus caseloads spike across the US. The daily White House news conferences ended soon after Mr Trump suggested in April during freewheeling remarks from the podium that the virus might be treated by injecting disinfectant into people. In his first White House coronavirus briefing for months on Tuesday, a less off-the-cuff president echoed what public health officials on his pandemic task force have been saying as he warned: "It will probably unfortunately get worse before it gets better. "Something I don't like saying about things, but that's the way it is." He added: "We're asking everybody that when you are not able to socially distance, wear a mask, get a mask. "Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact, they'll have an effect and we need everything we can get." Mr Trump - who more than once referred to Covid-19 as the "China virus" - took a mask from his pocket in the briefing room, but did not put it on. The president is facing an uphill climb to re-election in November against Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, according to opinion polls. Mr Biden on Tuesday accused Mr Trump of having failed Americans in his handling of the pandemic. "He's quit on you, he's quit on this country," the former US vice-president said. (Webmaster's comment: Over 140,000 Americans have to die before Trump admits we have a problem!)
7-22-20 Trump pivots: 'I'm getting used to the mask'
The president urged Americans to wear a face covering, having previously disparaged them as unsanitary and politically correct. More than half of US states have mandated mask-wearing in public.
7-22-20 QAnon: Twitter bans accounts linked to conspiracy theory
Twitter has announced sweeping measures aimed at cracking down on the QAnon conspiracy theory, including banning thousands of accounts. The social media giant said it would also stop recommending content linked to QAnon and block URLs associated with it from being shared on the platform. QAnon is a sprawling conspiracy theory whose followers support US President Donald Trump. Twitter said it hoped the action would help to prevent "offline harm". In a statement shared on the platform, Twitter said it would permanently suspend accounts that violate its policies while tweeting about QAnon. The suspensions will be applied to accounts that are "engaged in violations of our multi-account policy, coordinating abuse around individual victims, or are attempting to evade a previous suspension - something we've seen more of in recent weeks," it said. The suspensions are expected to affect about 150,000 accounts worldwide. More than 7,000 accounts have been removed in recent weeks for violations, Twitter said. QAnon supporters have been linked to numerous other false claims that have spread online, including a bizarre conspiracy theory involving a US furniture company and allegations of child trafficking. The FBI last year issued a warning about "conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists" and designated QAnon a potential domestic extremist threat. QAnon is a wide-ranging unfounded conspiracy theory that President Trump is battling a clandestine "deep state" network of political, business, media and entertainment elites, often involving Satanic plots and child trafficking. QAnon began in October 2017 on the anonymous message board 4chan. A user claimed to have top security clearance within the US government and signed off their posts as "Q" - hence the name QAnon. Q communicates in cryptic posts and claims to be directly involved in a secret Trump-led investigation of a global network of child abusers. QAnon followed on from the "pizzagate" saga in 2016 - a fake theory about Democratic Party politicians running a paedophile ring out of a Washington pizza restaurant.
7-21-20 Portland protests: US federal agents 'will not retreat', Chad Wolf says
US Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf has said federal agents "will not retreat" in their efforts to protect government buildings in Portland. "If you are a violent rioter looking to inflict damage to federal property or law enforcement officers, you need to find another line of work," he said. US President Donald Trump sent officers to Portland to protect federal property amid anti-racism protests. But the mayor of Portland has called for them to leave the US city. There have been nightly protests against police brutality in Portland since the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minnesota in May. In recent days, however, violent clashes between demonstrators and federal law enforcement officers have escalated. Speaking during a press conference on Tuesday, Mr Wolf said federal law enforcement officers in Portland were only targeting and arresting demonstrators who had been identified as being involved in "criminal activity". (Webmaster's comment: A blantant lie! They grab anyone who protests!) He said the department respected the right of people to protest peacefully, but urged demonstrators to "please do so away from the violent activity taking place near the courthouse on a nightly basis". On Monday evening, federal officers fired tear gas to disperse large crowds of protesters - some armed with hammers - who had gathered outside the city's courthouse and were throwing projectiles. Mr Wolf also denied claims that the security officers had no identification and insisted they were wearing insignia showing they were police. "These officers are not military, they are civilian police officers," he said, adding that they were required to restore order following "violent criminal activity every single night for 52 nights" and in response to "a lack of action from city officials". "We will continue to take the appropriate action to protect our facilities and our law enforcement officers," he said, adding that federal agents will leave Portland when the violence stops. (Webmaster's comment: Trump has unleashed the Federal goon squads on peaceful protestors!)
7-21-20 Covid-19 news: Coronavirus not “done by Christmas”, says charity boss
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Humanity will be living with the coronavirus for “many years,” says health charity chief. “Things will not be done by Christmas,” Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, a large biomedical health charity, and a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, told MPs today, speaking about the UK’s coronavirus pandemic. “This infection is not going away, it’s now a human endemic infection,” he said. Even if we had a vaccine or very good treatments, “humanity will still be living with this virus for very many, many years… decades to come,” he said. Farrar’s comments come after UK prime minister Boris Johnson announced further easing of restrictions in England last week and said he hoped for a “significant return to normality” by Christmas. Farrar was giving evidence to the Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee as part of an on-going inquiry into the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Seven US states and Puerto Rico reported record high numbers of daily coronavirus-related hospitalisations on Monday. 59,966 new cases of covid-19 were reported in the US as a whole, continuing a downward trend since daily new confirmed cases peaked at 75,643 on 16 July. US president Trump tweeted a photo of himself wearing a face mask yesterday, referring to the act as “patriotic.” The president has previously resisted wearing a face mask.
7-21-20 Republicans are risking lives to reopen schools
Some Republicans are so desperate for the coronavirus pandemic not to be a thing that the party's leading elected officials are proving themselves ready, willing, and able to gamble with the health of America's children, their teachers, and families. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Friday demonstrated the GOP's breathtaking callousness on the matter, telling a St. Louis radio program that the state's schools should reopen this fall even though kids will certainly get sick as a result. "These kids have got to get back to school," Parson said. "They're at the lowest risk possible. And if they do get COVID-19, which they will — and they will when they go to school — they're not going to the hospitals. They're not going to have to sit in doctor's offices. They're going to go home and they're going to get over it." Parson isn't alone among Republicans in downplaying the problems that could come with opening schools. On Monday, the Florida Education Association filed suit against Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to block his efforts — despite a massively surging COVD-19 case load — to force open that state's schools. In Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton has declared it unconstitutional for the state to close down religious schools. And in my home state of Kansas, Republicans competing for the party's nomination for Congress in the 3rd District backed a proposal to withhold federal dollars from school districts that don't bring children back to the classrooms. "We need to get back to school right now," said one of the candidates, Mike Beehler. "Get on with football season. Get on with the marching band. Get on with educating our children to be competitive in the workplace around the world." There is a problem with Beehler's logic: It is difficult to be competitive when you're sick, or worse, dead. It's true that COVID-19 doesn't appear to be as deadly for children as it is for adults. In most pediatric cases, symptoms are relatively mild. But that isn't the end of the story. Kids, especially older kids, are still vectors for this disease, and can pass it to adults — including vulnerable teachers, administrators, other parents. With this in mind, it becomes clear that GOP leaders are being much too casual in their back-to-school rush. A study of 65,000 children in South Korea recently revealed that kids in the 10-19 age range can infect other people just as efficiently as adults. "Putting them together in schools, having them mix with teachers and other students will provide additional opportunities for the virus to move from person to person," one epidemiologist told The New York Times. Middle and high school classrooms could easily become the epicenters of new COVID-19 outbreaks in their communities. No wonder a recent poll shows most Americans are uncomfortable with sending their children back to school. (Webmaster's comment: Children will be dying because of this Republican driven mandate!)
7-21-20 Portland protests: Trump threatens to send officers to more US cities
President Donald Trump has threatened to send more federal law enforcement officers to major US cities to control ongoing protests. Mr Trump on Monday criticised a number of cities run by "liberal Democrats", including Chicago and New York, saying their leaders were afraid to act. He said officers sent to Oregon had done a "fantastic job" restoring order amid days of protests in Portland. Democrats accuse Mr Trump of trying to rally his Conservative base. President Trump, a Republican, has been trailing in opinion polls behind his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, ahead of November's election. Last month, Mr Trump declared himself the "president of law and order" in the wake of widespread protests over the death in police custody of African-American man George Floyd. Speaking at the White House on Monday, Mr Trump reiterated his call for law and order. "We're sending law enforcement," he told reporters. "We can't let this happen to the cities." He specifically named New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore and Oakland in discussing problems with violence. "We're not going to let this happen in our country, all run by liberal Democrats." Mr Trump also praised the controversial federal law enforcement efforts in Portland. The city has seen protests against police brutality since George Floyd's death in Minnesota in May. Mr Trump deployed the personnel to the US west coast city two weeks ago to quell civil unrest. Some officers have used unmarked cars and worn military-style camouflage on the streets, sparking condemnation from Democrats and activists. Local officials say the federal officers are making matters worse and have called for them to leave. State leaders have also demanded that Mr Trump remove the personnel from Portland, accusing him of escalating the situation as a political stunt in an election year. But Mr Trump said Oregon's governor, Portland's mayor and other state lawmakers were scared of the "anarchists". "They're afraid of these people," he said. "That's the reason they don't want us to help them." He added: "[Federal officers] have been there three days and they really have done a fantastic job in a very short period of time, no problem. They grab a lot of people and jail the leaders. These are anarchists." (Webmaster's comment: Trump Unleashes his storm troopers against the American people, just like Hitler unleashed his.)
7-21-20 US protests: Is it legal to send in federal forces?
When protests spread across the US following the death of George Floyd, President Trump threatened to send in the army to end the unrest. President Trump said he had the power to send in the military if cities and states failed to solve the problem themselves. Protests have continued in Portland, Oregon, for more than 50 days - and the city's mayor says there are "dozens, if not hundreds, of federal troops" deployed there who aren't welcome. President Trump has responded by saying: "Well, it depends on what your definition of 'troops' is... we're sending law enforcement." The agents belong to a new force created by the president to protect federal property, whose personnel are drawn from different federal agencies. But state governors are questioning if the federal government has the authority to send in troops without their permission. Yes, he can under certain circumstances. The federal government has deployed thousands of troops from the National Guard, a reserve force for the US Army, to quell protests on request from cities or states themselves. But a US law passed in the 19th Century also lays out circumstances when the government in Washington DC can intervene without state authorisation. The Insurrection Act says the approval of governors isn't required when the president determines the situation in a state makes it impossible to enforce US laws, or when citizens' rights are threatened. The law was passed in 1807 to allow the president to call out a militia to protect against "hostile incursions of the Indians" - and it was subsequently extended to allow for the use of the US military in domestic disturbances and to protect civil rights. Another law passed in 1878 requires congressional authorisation for domestic military use, but a legal expert told the BBC that the Insurrection Act was sufficient legal authority on its own for the president to deploy the army. "The key point", says Robert Chesney, a University of Texas law professor, "is that it is the president's determination to make; the governors do not have to request his help." (Webmaster's comment: Trump's storm troopers threaten the lives of every American! Hitler is back!)
7-21-20 St Louis couple charged for pointing guns at protesters
A husband and wife have been charged with unlawful use of a weapon for pointing guns at demonstrators outside their home in St Louis, Missouri. Lawyers Mark and Patricia McCloskey drew guns on racial justice protesters marching through the grounds of their $1.15m mansion last month. The couple said they armed themselves because they felt threatened. But St Louis' top prosecutor said their actions had risked creating violence at an otherwise peaceful protest. "It is illegal to wave weapons in a threatening manner at those participating in non-violent protest, and while we are fortunate this situation did not escalate into deadly force, this type of conduct is unacceptable in St Louis," said Kim Gardner, who is the city's first black circuit attorney. "We must protect the right to peacefully protest, and any attempt to chill it through intimidation will not be tolerated," she added. The McCloskeys also face a charge of fourth-degree assault. The couple's lawyer, Joel Schwartz, called the decision to press charges "disheartening as I unequivocally believe no crime was committed". The couple, both personal injury attorneys who live on a private street, have said they were within their rights to defend their property. Missouri Governor Mike Parson has said he was prepared to exercise his pardon powers if prosecutors brought criminal charges in the case. "I don't think they're going to spend any time in jail," the Republican told a local radio station last week. When he was a legislator, the governor co-wrote Missouri's "castle doctrine" law that justifies deadly force for those who are defending their homes from intruders. Video footage showed Mr McCloskey, 63, and his wife, 61, draw firearms as demonstrators marched past their mansion to the home of St Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson to call for her resignation on 28 June. The mayor had infuriated activists by reading out on Facebook Live the names and addresses of people advocating defunding the police. The McCloskeys' legal team has said two or three white protesters had threatened the couple and their property. According to a police report on the incident, the couple said a large group of people had broken through an iron gate marked with "No Trespassing" and "Private Street" signs. One of the protest leaders maintained the gate was already open.
7-21-20 Michigan judge refuses to free girl in missed homework case
A judge in the US state of Michigan has ruled that a schoolgirl detained after neglecting her homework and fighting with her mother cannot be released. The black 15-year-old, identified by her middle name "Grace", has been in juvenile detention since May. "I miss my mom," Grace reportedly told the court on Monday. "I can control myself. I can be obedient." But the judge said detention was in her best interests for now. The case has sparked protests and claims of racism. Judge Mary Ellen Brennan said the teenager had been benefiting from a residential treatment programme and was not yet ready to return to her mother. "There is not a question in my mind, if I were to grant the request to release you home today, I would be making a mistake, and I would be doing you a disservice," she told Grace, according to Michigan Radio. Judge Brennan also said police had responded to multiple incidents between the mother and daughter, and that her detainment was a result of that. "She was not detained because she didn't turn her homework in... She was detained because she was a threat to her mother," the judge said. She also addressed the public scrutiny the case has come under, saying she "would not be swayed by public clamour or fear of criticism". The case was first highlighted last week in a report by US news site ProPublica. Following interviews with Grace's mother, the outlet described how the teenager had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and had already been struggling with behavioural issues. She was placed on probation in mid-April via a Zoom juvenile court hearing after facing an assault and theft charge last year; one of the terms of the probation was a requirement to do her schoolwork. ProPublica reported that the start of Grace's probation coincide d with the first days of remote schoolwork, and she quickly became overwhelmed without the in-person support of her teachers. (Webmaster's comment: This would never have happened to a white teenager!)
7-21-20 Coronavirus: EU leaders reach recovery deal after marathon summit
EU leaders have struck a deal on a huge post-coronavirus recovery package following a fourth night of talks. It involves €750bn (£677bn; $859bn) in grants and loans to counter the impact of the pandemic in the 27-member bloc. The talks saw a split between nations hardest hit by the virus and so-called "frugal" members concerned about costs. It is the biggest joint borrowing ever agreed by the EU. Summit chairman Charles Michel said it was a "pivotal moment" for Europe. The deal centres on a €390bn programme of grants to member states hardest hit by the pandemic. Italy and Spain are expected to be the main recipients. A further €360bn in low-interest loans will be available to members of the bloc. The package will allow members to maintain spending in the aftermath of lockdowns that badly affected public finances. It includes checks that the funds will not be misused. Recipients will have to submit spending plans to the European Commission, and a majority of states will be able to block projects. The package will now face technical negotiations by members, and needs ratification by the European Parliament. The leaders reached agreement early on Tuesday after more than 90 hours of talks. Mr Michel, the president of the European Council, called it "the right deal for Europe right now". Tempers were often frayed during the negotiations. The "frugal four", Sweden, Denmark, Austria and the Netherlands, along with Finland had opposed extending €500bn in grants. The group originally set €375bn as the limit. Other members, such as Spain and Italy, did not want to go below €400bn. At one point French President Emmanuel Macron reportedly banged his fists on the table, as he told the "frugal four" they were putting the European project in danger. The €390bn figure was suggested as a compromise, and "frugal" nations were reportedly won over by the promise of rebates on their EU budget contributions. Another issue was over linking aid to the "rule of law". Hungary and Poland both threatened to veto the package if it adopted a policy of withholding funds from nations deemed to fall short of democratic principles.
7-21-20 India coronavirus: Nearly one in four in Delhi had Covid-19, study says
Nearly one in four residents in India's capital, Delhi, has been exposed to coronavirus infection, antibody tests on a random sample of people suggest. The government survey said 23.48% of the 21,387 people whose blood samples were tested had Covid-19 antibodies. It suggests that infections in the city are much more widespread than the number of confirmed cases indicates. Delhi has so far recorded 123,747 cases, equivalent to less than 1% of its population of 19.8 million. At 23.44%, the number of infections would be 4.65 million in a city that size. A government press release says the difference shows that "a large number of infected persons remain asymptomatic". It even says the figure of 23.48% may be too low because Delhi has several pockets of dense population. But it adds that "a significant proportion of the population is still vulnerable" and all safety measures must be strictly followed. Experts say the study, the first of its kind in India, is crucial because it will help authorities understand the spread of the virus better. It will guide them towards better distribution of testing facilities and also help in coming up with area-specific containment policies. Delhi has been one of the worst-hit cities in India and saw a chronic shortage of hospital beds in the first two weeks of June. But hospital infrastructure has been improved since then and the number of daily cases has also fallen. The capital has recorded 1,200 to 1,600 new cases a day in the past two weeks - about half of its daily count in the last week of June. And on Monday, the city recorded only 954 cases. The sharp fall in the number of cases can be attributed to increased testing, tracing, containment and isolation. The city has also registered a fall in the number of fatalities.
7-21-20 Chinese students who set their sights on U.S. schools weigh other options
Many Chinese families have staked their futures on education in the U.S., but more and more are wondering if it's worth the risk. For the past three years, Lulu Gong in China has been preparing to study abroad. Her excitement at getting into Penn State University was squashed when she realized she couldn't get to the U.S. U.S. consulates haven't been processing visas during the pandemic, so she was stuck. Once the fall term starts, Gong will attend a freshman orientation on Zoom and then begin classes at a partner university in Shanghai. This is disappointing, to say the least. "I thought maybe I can make a lot of friends in America also," she said. "I plan to do a lot of things for now. I just can't go there." Gong's family is just one of many in China who have staked their futures on education in the U.S. — more than 360,000 Chinese students are studying at U.S. colleges. They've invested lots of money and time to help their kids prepare: private high schools with American curriculums, summer school, SAT prep classes, English classes, and college consultants. It all adds up. Not to mention the cost of American tuition: Foreign students typically pay full price, with no financial aid. The investment is huge, and more and more families in China are wondering if it's worth the risk. Last week, the Trump administration announced that it was barring international students from residing in the U.S. while taking an all-online university course load. This past week, under pressure from universities and colleges, Immigration and Customs Enforcement rescinded the policy. But the anxiety it caused could do long-term damage to the ability of American universities to attract foreign students. The Trump administration's latest policy shift is not the first one to impact Chinese students. Student visas have been harder to obtain, and their terms are limited. Gu Huini runs an education consultancy in Shanghai helping Chinese high school students go abroad for study. When the announcement came out that foreign students risked being sent home because of the abrupt policy change, her phone started buzzing. "It just went viral, it was everywhere," she said. Gu says in the past couple years, she's noticed a trend. "I've been receiving questions asking about Singapore, or European countries, or Canada rather than America," she said. So basically, they've been adding more options in their application portfolio. I would say ever since 2018, I've been constantly receiving more requests on this front."
7-21-20 Michigan judge refuses to free girl in missed homework case
A judge in the US state of Michigan has ruled that a schoolgirl detained after neglecting her homework and fighting with her mother cannot be released. The black 15-year-old, identified by her middle name "Grace", has been in juvenile detention since May. "I miss my mom," Grace reportedly told the court on Monday. "I can control myself. I can be obedient." But the judge said detention was in her best interests for now. The case has sparked protests and claims of racism. Judge Mary Ellen Brennan said the teenager had been benefiting from a residential treatment programme and was not yet ready to return to her mother. "There is not a question in my mind, if I were to grant the request to release you home today, I would be making a mistake, and I would be doing you a disservice," she told Grace, according to Michigan Radio. Judge Brennan also said police had responded to multiple incidents between the mother and daughter, and that her detainment was a result of that. "She was not detained because she didn't turn her homework in... She was detained because she was a threat to her mother," the judge said. She also addressed the public scrutiny the case has come under, saying she "would not be swayed by public clamour or fear of criticism". The case was first highlighted last week in a report by US news site ProPublica. Following interviews with Grace's mother, the outlet described how the teenager had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and had already been struggling with behavioural issues. She was placed on probation in mid-April via a Zoom juvenile court hearing after facing an assault and theft charge last year; one of the terms of the probation was a requirement to do her schoolwork. ProPublica reported that the start of Grace's probation coincide d with the first days of remote schoolwork, and she quickly became overwhelmed without the in-person support of her teachers. (Webmaster's comment: This would never have happened to a white teenager!)
7-20-20 Covid-19 news: Oxford vaccine is safe and induces immune response
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Oxford’s coronavirus vaccine candidate appears safe and induces immune response. A coronavirus vaccine candidate being developed by the University of Oxford in partnership with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is safe and activates an immune response in people, according to preliminary results from trials involving 1077 volunteers. People injected with the vaccine, called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, made antibodies and immune cells against the coronavirus. The trial results were published today in The Lancet. No serious side effects were found, although 70 per cent of people developed a fever or headache which could be managed with painkillers. It is not yet clear whether this vaccine candidate offers protection against infection with the coronavirus, and we won’t know whether it can stop people from becoming ill with covid-19 until we see the results of larger trials. Those trials will involve 10,000 people in the UK, 30,000 people in the US, 2,000 in South Africa and 5,000 in Brazil. The UK government has secured access to 100 million doses of the vaccine candidate, in addition to 90 million doses of other coronavirus vaccine candidates from US and European companies. Globally, more than 140 coronavirus vaccines are currently in development, with 23 candidates being tested in people. The seven-day average for daily new coronavirus cases in the US has risen for the 41st consecutive day, mostly due to ongoing spikes in the number of cases in Florida, Texas and California. Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti said the county is “on the brink” of shutting down again due to the recent rise in cases. France has made face coverings mandatory in all enclosed public spaces, with those who fail to adhere to the rules facing fines of €135 (£123). Coronavirus cases are on the rise in the north-west and eastern parts of the country, with health minister Olivier Véran warning that France has between 400 and 500 active coronavirus clusters. Anti-mask activists gathered in London’s Hyde Park on Sunday to protest the introduction of new legislation on face coverings. It will be mandatory to wear them in shops and supermarkets in England from 24 July. A survey by the Office for National Statistics conducted between 8 and 12 July found that 61 per cent of people said they used face coverings outside their homes in the previous week.
7-20-20 Breonna Taylor: Hunger strike begins amid US racism protests
Protesters in Kentucky are on hunger strike demanding justice for Breonna Taylor, a black woman killed by police in her home in March. The strike comes as thousands of US workers walk off the job on Monday to protest racism, inequality and police brutality. The Strike for Black Lives builds the country-wide protests over the death of a black man, George Floyd, in May. Many of the striking workers are considered "essential" in the pandemic. Organisers said tens of thousands of workers in at least 25 cities were predicted to protest for at least part of the work day on Monday. Those unable to leave the job for the entire day are instead holding lunchtime rallies and kneeling for eight minutes and 46 seconds - the time that Minneapolis prosecutors initially said that ex-Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck, allegedly killing him. Four hunger strikers in Louisville, Kentucky, are demanding that two city officers involved in Taylor's death - Sgt John Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove - be fired and stripped of their pensions. Ex-Detective Brett Hankison, who was also involved in a raid on Taylor's apartment in March, was fired but is appealing the decision. The four strikers are also live-streaming their strike on their Facebook page, Hunger Strikers for Breonna. "In this form, we can control it," one participant, Ari Maybe, told the Courier Journal, adding that the strike will take place on private property. "It's not like a sit-in, where we can be arrested. It's not like a protest, where there's a beginning and an end. We control the beginning, the end and the entire narrative." She added that in addition to the four people involved, they have support from around 35 others, including medical personnel and a crew responsible for the Facebook stream. (Webmaster's comment: The slaughter of black people by the police continues unabated!)
7-20-20 What I missed as a white kid in Anytown, U.S.A.
Is it possible for a child to truly understand the place in which he or she is raised? Especially when a full understanding might damage the illusion that everything is as it should be? I grew up in Maplewood, New Jersey, a suburb of 24,000 some 15 miles west of New York City. The town was, and remains, picturesque: Its 25-acre Memorial Park was designed by the storied Olmsted Brothers firm in the 1920s, and its downtown business area — anchored by a movie theater, a diner, and a train station — has remained essentially unchanged since the 1930s. Popular descriptors of the town include "leafy" and "charming." Growing up there molded my view of what other places should be like, and as such, I largely found them wanting. As a student at the University of Delaware, I was appalled by that state's seemingly endless sprawl; compared to my hometown, it felt airless and deadening. If Maplewood wasn't perfect, I thought, it was close enough. Despite this, there has long been another side to Maplewood that the realtors don't tell the young couples now streaming in from Brooklyn. Though the town celebrates its diversity (as of 2010, it was 56 percent white, 35 percent Black, and 7 percent Hispanic), most of its Black residents live on its outskirts, where it borders the cities of Newark and Irvington. Maplewood's school district, which it shares with neighboring South Orange, has been accused of racial bias, and every so often a race-related incident — such as in 2016, when the town's police officers forced a group of Black Maplewood residents into Irvington — punctures its myth of cheerful harmony. In recent months, as the nation has had its own myth of harmony punctured — or, more accurately, as it has come to understand how far off harmony is — I've had to reconcile my rosy view of Maplewood with its darker realities. And I've been reminded of a story that my mother once told me: At some point in the early 1970s, before I was born, a Black family moved into a house around the corner from ours. Not long after, a cross was burned in their yard. That's basically all I knew. I was in high school when she'd told me this, and I don't recall asking any questions; in my shock, I'd probably just said, "really?" A burning cross, with its roots in the Ku Klux Klan, is abhorrent anywhere, but such a thing in Maplewood — which my wife would later compare to the fictionally adorable Stars Hollow of Gilmore Girls — seemed almost apocryphal. So I tucked it away, thinking of it only when I walked past the house across the street. By the time I came of age, in the late 1990s, Maplewood was different — and it's certainly different now. Wasn't it? Isn't it? Curious, I reached out to the son of the family who lived across the street. Chris Sabin is now 54 and lives in South Orange, about two miles from his childhood home. He has kids of his own, and like his late mother, Sabarah, he has served on the local school district board. But despite the passage of time, as we spoke on the phone, it was clear that the past wasn't very far away. "There was never a cross in our yard," he said with a rueful laugh. "There was an X that was spraypainted on our front door, as well as several other people that lived in town that were Black." This was in 1973 or 1974, shortly after the Sabins arrived in Maplewood from Brooklyn — "The original Brooklynites," as he called them. "It was something that I vaguely remembered in [elementary] school as us being 'the family,'" he said. "It was something that made us feel singled out." And it wouldn't be the last time they would be targeted: A decade later, their cars' tires would be slashed. "That's what I remember, because I was a lot older," he said.
7-20-20 Border Patrol is out of control
Want to defund the police? A good place to start might be the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The latest Trumpist assault on American democracy reached a boiling point over the weekend in Portland, Oregon. Video showed two men in military gear — later revealed to be CBP agents — plucking a demonstrator off the street and putting him in an unmarked car. Another protester told The Washington Post a similar story about being detained by unidentified agents, only to be released later without an arrest report. (The agency says its officers identified themselves during arrests, contradicting witness reports.) That wasn't the worst of it: Federal agents reportedly shot another demonstrator in the head with a rubber bullet, fracturing his skull. The result was widespread alarm and anger. "Mr. President, federal agencies should never be used as your own personal army," Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (D) said during a Friday press conference. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) referred to the agents as "unidentified stormtroopers." Oregon's attorney general filed suit against the federal government — including CPB, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Department of Homeland Security — alleging it had violated the rights of protesters. The ACLU filed a similar lawsuit to protect the rights of journalists and legal observers. Even the local U.S. attorney called for an inquiry. While several federal agencies are involved in the mayhem in Portland, the use of border patrol agents here should arouse the most scrutiny — they aren't enforcing immigration law by cracking down on the city's protesters, after all. But even before the recent demonstrations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection was a rogue agency with a toxic culture. The agency might not serve as President Trump's "personal army," precisely, but it has long been ripe for use and abuse by an authoritarian-minded executive. Trump fits the bill. Scandals emerge from CBP's toxic soil with regularity — just last week, the Government Accountability Office revealed the agency was misusing its funds, taking money meant to be spent on medical care for migrants in its custody and using it instead to buy dirt bikes and boats. That follows outrageous stories in recent years involving widespread racism among agents, and reports of officials turning a blind eye toward migrant deaths. Even if the agency were somehow free of corruption, its official duties and authorities would still be disquieting. In carrying out Trump's immigration policies, for example, CBP held children as young as 2 or 3 "in jail-like border facilities for weeks at a time without contact with family members, or regular access to showers, clean clothes, toothbrushes, or proper beds," according to Human Rights Watch. Just as alarming is the agency's jurisdiction: The "border" where it carries out its enforcement duties extends 100 miles inland from the country's actual borders — an area that encompasses roughly two-thirds of the U.S. population, as well as the entire state of Hawaii. Within that zone, CBP can act as a law unto itself. The government holds that the protections of the Constitution do not fully apply at the border, and agents conduct themselves accordingly — stopping cars and buses without cause to check the citizenship status of passengers, even when those vehicles haven't been involved in actual border crossings. "In practice, Border Patrol agents routinely ignore or misunderstand the limits of their legal authority in the course of individual stops, resulting in violations of the constitutional rights of innocent people," the ACLU says in a fact sheet on the matter.
7-20-20 Portland protests: Mayor demands federal troops leave city
The mayor of Portland in Oregon has renewed his call for federal troops to leave the US city, accusing them of abusive tactics against protesters. "They are sharply escalating the situation," Mayor Ted Wheeler told CNN on Sunday. There have been nightly protests against police brutality in the city since the killing of African American George Floyd in Minneapolis in May. The federal government has said it is trying to restore order in Portland. Speaking to CNN on Sunday, Mayor Wheeler said there were "dozens if not hundreds of federal troops" in the city, adding: "Their presence here is actually leading to more violence and more vandalism. "They're not wanted here. We haven't asked them here. In fact, we want them to leave," he said. His comments echoed those of Oregon Governor Kate Brown, who described the presence of federal troops in the city as "purely political theatre" from the Donald Trump administration. Ms Brown told MSNBC that she had asked the federal government on Tuesday to remove the troops, saying: "You are escalating an already challenging situation." Their comments came after Oregon's attorney general filed a lawsuit against the federal government, accusing it of unlawfully detaining protesters. In the lawsuit, Ellen Rosenblum requested a restraining order to stop agents from the Department of Homeland Security, US Marshals Service, US Customs and Border Protection and the Federal Protection Service from making any more arrests in the city. "These tactics must stop," Ms Rosenblum said in a statement. The lawsuit said the actions of federal officers violated protesters' ability to exercise their constitutional First Amendment right to assembly and, by seizing and detaining people without a warrant, also breached the Fourth and Fifth Amendment right to due process. The troops, a new Department of Homeland Security unit made up of people from the US Marshals Service and Customs and Border Protection, have been deployed under an executive order protecting statues, signed by Mr Trump last month. (Webmaster's comment: Trump's storm troopers are the same as Hitler's storm troopers!)
7-20-20 Coronavirus: Masks mandatory in France amid fresh outbreaks
France has made face masks compulsory in all enclosed public spaces amid a fresh bout of Covid-19 outbreaks. Masks were already mandatory on public transport, but from Monday they must also be worn in places like shops. Health Minister Oliver Véran warned that France had between "400 and 500 active clusters" of the virus. President Emmanuel Macron declared a "first victory" over the virus in June and has ended the national state of emergency, but local outbreaks remain. There are a rising number of cases in the north-west and in eastern regions, in particular in the north-western department of Mayenne. France, one of Europe's hardest-hit countries, has recorded more than 200,000 infections and over 30,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic. Face masks are now compulsory in all enclosed public spaces, including shops where previously owners were able to decide themselves whether customers should wear coverings or not. Anyone caught without a mask faces a fine of €135 (£123; $154). Authorities in Mayenne began calling for mandatory mask restrictions last week as cases soared in the department. Public health agency Santé Publique France issued a warning for Mayenne after it passed the alert threshold of 50 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants in a week. Across France as a whole, that figure is about 10 per 100,000 inhabitants. Other regions are also worrying authorities. Brittany in the north-west of France has a reproduction number of 2.6 - meaning each infected person is passing on the virus to nearly three more. The eastern department of Vosges is also seeing rising cases, while the R number in Marseille and Nice is reportedly at 1.55. Mr Véran plans to travel to Mayenne later on Monday. While the country is "very far" from a second wave, he told broadcaster France Info that there were "worrying signs of epidemic resumption". "We must remain vigilant," he said, noting that people had become weary of the restrictions and wanted to return to normal life. "All options are on the table" if local outbreaks worsen, he added, including regional lockdowns or even the return of national restrictions.
7-20-20 Coronavirus: Oxford vaccine can train immune system
A coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford appears safe and trains the immune system. Trials involving 1,077 people showed the injection led to them making antibodies and white blood cells that can fight coronavirus. The findings are hugely promising, but it is still too soon to know if this is enough to offer protection and larger trials are under way. The UK has already ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine. The vaccine - called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 - is being developed at unprecedented speed. It is made from a genetically engineered virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees. It has been heavily modified, first so it cannot cause infections in people and also to make it "look" more like coronavirus. Scientists did this by transferring the genetic instructions for the coronavirus's "spike protein" - the crucial tool it uses to invade our cells - to the vaccine they were developing. This means the vaccine resembles the coronavirus and the immune system can learn how to attack it. Much of the focus on coronavirus so far has been about antibodies, but these are only one part of our immune defence. Antibodies are small proteins made by the immune system that stick onto the surface of viruses. Neutralising antibodies can disable the coronavirus. T-cells, a type of white blood cell, help coordinate the immune system and are able to spot which of the body's cells have been infected and destroy them. Nearly all effective vaccines induce both an antibody and a T-cell response. Levels of T cells peaked 14 days after vaccination and antibody levels peaked after 28 days. The study has not run for long enough to understand what long-term immunity may look like. There were no dangerous side-effects from taking the vaccine, however, 70% of people on the trial developed either fever or headache. The researchers say this could be managed with paracetamol.
7-19-20 Portland protests: Oregon sues over 'unlawful detentions'
The attorney general for the US state of Oregon has filed a lawsuit against the federal government, accusing it of unlawfully detaining protesters. There have been nightly protests against police brutality in Portland since the killing of George Floyd. This week, federal officers in unmarked vehicles appeared to forcefully seize protesters from the streets and detain them without justification. The federal government has said it is trying to restore order in the city. Federal agents, deployed by President Donald Trump, have also fired tear gas and less-lethal munitions into crowds of demonstrators. Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf previously called the protesters a "violent mob". Late on Saturday, protesters were seen dismantling a fence around the federal courthouse, hours after it was put up. The US Attorney's office in Oregon said on Twitter that the fence aimed to "de-escalate tensions between protesters and law enforcement officials and asked people to leave it alone. Officers declared a riot outside the Portland Police Association building in the north of the city. It was set on fire but the blaze has now been put out, police said. In the lawsuit, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum requested a restraining order to stop agents from the Department of Homeland Security, US Marshals Service, US Customs and Border Protection and the Federal Protection Service from making any more arrests in the city. "These tactics must stop," Ms Rosenblum said in a statement. "They not only make it impossible for people to assert their First Amendment rights to protest peacefully, they also create a more volatile situation on our streets." Their methods, she added, are "entirely unnecessary and out of character with the Oregon way". "The federal administration has chosen Portland to use their scare tactics to stop our residents from protesting police brutality and from supporting the Black Lives Matter movement," she said. "Every American should be repulsed when they see this happening. If this can happen here in Portland, it can happen anywhere." The lawsuit itself claims that these tactics prevent citizens, who are "reasonably afraid of being picked up and shoved into unmarked vans - possibly by federal officers, possibly by individuals opposed to the protests" from being able to exercise their constitutional First Amendment right to assembly. It also accuses federal officers of violating the Fourth and Fifth amendment by seizing and detaining people without a warrant, and denying them due process. Earlier this week, Oregon Governor Kate Brown also accused federal agents of a "blatant abuse of power".
7-19-20 Coronavirus: 'When coffins lined the streets of my hometown'
Guayaquil, Ecuador, found itself in the global spotlight when the city's health services began to collapse under the weight of Covid-19 deaths and hospitals, morgues and cemeteries became overwhelmed. The bodies of many victims of coronavirus were left uncollected, with people burying loved ones in back gardens or leaving coffins on the streets. Eventually they were picked up by the authorities - but some are still missing. Journalist Blanca Moncada has been documenting the crisis and wants answers for families who are still looking for the bodies of their loved ones.
7-18-20 Worldwide coronavirus deaths pass 600,000.
Did the US reopen faster than other countries? More than 600,000 people have died with the coronavirus around the world. Nearly a quarter of them were in the US. The world has seen the largest single-day increase in cases, the WHO says. The number of new cases of coronavirus rose by almost 260,000 in 24 hours. The EU is in its third day of talks to try to agree a rescue package for virus-hit countries. Millions of people have been told to stay at home amid an outbreak in the Spanish region of Catalonia. The global number of infections now stands at 14.3 million - Johns Hopkins University.
7-18-20 What Americans are finally learning about freedom
True liberty requires collective action. mericans are supposedly a freedom-loving people. This, we tell ourselves, is why we rose up against the British, and founded a new country "conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." Yet Americans are in fact an extraordinarily unfree people, oppressed and downtrodden on all sides, and have generally just sat and taken it. This is in part because our typical notion of freedom, based entirely around the ability of the individual to do what he or she wants free of government interference, is a preposterous fiction. Americans have been brainwashed into thinking that freedom from government is the highest ideal, when in fact government is the only way that any kind of freedom can be realized. America's fraudulent notion of freedom emerges from philosophers like Isaiah Berlin who attempted to make a distinction between negative and positive liberty. Libertarians like the Cato Institute's Aaron Ross Powell have popularized and simplified this conception, and he explains it roughly as the difference between "freedom from" and "capacity to." Thus one has negative liberty (freedom from) if the government doesn't do things like suppress your speech, and one has positive liberty (capacity to) if one has the actual capability (like money) to do what one desires. But this distinction collapses on close scrutiny. Consider the economy, which of necessity sets the conditions of daily life. People need food, water, clothing, and shelter to live their lives. For this they must have a job or some other source of income — obtained in an economic system that cannot help but be based on the foundation of government laws and rules imposed on the people. There cannot be any "freedom from" a state decision about how to set up the economy, and therefore how to distribute resources. Ross argues against things like taxes because "in order to give some people the resources they need to get what they want, it must take those resources from others." In reality, ownership of resources is itself a state legal construct which could be changed at any time. Ownership is not a relationship between a person and an object, it is a relationship between people — if I own something, it means I have the legal right to call the police or sue if someone tries to take it without my permission. In other words, access to the state's violent authority is what it means to own something — so if the tax rate on Warren Buffet's capital gains income goes up, that means the taxed portion no longer belongs to him. More broadly, whether any dollar of income goes to one person or another depends almost entirely on how the state has constructed and shaped the economy, through its laws on property, corporations, labor, taxes, welfare, finance, and so forth. Today, the vast majority of Americans get their daily bread through a production system which is rigged against them in a hundred obvious ways. Wages have been stagnant for decades thanks to anti-union laws, declining taxes on the rich (indeed, the ultra-wealthy now pay a lower rate of tax than the poor), slanted trade deals, and other mechanisms by which the rich funnel money to the top. We pay a great deal of tax but receive little for it in the way of social services. Welfare benefits are meager, with the explicit intention of starving people into accepting low wages and making profits for the rich. America's extreme inequality is, in other words, a priori evidence of a vast and implacable tyranny — a nation of the one percent, by the one percent, for the one percent.
7-18-20 Coronavirus: Donald Trump vows not to order Americans to wear masks
US President Donald Trump has vowed not to order Americans to wear masks to contain the spread of coronavirus. His comments came after the country's top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, urged state and local leaders to be "as forceful as possible" in getting people to wear masks. Wearing face coverings, Dr Fauci added, is "really important" and "we should be using them, everyone". The wearing of face coverings has become highly politicised in the US. The majority of state governors have now ordered that the wearing of masks outdoors be mandatory, rather than a personal choice. Among them are Republican governors, including Kay Ivey of Alabama, who have reversed their initial opposition to the mandates. President Trump, who had previously resisted wearing a face covering himself, wore a mask in public for the first time last Saturday. But speaking to Fox News on Friday, Mr Trump said he didn't agree with a national mask mandate, saying people should have a "certain freedom". (Webmaster's comment: What freedom is that? The freedom to infect others?) Earlier this week, US public health body the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a statement urging everyone to wear masks. "We are not defenceless against COVID-19," CDC Director Dr Robert R Redfield said. "Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus - particularly when used universally within a community setting." In the southern state of Georgia, Republican governor Brian Kemp has urged residents to wear masks for the next month. Mr Kemp made the appeal to the state's residents despite taking legal action a day earlier against the mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms, for making face coverings mandatory in the city. Ms Bottoms has herself tested positive for coronavirus. Oklahoma City officials are also considering a city-wide indoor mask requirement, in the absence of a state-wide mandate. A number of US states, primarily southern states, are experiencing a surge in confirmed cases of coronavirus. Hundreds of military medical staff have been deployed in Texas and California to help officials cope with new Covid-19 cases, and in Texas and Arizona, cooler trucks have been sent in to help store dead bodies.
7-18-20 Jeyaraj and Benicks: Why was a viral video on custodial deaths taken down?
An Instagram video about the custodial deaths of a father and son in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu was instrumental in getting the case national attention. But now Suchitra Ramadurai has taken down her video. She spoke to the BBC's Andrew Clarance about why. "Hi, I'm Suchitra, and I'm south Indian and I hate how every south Indian issue just remains a south Indian issue because we don't talk about it in English." This was the opening line of Ms Ramadurai's video, that went on to get millions of views in India and across the world. Armed with details from the case filed by the victims' family, and matching eyewitness reports, she then goes on to explain in graphic detail what happened to P Jeyaraj, 58, and his son Benicks, 38, who were arrested and held an entire night at the Sathankulam police station in Tuticorin town. They died within hours of each other two days later. Relatives of the two men say the men were subjected to brutal torture and even sexual abuse after they were picked up for allegedly keeping their stores open past permitted hours - Tamil Nadu is still observing a lockdown to curb the spread of Covid. Ms Ramadurai, a singer, and a radio jockey with a popular radio station in Chennai (formerly Madras) is a familiar name in Tamil Nadu's capital city. She ends the video saying, "Let's fight the system. Wherever you are in the world, share this video." What followed was extraordinary. Her video ended up getting more than 20 million views and set off a chain reaction across social media. Video posts detailing the case started popping up in regional languages, calling for justice for the two men. It then made it way on to national news with trends emerging on Twitter and Instagram as politicians, cricketers, business personalities, comedians and Bollywood actors tweeted about the case. With mounting national outrage over the incident, the case was handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation - a federal investigation agency.
7-17-20 Coronavirus: US v other countries... did it mess up its reopening?
While European countries have managed to keep new infections at bay, by the time most Americans had emerged from lockdown restrictions, a second surge in cases was already under way. Were the requirements met to safely reopen and how much testing was actually being done?
7-17-20 US military effectively bans Confederate flag with new policy
The Confederate flag can no longer be flown on US military properties after the Pentagon issued a new policy to reject displays of "divisive symbols". Defence Secretary Mark Esper did not name the flag in a memo announcing the rules, but the policy effectively bans the secessionist banner. The Confederacy was the group of southern states that fought to keep slavery during the US Civil War. Recent protests have renewed calls to ban the Confederate flag across the US. In his memo to senior defence leaders, Mr Esper said: "Flags are powerful symbols, particularly in the military community for whom flags embody common mission, common histories, and the special, timeless bond of warriors." He said that the US 'Stars and Stripes' flag is the principal flag the military is encouraged to display. Other flags "must accord with the military imperatives of good order and discipline, treating all our people with dignity and respect, and rejecting divisive symbols". The memo contains a list of acceptable flags, including those belonging to US states and territories, military services, and US allies, partners and member organisations, like Nato. The policy applies to all public displays of flags by soldiers and civilians in all areas of the Department. The Confederate flag is not listed among these, though no there is no reference of a specific ban. The display of unauthorised flags in museums, historical or educational displays, artwork and similar monuments - "where the nature of the display or depiction cannot reasonably be viewed as endorsement" is still allowed. "With this change in policy, we will further improve the morale, cohesion, and readiness of the force in defence of our great Nation," Mr Esper wrote. Other branches of the military, including the Navy and Marines, recently took steps to ban the flag ahead of the departmental guidance. President Donald Trump has previously defended the use of the Confederate flag as free speech. In an interview with CBS News on Saturday, the president said: "I know people that like the Confederate flag and they're not thinking about slavery...I just think it's freedom of speech. Whether it's Confederate flags or Black Lives Matter, or anything else you want to talk about, it's freedom of speech." (Webmaster's comment: No, it is not! The confederate flag supports slavery!)
7-17-20 Portland protests: Federal agents 'abuse power' in arrests
Oregon Governor Kate Brown has accused US federal agents in unmarked cars who apparently detained protesters in Portland of a "blatant abuse of power". Federal officers, deployed by President Donald Trump, have also fired tear gas and less-lethal munitions into crowds of demonstrators. Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf called the protesters a "violent mob". Activists have been protesting against police brutality since George Floyd's killing in police custody on 25 May. On Friday evening local time, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said that the state justice department was filing a lawsuit against the federal government over the detention of protesters "without probable cause". "These tactics must stop," Ms Rosenblum said in a statement. "They not only make it impossible for people to assert their First Amendment rights to protest peacefully, they also create a more volatile situation on our streets." A report from Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) contained detailed accounts of witnesses who had seen federal law enforcement officers dressed in camouflage emerge from unmarked vehicles, grab protesters without explanation, and drive off. The last week has seen a violent escalation between protesters and federal agents, deployed two weeks ago by Mr Trump to quell civil unrest. Since at least 14 July, OPB reports, federal agents have been jumping out of unmarked vehicles throughout the city, and grabbing protesters seemingly without cause. Video checked by the broadcaster shows a protester, Mark Pettibone, describe how on 15 July he was "basically tossed" into a van containing armed people in body armour. Mr Pettibone said he was taken to a holding cell in a federal courthouse, where he was read his arrest rights. After he declined to answer questions, he was released without any citation or arrest record. According to OPB, federal officers have charged at least 13 people with crimes related to the protests so far. Some have been detained around the federal courthouse that the agents were sent to protect, but others were seized streets away from federal property, reports the Associated Press. (Webmaster's comment: Trump echos Hitler's behavior! No protesting allowed!)
7-17-20 How did Australia lose its grip on covid-19 and can it get it back?
Australia was tantalisingly close to eliminating the coronavirus, but is now seeing a surge in new cases. What went wrong and can it regain control? The country was initially able to contain covid-19 by closing its border to non-nationals, quarantining citizens returning from abroad, implementing stay-at-home orders throughout the country, and conducting widespread testing and contact tracing. This brought the number of new confirmed cases down from 460 on 28 March to between two and 17 per day in early June. However, since mid-June, there has been a resurgence, with around 300 to 400 new cases now being reported daily. As of 17 July the country has passed 11,000 cases and recorded 116 deaths, 14 of which are linked to the latest outbreak. Most new infections are occurring in the state of Victoria, with a smaller outbreak in neighbouring New South Wales. Victoria’s covid-19 spike cannot be pinned to its lifting of stay-at-home orders or testing strategy, since its policies have closely matched the rest of Australia, which has remained relatively virus-free. Like other states and territories, Victoria started to relax its stay-at-home orders in mid-May, has offered tests to anyone with even mild cold or flu symptoms, and conducted extensive contact tracing. Instead, the new outbreak appears to be related to mismanagement of quarantine facilities. Australia’s border has been closed to non-nationals since 20 March, while Australian citizens and permanent residents have been allowed back in on the condition that they stay in supervised quarantine hotels for two weeks. Most states and territories have deployed police and defence personnel to manage these facilities, but Victoria employed private security contractors. Several private security contractors have since caught the virus from quarantined individuals, allegedly due to breaches in infection control measures, and then spread it to the wider community. Genomic sequencing has linked a significant number of the state’s new infections back to these security guards, prompting the Victorian government to launch a judicial inquiry.
7-17-20 Coronavirus: India's Covid-19 cases surge past one million
India added a record number of Covid-19 cases - nearly 35,000 - in the last 24 hours, breaching the one million mark. It has the world's third-largest case load, after the US and Brazil - the only three countries so far to record more than a million coronavirus cases. India's active cases account for about a third of its total tally as it has been reporting a high recovery rate and a low death rate from the virus. But deaths have been rising. At 25,602, they are eighth-highest in the world. India's number of cases has been on the rise - with nearly record daily surges - in recent weeks. It overtook Russia earlier this month to occupy the third spot for the highest number of coronavirus cases globally. Although India confirmed its first case at the end of January, the pandemic took hold slowly. Experts believe it was staved off to some extent because of an early decision by the government - in March - to stop all international flights and enter a strict lockdown that lasted nearly two months. But the restrictions came at a devastating economic and human cost, and after India reopened at the end of June and testing increased, case numbers soared. Experts say the capital, Delhi, and some other states squandered the opportunity given by the lockdown to test, trace and isolate effectively. While the capital territory has since seen a dip in cases, they continue to rise in other parts of India. The western state of Maharashtra is still the biggest hotspot with the highest case count- more than 280,000 - among all the states. But potential new hotspots are emerging as states in the south - Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh - and in the east - Bihar, West Bengal - record a rapid rise in daily case numbers. They have responded with local lockdowns - the southern city of Chennai (Madras) has emerged from a recent lockdown and Bangalore, also in the south, is currently under a week-long lockdown. Although India has fully reopened, intermittent local lockdowns are likely to be the new normal as the country wrestles with the pandemic.
7-17-20 Coronavirus: Georgia governor sues Atlanta over face mask rules
The governor of Georgia is suing Atlanta authorities to prevent the US city from enforcing its requirement to wear masks in public, along with other coronavirus-related restrictions. Governor Brian Kemp said Atlanta's Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms lacked the authority to implement the rule. Mr Kemp signed an executive order earlier this week voiding mask mandates across the state. But Ms Bottoms said this would not stop Atlanta from enforcing its ordinance. America continues to remain at the epicentre of the global pandemic, with more than 70,000 new cases reported on Thursday - a record daily jump in known infections. The majority of state governors have now ordered that the wearing of masks outdoors be mandatory, rather than a personal choice. Among them are Republican governors, including Kay Ivey of Alabama, who have reversed their initial opposition to the mandates. Georgia's governor has sought to bar any mandatory requirements for face masks in public places, suggesting it should be a personal choice instead. But officials in several Georgia cities and counties have defied this. Mayor Bottoms, who tested positive for coronavirus last week and is under quarantine, said the order would not stop Atlanta from enforcing its own rules. Governor Kemp's lawsuit, filed on Thursday, seeks to overturn Atlanta's rule on masks, along with the mayor's order that it return to Phase 1 of reopening, requiring people to shelter at home and restaurants to close their dining rooms. In a statement, Mr Kemp said he was taking the action "on behalf of the Atlanta business owners and their hardworking employees who are struggling to survive during these difficult times". "I refuse to sit back and watch as disastrous policies threaten the lives and livelihoods of our citizens," he added.
7-17-20 EU's 'moment of truth' as leaders seek Covid funding deal
EU leaders are meeting in their first face-to-face summit since the coronavirus crisis, with low expectations of a deal on a €750bn (£670bn) post-Covid stimulus package. The mask-wearing leaders, who met with elbow bumps not handshakes, must also agree a seven-year, €1.07tn budget. French President Emmanuel Macron said it was a "moment of truth" for Europe. There are splits between leaders over whether the post-Covid package should be given as grants or loans. Mr Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel want grants to mostly finance the fund. Four northern nations insist on loans. Arriving for the talks in Brussels, Mrs Merkel said "the differences are very very big and I cannot say if we will find a solution this time". It would be desirable, she said, but people had to remain realistic. Other leaders gave her and Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa birthday gifts - however, the good-natured scenes inside the summit come after weeks of squabbling over the rescue package. The meeting is due to continue on Saturday but EU leaders may need longer to reach a deal. "The stakes couldn't be higher," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said ahead of the meeting. "The whole world is watching us." Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said nobody should lose sight of the big picture - "we're faced with the biggest economic depression since the Second World War". But Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose country is part of the so-called "Frugal Four" northern states, said he "put the chances of getting a deal this weekend at less than 50%". Southern states including Italy and Spain want an urgent decision "not weakened by a lesser compromise", in the words of Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. They need to revive economies battered by a devastating pandemic that claimed 35,000 lives in Italy and a further 28,400 in Spain. The Frankfurt-based European Central Bank has already forecast an 8.7% slump in the eurozone economy this year because of the pandemic. But economies that only recently pulled out of a financial crisis want grants rather than taking on further debt.
7-17-20 Calls to change justice system 'stacked against' indigenous Australians
Successive governments have struggled to narrow the chasm between indigenous and non-indigenous people in Australia. The gap has been called a national shame – and nowhere is it more pronounced than in youth detention. More than half the children locked up are indigenous – despite Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people making up only 3% of the population.
7-16-20 Covid-19 news: Plans announced to further ease restrictions in England
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. New plans announced for further easing of restrictions in England. UK prime minister Boris Johnson today announced plans for further easing of restrictions in England between now and the end of the year. People in England can now use public transport for any journey, and from 25 July indoor gyms, pools and other sports facilities will be allowed to reopen across the nation. On 1 August the government will update its advice about people going to work, with employers expected to be given more responsibility to determine how and where their staff can work safely. But on Thursday, the government’s chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance told MPs there was “absolutely no reason” to change current guidance on working from home. “Working from home for many companies remains a perfectly good option because it’s easy to do,” he said. Further changes to current restrictions are also planned for 1 August, including the reopening of beauticians, bowling alleys, skating rinks and casinos. Wedding receptions with up to 30 guests will also be allowed from this date. The US recorded more than 70,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday – a record-high number of daily new cases for the US and the world, surpassing the country’s previous record from one week ago. 14 states reported more than 1000 daily new cases, with more than 13,000 new cases confirmed in Florida alone. In the US as a whole, there have been more than 3.5 million coronavirus cases and more than 138,000 deaths from covid-19 since the pandemic began.
7-16-20 North Carolina's Asheville unanimously approves reparations for slavery
The city council of Asheville, North Carolina, has unanimously voted to give financial reparations to black people amid a surge in debate about the issue. Reparations - financial compensation to the descendants of enslaved people - have long been hotly contested. Asheville becomes one of the first US cities to approve reparations, joining the city of Evanston, Illinois, which approved a reparations measure in 2019. Evanston is taxing the legal cannabis industry to help the black community. The 7-0 vote passed on Tuesday night, just days after the county's health board declared racism a public health crisis. In Asheville, the money will not come in the form of direct payments, but rather as investments in areas where black Americans still face discrimination and disparity in opportunity. "Hundreds of years of black blood spilled that basically fills the cup we drink from today," said Councilman Keith Young, one of two black council members and a sponsor of the bill. "It is simply not enough to remove statues. Black people in this country are dealing with issues that are systemic in nature," he said after the bill passed. The resolution also apologises for the city government's historic role in slavery, as well as its role in the discrimination and oppression of African-Americans. According to the bill, the money will go towards affordable housing, business and home ownership, career opportunities, "strategies to grow equity and generational wealth, closing the gaps in health care, education, employment and pay, neighbourhood safety and fairness within criminal justice". Rob Thomas, a community activist who advocated for the bill, told NPR that the resolution is "asking you to look at the facts, and saying, yeah, this happened". "This many people died. This much money was taken out of the black community and it would equal this much today," he continued. "We're asking for people to do what is right." The resolution also calls for a panel of experts to convene to determine how best to invest the public funding over the coming year. The bill was passed weeks after thousands of protesters rallied in Asheville for the police to be defunded amid nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd. Asheville is not the first city to pass a reparations bill, but it is one of the first, according to experts.
7-16-20 In pictures: How coronavirus swept through Brazil
Brazil's coronavirus outbreak is one of the world's most severe, with more than 2m cases recorded since March. In fact, it is the second worst affected country behind the US. More than 74,000 people have died with the virus there and, owing to a lack of testing, the true figures are believed to be even higher. Here, we illustrate how the pandemic has played out in the South American country. The outbreak took some time to reach Brazil and it was the Amazonas region which was badly hit by the first wave of cases. In the state capital Manaus, a man can be seen arranging coffins at a funeral parlour. Officials warned that the stock of coffins in the region was likely to run out. They were forced to dig large burial sites as deaths spiked, and poverty and malnutrition made tackling the virus in the heart of the Amazon rainforest a major challenge. Indigenous communities have been among the worst affected by the virus and Manaus is home to a large proportion of them. Many of their homes are situated far away from health facilities. On the outskirts of the city, nurse Vanderlecia Ortega dos Santos, responded to the crisis by volunteering to care for her indigenous community of 700 families. And here, people can be seen moving a coffin in a rural community in the northern state of Pará. It was later buried in a cemetery at the mouth of the Amazon river. But it was not long before the virus spread to major cities such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Cases then began to rise sharply. In May, São Paulo's mayor warned that its underfunded health system was on the verge of collapse as it became a new hotspot for Covid-19. He said demand for hospital beds had skyrocketed. This hospital, built inside a sports gym in the city, is one of many makeshift facilities that opened up. But despite the rise in cases there was still no national lockdown. States and cities adopted their own measures, but these were met by protests and data later showed that compliance lessened as time went on. Stay-at-home orders and other restrictions were criticised by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who denounced them as "dictatorial". He even joined anti-lockdown protests in the capital, Brasilia. This image shows supporters of the president at a separate demonstration in Rio de Janeiro.
7-16-20 Say Her Name: 'Black women are killed by police too'
Black women in the US are disproportionately more likely to be killed by police than white women. Despite this, the campaign group Say Her Name believes deaths of black women at the hands of police are overlooked compared to deaths of black men like George Floyd. One of their members, Gina Best, talks about the fatal shooting of her daughter India Kager, and asks why black women like her are "erased".
7-16-20 Del Mar: Racing suspended as 15 jockeys at US track test positive for coronavirus
Racing has been suspended at a track in the United States after 15 jockeys tested positive for coronavirus. Meetings scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Del Mar will not be held. All jockeys set to ride at the track in California were checked after leading riders Flavien Prat and Victor Espinoza tested positive. Officials say the affected jockeys were asymptomatic, are isolating at home and they hope to resume action at the course on 24 July. "Assuming these individuals continue to show no symptoms, they will be isolated for a total of 10 days and should be able to resume their usual activities, including riding after that time," said Dr Eric McDonald, medical director of San Diego epidemiology and immunisation department. The season at Del Mar began on 10 July without spectators because of the coronavirus pandemic. Safety measures for those taking part included temperature checks, face covering and social distancing requirements, additional hand washing and sanitiser stations, and regular disinfecting of all common areas. Del Mar chief executive Joe Harper said: "Cancelling this weekend's races will give us additional time to monitor the situation and give the individuals who tested positive additional time to recover." Espinoza rode American Pharoah in 2015 to become the first US Triple Crown winner for 37 years. Umberto Rispoli, another jockey to test positive, said: "I'm feeling more than well, quarantined, and looking forward to coming back stronger then before." All but one of the jockeys rode at the recent meeting at Los Alamitos in California.
7-15-20 Covid-19 news: US vaccine candidate set to enter final trials
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Moderna coronavirus vaccine candidate deemed safe in first human trial A coronavirus vaccine candidate developed by US company Moderna and the US National Institutes of Health, a medical research organisation, is expected to become the first in the US to enter the final stage of clinical testing. Preliminary results suggested it is safe and able to induce an immune response against the virus. Moderna plans to enter phase III clinical trials on 27 July, and hopes to test the vaccine on 30,000 people, including those whose circumstances put them at high-risk of getting infected with the coronavirus. All 45 volunteers who received the experimental vaccine as part of the phase I trial for safety were found to have developed antibodies against the coronavirus in their blood, and none had serious side effects. These volunteers were younger adults, and preliminary tests on older adults are currently under review. “No matter how you slice this, this is good news,” US government health advisor Anthony Fauci told the Associated Press. There are currently 23 coronavirus vaccine candidates in clinical trials around the world. Face coverings will not be mandatory in offices in England, the UK’s health minister Matt Hancock told MPs on Tuesday. This followed the government’s earlier announcement that people in England will be required to wear face coverings in shops and supermarkets starting on 24 July. “The reason is that in offices you tend to spend a lot of time with the same people, and so the way to stop the spread of the virus in offices is to have social distancing, either two metres or one metre plus mitigations in place,” Hancock said on BBC Radio 4 today. Epidemiologist Rowland Kao at the University of Edinburgh says contact tracing is also more straightforward in offices. “Contact tracing is going to be vital in preventing a large outbreak,” says Kao, adding that reducing infections due to casual contact will play a big role in allowing contact tracing to work well. New Zealand must be prepared for new coronavirus outbreaks, the country’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern told journalists today. She said New Zealand would use local lockdowns to contain any new outbreaks, with nationwide lockdowns imposed if necessary. New Zealand’s strategy is aimed at completely eliminating the virus from the country.
7-15-20 Coronavirus: US disease chief Dr Anthony Fauci calls White House attacks 'bizarre'
US infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci has described recent efforts by the Trump administration to discredit him as "bizarre" and "nonsense". "Ultimately, it hurts the president to do that," Dr Fauci said in an interview with The Atlantic. "It doesn't do anything but reflect poorly on them." On Sunday, a White House official shared a list detailing past apparent erroneous comments by Dr Fauci. But on Wednesday Mr Trump insisted he had a "good relationship" with him. "We're all in the same team including Dr Fauci," he said. "We want to get rid of this mess that China sent us, so everybody's working on the same line and we're doing very well." The White House statement attacking Dr Fauci criticised him for what it said was conflicting advice on face coverings and remarks on Covid-19's severity. Responding to the criticism, Dr Fauci told The Atlantic that targeting him was "completely wrong". "I cannot figure out in my wildest dreams why they would want to do that," he said. "I think they realise now that that was not a prudent thing to do, because it's only reflecting negatively on them," he added. Dr Fauci was also criticised by Peter Navarro, Mr Trump's top trade adviser, in an opinion piece for USA Today in which he said the disease expert had been "wrong about everything I have interacted with him on". However, the White House distanced itself from Mr Navarro's remarks, with communications chief Alyssa Farah tweeting that the article "didn't go through normal White House clearance processes" and was "the opinion of Peter alone". Asked about Mr Navarro's piece as he departed the White House for Atlanta, Mr Trump said he should not have written it. "Well he made a statement representing himself. He shouldn't be doing that," he said. In his interview with The Atlantic, Dr Fauci said he was not thinking of resigning over the attacks on him. "I think the problem is too important for me to get into those kinds of thoughts and discussions. I just want to do my job. I'm really good at it. I think I can contribute. And I'm going to keep doing it," he said.
7-15-20 Covid-19 news: Coronavirus restrictions reimposed around the world
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Restrictions reimposed around the world as global cases pass 13 million. Tighter lockdown restrictions and social distancing measures in the US, Hong Kong, the Philippines and other countries are being reimposed as states and cities attempt to control new waves of coronavirus cases. The governor of California yesterday closed all bars in the state and ordered restaurants, cinemas and museums to halt indoor operations, reversing the reopening of these venues in mid-June. Today authorities in Hong Kong imposed new social distancing measures including making masks mandatory on public transport, limiting the size of gatherings to four people and closing Hong Kong Disneyland less than a month after it reopened. In Manila, in the Philippines, a quarter of a million people are expected to be put back under lockdown later this week to try to slow down the spread of infections. In the UK, tighter restrictions could be imposed on people in Blackburn after a spike in coronavirus cases. Face coverings will become compulsory in shops and supermarkets in England from 24 July and the police can issue £100 fines for those who don’t comply, the government announced today. Children under 11 and people with certain disabilities will be exempt. The government has been under growing pressure from scientific organisations, including the Royal Society and the recently formed Independent SAGE, to introduce legislation making face coverings mandatory in indoor spaces. World Health Organization guidelines also support the use of face coverings in confined or crowded places where physical distancing isn’t possible. More than 5 million workers in the US are estimated to have lost their health insurance this year due to the economic impact of the pandemic, according to a report by Families USA, an advocacy group for healthcare consumers. This is the highest increase since the 2008 financial crisis when 3.9 million adults became uninsured, according to the report. The coronavirus may be able to spread from a pregnant person to their fetus, suggests a case study published in Nature Communications. Tests of placental samples from this case study are consistent with transmission in the womb, physician and study author Daniele DeLuca at the Antoine Be´cle`re hospital in Paris told the Guardian. DeLuca said he suspects this isn’t the first such case, but this is the first time it has been confirmed that coronavirus was transmitted in the womb. The baby who tested positive for covid-19 developed brain inflammation a few days after birth, but he and his mother have both since recovered. The study builds on earlier, more preliminary evidence that the coronavirus can be spread via the placenta.
7-15-20 Coronavirus in South Africa: Inside Port Elizabeth's 'hospitals of horrors'
An exclusive, weeks-long BBC investigation inside filthy hospitals in South Africa has exposed an extraordinary array of systemic failures showing how exhausted doctors and nurses are overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients and a health service near collapse. With key staff on strike or sick with coronavirus in the Eastern Cape province, nurses are forced to act as cleaners, surgeons are washing their own hospital laundry and there are alarming reports of unborn babies dying in overcrowded and understaffed maternity wards. As doctors, unions and management fight over scarce resources, one senior doctor described the situation as "an epic failure of a deeply corrupt system", while another spoke of "institutional burn-out… a sense of chronic exploitation, the department of health essentially bankrupt, and a system on its knees with no strategic management". The revelations come just as South Africa - which held the coronavirus back for months with an early, tough, and economically devastating lockdown - now sees infection rates soar nationwide, prompting President Cyril Ramaphosa to warn that "the storm is upon us". The health crisis, focused on the city of Port Elizabeth, raises fundamental questions about how those extra months were used, or wasted, by officials. "There's a huge amount of fear, and of mental and emotional fatigue. We were working with a skeleton staff even before Covid-19 and now we're down another 30%," said Dr John Black. "Services are starting to crumble under the strain. Covid has opened up all the chronic cracks in the system. It's creating a lot of conflict," he said, confirming reports that patients had been "fighting for oxygen" supplies in a ward at Livingstone Hospital in Port Elizabeth. Dr Black - one of only two infectious disease specialists in a province with a population of about seven million - was the only doctor in Port Elizabeth who agreed to talk to us on the record, but a dozen nurses and doctors spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing they would lose their jobs if they were identified.
7-15-20 'You call me selfish for not wearing a mask?'
As the Sunshine State becomes a new coronavirus epicentre in the US, maskless Florida activists showed up in support of a restaurant owner's decision not to require face coverings. When authorities inspected the premises, activists Chris Nelson and Tara Hill led the crowd in a chant of "stand down". Florida has recorded nearly 300,000 cases of Covid-19.
7-15-20 Trump: 'What a terrible question to ask'
US President Donald Trump was asked by an interviewer why African Americans are still dying at the hands of law enforcement. What a terrible question to ask," he told CBS News correspondent Catherine Herridge. "So are white people." In fact, many studies have shown that black Americans are disproportionately likely to be killed in an encounter with US police. Description
7-15-20 Nick Cannon: US TV host fired by MTV owner in anti-Semitism row
Nick Cannon has been fired from his MTV show Wild 'N Out and other work for the channel's parent company, which said he had promoted anti-Semitic comments. ViacomCBS said a recent episode of his podcast Cannon's Class "promoted hateful speech and spread anti-Semitic conspiracy theories". In response, Cannon said he does "not condone hate speech nor the spread of hateful rhetoric". The star also presents The Masked Singer, which is made by Fox. He created Wild 'N Out, an improv series that has had 15 series, but which will now come to an end. He has also hosted a string of shows for the ViacomCBS-owned Nickelodeon channel over more than 20 years, and was named chairman of spin-off TeenNick in 2009. In a statement, the company said: "ViacomCBS condemns bigotry of any kind and we categorically denounce all forms of anti-Semitism." It added: "While we support ongoing education and dialogue in the fight against bigotry, we are deeply troubled that Nick has failed to acknowledge or apologise for perpetuating anti-Semitism, and we are terminating our relationship with him." In the 30 June episode of Cannon's Class, the presenter interviewed former Public Enemy rapper Professor Griff, who left the group in 1989 after saying Jews were "wicked". Professor Griff claimed to Cannon that he was talking about Jews controlling the media, and said: "I'm hated now because I told the truth." Cannon added: "You're speaking facts." The presenter called Professor Griff a "legend". He also said the "Semitic people are black people", and that: "You can't be anti-Semitic when we are the Semitic people." On social media, Cannon later said he had "no hate in my heart nor malice intentions" and that he held himself "accountable for this moment". Cannon was also criticised for comments that suggested white people were "less" than black people. The star hosted America's Got Talent on NBC from 2009 to 2016, hosts a morning radio show for KPWR in Los Angeles, and is due to launch a daytime talk show in September. He is also the former husband of singer Mariah Carey.
7-14-20 Winter wave of coronavirus 'could be worse than first'
The UK could see about 120,000 new coronavirus deaths in a second wave of infections this winter, scientists say. Asked to model a "reasonable" worst-case scenario, they suggest a range between 24,500 and 251,000 of virus-related deaths in hospitals alone, peaking in January and February. To date, there have been 44,830 official deaths in the UK, but this has slowed with 1,100 in July. The estimate does not take into account any lockdowns, treatments or vaccines. And the scientists say: "The risk... could be reduced if we take action immediately". The report, requested by the UK's chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, stresses there is still a high degree of uncertainty over how the coronavirus pandemic will play out this winter. But research suggests the virus can survive longer in colder conditions and is more likely to spread when people spend more time indoors. And experts are concerned the NHS will be under extreme pressure, not just from a resurgence of coronavirus but also from seasonal flu and a backlog of regular, non-coronavirus workload. The health service is already severely disrupted in the aftermath of the first pandemic wave, with a waiting list that could stand at 10 million by the end of this year, the report says. Prof Stephen Holgate, a respiratory specialist from University Hospital Southampton NHS Trust, who chaired the report, said: "This is not a prediction - but it is a possibility. "The modelling suggests that deaths could be higher with a new wave of Covid-19 this winter. "But the risk of this happening could be reduced if we take action immediately." With relatively low numbers of coronavirus cases at the moment, "this is a critical window of opportunity to help us prepare for the worst that winter can throw at us", he added. Less pessimistic winter scenarios are also possible, with coronavirus deaths in the thousands.
7-14-20 Millions go back into lockdown around the world
Coronavirus surged as nightlife returned in Arizona. Cities and states on several continents reimpose restrictions as cases surge again. France awards health workers pay rises worth €8bn (£7.2bn; $9bn) after a series of protests. In England, face masks will be compulsory in shops from 24 July. More than 5m workers lost their health insurance in the US, a study says, a record. The UK could see about 120,000 new coronavirus deaths in a second wave of infections this winter. Singapore's economy plunges by 41% compared to the previous quarter. The number of confirmed global infections since the outbreak began passes 13m. Thailand bans international flights after Egyptian military visitors skipped quarantine.
7-14-20 Coronavirus: How did Florida get so badly hit by Covid-19?
Florida is fast becoming America's latest Covid-19 epicentre. The surge in the Sunshine State has been linked in part to younger Americans - but that doesn't mean there's no cause for concern. Like many Covid-19 stories, it started with a dry cough. Fever, loss of taste and chest pain followed Sanjay Bharath's diagnosis in early March. Mr Bharath, who is a hospital nurse in South Florida, says he caught the virus from a patient when the Covid-19 screening process for admissions was less strict. He was told to self-quarantine two days later. At 34 years old, Mr Bharath does not fall into a virus-vulnerable age group. But 14 days after that first contact, he had coughed up blood and checked into the hospital. Two days later, on 26 March, he was intubated. "I didn't think it was too bad," he says, describing his first couple of hours in the ER. "I honestly thought they weren't going to admit me at the hospital, just send me home with some sort of medication." As his symptoms worsened, Mr Bharath says he would wake up in a fever-sweat every six hours, feeling chills and lightheaded and unable to catch his breath. "I couldn't take a big breath without coughing and choking," he says. "It's like you're running a marathon constantly just by sitting down." Mr Bharath would remain on a ventilator for eight days. Florida has been averaging nearly 10,000 new cases per day for the last week. On 12 July, the state broke the national record by reporting 15,300 cases in a single day. A Reuters analysis on 12 July found if Florida were a country, it would be fourth in the world for most new cases in a day. As of 14 July, over 4,400 Floridians have died due to the virus and the state's weekly average has risen to 81 people each day by local counts. The same day saw the state's all-time highest daily death toll, with 132 reported deaths.
7-14-20 Coronavirus surged as nightlife returned in Arizona
Jimmy Flores used to think coronavirus was "fake news" until he got the virus and was in hospital for over a week. He thinks he contracted it from a night out after Arizona's governor lifted stay at home restrictions in May.But because of the spikes in cases the governor has mandated non-essential business close again.
7-14-20 Coronavirus: California reimposes sweeping restrictions amid virus spike
California has reimposed restrictions on businesses and public spaces amid a spike of coronavirus infections in America's most populous state. Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday ordered an immediate halt to all indoor activities at restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, zoos and museums. In the worst-affected counties of the south-western US state, churches, gyms and hairdressers will also close. California has more than 330,000 Covid-19 cases, with more than 7,000 deaths. The reimposition of the restrictions in the state with nearly 40 million people was prompted by a 20% rise in people testing positive in the past two weeks and increasing numbers of Californians are now needing intensive care. Infections have risen rapidly in about 40 of America's 50 states over the last two weeks, according to an analysis by Reuters news agency. Along with California, Florida, Arizona and Texas have emerged as centres of the pandemic. Towns and counties across Florida have been reinstating restrictions that were lifted in May when infections began to drop. But on the east coast, New York City - which in April had one of the highest Covid-19 death rates in the world - recorded no new fatalities from the disease for the first time in four months. There are currently more than 3.3 million confirmed Covid-19 cases across the country, and more than 135,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Governor Newsom warned on Monday that "this virus is not going away anytime soon". "I hope all of us recognise that if we were still connected to some notion that somehow when it gets warm it's going to go away or somehow it's going to take summer months or weekends off - this virus has done neither. "We are now effective today requiring all counties to close their indoor activities, their indoor operations in the following sectors: restaurants, wineries, tasting rooms, movie theatres, family entertainment centres, zoos and museums, card rooms and the shuttering of all bars. "This is in every county in the state of California."
7-14-20 Coronavirus: White House targets US disease chief Dr Anthony Fauci
US infectious disease chief Dr Anthony Fauci is being targeted by the Trump administration as tensions rise between the health expert and the president. The White House has been increasingly critical of Dr Fauci, and on Sunday, an official shared a list detailing past apparent erroneous comments. Dr Fauci's changing advice on masks and remarks on Covid-19's severity are among the points from the White House. The move to undercut him comes as the US continues to see surges in Covid-19. There are over 3.3 million cases confirmed and more than 135,000 deaths nationwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. Dr Fauci has contradicted President Donald Trump's comments on the pandemic a number of times, pushing back on the president's claims that the outbreak is improving and attributing hasty state reopenings to the recent surges. The White House memo leaked over the weekend had noted "several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr Fauci has been wrong on things". Though the White House said Dr Fauci and Mr Trump have a "good working relationship" on Monday, Trump adviser Peter Navarro told CBS News: "When you ask me if I listen to Dr Fauci's advice, my answer is only with caution." During a law enforcement event at the White House on Monday, Mr Trump said: "I have a very good relationship with Dr Fauci. I've had for a long time - right from the beginning. "I find him to be a very nice person. I don't always agree with him." The president added: "I get along with him very well. I like him personally." Mr Trump earlier on Monday retweeted comments from a game show host accusing "everyone", including the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), of lying about the coronavirus. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany later told reporters Mr Trump still had confidence in the CDC and the tweet was meant to express his displeasure with "some rogue individuals" who leaked planning documents.
7-14-20 Why are US coronavirus deaths going down as covid-19 cases soar?
Coronavirus deaths are falling in the US even as cases skyrocket. In the UK, a lower proportion of people hospitalised with covid-19 are dying. This has led to suggestions that the risk of dying if you are infected with the virus is falling, but the truth may be more complicated. “At this point, I don’t think we have conclusive evidence that the death rate is going down,” says Tessa Bold at Stockholm University in Sweden. Having plateaued at around 20,000 in May, the number of daily confirmed cases in the US began rising in June and has now exceeded 60,000. However, the number of deaths in the US reported as being due to covid-19 has fallen from more than 3000 a day in mid-April to well under 1000. There are several possible explanations for this. For starters, it could be a result of better treatments, including use of the steroid dexamethasone. Another reason why deaths aren’t tracking case numbers in the US could be the lag between people testing positive for the coronavirus and dying. Those who die usually do so around two weeks after developing symptoms and their deaths typically aren’t reported for another week. More widespread testing, no longer limited to those with serious symptoms, could mean that cases of coronavirus are being detected even earlier, increasing this lag. It could also be that most new cases are in younger people, whose risk of dying from the virus is far lower. The median age of those testing positive in the US is falling, suggesting that while older people continue to shelter and avoid infection, younger people are being infected as they return to work and socialising. “As this group begins to mingle with older relatives, we may see a spike in cases for the older,” says Richard Grewelle at Stanford University in California.
7-14-20 Remdesivir may work even better against COVID-19 than we thought
Data suggest antiviral can cut death risk in people, and stop virus growth in cells and mice. Remdesivir can not only speed recovery, but may cut the chance of dying of COVID-19, preliminary data released by the drug’s maker suggest. Among severely sick people, the antiviral drug reduced the risk of dying by 62 percent compared with standard care, the Foster City, Calif., drugmaker Gilead Sciences Inc. reported at a virtual scientific conference on July 10. Hospitalized people taking remdesivir had a 7.4 percent death rate two weeks after treatment started, while those not taking the drug had a 12.5 percent mortality rate, the company reported. The new data, along with another newly reported study in mice and human cells, add to evidence that remdesivir is effective as a treatment for the coronavirus. In a previous clinical trial run by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the drug shortened hospital stays by about four days, and showed a trend toward lower death rates that was not statistically meaningful (SN: 4/29/20). The new data come from two studies: a Phase III study of 312 patients, which was aimed at studying the efficacy of the drug, and a study that retrospectively examined the effect of the drug in 818 people with COVID-19. The company also found that 74.4 percent of people taking remdesivir recovered by day 14, compared with 59 percent of those getting standard care. Gilead also reported data on remdesivir given for “compassionate use” to children and pregnant women, meaning no other treatment was available and the individuals could not join a clinical trial. Of 77 pediatric patients taking remdesivir, 73 percent, or 56 kids, were released from the hospital by day 28. Twelve percent remained hospitalized but breathing on their own without needing extra oxygen, and 4 percent died. Among 86 infected women, the drug helped lessen the amount of extra oxygen needed in 96 percent of pregnant women and 89 percent of women who had newly given birth.
7-13-20 Coronavirus: Florida sets new state daily case record of 15,299
Florida has registered a state record of 15,299 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours - around a quarter of all of the United States' daily infections. The state, with just 7% of the US population, surpassed the previous daily record held by California. Florida, which began lifting coronavirus restrictions in May, has proved vulnerable due to tourism and an elderly population. Its figures eclipse the worst daily rates seen in New York in April. Florida also registered an additional 45 deaths. The state would rank fourth in the world for new cases if it were a country, according to a Reuters analysis. More than 40 hospitals in Florida say their intensive care facilities are at full capacity. The latest figures were released a day after Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida reopened, but with safety measures including mask-wearing and widespread use of sanitiser. The caseload in Florida has continued to rise despite Republican Governor Ron DeSantis ordering some bars to close again last month. The top adviser on the White House coronavirus taskforce, Dr Anthony Fauci, had criticised lockdown easing in the state, saying the data on infections did not support the move. Mr DeSantis has also declined to make mask-wearing obligatory. The issue of masks has become highly politicised in the United States, with opponents saying having to wear them encroaches on personal freedom. There have been demonstrations against masks and other coronavirus measures in several states. But on Saturday, President Donald Trump appeared wearing a mask in the public for the first time after previously casting doubt on their usefulness. He was visiting the Walter Reed military hospital outside Washington, where he met wounded soldiers and health care workers. "I've never been against masks but I do believe they have a time and a place," he said as he left the White House. The United States overall has been exceeding new daily totals of 60,000 cases for the past few days. Other states including Arizona, California and Texas continue to see a rising cases. Since the pandemic hit the US, more than 134,000 people there have died with Covid-19.
7-13-20 Coronavirus: Disney heir and Ben & Jerry’s call for higher taxes
Some of the world's richest people have urged governments to raise taxes on the wealthy to help pay for measures aimed at tackling the coronavirus pandemic. A group of 83 millionaires called for "permanent" change in an open letter. "As Covid-19 strikes the world, millionaires like us have a critical role to play in healing our world," it says. Signatories include heiress Abigail Disney and Ben & Jerry's co-founder Jerry Greenfield. The letter says: "No, we are not the ones caring for the sick in intensive care wards. We are not driving the ambulances that will bring the ill to hospitals. We are not restocking grocery store shelves or delivering food door to door. "But we do have money, lots of it. Money that is desperately needed now and will continue to be needed in the years ahead, as our world recovers from this crisis." People across seven countries have added their names to the letter including British film director Richard Curtis and Sir Stephen Tindall, the founder of the Warehouse Group and one of New Zealand's richest men. The group warned that the economic impact would "last for decades" and could push more than half a billion people into poverty. "Government leaders must take the responsibility for raising the funds we need and spending them fairly," the letter says. It was released ahead of this weekend's G20 finance ministers and central bank governors' meeting. The group called on politicians to "acknowledge that tax increases on the wealthy and greater international tax transparency are essential for a viable long-term solution". The letter was organised by Oxfam, Patriotic Millionaires, Human Act, Tax Justice UK, Club of Rome, Resource Justice, and Bridging Ventures. It is the latest call for the world's wealthiest to contribute more in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis. Jeff Bezos, the world's richest person and founder of Amazon, has added billions to his fortune as demand for online shopping has soared, pushing up the firm's share price. Critics pointed out that while Mr Bezos donated $100m to food banks in the US, that came to less than 0.1% of his estimated fortune.
7-13-20 Washington Redskins to retire controversial team name following review
The Washington Redskins American football team has said it will retire its name, long criticised as racist. In a statement, the team said it would "be retiring the Redskins name and logo upon completion of a review" demanded by its sponsors. Its major sponsors recently threatened to pull funding from the NFL team unless it considered renaming itself. The Washington DC-based team has faced years of pressure over a name seen as offensive to Native Americans. Team owner Dan Synder had been a boyhood fan of the team - which was named the Redskins in 1933 when it was still based in Boston - and had vowed to never change the moniker of the 87-year-old team. But amid protests over police brutality and racism, major sponsors FedEx, Nike, Pepsi and Bank of America all called on Mr Snyder to consider finally changing the name. Last week, Amazon, Walmart and Target, Nike and and other retail stores removed team merchandise from their websites. ESPN also said it would stop using the team logo, which depicts a Native American man. The announcement does not immediately change the name of the team, and a new one must be chosen before the 2020 season begins in September. The team's official website maintains the current team name, as does the team's official Twitter handle. Some names that have been suggested as replacements include the Washington Senators; the Washington Warriors; and the Washington Red Tails. The NFL team is not the first Washington DC sports franchise to change it name amid shifting cultural attitudes. In 1995, the NBA's Washington Bullets were renamed the Wizards after the team owner said he had become uncomfortable with the name's violent overtones. The Redskins moved to Washington DC in 1937 and was founded by businessman George Person Marshall, who believed in racial segregation. They were the last team to allow black players onto the team, and only did so after the government threatened to revoke the lease on their stadium in 1962. Last month, a statue of Marshall was removed from the stadium's grounds after it was vandalised.
7-13-20 Wounds of Dutch history expose deep racial divide
Bronze statues of colonial icons have been spray-painted. Black Lives Matter protests have broken out. And now the Dutch parliament has backed a petition by three teenage women requesting the addition of racism to the school curriculum. Winds of change are swirling around the cobblestones of The Hague. Faced with a strong colonial past and a legacy of slavery, the Dutch are being asked to take a more impartial look at their history. "We're still a very white nation," says Mirjam de Bruijn, an anthropologist at Leiden University. "Our colonial legacy is visible every day in our streets. There's an inherent racism and acceptance of inequality. Racism is inside all of us." What happened in Minnesota found echoes here too. In June, more than 50,000 people knelt during demonstrations across the Netherlands. "We have deaths of people who died like George Floyd, but still no arrests," explains poet and campaigner Jerry Afriyie, who has been detained at a number of anti-racism protests. He points to two recent deaths in Dutch police custody. Tomy Holten died an hour after he was arrested on 14 March, after reportedly causing a nuisance in a supermarket in the central city of Zwolle. Images appear to show one of the arresting officers pressing his foot down on his face. In 2015, Mitch Henriquez died after being arrested for allegedly claiming he had a gun at a music festival in The Hague. An officer was given a six-month suspended sentence for applying the neck grip that killed him. Mr Afriyie believes the Netherlands has problems with "white-supremacy" sentiment and he has his own experience: "I was put in a choke-hold and had to struggle for my life." Protesters complain of institutional racism and a disconnect between a society that sees itself as anti-racist and the actual experience of black people within it. There is a distinct absence of black MPs in the current Dutch parliament. And that reflects a sense of invisibility felt by many.
7-12-20 US virus cases hit new daily record
The US - the country hardest hit by the coronavirus - on Saturday posted more than 66,000 new cases, a daily record. (Webmaster's comment: A surge in deaths will surely follow!) President Donald Trump finally wore a mask in public for the first time since the pandemic began. Amitabh Bachchan, one of India's best known film actors, has tested positive for Covid-19. India has seen another surge in infections, rising to over 820,000. Michael Gove says he does not support mandatory face masks in shops in England amid calls for clarity. Scotland's first minister says she wouldn't shy away from requiring visitors from England to quarantine if necessary. More than 12.7m cases of Covid-19 have been reported globally, and 565,000 deaths.
7-12-20 Coronavirus: Donald Trump wears face mask for the first time
US President Donald Trump has worn a mask in public for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The president was visiting the Walter Reed military hospital outside Washington, where he met wounded soldiers and health care workers. "I've never been against masks but I do believe they have a time and a place," he said as he left the White House. He has previously said that he would not wear a mask and mocked Democratic rival Joe Biden for doing so. But on Saturday he said: "I think when you're in a hospital, especially in that particular setting, where you're talking to a lot of soldiers and people that, in some cases, just got off the operating tables, I think it's a great thing to wear a mask." The change of tone came as the US recorded 66,528 coronavirus cases on Saturday, a new daily record. He added that he "sort of liked" how he looked with one on, likening himself to the Lone Ranger, a fictional masked hero who with his Native American friend, Tonto, fought outlaws in the American Old West. But when the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in April began recommending people wear masks or cloth coverings in public to help stop the spread of the virus, Mr Trump told reporters he would not follow the practice. "I don't think I'm going to be doing it," he said back then. "Wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens - I just don't see it." Some media reports have suggested aides have repeatedly asked the president to wear one in public. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last month, Mr Trump suggested some people might wear masks to signal disapproval of him. He also said he took issue with people touching their faces after taking their mask off. "They put their finger on the mask, and they take them off, and then they start touching their eyes and touching their nose and their mouth. And then they don't know how they caught it?" he said.
7-12-20 Coronavirus: President Trump wears face mask for first time
US President Donald Trump has been seen wearing a face mask for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Speaking before his visit to Walter Reed military hospital outside Washington, he told reporters he would "probably" wear a mask and that he had "never been against" them - they just had "a time and a place". President Trump previously mocked political rival Joe Biden for wearing one and said he would not put a mask on.
7-12-20 Walt Disney World reopens in Florida amid Covid-19 surge
Walt Disney World Resort has begun to reopen in Florida despite a coronavirus surge across the US state. The site's Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom opened on Saturday. Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios are expected to follow from 15 July. Visitors will be required to wear masks and adhere to other safety measures across the complex in Orlando. More than a quarter of a million cases of Covid-19 have been reported in Florida, along with 4,197 deaths. Disney first closed the resort in March during the early months of America's outbreak. While infections were largely concentrated in New York and California at first, Florida is among several states recording a rise in cases in recent weeks. In Orange County, where the resort is based, authorities have reported 16,630 cases - some of the highest numbers in Florida. As a result, many cities and counties across Florida have reinstated restrictions that were lifted in May when infections began to drop. Despite the outbreak, hundreds of people made their way to the Disney flagship resort on Saturday. Some of its competitors, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando, reopened to visitors several weeks ago. Disney has also resumed limited operations at its four parks in Asia, and at Disney Springs - an outdoor shopping mall in Orlando. Disney reported a $1.4bn (£1.1bn) hit to profits in the first three months of the year. "The world is changing around us, but we strongly believe that we can open safely and responsibly," said Josh D'Amaro, Disney's theme park chairman, in an interview with the New York Times. "Covid is here, and we have a responsibility to figure out the best approach to safely operate in this new normal."
7-12-20 U.S. seafood workers fight unsafe job conditions amid pandemic
A coronavirus outbreak among workers at a Louisiana crawfish processing plant kicked off a legal battle with their employers over dangerous working conditions during the pandemic. For the past four years, Reyna Isabel Alvarez Navarro has reported to work at a crawfish processing plant in Crowley, Louisiana, bundled in two pairs of pants, two sweaters, and a hat. She spent her days inside a freezing room where up to 100 employees worked elbow to elbow peeling crawfish. The cold, crowded conditions weren't new for the 36-year-old seasonal worker from northern Mexico. But it turned out to be the perfect setting for the novel coronavirus to spread: This spring, several dozen workers in the plant fell ill with COVID-19, including Alvarez Navarro. Her working conditions also made it difficult for her to obtain medical care. Alvarez Navarro and other migrant workers from her region have come to Louisiana and other states in the U.S. every year on H-2B visas for temporary foreign workers. They stayed for the crawfish farming season, which usually runs from January to July, and lived in employer-provided dorms along with up to 40 people. They were paid $2.50 per pound of peeled crawfish — amounting to $600 to $700 per week. H-2B workers rely on their employers for things like transportation and housing. H-2B workers' visas tie them to their employer, explained Evy Peña, communications director with Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, a migrant worker's rights group with offices in Mexico and the U.S. Workers rely on their employers for things like transportation and housing. "And this means that their access to basic services, including food and medical services, depends on their job," Peña said. But Alvarez Navarro's employer did not provide her with health care or help her obtain it — not even after placing her and many of her co-workers in quarantine once they showed symptoms of the coronavirus. Their effort to seek treatment kicked off a legal battle with their employer over dangerous work conditions for seasonal workers during the pandemic. While the Trump administration is temporarily suspending some employment-based visas, visas for workers essential to the food chain are still being granted. Crawfish is one of Louisiana's largest industries — and amid the pandemic, seafood workers are considered essential. The seafood industry could face some of the same problems the meatpacking and poultry industries saw earlier this year: meat shortages and plant closures after workers fell ill. Alvarez Navarro started feeling ill in April. First came headaches. Then a cough and shortness of breath. Many others fell ill too. Most kept working, but at some point, Alvarez Navarro and many others became too ill to work. Without access to treatment, Alvarez and another sick co-worker, Maribel Hernandez Villadares, decided to go to a hospital with the help of a friend who spoke English. "And when the friend called our boss, the boss said he had reported us to immigration authorities because we had run away," said Hernandez Villadares, a 29-year-old worker with several crawfish harvest seasons under her belt. Without a job, H-2B workers don't have the authorization to work in the U.S. — and that creates a domino effect, Peña said. (Webmaster's comment: Corporations are always Profits first, Safety second!)
7-12-20 This police-free protest zone was dismantled - but was it the end?
On 8 June, after a number of increasingly dangerous clashes between protesters and law enforcement, police officers in a popular area of downtown Seattle abandoned their precinct. Hundreds of activists, who had been demonstrating against police brutality since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May, then flocked to the neighbourhood and set up a peaceful occupied protest. There, they distributed free food and medical supplies, planted community gardens, and held film screenings and workshops. One small group painted a large, bright statement on a wall within the zone: "Black Lives Matter". The area was declared the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone - or Chaz, for short. It was to be a police-free, self-governing utopia. A few days later, in an interview with CNN on 11 June, the city's Democratic mayor Jenny Durkan said the zone could herald a "summer of love". Protester Grace Morgan, from Portland, Oregon, told the BBC that she travelled up to the Chaz about a week after it had been established. "It was absolutely astonishing," she said. "There was a food co-op, as well as a full medics corner with actual doctors from around the city that had volunteered, and had their own ambulance. There were classes, lectures, speakers, poetry, lots of live music, huge works of art… It was really beautiful." Crucially, Chaz had the official backing of socialist councilmember Kshama Sawant. "The idea of occupation isn't a new one, and it's an immensely powerful idea as a part of protest movements," Ms Sawant told the BBC. "Not only social movements on the streets, but also in workplace actions through history." The initial success of Chaz, which later came to be known as Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (Chop), inspired activists across the US. On 18 June another autonomous zone sprung up in Portland, Oregon. It was declared the Patrick Kimmons Autonomous Zone, or PKAZ, named after a 27-year-old black man who was killed by Portland police in September 2018. (Webmaster's comment: We need the police, but we don't need their racist, white nationalist, Klan and Neo-Nazi Members.)
7-12-20 Fox News: Tucker Carlson writer Blake Neff resigns over racist messages
A top writer for Fox News host Tucker Carlson has resigned after posting racist and sexist comments online. Blake Neff, who joined Tucker Carlson Tonight in 2017, resigned on Friday after a CNN investigation. It found that Mr Neff regularly used highly offensive language on an online forum called AutoAdmit under the name CharlesXII. Fox News described the posts as "horrendous and deeply offensive". Mr Carlson is yet to comment. There were many posts under the pseudonym including derogatory comments African-Americans, Asian-Americans and women. These included: "Black doods staying inside playing Call of Duty is probably one of the biggest factors keeping crime down" and "honestly given how tired black people always claim to be, maybe the real crisis is their lack of sleep." He also maintained a thread harassing a woman and posted information about her personal life. The posts came to light after CNN received a tip-off that CharlesXII was in fact Mr Neff. They were able to identify him by matching up content in his messages with publicly available information about him. "Neff's abhorrent conduct on this forum was never divulged to the show or the network until Friday, at which point we swiftly accepted his resignation," the network said in an internal memo. "Make no mistake, actions such as his cannot and will not be tolerated at any time in any part of our work force." Fox said Mr Carlson would address the topic in his show on Monday. The conservative broadcaster has referred to Mr Neff as a "wonderful writer" in the past. In a recent interview with the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, Mr Neff said that when Mr Carlson read scripts off his teleprompter, "the first draft was written by me". (Webmaster's comment: Another right-wing racist bastard bites the dust!)
7-12-20 Roger Stone: Robert Mueller defends indictment over Russia probe
Former US special counsel Robert Mueller has made a rare public intervention to defend his indictment of former Trump adviser Roger Stone. Stone was found guilty on charges linked to an investigation led by Mr Mueller that found Russia tried to boost the Trump 2016 election campaign. President Donald Trump commuted Stone's 40-month jail sentence on Friday saying he was the victim of a "witch-hunt". In the Washington Post, Mr Mueller said Stone was rightly a convicted felon. Stone was convicted of obstruction, witness tampering and lying to Congress. The president's move - sparing Stone from jail but not granting him a pardon - came just after a court denied Stone's request to delay the start date of his prison term. Leading Democrats and a few Republicans have condemned Mr Trump's decision, saying it undermined the justice system. The White House said that Department of Justice prosecutors under Mr Mueller only charged Stone out of frustration after failing to prove the "fantasy" that the Trump campaign had colluded with the Kremlin. Mr Mueller writes that he felt compelled to respond to claims that his investigation had been illegitimate, his motives improper, and Stone a victim. "The Russia investigation was of paramount importance. Stone was prosecuted and convicted because he committed federal crimes. He remains a convicted felon, and rightly so," he wrote. He said that finding evidence of Russian interference was a complex task that took "two years and substantial effort" and resulted in a number of charges and prosecutions. Stone's obstruction may have impeded efforts to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable, he added. "We made every decision in Stone's case, as in all our cases, based solely on the facts and the law and in accordance with the rule of law," he concluded. "The women and men who conducted these investigations and prosecutions acted with the highest integrity. Claims to the contrary are false." (Webmaster's comment: President Trump will be pardoning all the thugs and crooks he has filled his administration with!)
7-11-20 Settling in for the long pandemic
Life won't be back to "normal" anytime soon. I wouldn't call it a breaking point, necessarily, but it feels like we've reached a moment in the pandemic when things are starting to change. There's been a shift, a dawning that normal isn't just going to come back. That things will not simply get better anytime soon. While rationally it's been clear for quite some time that life won't fully resume until we have a vaccine, there'd still been some wiggle room to play games with yourself: by Memorial Day, by the Fourth, by September, by Election Day it might be different. Confronted now as we are, though, with the onset of the second half of the year, and no significant progress having been made toward mitigating the threat of the virus, many of us are having to come to terms, for the first time, with the looming pandemic long-haul. In the early days of the outbreak, due to the sheer uncertainty of what was coming, it was easy to feel somewhat optimistic. Major League Baseball initially postponed Opening Day by only two weeks; Disney's live-action Mulan was delayed from a late March premiere to what at the time seemed to be an overly-cautious date of July 24, 2020. After what felt like the worst of the pandemic, in April and May, you could convince yourself the spread was starting to get under control; cases were going down, anyway, and lockdowns were being lifted. States moved ahead with reopenings, only for the disease to flare back up again, as experts had warned it would all along. Now, as the government ghoulishly prioritizes the economy over American lives, our grasps at versions of "normalcy" (you can get a haircut!) are desperate at best. It isn't that optimism is being replaced by pessimism so much as it is that ignorance is being replaced by a new informedness. Still, it's one thing to understand that normal life isn't going to be back by, say, September, and another thing to actually come to terms with that fact. For many, the past few weeks have involved grappling with such a shift not so much logically as emotionally. Personally, it's been fall event cancelations that have really hammered this home; while I knew there couldn't safely be a New York City Marathon this November, for example, it's still a blow to actually hear that the city is now in the phase of preparing for what will by then be month nine of the pandemic. Additionally, it's rattling to have nothing to look forward to in the near-future, to know indoor concerts won't soon resume safely, much less if it is realistic to plan an international trip anytime in the next 18 months. Discussions in the news this week about how to handle the fall school semester have also reinforced the realization that we are still very much in the thick of the pandemic. A number of major universities have said they will not be back on campus by September, something that would have been unthinkable back in early March. Likewise, New York City — the largest school district in the U.S. — has confirmed that students will not be returning to in-person class five days a week in the fall. That life will remain suspended for thousands, if not eventually millions, of students, seems the biggest indicator so far of our indefinite limbo. Then again, maybe it's the little things that have added up for you: the way that you might be drinking a margarita outdoors at your local bar through a straw stuck up in your mask, surrounded by groups carefully spaced six-feet apart, and realize how such a dystopic scene at some point became mundane. Or maybe it'll be the way you greet a friend you haven't seen since quarantine began, with the initial awkwardness of not knowing how comfortable the other is about physical touch and proximity. Or maybe it's the way it has already become intuitive to grab a pair of gloves before opening the door for a delivery, or the way a commute involves the grim relief that traffic is better now that everyone works from home. All this being normal just shows how far the old normal is still from coming back.
7-11-20 Roger Stone: Critics blast Trump for commuting ex-adviser's jail term
Leading Democrats have condemned US President Donald Trump's decision to commute the prison sentence of his former adviser and friend Roger Stone. Presidential contender Joe Biden's spokesman accused Mr Trump of abuse of power and "laying waste" to US values. The move - sparing Stone from jail but not a pardon - came just after a court denied Stone's request to delay the start date of his 40-month prison term. He was convicted of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering. Stone was the sixth Trump aide found guilty on charges linked to a justice department probe that alleged Russia tried to boost the Trump 2016 campaign. The 67-year-old had been due to report to a federal prison in Jesup, Georgia, next Tuesday. The White House said Stone was the victim of an attempt by opponents to undermine the presidency. The president has been accused by political critics of undermining the justice system by criticising criminal cases against Stone and other former aides. Mr Trump has also publicly complained about the prosecutions of onetime campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Mr Biden's spokesman Bill Russo said Mr Trump could not be shamed and could only be stopped at the ballot box. "President Trump has once again abused his power, releasing this commutation on a Friday night, hoping to yet again avoid scrutiny as he lays waste to the norms and the values that make our country a shining beacon to the rest of the world," he said. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff condemned Mr Trump's clemency. "With this commutation," said the top Democratic lawmaker, "Trump makes clear that there are two systems of justice in America: one for his criminal friends, and one for everyone else." Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren said it showed Donald Trump was the most corrupt president in history.
7-10-20 Covid-19 news: UK has opted out of EU coronavirus vaccine programme
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. UK has opted out of advance purchase of coronavirus vaccine candidates with the EU. The UK government has decided not to join the European Union’s coronavirus vaccine scheme. Government sources cited concerns that the programme could delay the rollout of a vaccine by up to six months while discussions about distribution take place, according to The Telegraph. There were also concerns about a potential limit on the number of vaccine doses that would be allocated to each country. But Alex Harris, head of global policy at the health charity Wellcome, told the Financial Times that the EU’s proposed limit on vaccine doses is the best way to ensure there will be enough vaccine for those in need in the rest of the world. There are currently more than 100 coronavirus vaccine candidates in development. The EU is planning to spend approximately €2 billion (£1.8 billion) on the advance purchase of vaccines that are currently being developed. The UK has secured access to a vaccine currently being trialled by researchers at the University of Oxford in partnership with the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, should it prove to be effective. The coronavirus may be spread through tiny particles in the air indoors, according to information released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday. On Tuesday, the WHO acknowledged emerging evidence on airborne transmission of the virus following pressure from a group of more than 200 scientists. Disney World is reopening this weekend despite record numbers of deaths from covid-19 reported in Florida this week. Florida recorded 120 deaths from covid-19 on Wednesday – the highest number of daily deaths for the state so far. The US as a whole reached yet another record number of daily new coronavirus cases for the global pandemic – its second record this week – with more than 65,000 new cases recorded on Thursday.
7-10-20 Coronavirus: How bad is the crisis in US care homes?
Elder care homes across the US have been hard-hit by the virus - though the true extent of the severity remains unclear, months in. One thing is certain, however - Covid-19 has yet again highlighted long-standing flaws in America's health system. When Michael Colwell received the call that his mother-in-law Helen Osucha had passed away at her nursing home in Geneva, Illinois, he says they told his family the 97-year-old died peacefully in her sleep. A day later, the funeral home that had received Helen's body told them she had Covid-19. As they grieved, holding Helen's funeral with family calling in on computer screens, the question remained. Why weren't they told? "It just didn't feel that this is the way the world should work." Mr Colwell says the home informed them that there were "a case or two" of Covid-19, but they had no idea of the full extent. "They telephoned us on the day of her death, late in the evening on the 26 of April and said she had passed away peacefully in her sleep. The fact that that's how she went gave my wife some comfort. But then to learn the next day that she died of Covid-19 - it was a very big shock." Helen was a part of the Greatest Generation, Mr Colwell begins when asked to describe his mother-in-law. She lost a brother in World War Two. Her husband was a B-17 navigator, and they married when the war ended. For years, she worked at a longstanding Chicago restaurant - the Como Inn - as a bookkeeper and waitress, making many friends among the close-knit Polish community. She often held family gatherings and was an active member of her church - a "kind-hearted, generous woman". "Maybe we could've said a prayer or done something," Mr Colwell says. "Initially when they restricted visits from family because of the pandemic, we were told that if the [resident] was in fact dying, they would have hospice come in and we would be allowed to go in and see her. "And of course, that never happened because we didn't know." Mr Colwell's lawsuit against Bria is one of six now levied against the facility over its coronavirus response. Bria has placed the blame on a lack of testing, calling the virus a "silent enemy impossible to detect and difficult to defeat", and says they followed public health guidelines as the situation evolved. A spokeswoman for the home told the BBC: "We mourn the loss of our patients, for many of whom we cared for many years, and we share the anguish of their loved ones."
7-10-20 US Supreme Court rules half of Oklahoma is Native American land
The US Supreme Court has ruled about half of Oklahoma belongs to Native Americans, in a landmark case that also quashed a child rape conviction. The justices decided 5-4 that an eastern chunk of the state, including its second-biggest city, Tulsa, should be recognised as part of a reservation. Jimcy McGirt, who was convicted in 1997 of raping a girl, brought the case. He cited the historical claim of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation to the land where the assault occurred. Thursday's decision in McGirt v Oklahoma is seen as one of the most far-reaching cases for Native Americans before the highest US court in decades. The ruling means some tribe members found guilty in state courts for offences committed on the land at issue can now challenge their convictions. Only federal prosecutors will have the power to criminally prosecute Native Americans accused of crimes in the area. Tribe members who live within the boundaries may also be exempt from state taxes, according to Reuters news agency. Some 1.8 million people - of whom about 15% are Native American - live on the land, which spans three million acres. Justice Neil Gorsuch, a conservative appointed by US President Donald Trump, sided with the court's four liberals and also wrote the opinion. He referred to the Trail of Tears, the forcible 19th Century relocation of Native Americans, including the Creek Nation, to Oklahoma. The US government said at the time that the new land would belong to the tribes in perpetuity. Justice Gorsuch wrote: "Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of federal criminal law. "Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word." The ruling overturned McGirt's prison sentence. He could still, however, be tried in federal court.McGirt, now 71, was convicted in 1997 in Wagoner County of raping a four-year-old girl. He did not dispute his guilt before the Supreme Court, but argued that only federal authorities should have been entitled to prosecute him. McGirt is a member of the Seminole Nation. His lawyer, Ian Heath Gershengorn, told CNBC: "The Supreme Court reaffirmed today that when the United States makes promises, the courts will keep those promises."
7-10-20 Trump: Supreme Court ruling a 'witch hunt' and 'hoax'
The US Supreme Court has ruled that President Trump's financial records can be examined by prosecutors in New York. In a related case, the court ruled that this information did not have to be shared with Congress. The president has come under fire for not making his tax returns public like his predecessors. White House Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany insisted his tax returns would be made available after they have finished being audited.
7-10-20 Robert Fuller: Hanging death of black man ruled suicide
The death of a black man found hanging from a tree, sparking fears that he had been lynched amid US anti-racism protests, has been ruled a suicide. Robert Fuller, 24, had a history of mental illness and took his own life, said officials in Palmdale, California. A post-mortem examination had returned an initial finding of suicide, but this was rejected by Mr Fuller's family, prompting a further investigation. His death last month came amid protests over the death of George Floyd. According to the Los Angeles Times, Mr Fuller had attended a Black Lives Matter protest on the eve of his death. The fatality on 10 June in the high desert city of Palmdale, about 60 miles (96km) north of Los Angeles, shook the black community in the Antelope Valley. Some said they feared it could have been a lynching, a murder by a mob with no due process or rule of law. Across the US, thousands of African Americans were lynched by white mobs, often by hanging or torture, in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Amid dissatisfaction over local authorities' conclusion of suicide, it was announced last month that the FBI's civil rights division would review investigations into the deaths of Mr Fuller and another black man in similar circumstances in southern California. Mr Fuller's family described him as someone who enjoyed music and video games, and insisted he would not have taken his own life. Thousands of protesters who gathered the weekend after Mr Fuller's death demanded a thorough investigation. On Thursday, Los Angeles sheriff commander Chris Marks told a news conference that Mr Fuller had gone to a California hospital in February 2019 and said he was hearing voices telling him to kill himself. He also said that Mr Fuller was treated at a hospital in Nevada last November for suicidal ideation. "The medical examiner issued their final autopsy report and delivered it to the sheriff's department, and deemed this case to be a suicide," Cmdr Marks said. The investigation found no evidence of foul play, he added. The other case that attracted widespread attention was that of Malcolm Harsch, 37, who was found hanging from a tree at a homeless encampment in Victorville, 50 miles east of Palmdale, on 31 May. His family said they reviewed the site and surveillance video footage, and concluded that his death was a suicide.
7-10-20 Churches are being unfairly scapegoated for the pandemic
Shuttered churches have become a condensed symbol in the political controversies of the coronavirus pandemic, perhaps second only to masks. Closing houses of worship in the name of containing the spread of COVID-19 is a shameless ploy by the godless left to skirt the Constitution and functionally ban religion in America, voices charge from one extreme. From the other come accusatory tales of science-denying fundamentalists whose privileged demands for special treatment during an unprecedented crisis are literally killing people. Journalism ought to help dispel the distortions that make these narratives possible — pick out the kernels of truth and discard the chaff. Too often it has not. The New York Times on Wednesday published a case in point. "Churches were eager to reopen," the headline announced. "Now they are a major source of coronavirus cases." A shocking claim! Let's see the evidence: Weeks after President Trump demanded that America's shuttered houses of worship be allowed to reopen, new outbreaks of the coronavirus are surging through churches across the country where services have resumed. [...] More than 650 coronavirus cases have been linked to nearly 40 churches and religious events across the United States since the beginning of the pandemic, with many of them erupting over the last month as Americans resumed their pre-pandemic activities, according to a New York Times database. [The New York Times] Wait, that's it? The contrast is stark between the headline's branding of churches as a "major source" of contagion and the story's citation of 650 church-linked cases out of 3 million nationwide. It was a contrast promptly noted. "The not-so-subtle subtext," observed Reason's Jacob Sullum, is that "[r]eopening churches was reckless, because they are more likely than other venues to be the sites of superspreading events, regardless of the precautions they take. But the evidence presented by the Times does not support that thesis." The Billy Graham Center's Ed Stetzer raised the same objection, deeming this "a headline looking for a story" and arguing the "real story" is that "churches are gathering and remarkably few infections are taking place." The total number of church-linked infections is almost certainly not a mere 650. The Times doesn't tell us the size of its database, but it presumably does not account for all 3 million confirmed COVID-19 infections. That means 650 is a subset of some smaller number of tracked cases, how many, we don't know. We do know tens of thousands of cases have been tied to other locations — 24,000 to meatpacking plants and 57,000 to prisons — which suggests the story is much closer to Stetzer's characterization than its headline. But that headline is what was published atop an article suggesting churches are uniquely dangerous places where social distancing and mask use somehow stop working. And the Times piece is not a wild aberration, though it stands out as a straight news item so poorly framed and explained. Recent months have seen too much journalism on churches and COVID-19 which is similarly misleading or incomplete. (Webmaster's comment: Sioux Falls Atheists claim that any place where masks are not worn and and social distanciong is not maintained are dangerous. Churches are no worst that other gatherings.)
7-10-20 LGBTQ rights: Arab Israelis call for tahini-maker boycott
Tahini, the delicious sesame-based paste popular in the Middle East, has become the unlikely subject of a dispute over LGBTQ rights of Arab Israelis. The story started with food but is not connected to culinary art or a new recipe. Al-Arz, an Arab Israeli company which produces locally popular tahini, announced last week that it would start funding a hotline for LGBTQ Arab Israeli youth through an Israeli group called the Aguda, or The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel. Then tahini jars on shelves of Arab and Jewish markets throughout the country became an issue amid Arab Israeli homophobic calls for a boycott, expressions of support from Arab Israeli pro-LGBTQ rights groups, and condemnation over the choice of whom the donation was going to. To start with the good: Arab rights groups came out with statements supporting Al-Arz and its female president, Julia Zaher. Leading rights organisation Women against Violence said in a statement: "We are proud of and salute Al-Arz company and its pioneering woman Julia Zahra for their honourable attitude and support for associations supporting gay youth in fighting the discrimination and oppression they suffer from daily." The organisation highlighted that Al-Arz had also donated to organisations that helped families in need and persons with special needs. Aida Tuma, an Israeli MP from majority-Arab party the Joint List, said she had spoken to Mrs Zaher, who was "known for her generous support of several humanitarian causes", and she called on Arab Israelis to focus on the real issues. "We know very well what it means to be persecuted, vulnerable, and to suffer discrimination from the dominant discourse of the majority," said Ms Tuma on her official Facebook page. "We know very well what it means to fight for the most basic rights," her statement went on. "It is better for us to direct our discourse against organised crime and the spread of violence in our society. It is better for us to respect the rights of vulnerable minorities within us."
7-9-20 Covid-19 news: UK government missed coronavirus testing target
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. UK government missed its target to return all covid-19 tests within 24 hours. Hunger caused by the coronavirus crisis could kill more people than covid-19 itself, Oxfam has warned. In a report published today, the charity estimates that 121 million more people could experience extreme hunger due to mass unemployment, declining aid and disruption to food production and supplies as a consequence of the pandemic. This could potentially result in as many as 12,000 deaths per day, thousands more than the peak of global daily deaths from covid-19 of 10,000 in April, according to the report. US president Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened to cut federal funding for districts that defy his demands to reopen schools in September. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention guidelines say that schools should not reopen unless desks are six feet apart and children wear face coverings, which Trump has criticised for being “very tough” and “expensive.” CDC director Robert Redfield said today that the organisation would not change the guidelines, despite pressure from the White House. New York City’s mayor Bill de Blasio also said that schools in the city would not fully reopen in September in order to allow for social distancing, with plans for pupils to only attend classes one to three days per week. The US has recorded more than 3 million cases of coronavirus since the pandemic began and more than 130,000 deaths from covid-19, and the number of cases continue to surge across the country. Nine US states have now reported more than 100,000 cases in total, including current coronavirus hotspots Texas and Florida. Trump’s election campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma probably contributed to a surge in new coronavirus cases in the county, local health officials said on Wednesday. Tulsa County reported 261 new cases on Monday, a record high for the county. On the Monday before Trump’s rally in June, there were only 76 cases recorded there. Tulsa City-County Health Department director Bruce Dart said he had previously urged the Trump campaign to consider delaying the rally. A spokesperson for the Trump campaign told the AP they had gone to great lengths to ensure that people who attended the rally were protected.
7-9-20 Trump taxes: Supreme Court says New York prosecutors can see records
The US Supreme Court has ruled that President Trump's financial records can be examined by prosecutors in New York. In a related case, the court ruled that this information did not have to be shared with Congress. Mr Trump has come under fire for not making his tax returns public like his predecessors. His lawyers had argued that he enjoyed total immunity while in office and that Congress had no valid justification to seek the records. Two Democratic-controlled House of Representatives committees and New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance - also a Democrat - had demanded Mr Trump's tax documents over several years in order to determine whether current conflict-of-interest laws on a US president were tough enough. Mr Trump, a Republican, denies wrongdoing and has called the investigation into his tax affairs a "witch hunt". "The Supreme Court sends case back to Lower Court, arguments to continue. This is all a political prosecution," he wrote in a series of tweets following the court rulings. In the case regarding the request from the New York prosecutors, the Supreme Court ruled by a majority of seven to two that the president did not have absolute immunity from criminal investigation. "Two hundred years ago, a great jurist of our Court established that no citizen, not even the President, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding," the court said. "We reaffirm that principle today." But the two cases regarding Congressional committees were closely watched, as they could have had implications on how far US lawmakers could scrutinise the activities of a sitting president. The court ruled that Congress had significant, but not limitless, power to request the president's personal information. In this case, the court returned the case to the lower courts.
7-9-20 Black Lives Matter painted outside Trump Tower
The mural was painted on Fifth Avenue and others are planned for each of New York's five boroughs.
7-9-20 There’s little evidence showing which police reforms work
Rapid research is needed to find out what efforts are most effective. When criminologist Robin Engel suddenly found herself leading the effort to reform a police department under fire after a white police officer killed an unarmed Black man in July 2015, she looked for some kind of road map to follow. Instead, she found herself in poorly charted territory. A professor at the University of Cincinnati, Engel had been called on frequently to help police departments around the country manage their response to acts of police violence. This time, the call came from close to home. Campus Officer Ray Tensing, 25, had shot and killed 43-year-old musician Samuel DuBose during an off-campus traffic stop. Engel recommended that the university hire a high-ranking official to oversee the police department and its immediate response to the crisis, and initiate longer term, comprehensive reforms to prevent future incidents. Within days, Engel had become that official, reporting directly to the university president and outranking the university’s police chief, despite lacking police experience herself. She sought input from various community stakeholders, many of whom had been rankled by her appointment to lead the police division. She also turned to her best-known tool — research. She began probing for studies to guide her on the sorts of reforms she could institute, ones with proven track records of changing police behavior in the field. Her search was unfruitful. “I thought most certainly we would have an evidence base that I could follow,” Engel says. “I was incredibly disappointed at the lack of evidence that was available. I was really disappointed in my own field.” (Webmaster's comment: They will only work when we get rid of all the racists, white nationalists, Klan, and Neo-Nazis in our police departments.)
7-9-20 Trump 'must hand over records to NY prosecutors'
The US Supreme Court has ruled that President Trump must release his financial records so that they can be examined by prosecutors in New York. In a related case, the court ruled Mr Trump did not have to share this information with Congress. Mr Trump, a former businessman, is the first president since Richard Nixon in the 1970s not to have made his tax returns public. His lawyers argued that he enjoys total immunity while in office. Two Democrat-controlled House of Representatives committees and New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance - also a Democrat - had demanded several years worth of Mr Trump's taxes in order to determine whether current conflict of interest laws on a US president are tough enough. The ruling was closely watched as it could have had implications on how far US lawmakers can scrutinise the activities of a sitting president. Mr Trump, a Republican, denies wrongdoing and has called the investigation into his tax affairs a "witch hunt".
7-9-20 US student visas: 'A lot of people I know are scared for the future'
The spread of coronavirus has led to major changes for higher education across the world, with many institutions embracing virtual tuition as a way to allow students to continue their learning. But US immigration authorities have now said that international students whose courses move fully online this autumn could face having their visas revoked. An advisory said that unless students switch to courses with face-to-face tuition, they could be deported. The decision has caused uncertainty and fear for the hundreds of thousands of international students who rely on student visas in the US. The BBC spoke to some of those affected. "I was pretty shocked when the announcement came out. It's just so sudden. "Our school will be moving into complete online mode after Thanksgiving," she explains. She is worried about the impact this change could have on her visa status. "Many of my friends thought that they could take online classes for the fall and have already returned home. For those who are still here, we're constantly keeping our eyes on the price of plane tickets. "I was pretty shocked when the announcement came out. It's just so sudden. "Our school will be moving into complete online mode after Thanksgiving," she explains. She is worried about the impact this change could have on her visa status. "Many of my friends thought that they could take online classes for the fall and have already returned home. For those who are still here, we're constantly keeping our eyes on the price of plane tickets.
7-9-20 Facebook bans 'Roger Stone disinformation network'
Facebook has removed a disinformation network it says was linked to "Roger Stone and his associates". Mr Stone was a long-time political strategist and is an ally of US President Donald Trump. He was convicted of lying to Congress in 2019. He has denied involvement with the misinformation network. Facebook also said it had identified a network of fake accounts run by employees of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's government. The social network released details of four misinformation campaigns ahead of the July edition of its monthly report on co-ordinated inauthentic behaviour. "Campaigns like these raise a particularly complex challenge by blurring the line between healthy public debate and manipulation," Facebook said. Facebook said it had removed 54 accounts, 50 pages, and four Instagram accounts it had linked to Mr Stone. About 260,000 accounts followed one or more of the Facebook pages. The inauthentic pages posted about Mr Stone's websites, books, and media appearances; local politics; and material leaked by Wikileaks ahead of the US 2016 election. Meanwhile, the fake profiles posed as Florida residents and commented on the posts to make them look more popular. In total, those behind the pages spent about $308,000 on Facebook advertising. Facebook said several of the inauthentic pages had links to Proud Boys, a white-supremacist hate group it had banned in 2018. "Roger Stone's personal accounts and his branded assets will be coming down as part of this network," said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cyber-security policy. "We saw them deeply enmeshed in the activities here." Mr Stone told a New York Times reporter: "I have never owned or controlled any fake Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts."
7-9-20 Coronavirus: Is India the next global hotspot?
The coronavirus took hold slowly in India, but six months after its first confirmed infection it has overtaken Russia to record the world's third largest caseload. With the world's second-largest population, much of which lives packed into cities, the country was perhaps always destined to become a global hotspot. But the data behind its case numbers is questionable, because India is not testing enough, and an unusually low death rate has baffled scientists. Here's five things we know about the spread of coronavirus in India. India has seen a series of record spikes recently, adding tens of thousands of cases daily. It recorded most of its confirmed cases in June, within weeks of reopening after a rigid lockdown. As of 8 July, India had 742,417 confirmed cases. But the true scale of infection rates in the population is unclear, according to virologist Shahid Jameel. The government conducted a random sample of 26,000 Indians in May, which showed that 0.73% had the virus. Some experts have reservations about the sample size, but others, such as Dr Jameel, say it's the only country-wide indicator they have to work with. "If we extrapolate that to the whole population, we would have had 10 million infections in mid-May," Dr Jameel said. Given that confirmed cases in India have been doubling every 20 days, that would put the current total between 30 and 40 million. The gap between confirmed cases and actual infections exists in every country, but to different degrees. Testing is the only way to bridge it. "If you test more, you will find more," Dr Jameel said. That's what has happened in India in recent weeks - as the government ramped up testing, case numbers suddenly increased. India has done more than 10 million tests since 13 March, but more than half of those happened after 1 June.
7-8-20 Covid-19 news: UK could eliminate coronavirus entirely, say scientists
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. UK could eliminate coronavirus with new strategy, say Independent SAGE scientists. The UK government has “given up” on trying to eliminate the coronavirus, says a new report published today by Independent SAGE – an independent group of scientists. They propose a new strategy aimed at the complete elimination of covid-19. It would replace what the report calls the government’s “failing NHS Test and Trace system” with a locally controlled contract tracing and testing system that has more laboratory provision, as well as tighter lockdown measures and restriction of international and domestic travel. The World Health Organization (WHO) has acknowledged that airborne transmission of the coronavirus cannot be ruled out in crowded, closed or poorly ventilated settings, after it was urged to do so in a letter signed by more than 200 scientists. The WHO has so far said that the virus is mainly spread through respiratory droplets and contact between people. But on Tuesday a WHO official acknowledged emerging evidence that the coronavirus can be spread through tiny particles suspended in the air. The US recorded more than 60,000 daily new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, setting another global pandemic record for cases recorded in a single day. The US set a record of more than 55,000 daily new cases less than a week ago. Since the pandemic began, the country has recorded more than 2.9 million cases and more than 131,000 deaths from covid-19. The US has initiated the formal process for its withdrawal from the WHO, due to take effect on 6 July 2021. The UN confirmed it had received the notification of withdrawal from the US on Tuesday. US president Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the WHO has been widely condemned by politicians and health officials in the US. Democratic challenger Joe Biden has vowed to reverse the move if he wins the US election in November.
7-8-20 How to stop the coronavirus: What we've learned six months in
SINCE the first reports of the novel coronavirus, the list of known symptoms has changed, as has our understanding of what the virus does to the body. Health advice, for both governments and individuals, has evolved, too. And although some countries claim to have virtually eliminated the virus, others are only now seeing cases beginning to spike and some are seeing what looks like a “second wave” of infections. What can we learn from the countries that got it right – and those that got it so very wrong? One major early fumble was the incorrect assumption that the virus was like the flu. Many nations already had a plan in place for dealing with a pandemic flu. “It inhibited their ability to think about how to respond to another virus,” says Jennifer Nuzzo at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. The coronavirus required a different response, says Michael Baker at the University of Otago in Wellington, who advised the New Zealand government on the country’s covid-19 response. Flu typically has an incubation period – the time between someone becoming infected and showing symptoms – of around one to two days. This makes it extremely difficult to trace the contacts of an infected person before they get sick themselves. The coronavirus, on the other hand, appears to have an incubation period of about five to six days, but potentially several weeks. “It means that it’s a slower moving wave and there are more opportunities to use contact tracing and isolation and quarantine,” says Baker. “We know that’s the case because [the] SARS [coronavirus] was contained and eliminated with those traditional measures.” In addition, while flu can “sweep through a population in a matter of weeks”, he says, the coronavirus can stick around for much longer and can have lasting health effects for those who survive covid-19. This is one reason why the idea of waiting to achieve herd immunity rather than taking action to limit the impact of the virus – a strategy the UK and Swedish governments initially considered – was widely dismissed by the scientific community. Today, the UK has the highest number of recorded coronavirus cases in western Europe, probably in part due to the UK government’s delayed response to the outbreak. One factor that unites the nations that have done a better job at limiting case numbers is a quick initial response. “In countries like China, South Korea, Japan, the initial response was quite rapid, so the containment phase worked really well for them,” says Rajiv Chowdhury at the University of Cambridge. By quickly identifying new cases and where they were coming from, these countries stood a much better chance of interrupting the ongoing transmission of the virus, he says.
7-8-20 Coronavirus: Things US has got wrong - and right
So much for a summer lull in the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the US has seen a resurgence of the disease in numerous states, particularly across the south and west. The US nation as a whole has topped 60,000 recorded daily new cases this week. Did it have to be this way, though? Other industrialised nations, in Europe and Asia, pursued more rigorous mitigation plans, ramped up testing and contact tracing earlier, and eased restrictions in a slower and more co-ordinated fashion. They have not, at least so far, seen a resurgence of the virus similar to the one the US is currently experiencing. The US state of Arizona, for instance, is currently registering as many new cases of coronavirus as the entire European Union, which has a population 60 times greater. It makes for a gloomy review of what's gone right and (mostly) wrong, as the US enters its fifth full month of a pandemic that has no end in sight. A month ago, the coronavirus numbers in the US appeared, at the very least, stable. The spread of the disease had been slowed, as the daily tally of new cases plateaued. That prompted a number of states - including Texas, California, Florida and Arizona - to move forward with plans to ease off public shelter-in-place and business closure orders. Many of these states moved ahead despite not hitting the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended benchmarks for doing so, such as a 14-day drop in cases and less than 5% of tests coming back positive for the virus. It turns out, the overall national numbers were misleading, as states that were hit hard early, such as New York and New Jersey, were experiencing declines, while numbers in other states were beginning to inch up. They're not inching up anymore, they're surging - and the worst, as far as hospitalisations and fatalities, could be yet to come. Now Texas, California and Arizona, among others, have re-imposed business closure orders and mandated mask-wearing, which has been determined to reduce the spread of the virus. It may be too little to avoid another public-health crisis, however. "We opened way too early in Arizona," Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, a Democrat, said in recent television interview. "We were one of the last states to go to stay-at-home and one of the first to re-emerge."
7-8-20 Coronavirus: The Australian community separated by lockdown
The border between New South Wales and Victoria in Australia has been closed to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The cities of Albury and Wodonga on either side of the border are usually divided by just the Murray River. But now the communities are separated by a police checkpoint and residents need a permit to cross it. Families have been separated and businesses are struggling as a result. This new lockdown measure could last "weeks not days".
7-8-20 Why monuments in the US are being taken down
Council leaders in a Mississippi city named after President Andrew Jackson have voted to remove a statue of him, in the latest move to reconsider statues of people with ties to slavery or the Confederacy. There has been long debate around many of the statues being discussed, but it was recently ignited again after the death of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter marches. The removal of statues isn't just happening in the US. The statue of Winston Churchill in London's Parliament Square was vandalised and was later boarded up for protection, while statues of King Leopold II have been removed in Belgium. (Webmaster's comment: King Leopold II of Belgium was a mass murderer of blacks in Africa!)
7-8-20 Record 60,000 new coronavirus cases in US
Bolsonaro removes mask despite positive Covid-19 test. United States registers record daily tally of new cases - 60,000. UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak cuts VAT in emergency plan to save jobs. The UK government will also pay a bonus to firms that keep furloughed workers employed. New French PM rules out another general lockdown. Serbs angered at the government's handling of the pandemic clash with police in Belgrade. WHO says emerging evidence the virus can spread through particles in the air. Melbourne set to go back into a second lockdown after a surge in cases. Global totals - more than 11.8 million confirmed cases and over 544,000 deaths.
7-7-20 Coronavirus: Moguls and lobbyists get millions in government aid
The US government has distributed more than $521bn (£415bn) to businesses from its emergency coronavirus aid. This week, the public finally got a glimpse of who's been getting the money. The list, released by the US Treasury Department, reignited debate about the controversial programme, called the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). "We don't want to say that the PPP didn't help small businesses - it did. But well-connected small businesses got helped first and most," said Joshua Gotbaum, a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution think tank. The programme was intended to help small firms and prevent widespread layoffs during the pandemic. It offers loans, distributed by banks, that can be forgiven if firms use them primarily to pay staff wages. But it has faced significant criticism, including that money has gone to bigger companies that don't need the help. Government inspectors have also warned that it is at risk of fraud, due to limited transparency and oversight. The names published on Monday represented firms that received loans worth more than $150,000 - less than 15% of the more than 4.8 million overall loans. And some flaws in the data have surfaced. (Scooter company Bird said it was erroneously listed.) Steve Ellis, president of budget watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, called the disclosures long overdue. But he warned that the government will have to provide much more information if it wants to build confidence that programme is not being abused. "Just because they've provided a list of names and businesses ... doesn't mean the money wasn't wasted or doesn't mean the money was wasted," he said. So who got the money? Recipients included businesses owned by the family of Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump's son-in-law; a shipping business owned by the family of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao; and several members of Congress or their spouses. New York law firm Kasowitz, Benson & Torres, headed by Mr Trump's long-time personal attorney Marc Kasowitz, also received a loan worth between $5 million and $10 million. It was among dozens of law firms that received PPP aid. Dozens of tenants of Mr Trump's real estate company also received money, as did many powerful Washington lobby groups and political organisations, such as the Black Congressional Caucus. Mr Gotbaum said it was "scandalous" that firms tied to politicians were benefiting from the programme, which at one point ran out of money.
7-7-20 Indiana officials probe alleged lynching of black activist
Authorities in the US state of Indiana are investigating allegations that a group of white men attacked and attempted to "lynch" a black man at a 4 July weekend gathering. Viral video of the incident shared by Vauhxx Booker shows a man on all fours, held down by a white man as onlookers shout for him to be released. In an accompanying post, Mr Booker wrote that he was pinned to a tree and beaten near Lake Monroe. He called 911 but no arrests were made. On Monday, hundreds gathered outside Monroe County Courthouse in Bloomington to demand arrests be made in Mr Booker's case. As the peaceful protest was drawing to a close, a speeding vehicle struck at least one person. Organisers of the protest told the BBC's US partner CBS News that a woman was taken to hospital, and her condition is unknown. According to Mr Booker, a local civil rights activist and member of the Monroe County Human Rights Commission, he and his friends had gathered to watch the lunar eclipse at Lake Monroe when they encountered a man donning a hat with a Confederate flag print who told them they were on private property. Later on, when Mr Booker and his friends approached the man and his group to "smooth things over", the interaction "quickly became aggressive", he wrote. "I was almost the victim of an attempted lynching", he said, adding that the men threatened to "get a noose". Two of the men allegedly jumped Mr Booker from behind and knocked him to the ground before three others joined. "The five were able to easily overwhelm me and got me to the ground and dragged me pinning my body against a tree as they began pounding on my head and ripped off some of my hair," he wrote. While bystanders shouted for the assailants to release him, Mr Booker said the men said they would "break his arms" before saying "get a noose". These alleged comments were not captured in the posted video footage. According to Mr Booker, these bystanders were able to get the attackers off him, though they continued to shout racial slurs. He suffered a concussion as a result of the attack, he wrote. Mr Booker said he called 911, but was transferred to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Agents eventually reported to the park but made no arrests. (Webmaster's comment: It's obvious that the police have no interest in protecting the lives of blacks!)
7-7-20 Bubba Wallace: Nascar driver's defiant tweet over Trump's 'hate'
African-American Nascar driver Bubba Wallace has sent out a tweet condemning words of "hate from the president of the United States". Wallace is the sole full-time black driver in the US racing organisation and was instrumental in it banning the Confederate flag from races. A noose was later found in his garage but an FBI inquiry determined "no federal crime was committed". President Trump called the story a hoax and suggested Wallace should apologise. Wallace has been a vocal supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has come to the fore since the death in police custody of African American George Floyd in Minneapolis in May. The movement has sparked a campaign to remove symbols associated with slavery, imperialism and the Confederacy. President Trump has strongly defended the monuments as part of US history. he noose is a particularly evocative symbol of hate connected to lynching. One was found in the garage assigned to Wallace at the Geico 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Wallace, 26, received messages of solidarity from fellow Nascar drivers and sports stars around the world after the discovery and an inquiry was begun. The FBI investigation found that the noose was in that garage as early as October 2019 and "nobody could have known Mr Wallace would be assigned the garage... last week". Wallace rejected suggestions the noose was a door handle, saying "what was hanging in my garage is not a garage pull". But President Trump on Monday tweeted: "Has Bubba Wallace apologized to all of those great Nascar drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX." He did not elaborate on his allegation. He said the noose incident and the removal of the flag had caused Nascar's "lowest ratings ever".
7-7-20 Coronavirus: Anger over US decision on foreign students' visas
Politicians and academics have criticised a decision to withdraw US visas from foreign students whose courses move fully online. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said people could face deportation unless they changed to an institution with in-person tuition. A number of US universities are considering online teaching in the new academic year due to coronavirus. It is not clear how many people will be affected. The Student and Exchange Visitor Programme, which is operated by ICE, had introduced a temporary exemption to allow students whose courses had moved online for the spring and summer semesters to remain in the US. However, the exemption will not be extended into the new academic year. The decision affects students who are in the US on F-1 and M-1 visas, according to the ICE statement. The news came on the same day that Harvard announced all course instruction would be delivered online in the new academic year, including for the limited number of students allowed to live on campus. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, 9% of US universities are planning to teach all their classes online in the autumn, although this could change in the coming months. The president of Harvard University, Larry Bacow, said in a statement quoted by US media: "We are deeply concerned that the guidance issued today by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement imposes a blunt, one-size-fits-all approach to a complex problem, giving international students, particularly those in online programmes, few options beyond leaving the country or transferring schools." He added that the decision "undermines the thoughtful approach taken on behalf of students by so many institutions, including Harvard, to plan for continuing academic programmes while balancing the health and safety challenges of the global pandemic". "Kicking international students out of the US during a global pandemic because their colleges are moving classes online for physical distancing hurts students," said Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren. "It's senseless, cruel, and xenophobic."
7-7-20 Why hasn't the UK seen a second wave of the coronavirus?
Pubs, restaurants and cafes in England welcomed customers back through their doors on 4 July, sparking warnings of a second wave of covid-19 infections. Yet there have been warnings of another wave since the country began easing restrictions, and one hasn’t materialised. Will this time be different? Scientists on an independent advisory panel on coronavirus called Independent SAGE have repeatedly warned that the relatively swift easing of lockdown restrictions in England risks cases rising again. On 11 May, people in England were allowed to go outside to exercise multiple times a day and certain groups were encouraged to return to work. June saw the reopening of non-essential shops, certain year groups returning to school and households mixing outside. On Saturday, social distancing guidelines were reduced and numerous indoor hospitality venues reopened. Speaking at a press briefing last Thursday, England’s deputy chief medical officer, Jenny Harries, said a new spike in cases in the UK was a possibility: “A second peak, as in an epidemic peak, another one, is also not ruled out.” England has eased restrictions faster than the rest of the UK and much of Europe. The government says the pace of change is justified because infections in the UK have been declining since April, when they peaked at over 8000 cases a day. One explanation for a lack of a second wave that can be ruled out is herd immunity, whereby enough people have become invulnerable to the virus that it can no longer spread freely. The herd immunity level for this coronavirus has been estimated at 60 per cent of a population, but studies from around the world suggest that just 1 to 10 per cent of people have antibodies to the virus, which suggests a previous infection. “It doesn’t seem anything like enough of us have been exposed,” says Mark Woolhouse at the University of Edinburgh, UK. We also don’t know how long people who have antibodies are protected from reinfection. The arrival of summer in the northern hemisphere may have helped to quash infections for now. Some evidence suggests that, as with certain other respiratory viruses, coronaviruses stay viable on surfaces for longer when the air is cooler and less humid, and some studies have found a link between new infections and lower humidity. However, it is still unclear whether the coronavirus will have a seasonal cycle like flu. Warm weather also encourages people to spend more time outdoors, where the virus is more likely to be damaged by sunlight or drift away on a breeze. One study in China found that 98 per cent of super-spreading events, where transmission is disproportionately high compared with normal transmission rates, happened indoors.
7-7-20 Covid-19 news: One in ten cases in England have been in health workers
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. 10 per cent of covid-19 infections in England among health and social care workers. An estimated 10 per cent of all covid-19 infections in England between 26 April and 7 June were among healthcare workers or social care workers interacting directly with patients or care home residents, according to a report published today. The research was carried out by Data Evaluation and Learning for Viral Epidemics (DELVE) – an independent group of researchers convened by the Royal Society. The report also estimates that at least 1 per cent of infections during the same time period were acquired by patients in hospital, and at least 6 per cent by residents in care homes. An influential group of researchers is calling for the World Health Organization (WHO) to acknowledge the extent to which covid-19 can spread through airborne transmission. An open letter to the WHO signed by 239 researchers from 32 countries, including specialists in virology and public health, is due to be published this week. The researchers say there is emerging evidence that airborne transmission could be more important than the WHO has indicated in their guidance, and that the WHO should advise governments to implement appropriate control measures. The WHO’s guidance currently states that the virus is mainly spread between people through respiratory droplets and contact. But the letter argues that this underplays the role of aerosol spread, which involves much smaller particles that can stay airborne for longer periods of time and that can be transmitted between people over distances of more than one metre. India has overtaken Russia to become the country with the third-highest number of recorded coronavirus cases, after the US and Brazil. Officials in India reported 24,912 new cases on Sunday, a record high number for the country, which has recorded more than 697,000 cases in total and more than 19,000 deaths from covid-19. The mayors of Houston and Austin in Texas have warned that hospitals in their cities will be overwhelmed by covid-19 cases in two weeks, after a record-high for the state of 8258 new daily cases on Saturday. The US as a whole recorded more than 50,000 new coronavirus cases on Sunday for the fourth day in a row, according to health officials.
7-7-20 Coronavirus: Spanish study casts doubt on herd immunity feasibility
A Spanish study has cast doubt on the feasibility of herd immunity as a way of tackling the coronavirus pandemic. The study of more than 60,000 people estimates that around just 5% of the Spanish population has developed antibodies, the medical journal the Lancet reported. Herd immunity is achieved when enough people become immune to a virus to stop its spread. Around 70% to 90% of a population needs to be immune to protect the uninfected. The prevalence of Covid-19 antibodies was below 3% in coastal regions, but higher in areas of Spain with widespread outbreaks, the report said. "Despite the high impact of Covid-19 in Spain, prevalence estimates remain low and are clearly insufficient to provide herd immunity," the study's authors said in the report. "This cannot be achieved without accepting the collateral damage of many deaths in the susceptible population and overburdening of health systems. "In this situation, social distance measures and efforts to identify and isolate new cases and their contacts are imperative for future epidemic control." The study is thought to be the largest of its kind on the coronavirus in Europe. There have been studies of a similar kind in China and the US and "the key finding from these representative cohorts is that most of the population appears to have remained unexposed" to the coronavirus, "even in areas with widespread virus circulation," the Lancet article said. Prof Danny Altmann, British Society for Immunology spokesperson and Professor of Immunology at Imperial College London, described the study as "sobering". "Findings such as this reinforce the idea that faced with a lethal infection that induces rather short-lived immunity, the challenge is to identify the best vaccine strategies able to overcome these problems and stimulate a large, sustained, optimal, immune response in the way the virus failed to do," Prof Altmann said.
7-7-20 Melbourne to lock down for weeks as cases rise
Melbourne tower lockdown 'like being in prison'. In Australia, Melbourne residents are to go back under lockdown as border between New South Wales and Victoria has closed. UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak sets out details of a £3bn plan to cut emissions and support jobs. Package includes £2bn in home insulation grants to boost economy reeling from coronavirus. New Spanish study casts doubt on the theory that herd immunity will protect populations. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is tested after showing symptoms of the coronavirus. A UN report says diseases will keep leaping from animals to humans without action to protect the environment. Three UK pubs which re-opened at the weekend have had to close after customers tested positive. There have been more than 11.5 million cases globally and more than 530,000 deaths.
7-7-20 India coronavirus: Life-saving Covid-19 drugs sold on Delhi black market
A BBC investigation has found that two life-saving drugs used to treat Covid-19 patients in India - remdesivir and tocilizumab - are in short supply and being sold for excessive rates on a thriving black market. Vikas Pandey reports from the capital Delhi. Abhinav Sharma's uncle had very high fever and difficulty breathing when he was admitted to a hospital in Delhi. He tested positive for coronavirus and doctors told the family to get remdesivir - an antiviral drug that's been approved in India for clinical trial and also under "emergency use authorisation", meaning doctors can prescribe it on compassionate grounds. But procuring it proved an impossible task - remdesivir did not seem to be available anywhere. Mr Sharma desperately called people to arrange for the drug as his uncle's condition deteriorated by the hour. "I had tears in my eyes. My uncle was fighting for his life and I was struggling to arrange the medicine that could possibly save him," he said. "After dozens of calls, I paid seven times the price to get the medicine. I was willing to pay any price really, but my heart goes out to people who can't afford it," he said. Mr Sharma's plight is familiar to many families in Delhi, desperate to do whatever it takes to save their loved ones. Some say they have been forced to pay exorbitant prices for the drug - many of those ending up at a medicine market in old Delhi. The BBC was able to connect to people working at the market who said they could arrange the drug, but for the right price. "I can get you three vials - but each will cost 30,000 rupees [$401; £321] and you have to come right away," said one man, who claimed he worked in the "medicine business". The official price for each vial is 5,400 rupees, and a patient typically needs five to six doses. Another man quoted 38,000 rupees per vial.
7-6-20 Charge filed against woman who called police on black birdwatcher
A white woman in New York is facing a criminal charge for calling 911 on a black man after he asked her to put her dog on a lead in Central Park. Amy Cooper, who was shown calling police in a viral video, is accused of filing a false report, punishable by up to one year in jail. Ms Cooper lost her job and dog after the incident, and publicly apologised. Video of the exchange shows Ms Cooper claiming that the black man, who was bird watching, threatened her. The incident occurred on 25 May, the same day that unarmed African-American man George Floyd died in police custody, triggering weeks of national and global anti-racism protests. "Today our office initiated a prosecution of Amy Cooper for falsely reporting an incident in the third degree," said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance on Monday. "We are strongly committed to holding perpetrators of this conduct accountable," Mr Vance said. He also encouraged "anyone who has been the target of false reporting" to contact the district attorney's office. Christian Cooper, who is prominent in the New York bird watching community, filmed his encounter with Ms Cooper, 41, after he asked her to put her dog on a lead to keep it from scaring away birds. Mr Cooper, 57, said he offered the dog treats, as a way to convince Ms Cooper, who is not related to him, to contain her dog. In response, Ms Cooper called emergency services. She told them: "I'm in the Ramble," - a wooded area in Central Park - "there is a man, African American, he has a bicycle helmet and he is recording me and threatening me and my dog," as her tone rose in apparent distress. "I am being threatened by a man in the Ramble, please send the cops immediately!" she said. Ms Cooper's actions were widely condemned as racist. She was fired by the investment firm where she managed an insurance portfolio. The pet adoption agency that gave her the dog seen in the video took it back after criticism that the way she held its collar seemed to strangle it.
7-6-20 More Mask Use, Worry About Lack of Social Distancing in U.S.
As the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. is rising sharply, 54% of Americans say they are worried about the lack of social distancing in their local area. Gallup's June 22-28 polling marks the first time that this measure has reached the majority level, and it coincides with a record-high 86% of U.S. adults saying they have worn a mask in public in the past week.
- 54% worried about lack of social distancing in local area, up from May
- 86% of U.S. adults have used a mask in public in past week
- Democrats much more likely than Republicans to worry and wear masks
7-6-20 Coronavirus: FDA chief refuses to back Trump's vaccine prediction
The head of the US drugs regulator has cast doubt on President Donald Trump's prediction that a Covid-19 vaccine will be ready this year. "I can't predict when a vaccine will be available," US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner, Dr Stephen Hahn, said on Sunday. Dr Hahn said vaccine development would be "based upon the data and science". A vaccine would train people's immune systems to fight the virus, so they do not become sick. Dr Hahn, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, was asked about the timeframe after President Trump suggested that a "vaccine solution" to the pandemic would be ready "long before the end of the year". "I want to send our thanks to the scientists and researchers around the country, and even around the world, who are at the forefront of our historic effort to rapidly develop and deliver life-saving treatments and ultimately a vaccine," Mr Trump said during his Independence Day address at the White House. "We are unleashing our nation's scientific brilliance and we'll likely have a therapeutic and/or vaccine solution long before the end of the year." The president has been criticised for his comments on vaccines and treatments during the coronavirus epidemic, which has claimed the lives of almost 130,000 people in the US. In recent days, infections have been rising at a record rate in western and southern states, bringing the total to more than 2.8 million nationwide. The head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned in June that scientists may never be able to create an effective vaccine against the coronavirus. "The estimate is we may have a vaccine within one year," the WHO chief said. "If accelerated, it could be even less than that, but by a couple of months. That's what scientists are saying." Other experts have suggested a Covid-19 vaccine will not be available until at least mid-2021.
7-6-20 Coronavirus: India overtakes Russia in Covid-19 cases
India has recorded more than 24,000 new cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, taking its total above that of Russia. The country now has the third-largest number of confirmed cases in the world, 697,413. There have been 19,693 deaths. The latest surge in numbers has also been powered by a rise in cases from a handful of southern states, including Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. India reopened shopping centres, places of worship and offices a month ago. For the last three days, India's caseload has galloped at an alarming rate, adding more than 20,000 daily infections per day. Although India has the third highest number of cases, it is eighth in fatalities, according to statistics from Johns Hopkins University. Southern Indian states had earlier managed to keep infections at bay. But this looks to change as reported infections in the south - Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu - are growing faster than the national growth rate, reported The Indian Express newspaper. India went into a stringent lockdown in March in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, whose numbers were only in the hundreds then. It began to ease out of it in phases in June to promote economic activity, even as cases continued to spike. But experts point to India's low fatality rate - 2.4% in comparison to the global average of 4.7% - as a potential silver lining. The country's climbing recovery rate - about 60% of all its confirmed cases - is another encouraging sign. India's active infections - 36% of its total caseload - is significant as it is these cases that have a direct impact on the country's fragile healthcare system, which has dominated headlines. Numerous reports of patients being turned away and refused treatment at various hospitals in cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore has prompted outrage among citizens, and has even led to deaths in some cases.
7-6-20 Viewpoint: What Donald Trump gets wrong about Somalia
In our series of letters from African journalists, Ismail Einashe considers how Somalia has become caught up in the US election campaign. President Donald Trump is making Somali-American congresswoman Ilhan Omar one of the bogeywomen of his campaign for re-election to the White House in November - and by proxy her country of birth, Somalia. In his most recent attack, at a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he tore into the 37-year-old alleging that she wanted to bring the "anarchy" of Somalia to the US. "She would like to make the government of our country just like the country from where she came - Somalia. No government, no safety, no police, no nothing, just anarchy. And now, she's telling us how to run our country. No, thank-you." Ms Omar, who arrived in the US as a child refugee in 1995, is the congressional representative for Minnesota, which includes the city of Minneapolis where African-American George Floyd was killed by police in May, reigniting Black Lives Matter protests. But it was Ms Omar's Somali heritage the president chose to focus on in Tulsa, perhaps to distract from all the turmoil and unrest closer to home. In response Ms Omar said his remarks were "racist". She added that his anger came out of a recent poll that had shown him trailing his rival, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, in her state, which is home to a large Somali-American community. The president described Ms Omar as a "hate-filled, American-bashing socialist", warning she would have a role in shaping the country if Mr Biden were to win. This is despite the fact that the pair are on opposite ends of the Democratic Party - Ms Omar had been a prominent supporter of Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic ticket. But such rhetoric plays well to his base, so the electoral stage has been set, the cast chosen - and Ms Omar and Somalia have starring roles. In fact they both debuted last year at Mr Trump's rally in North Carolina, where the crowd chanted about Ms Omar: "Send her back! Send her back!" (Webmaster's comment: Our President is a racist pig!)
7-6-20 Black Lives Matter: Can viral videos stop police brutality?
George Floyd's death might not have caused global outrage if it hadn't been filmed. But do viral videos actually reduce police abuse? "They killed this man, bro. He was crying, telling them 'I can't breathe.'" For more than five minutes Darnella Frazier rambled on Facebook Live about the killing she had witnessed - repeating over and over again that she had video evidence. A short time later on that night in late May, Frazier uploaded a video of the death of George Floyd - including the eight minutes and 46 seconds in which Derek Chauvin forced his knee onto his neck. Had it not been for that video and other footage from bystanders, it's likely that Mr Floyd's death would never have sparked global outrage. But does that make viral videos, shot on the phone in your hand, an effective check on police abuse? Darnella Frazier's video was far from the first viral footage to document police brutality. In 2016, Philando Castile died after being shot by police in his car. Like the death of George Floyd, Mr Castile's death also happened in Minnesota - in Falcon Heights, just a short drive from Minneapolis. His girlfriend live-streamed the immediate aftermath on Facebook, including shots of Castile's lifeless body in the driver's seat. The day before, Alton Sterling was killed by two police officers outside a convenience store in Louisiana. Video evidence filmed on a smartphone was posted online. In 2014, footage captured events leading up to the deaths of Eric Garner in New York and Laquan McDonald in Chicago. In fact, many cite the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers, captured on videotape in 1991, as one of the first "viral" police abuse videos - long before the social media era. None of those events, however, sparked quite the same level of global outrage as the footage of George Floyd. (Webmaster's comment: The murdering of blacks by the police will continue until we purge the police of all racists, white nationalists, Klan and Neo-nazis!)
7-5-20 Gettysburg 'flag-burning hoax' sees armed far-right groups assemble
Rumours that anti-fascist protesters planned to burn American flags on the Gettysburg Civil War battleground site led to armed far-right groups turning up in numbers on US Independence Day. Posts on social media by supposed antifa leaders urged members to meet at the Pennsylvania site on 4 July. In response, far-right groups assembled on the historic grounds on Saturday - but no adversaries showed up. The holiday marks the US declaration of independence from Britain in 1776. The posts that appeared on social media ahead of the Independence Day celebrations reportedly called for people to flock to the site in face paint. Activists would "be giving away free small flags to children to safely throw into the fire", the hoax call suggested. "Let's get together and burn flags in protest of thugs and animals in blue," one anonymous Facebook post said. There is no evidence to suggest that those responsible for the online posts are in any way linked to antifa - a loosely-affiliated network of mainly far-left activists. Hours before the flag-burning was supposed to start, far-right groups gathered in a parking lot next to a Wal-Mart. Some were armed. "It doesn't matter if it's a hoax or not," Christopher Blakeman, who travelled to the Gettysburg site from West Virginia on Saturday, told the Washington Post newspaper. "They made a threat, and if we don't make our voices heard, it'll make it seem like it's OK," he added. In his Independence Day address on Saturday, President Donald Trump vowed to defeat what he called the "radical left" as protests against racism and police brutality continue. Mr Trump said he would "fight... to preserve the American way of life", while railing at "mobs" targeting historical monuments. In May, the president said the US would designate antifa, which he accused of starting riots at street protests over the death of African American George Floyd, a terrorist organisation.
7-5-20 Fourth of July: Trump vows to defeat 'radical left' in Independence Day speech
US President Donald Trump has used an Independence Day address to vow to defeat the "radical left" as protests sweep the country. Striking a combative tone, Mr Trump said he would "fight... to preserve American way of life", while railing at "mobs" targeting historical monuments. Ahead of his speech, Black Lives Matter protesters gathered nearby. Mr Trump's 2020 election rival Joe Biden said everyone deserved "a full share of the American dream". The 4 July holiday marks the nation's declaration of independence from Britain in 1776 and is one of the most important days in the national calendar. Historically presidents have used the occasion to deliver speeches extolling the virtues of unity. Last year Mr Trump spoke of the "extraordinary heritage" of the country at an event with a militaristic theme that involved Air Force flyovers and tanks parked on display. This year, Mr Trump's address was again followed by a flyover involving various aircraft, including B-52 bombers and F-35 fighter jets. Speaking from the White House lawn on Saturday, Mr Trump took aim at protesters that he sees as anti-patriotic who have taken to the streets in the wake of the death in police custody in May of African-American George Floyd. "We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters, and the people who, in many instances, have absolutely no clue what they are doing," he said. "We will never allow an angry mob to tear down our statues, erase our history, indoctrinate our children." Statues and monuments of historical figures associated with racism or slavery have been pulled down or removed amid the wave of protests - drawing Mr Trump's ire. "Their goal is demolition," he declared. Elaborating on his plan to create a "National Garden of American Heroes" featuring statues of renowned Americans, Mr Trump said the country's rich heritage belonged to citizens of all races. "The patriots who built our country were not villains," he said. "They were heroes." After he spoke, protesters in Baltimore, about 40 miles (65km) north of the capital, pulled down a statue of explorer Christopher Columbus - whom Mr Trump had mentioned in his speech - and rolled it into a harbour. (Webmaster's comment: Columbus crucified the Indians who did not give him gold!)
7-5-20 Seattle protests: Woman killed after car strikes protesters
A woman has died after a car sped into a group of protesters on a closed highway in Seattle, officials say. The car "drove through the closure and struck multiple pedestrians", a Washington State Patrol tweet said. Summer Taylor, 24, died hours later, while a second woman was seriously hurt. A suspect has been arrested. There has been prolonged unrest in Seattle since African-American George Floyd died in police custody in Minneapolis in May. Protests have been widespread across the US under the Black Lives Matter movement. The incident with the vehicle occurred on Saturday morning at a southbound section of Interstate-5 that had been shut ahead of a women's march. Part of the protest had been live-streamed on social media under the headline "Black Femme March takes I-5". Footage posted on Twitter showed a white car speeding along the highway at about 01:40 (08:40 GMT), before swerving to avoid two stationary vehicles positioned as a roadblock, then hitting the two people. The suspect - 27-year-old Dawit Kelete of Seattle - has been charged with two counts of vehicular assault. Police have not said whether it was a targeted attack. (Webmaster's comment: He should be charged with first-degree murder!)
7-5-20 Coronavirus: Mexico's death toll passes 30,000
Mexico has recorded more than 30,000 deaths from its coronavirus outbreak, as the disease continues to ravage one of Latin America's worst-hit countries. The health ministry said deaths rose by 523 on Saturday, pushing the total to 30,366. The country now has the world's fifth-highest Covid-19 toll, passing France, where more than 29,000 have died. A daily record of 6,914 new infections was recorded in Mexico, bringing the total to 252,165, officials said. However, the true number of fatalities and infections is thought to be much higher because of insufficient testing. Mexico has Latin America's second-highest death toll after Brazil, which has recorded 64,000 fatalities and more than 1.5 million infections to date, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the disease globally. Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is eager to restart the country's flagging economy. His government announced a phased plan to lift restrictions in May. In Mexico City, the capital, hundreds of thousands of factory workers returned to their jobs in mid-June. Some non-essential businesses were then allowed to reopen at the start of July in the city, the epicentre of the country's epidemic. But on Friday, Mexico's Deputy Health Minister, Hugo Lopez-Gatell, said coronavirus deaths could rise if the country opens up its economy too soon. "As we're in an active epidemic, the risk is that as we try to reopen social activities... we may have more infections and the transmission could be maintained or increase," the minister told a news conference. Critics say Mr Obrador was slow to impose the lockdown measures and now has been too quick to lift them. Most of the Mexican economy was stopped from 23 March, but some industries that were declared key to the functioning of the nation were exempt from the restrictions.
7-5-20 Australian outbreak has 'explosive potential'
Churches welcome first congregations since lockdown. The Australian state of Victoria warns that an outbreak in Melbourne has "genuinely explosive potential." Some 3,000 residents of densely populated tower blocks in the city have been placed under lockdown. NHS England is launching a new service for people with ongoing health problems after having coronavirus. Pub-goers in England have enjoyed their first night out in three months after some restrictions were lifted. A round of clapping is to be held across the UK at 17:00 BST to pay tribute to NHS staff. Mexico records more than 30,000 deaths as the disease ravages one of Latin America's worst-hit countries. More than 11.2 million cases of Covid-19 have been recorded worldwide with nearly 531,000 deaths.
7-4-20 Mount Rushmore: Trump denounces 'angry mobs' tearing down statues
US President Donald Trump denounced "angry mobs" who are "trying to tear down statues of our founders", in a speech marking 4 July celebrations at Mount Rushmore, South Dakota. The location was controversial, as the monument features the faces of two slave-owning former US presidents, and stands on land taken from the indigenous Lakota Sioux by the US government in the 1800s. Thousands of Trump supporters gathered despite concerns over the possible spread of coronavirus.
7-4-20 Coronavirus: What makes a gathering a ‘superspreader’ event?
Now months into the US coronavirus outbreak, safety precautions have become routine: stand 6ft (2m) apart, wear a mask, and wash your hands. But still, certain 'superspreader' events - birthday parties, bar nights, and even choir practice - seem to be the culprits in an outsized number of Covid-19 infections. So how can one night out, or a single infected person, lead to dozens of cases? We asked Dr Abraar Karan, a physician and public health researcher at Harvard Medical School, to look at three different cases since the US outbreak began to understand how some events can shift from low to high risk, and how to avoid attending a superspreader event yourself. At a superspreading event, the number of cases transmitted will be disproportionately high compared to general transmission, Dr Karan says. And the risk of these superspreading events may balloon in the presence of superspreading people, who pass on their infection more widely either by being in contact with more people or emitting more of the virus. "I tend to think of it as this: the vast majority of people may not infect any other people, and some people in certain situations infect a lot of people," he says. "One person may infect 10 people, or 15 people or 20 people." Research is still being done, Dr Karan says, but early results indicate that coronavirus spread is primarily powered by these supercharged events. "Different models have looked at this and they suggest that 20% of people account for 80% of spread." And while risk profiles will vary widely between similar events, Dr Karan says there are certain factors that should raise a red flag. "If you have any of the following in combination: indoors, crowded, closed spaces, without any sort of personal protective equipment like masks, which you're not going to have eating - I think those are all high-risk," he says.
7-4-20 Mount Rushmore: Trump denounces 'cancel culture' at 4 July event
US President Donald Trump has railed against the "cancel culture" of those who toppled monuments during recent anti-racism protests, in a speech to mark 4 July at Mount Rushmore. He condemned those who targeted statues of Confederate leaders as "angry mobs". Mr Trump accused protesters of "a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children". "We will not be silenced," he said. The president, who has been heavily criticised for his handling of the US coronavirus pandemic, made little reference to the disease that has now claimed almost 130,000 American lives. The US recorded its largest single-day rise in coronavirus infections on Friday, bringing the total to more than 2.5 million - the most of any country. Masks and social distancing were not mandatory at the Mount Rushmore event, despite warnings by health officials. The location, too, was controversial. Mount Rushmore features the carved faces of four US presidents, two of whom - George Washington and Thomas Jefferson - were slave-owners. It also stands on land that was taken from the indigenous Lakota Sioux by the US government in the 1800s. Addressing Mount Rushmore itself, the president said the South Dakota landmark would "stand forever as an eternal tribute to our forefathers and to our freedom". "This monument will never be desecrated, these heroes will never be defaced," he told a cheering crowd. The president added that people who target "symbols of national heritage" will face "the fullest extent of the law". He said those who defaced statues could be sentenced to 10 years in jail, referring to a recent executive order he signed on protecting monuments. A fireworks display set to music was then held at the pre-Independence Day event, watched by about 7,500 ticket-holders. Welcoming people to the event, South Dakota's Republican Governor Kristi Noem echoed the president's tone, accusing demonstrators of "trying to wipe away the lessons of history". "This is being done deliberately to discredit America's founding principles," she said. (Webmaster's comment: Trump and Kristi Noem act with total disgard for people's safety!)
7-4-20 Donald Trump orders creation of national heroes garden
US President Donald Trump has ordered the creation of a "National Garden of American Heroes" to defend what he calls "our great national story" against those who vandalise statues. His executive order gives a new task force 60 days to present plans, including a location, for the garden. He insists the new statues must be lifelike, "not abstract or modernist". A number of US statues have been pulled down since the police killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd in May. Monuments linked to the slave-owning Confederacy during the Civil War in America have been especially targeted in the nationwide protests ignited by the death of Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. President Trump has defended Confederate symbols as a part of American heritage. Earlier, in a speech to mark Independence Day at Mount Rushmore, he condemned the anti-racism protesters who toppled statues. He said America's national heritage was being threatened - an emotive appeal for patriotism. The garden - to be in place of natural beauty near a city - is to be opened by 4 July 2026, Mr Trump's executive order says. State authorities and civic organisations are invited to donate statues for it. President Trump's choice of historical figures to be commemorated in the garden is likely to be controversial. The list of "historically significant" Americans includes predictably Founding Fathers like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, but also frontiersman Davy Crockett, evangelical Christian preacher Billy Graham, Ronald Reagan and World War Two heroes Douglas MacArthur and George Patton. There will also be statues of African American civil rights campaigners Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King Jr. Controversially, Mr Trump includes non-Americans who "made substantive historical contributions to the discovery, development, or independence of the future United States". So the garden can have statues of Christopher Columbus, Junipero Serra and the Marquis de Lafayette. Columbus and the Spanish Catholic missionary Serra are far from heroic for Native Americans, because their "discoveries" led to the enslavement and exploitation of indigenous people by white colonists. (Webmaster's comment: Columbus crucified Indians for not giving him enough gold.) The Marquis de Lafayette, a French aristocrat and military commander, led American troops in key battles against the British in the American Revolution. (Webmaster's comment: But this will be a garden of mostly white slavers!)
7-4-20 Independence Day: What does Fourth of July mean to black Americans?
What does the Fourth of July mean for black Americans? Arielle Gray, a journalist from Boston, argues that the story of American independence is "historically inaccurate" - because slavery in America continued for another 89 years after 4 July 1776, known as Independence Day. "We have to stop celebrating myths. Fourth of July - Independence Day - is a myth," adds Quintez Brown. Quintez, Arielle and Tre Vayne say the story taught to them in school was misleading. They all believe that Juneteenth - which celebrates the official end of slavery in America, on 19 June 1865 - is a more appropriate holiday for black Americans to celebrate.
7-4-20 White couple charged with assault over threats to black family
A white husband and wife have been charged after the woman pulled a gun on a black mother and her children during a confrontation in a car park. Footage of the incident in Orion Township, near Detroit, has been viewed millions of times on social media. It shows Jillian Wuestenberg pointing the cocked gun and shouting: "Get away." Local Sheriff Michael Bouchard said the confrontation had stemmed from a "bump" at the entrance to a restaurant. The Wuestenbergs have both been charged with felonious assault. They each had a loaded firearm, the sheriff said. The black family was not armed. Ms Wuestenberg, 32, is alleged to have bumped into 15-year-old Makayla Green. In the footage, the teenager's mother, Takelia Hill, demands an apology while her daughter films. Ms Wuestenberg gets into her vehicle, driven by her husband Eric, 42, but the argument escalates and she reappears brandishing a gun and pointing it at the teenager and her mother. Several people called the police and the couple were arrested, Sheriff Bouchard said. The sheriff said officers were "presented with two very different stories from two different groups", with both sides claiming they felt "extremely threatened". "Let's have a little more tolerance for each other and not being so quick to react," he told a news conference. "If someone is doing something improper or unfair, I tell my family and friends to look away. This is not the moment to plant your flag." Oakland County chief executive David Coulter said he had been "deeply disturbed" by the incident on 1 July. "This behaviour is unacceptable. I wholly expect the prosecutor to bring charges that reflect the severity of the incident." he said. But Oakland County prosecutor Jessica Cooper described it as "an unfortunate set of circumstances that tempers run high over, basically, not much of an incident", AP reported. (Webmaster's comment: So the white person will get away with pointing a gun at a black family who was not a threat to them. But if that had been a black pointing a gun at a white family they'd be killed by the police within minutes!)
7-4-20 Elijah McClain: Denver officers fired for pictures mocking man's death
Three US police officers in Colorado have been sacked after they shared photos re-enacting a chokehold used on a black man who later died. Elijah McClain, 23, died in August last year after being stopped by police. Another officer resigned over the matter. A local police chief called the images "beyond comprehension". Mr McClain's case attracted renewed focus in the wake of the death of George Floyd, another unarmed African-American who died in police custody. The officers who were fired were named as Jason Rosenblatt, Erica Marrero and Kyle Dittrich. The fourth, Jaron Jones, resigned on Tuesday. Vanessa Wilson, the acting police chief in the Denver suburb of Aurora, where the incident took place, called the images a crime against humanity and decency. "We are ashamed, we are sickened, and we are angry about what I have to share," she told a news conference. "While the allegations of this internal affairs case are not criminal, they are a crime against humanity and decency. To even think about doing such a thing is beyond comprehension and it is reprehensible." One of the pictures shows former officers Dittrich and Jones imitating a neck hold, while Marrero smiles to their left. Jason Rosenblatt was sent the photos by text and responded "ha ha". Chief Wilson said she held off releasing the photos until she could share them with Mr McClain's family. Their lawyer called the images "appalling". Mr McClain was walking in Aurora on 24 August last year when he was stopped by three police officers. A district attorney report later said there had been an emergency call about a "suspicious person" matching his description. There was a struggle after Mr McClain resisted contact with the officers, who wanted to search him to see if he was armed, the report says. On body cam footage Mr McClain can be heard saying, "I'm an introvert, please respect my boundaries that I am speaking." One of the officers then says "he is going for your gun", and they wrestle him to the ground and put him in a chokehold. The report says Mr McClain lost consciousness, was released from the chokehold, and began to struggle again. The officers called for assistance, with fire fighters and an ambulance responding. A medic injected Mr McClain with ketamine to sedate him. Mr McClain was then put in "soft restraints" on a stretcher and put inside the ambulance. The medic who had administered the drug then noticed that Mr McClain's chest "was not rising on its own, and he did not have a pulse". He was declared brain dead on 27 August. (Webmaster's comment: Racism and white nationalism is embedded in our police cultures!)
7-4-20 Coronavirus: Japan's mysteriously low virus death rate
Why haven't more people in Japan died from Covid-19? It is a macabre question that has spawned dozens of theories, from Japanese manners to claims that the Japanese have superior immunity. Japan does not have the lowest death rate for Covid-19 - in the region, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Vietnam can all boast lower morbidity. But in the early part of 2020, Japan saw fewer deaths than average. This is despite the fact that in April, Tokyo saw about 1,000 "excess deaths' - perhaps due to Covid. Yet, for the year as a whole, it is possible that overall deaths will be down on 2019. This is particularly striking because Japan has many of the conditions that make it vulnerable to Covid-19, but it never adopted the energetic approach to tackling the virus that some of its neighbours did. At the height of the outbreak in Wuhan in February, when the city's hospitals were overwhelmed and the world put up walls to Chinese travellers, Japan kept borders open. As the virus spread, it quickly became clear that Covid is a disease that primarily kills the elderly and is massively amplified by crowds or prolonged close contact. Per capita, Japan has more elderly than any other country. Japan's population is also densely packed into huge cities. Greater Tokyo has a mind-boggling 37 million people and for most of them, the only way to get around is on the city's notoriously packed trains. Then there is Japan's refusal to heed the advice of the World Health Organization (WHO) to "test, test, test". Even now, total PCR tests stand at just 348,000, or 0.27% of Japan's population. Nor has Japan had a lockdown on the scale or severity of Europe. In early April, the government ordered a state of emergency. But the stay-at-home request was voluntary. Non-essential businesses were asked to close, but there was no legal penalty for refusing. Many paragons of Covid strategy, such as New Zealand and Vietnam, used tough measures including closing borders, tight lockdowns, large-scale testing and strict quarantines - but Japan did none of that. Yet, five months after the first Covid case was reported here, Japan has fewer than 20,000 confirmed cases and fewer than 1,000 deaths. The state of emergency has been lifted, and life is rapidly returning to normal.
7-3-20 The scandal of the Declaration
On reckoning with the legacy of America's loftiest document and its slave-owning author. July 4, 1776, is not the date on which the colonies achieved their independence from Great Britain; that was September 3, 1783. It is not the date on which the war began; that was April 19, 1775. It is certainly not the date that we became the United States — that wouldn't be until the adoption of the Constitution, which was created on September 17, 1787, was ratified by a sufficient number of states on June 21, 1788, and became effective on March 4, 1789. It wasn't even the date on which the Continental Congress resolved unanimously to separate from Britain; that was two days earlier, on July 2, 1776. No, what we celebrate on July 4 are the words written to justify that resolution to the world, which were agreed to formally on that day. The words that constitute the Declaration of Independence. Most of those words have echoed through history but hollowly. If "He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance" were enough to justify revolution, no government on earth would be left standing. The text declares by way of preamble that certain truths are self-evident, when they were widely disputed at the time and were not even directly relevant to the case being presented. And the most important truth, that the colonies did, in fact, constitute a separate people or nation, and hence were in a position to "assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them," while implied throughout, was never even properly declared, much less substantiated. But it is those supposedly self-evident truths — "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness" — for which the Declaration is remembered and celebrated. So how do we relate to the irony that the primary author of those words, Thomas Jefferson, was a slave-owner and a white supremacist? The irony was noted at the time by British abolitionists like Thomas Day, and by the idiosyncratic Tory Samuel Johnson, who famously asked, "How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?" The question is very difficult to answer, and so Americans have, historically, dealt with the irony mostly by lying to obscure it. For example, the Broadway musical, 1776, has Jefferson proclaim that he has already resolved to free his slaves, but this is something he not only didn't do in his lifetime (he freed only two of his hundreds of slaves while he lived), but did not even achieve through his will (which freed an additional five). On the contrary, Jefferson's investment, financial and emotional, in slavery only increased over the course of his life, as it became clear how profitable slave labor could be for the owner (and as the Haitian revolution revealed what the consequence would be for plantation owners if their slaves took the Declaration at its word).
7-3-20 Coronavirus: Texas governor mandates wearing of face masks
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has ordered face coverings to be worn in public as coronavirus cases rocket in the state. The directive applies to counties with 20 or more Covid-19 cases, which covers most of Texas' 254 counties. Texas hit a record of more than 8,000 virus cases in a day on Wednesday, up from about 2,400 two weeks ago. Americans are about to mark the Fourth of July weekend, with some beaches coast to coast shut and fireworks displays cancelled. There have now been 2.7 million recorded infections nationwide and more than 128,000 deaths since the pandemic began. "Wearing a face covering will help us to keep Texas open for business," Mr Abbott said, announcing the order. After an initial warning, those who refuse will face a fine up to $250. "Let me be clear: no-one can ever be put in jail for violating this safe practice," the governor said. "Covid-19 is not going away," Mr Abbott, a Republican, said on Thursday. "In fact it's getting worse." Warning that some hospital intensive care units were almost full, he added: "We are now at a point where the virus is spreading so fast there is little margin for error." The order includes a series of "common sense" exemptions, including children who are 10 years old or younger, those who have a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask, people who are eating or drinking and those who are exercising outdoors. Texas is now one of 21 states that require mask wearing in public, according to Masks4All, a volunteer advocacy group. But the move by Mr Abbott was described as "far too little, far too late" by the Texas Democratic Party. Texas led the charge in US states loosening lockdown measures that were meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Mr Abbott allowed his initial stay-at-home order to expire on 30 April, with almost all businesses operating to at least 50% capacity by early June. But as the virus surged, Mr Abbott began to walk back his state's reopening last week, ordering all bars shut and cutting restaurant capacity from 75-50%. Mr Abbott had initially resisted a state-wide order on masks, going so far as to ban local governments from requiring facial coverings.
7-3-20 How Cuba and Uruguay are quashing coronavirus as neighbours struggle
As coronavirus cases soar in the US, Brazil and other countries in the Americas, some countries have found strategies to contain the virus and limit deaths. Over five million confirmed cases of covid-19 and nearly 250,000 related deaths have been reported in the Americas as of 29 June, around half of the world total. The coronavirus is spreading exponentially in many countries, warned Carissa Etienne, the director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) on 9 June. But in a few places, the picture is very different. Cuba, an island of 11.3 million is an unlikely exemplar of how to manage a pandemic, according to Michael Bustamante, at Florida International University. Its infamously long queues for state-provided goods make social distancing and self-isolation difficult, he says, and the country’s healthcare system, “suffers from scarcities and material shortages that are characteristic of the Cuban economy as a whole.” One particular concern was that Cuba’s aging population – the oldest in the Americas – would be hit hard when the first case of covid-19 arrived from Italy on 11 March. Even so, it had reported 2,348 confirmed cases and 86 deaths as of 1 July. What the health system lacks in materials, it makes up for in manpower –it has the highest doctor per patient ratio in the world, 8.19 per 1000 – by comparison, Brazil has 2.15, and the US 2.6. Before the first reported case, Cuba’s government dispatched teams of doctors, nurses and medical students door-to-door asking about respiratory symptoms and educating the public on the disease. It sent suspected covid-19 cases to state-run isolation centres and traced all their recent contacts. “A really strong primary health care system has been a major player in controlling the outbreak,” says Alcimar Riverol at São Paulo State University. The government should also be credited for acting early, says Alcimar. “They were preparing the whole system for diagnostics two months before the first case was detected,” he says.
7-2-20 Assessment of U.S. COVID-19 Situation Increasingly Bleak
As coronavirus infections are spiking in U.S. states that previously had not been hard-hit, a new high of 65% of U.S. adults say the coronavirus situation is getting worse. The percentage of Americans who believe the situation is getting worse has increased from 48% the preceding week, and from 37% two weeks prior.
- 65% say the situation is getting worse, the highest in Gallup's trend
- Sharp increase in those expecting situation to persist through 2020
- More Americans are worried about getting the disease
7-2-20 Leaky lockdowns fuelled virus in US, Fauci says
Trump to hold 4 July celebration at Mount Rushmore despite warnings. Leaky lockdowns fuelled the coronavirus in the US, says the country's top expert in infectious diseases. Dr Anthony Fauci tells the BBC the US risks an even greater outbreak if surge in cases is not controlled. President Donald Trump changes tack and says he would wear a mask "in a tight situation." In the UK, around 75 countries are expected to be exempt from travel quarantine rules. Education secretary announces plans for all students in England to return to school in September. New Zealand's health minister resigns after a series of quarantine breaches by travellers. Globally there are 10.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 515,500 deaths. US President Donald Trump is planning to go ahead with an Independence Day celebration at Mt Rushmore in South Dakota on Friday, despite warnings from public health officials and environmental and tribal leaders. The event will not feature social distancing, and will be open to more than 7,000 attendees, the South Dakota governor said. National Park officials have also warned that the event's pyrotechnics display could spark a brushfire due to dry conditions.
7-2-20 Massachusetts is an exception to America's coronavirus failure
America as a whole is in coronavirus hell. At time of writing, new cases were up 82 percent over the last two weeks, to almost 50,000 per day. Florida alone is routinely posting more new cases than the entirety of the European Union. While deaths have so far not spiked, it's only a matter of time. However, it's not entirely bad. A handful of Northeastern states have managed to get things under control — especially Massachusetts, which has managed a tentative reopening without seeing a spike in new cases so far, despite some significant anti-police brutality protests weeks ago. There the government did it by following expert guidance and learning from other countries who have managed the outbreak well. It might be outside the grasp of most of the rest of the country, but it isn't particle physics. The basic strategy is the same one we have seen work across the world. First, Massachusetts locked down hard to contain the initial surge of virus, and boosted its hospital capacity to keep them from being overwhelmed. Then the government set up a test-trace-isolate system — ramping up testing to catch new cases, tracing the contacts of everyone who had been infected, and putting them in quarantine either at home or in adapted hotels in some cities. This hit some bumps early on, but now it seems to be working well. Meanwhile, state authorities continually reinforced the importance of hygiene and mask-wearing, and remarkably, the population actually listened. Finally, reopening was conditioned on actually meeting the metrics recommended by national and international guidelines — the state has repeatedly delayed moving along its plan to make sure all the indicators are in the right place before proceeding. Today, Massachusetts residents are enjoying the partial return of normal life, and on June 29 the state saw the first day with no COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic. It remains to be seen whether they will be able to return fully to normal — given what has been seen elsewhere, I would be extremely wary about opening up full indoor service at bars and restaurants — but it's a proof of concept. The virus works in the U.S. like it does everywhere else, and a competent state response can stop the spread, and get at least some ways back towards normal.
7-2-20 America's looming experiment in health-care rationing
Arizona on Monday announced its pandemic "crisis care standards," which is a euphemism for rationing. If the state's confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to trend sharply upward, as they have throughout the month of June, the standards will provide statewide triage rules for doctors determining which patients receive which treatments when resources are too scarce to provide ideal care to all. Such guidance is "not needed today," said Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R), "but we're anticipating that it will be there in the future.". Arizona's spiking caseload isn't unique. Between 33,000 and 45,000 new U.S. cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed daily over the past week. The hospitalization rate has not reflected that spike, nor has the death rate. Perhaps that forbearance will continue, and care resources will never be stretched thin like they were in Italy. Perhaps we're simply experiencing a lag. If all three numbers rise in unison, coronavirus "crisis care standards" could be implemented by every state. Ah, but what should those standards be? This is a near-impossible question to answer. Italy chose an explicitly utilitarian approach: "Informed by the principle of maximizing benefits for the largest number," its guidelines said, "the allocation criteria need to guarantee that those patients with the highest chance of therapeutic success will retain access to intensive care." As COVID-19 is often most severe in older patients, some hospitals ordered age cutoffs for intubation. "[An unnamed Italian physician] offered a hypothetical scenario involving two patients with respiratory failure, one 65 and the other 85 with coexisting conditions," reported The New England Journal of Medicine. "With only one ventilator, you intubate the 65-year-old." The surface-level logic of a utilitarian approach makes sense. It's a medical trolley problem, and you pull the lever to kill one person instead of five. But under scrutiny, it's messy. Uncertain. Is it our best option? Is it right? Does it even provide all the answers it promises? In concrete example: "Would you remove a ventilator from one patient who was having a rocky course, for instance, to give it to another in the throes of an initial decompensation?" the NEJM story asks. "Would you preferentially intubate a healthy 55-year-old over a young mother with breast cancer whose prognosis is unknown?" Should comorbidities trump age? What about when health-care workers are themselves infected: Should they receive priority because, once recovered, they might save other lives? Or is a "first come, first served" approach better? Can we decide on purely objective considerations, like oxygen saturation or viral load? Can we make a formula so the data decide for us? Would that release us of moral responsibility for the results? The Arizona standards have a points system in which, like the grimmest game of golf, you want to come in below par. But they also allow for subjective consideration of factors like whether the patient is pediatric or pregnant, whether they work in health care or are someone else's sole caregiver, and — in what seems to be a proxy for age without running afoul of age discrimination laws — how many "life stages" they have had the opportunity to experience.
7-2-20 Why Texas is seeing a surge in coronavirus cases
For months, the state was doing well. Cases were low and the economy had just reopened. Now, it's one of the most recent coronavirus hotspots in the United States, seeing upwards of 6,000 new cases every day and hospitals are reaching capacity. Why the sudden surge?
7-2-20 Coronavirus: 'I'm all for masks,' says Trump in change of tone
US President Donald Trump, long opposed to wearing a face covering in public, says he is "all for masks" and they make him look like the Lone Ranger. Mr Trump also maintained that face coverings do not need to become mandatory to curb Covid-19's spread. He again predicted the infection would "disappear," as the US hit a new record high of 52,000 virus cases in a day. His remarks to Fox News come a day after a top Republican called on Mr Trump to wear a mask as an example. The US now has nearly 2.7 million confirmed Covid-19 infections and more than 128,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the pandemic. Speaking to Fox Business Network on Wednesday, Mr Trump said: "I'm all for masks." When asked whether he would wear one, the president said: "If I were in a tight situation with people I would, absolutely." He added that people have seen him wearing one before. Mr Trump said he would have "no problem" with wearing a mask publicly and that he "sort of liked" how he looked with one on, likening himself to the Lone Ranger, a fictional masked hero who with his Native American friend, Tonto, fought outlaws in the American Old West. But the president reiterated that he did not think making face-coverings mandatory across the US was needed, because there are "many places in the country where people stay very long distance". "If people feel good about it they should do it." Mr Trump was also asked in his Fox Business interview on Wednesday if he still believes coronavirus will "disappear" someday. "I do," he said. "I do. Yeah sure. At some point." During Mr Trump's forthcoming Independence Day celebration on 3 July at Mount Rushmore, his supporters in attendance will not be forced to wear masks or socially distance. When the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in April began recommending people wear masks or cloth coverings in public to help stop the spread of the virus, Mr Trump told reporters he would not follow the practice.
7-2-20 'Why is Trump calling Black Lives Matter a symbol of hate?'
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany has defended President Trump's comments about the Black Lives Matter movement. The US president tweeted on Wednesday about New York City's decision to paint "Black Lives Matter" on Fifth Avenue, calling it "a symbol of hate".
7-2-20 US firms create record 4.8 million jobs in June
The US economy created jobs at a record pace in June as firms took on more staff after the coronavirus downturn. Payrolls surged 4.8 million, the most since the Labor Department began keeping records in 1939, helped by the reopening of factories and restaurants. It follows May's jobs rebound, when 2.5 million joined the labour market, and comes after consumer spending data saw a jump in activity. But a recent spike in Covid-19 cases has raised fears for continued growth. June's rise is far higher than the three million jobs that many economists forecast would be created last month. However, separate Labor Department data also showed that in the week ending 27 June, initial claims for unemployment fell only slightly, to 1.43 million, on the previous week. Oxford Economics called it a "worryingly small decline". Companies, including in populous states such as California, Florida and Texas, plan to scale back or delay reopening because of the fresh coronavirus outbreaks, which would hold back hiring. This week, Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell acknowledged the rebound in activity, saying the economy had "entered an important new phase". But he warned that continuing growth would depend on "our success in containing the virus". And despite two months in a row of jobs growth, employment is still about 15 million below its pre-pandemic level, with the jobless rate just above 11%. The US Labor Department said the leisure and hospitality sector added more than two million jobs, while retail added 740,000. The resumption of routine medical appointments also helped, with healthcare employment rising 568,000. The reopening of factories meant manufacturing employment continued to rebound, rising by 356,000, driven mostly by a 195,000 gain in the car industry. The surge in job creation in the past two months has been spurred by the government's Paycheck Protection Program, which gives businesses loans that can be partially forgiven if used for wages. But those funds are drying up.
7-2-20 How Korean pop fans took on white supremacists – and won
Unusual methods of online protest have sprung up recently, and it’s become harder to tell what’s real and what’s not, says Annalee Newitz. AN UNEXPECTED form of protest has exploded across social media. Fans of Korean pop music, K-pop, have been adding their voices to the Black Lives Matter protests by “occupying” digital spaces with a flood of adorable music videos. Already, they have disrupted police surveillance, US president Donald Trump’s re-election bid and a meeting of white supremacists on Twitter. It all started when the large and enthusiastic community of K-pop fans in the US heard that police in Dallas, Texas, were asking concerned citizens to send in videos of “illegal activity from the protests”. Sick of police targeting peaceful protesters, fans spread the word among their ranks that everyone should flood the Dallas police app with their favourite gifs and videos. It worked. Soon, the police were watching clips from bands like BTS and gifs from the game Animal Crossing. Eventually, the reporting system crashed. Thrilled with their efforts, fans used similar tactics with a white supremacist hashtag on Twitter. Many groups form ad hoc “public squares” on Twitter by using hashtags, like #blacklivesmatter, to organise and share information. The fans’ goal was to take over a white supremacist hashtag by posting nothing but K-pop content to hinder racists from speaking with each other. Within hours, they had tweeted so much that the hashtag became completely useless – unless your jam is fighting about the merits of different BTS songs. As their coup de grâce, the fans targeted Trump’s re-election campaign, snapping up free tickets to his Oklahoma rally. They claimed to have reserved nearly a million, leading the Trump campaign to build an extra stage and proclaim there would be overflow seating only. Just 7000 or so people showed up.
7-1-20 Coronavirus is revealing a shattered country
How far the U.S. government has fallen — and how far we've fallen too. ith President Trump's re-election campaign foundering and polls showing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden surging to a formidable lead in the presidential race, we've begun to hear a resurgence of a refrain that's been sung over and over again since Trump's shocking win in 2016. As soon as Trump goes down to defeat and is replaced by a Democrat, we are told, the country will quickly reset, with the derangements, scandals, and furious political hatreds of the past three-and-a-half years rapidly fading from the scene. Before you know it, America will be back to normal. This has always been a fantasy, but it's an especially delusional one now. The fact is that America's problems are much vaster than Trump. The big, bad Orange Man is a symptom (both an effect and a cause) of a political system and national culture losing its bearings and spiraling down toward what looks distressingly like a collective nervous breakdown. Take COVID-19. Trump and his party deserve considerable blame for its handling of the pandemic — first for downplaying the danger, then for failing to take advantage of several weeks in lockdown to set up a nationwide program of testing and tracing, for encouraging Republicans to view the virus through a culture-war lens, for foolishly treating the country's public health and economic well-being as sharply opposed to one another rather than deeply intertwined, and finally for largely giving up on public-health efforts at the federal level once the president decided that such measures were harming him politically. Yet America's disastrous response to the coronavirus pandemic is not simply a function of the Trump administration's incompetence and incontinence. For one thing, the worst initial outbreak in the country — among the deadliest in the entire world — took place in and around liberal New York City, where the city's mayor has distinguished himself by the ineptitude of his leadership and the state's governor was responsible for instituting nursing home policies that led directly to enormous numbers of deaths. Meanwhile, in more recent weeks media reports have emphasized that the current surge in new cases of the virus is taking place in a series of red states (Florida, Texas, Arizona) that may have reopened too quickly and haphazardly, and where many individuals seem strongly opposed to public mask-wearing to mitigate the spread of the virus. Yet deepest-blue California is also experiencing a surge in new cases — and there is mounting evidence that the Black Lives Matter protests of the past month (which were cheered on by many public-health authorities) may have spread the virus among the young people taking part in them. This isn't a Republican fail. It's an American fail. What is the source of the failure? It has many names — individualism, cultural libertarianism, atomism, selfishness, lack of social trust, suspicion of authority — and it takes a multitude of forms. But whatever we call it, it amounts to a refusal on the part of lots of Americans to think in terms of the social whole — of what's best for the community, of the common or public good. Each of us thinks we know what's best for ourselves. We resent being told what to do. If wearing a mask is unpleasant, we don't want to be forced to do it. In fact, a governing authority — or really, anyone, even fellow customers at a grocery store — reprimanding us for failing to do our part for public health is enough to make us dig in our heels and stubbornly refuse to go along.
7-1-20 The U.S. largely wasted time bought by COVID-19 lockdowns. Now what?
As states reopen, most don’t have adequate ways yet to test, trace and isolate new cases. From March to May, much of the United States pressed pause. In the face of a new, highly transmissible coronavirus, widespread lockdowns and social distancing were the only tools available to prevent an overwhelming surge in infections and deaths that threatened to overwhelm healthcare systems. The strategy largely worked to keep most hospitals functioning. The heavy toll after six months — over 125,000 dead from COVID-19 and more than 2 million Americans infected — almost certainly would have been worse without lockdowns. But these interrupted months were also supposed to buy time for public health authorities to ready other tools, namely widespread testing and contact tracing, to enable a gradual reopening as we wait for a vaccine (SN: 4/29/20). Now, many experts worry that the United States has largely squandered the time bought by millions of Americans who stayed home, often at significant personal and financial cost. Despite some progress, especially in testing, most of the country’s local health departments still don’t have the workforce or the infrastructure needed to safely relax social distancing. Yet most states are forging ahead with reopening anyway. Those that reopened quickly, like Florida and Texas, have already reversed course, reimposing some restrictions in an effort to slow a surge in cases now building across much of the South and West. Many have worried about a “second wave” of COVID-19, perhaps in the fall. But the truth is that we’re still in the middle of the first wave, even as infections have fallen in many other countries initially hit hard by the virus. Early hot spots like New York City have cooled off, but that decrease in new cases is offset by a surge in states like Texas, Arizona, California and Florida. The resulting plateau in nationwide cases since May has been ticking upward in recent weeks. On June 26, over 45,000 new cases were reported in the United States, surpassing the previous record set two months earlier.
7-1-20 Coronavirus: How we are living with the virus in Florida and Texas
People in Florida and Texas - where new coronavirus infections are ballooning - have described their opinions about the pandemic and their leaders decisions to restart the economy before defeating the virus. I am worried about the situation in the entire world, not just my hometown of Pembroke Pines, Florida. This is a sad situation that we have all been affected by and the best thing we can do is hope for it to end soon. I knew that this was inevitable. I do not believe Florida opened their businesses too soon. At the end of the day some responsibility has to be placed in the hands of citizens. I do not quarantine right now. I decided to stay in Gainesville, where I go to college, and am surrounding myself with people who are at very low risk of developing bad symptoms. I try to wear a mask as often as I can. As someone who planned on moving to a large city after graduation this summer, the pandemic has affected my life a lot. Days that used to be packed with going to the gym, searching for jobs and having fun with friends have become quests of finding small activities to keep me productive. Right now, the goal of every citizen should be staying healthy and protecting those that are most vulnerable to the virus. I have been here for four years as I attend Florida Atlantic University. I feel just as nervous as I did In March when it all started. But I do think there was a period when everyone began to forget about the virus. I even thought things were getting better for awhile. I absolutely think businesses reopened too soon. For the most part I know I could be doing better with social distancing. I've been going to yoga classes and took a trip to a hotel in Miami for the weekend which was probably not my best decision. But we made sure to keep six feet apart and wear masks.
7-1-20 Coronavirus: US buys nearly all of Gilead's Covid-19 drug remdesivir
The US is buying nearly all the next three months' projected production of Covid-19 treatment remdesivir from US manufacturer Gilead. The US health department announced on Tuesday it had agreed to buy 500,000 doses for use in American hospitals. Tests suggest remdesivir cuts recovery times, though it is not yet clear if it improves survival rates. Gilead did sign a licensing deal in May for production outside the US but it is still in its early stages. "President Trump has struck an amazing deal to ensure Americans have access to the first authorised therapeutic for Covid-19," Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. A course of treatment in the US will cost $2,340 (£1,900). Nine companies can make the drug under licence outside the US for distribution in 127 mostly poorer countries, and the cost is lower. But the project is still in its early stages. Additional quantities are being manufactured for use in clinical trials. But critics say the US move to buy up so much stock from Gilead itself undermines international co-operation on Covid, given that other countries have taken part in trials of remdesivir, originally an anti-viral against Ebola. "The trial that gave the result that allowed remdesivir to sell their drug wasn't just done in the US. There were patients participating through other European countries, in the UK as well, and internationally, Mexico and other places," Oxford University's Prof Peter Horby told BBC Radio 4. He said the move also had implications for any possible future vaccine, with the need for "a much stronger framework if we are going to develop these things and they're going to be used for national emergencies". Senior Sussex University lecturer, Ohid Yaqub, said: "It so clearly signals an unwillingness to co-operate with other countries and the chilling effect this has on international agreements about intellectual property rights." Some in the US have criticised the purchase price, as taxpayer money had helped fund remdesivir's development.
7-1-20 Republican voters support police reform. GOP elites are standing in the way.
The average Republican voter in America supports significant policing reforms, not that you'd know it from watching Fox News. Monday night, primetime Fox host Tucker Carlson devoted nearly 10 minutes of his show to grilling Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana, the one GOP senator who has introduced legislation to reform qualified immunity, the Supreme Court doctrine which makes it very difficult to sue police (or any elected official) for civil rights violations by demanding the allegations meet an extremely strict and circular standard of legal precedent. Neither man acquitted himself well. Carlson opened with flat lies — no, the Minneapolis police are not "being abolished entirely;" no, allegations of systemic racial bias in our justice system are not "totally bogus" — and Braun was easily browbeaten. He let Carlson drag the conversation through one half-truth and irrelevancy after another instead of presenting a tight case against qualified immunity. But what Braun has that Carlson doesn't is the will of the public, including the Republican public. Carlson's parting shot of, "I don't think the public supports you at all on this," is simply not true. There seems to be a disconnect — on policing reform generally and qualified immunity specifically — between the average GOP voter and key members of the right-wing elite. There's Carlson, Fox's flagship commentator and a favorite of President Trump. There's Trump himself, who signed a skimpy policing reform order and categorically refused to consider changing qualified immunity. There's his attorney general, William Barr, who has opposed modifying qualified immunity. And there's Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), author of the idling Senate GOP reform bill, who said any alterations to qualified immunity would be a "poison pill on our side." That's demonstrably true: High-ranking GOP senators have said there's no way a qualified immunity bill would pass, and only one Republican has cosponsored House legislation ending the doctrine. Though a few Senate Republicans have expressed openness to challenging qualified immunity, none have backed Braun's measure, nor do they seem likely to commit to legislation thus doomed. But committing wouldn't be a poison pill for their base. Recent polls show most Republicans want meaningful changes to American policing, including reform or outright elimination of qualified immunity. Polling on qualified immunity, especially with data on party differences, is in short supply, but a June survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation found 55 percent of Republicans "favor allowing individuals to sue police officers when they believe excessive force has been used against them." Likewise, a Reuters/Ipsos survey published June 11 found six in 10 Republicans back "allowing victims of police misconduct to sue police departments for damages." An Associated Press-NORC survey published June 23 also found strong majorities of Republicans backing measures like body cameras, mandatory officer reporting of misconduct, strict use-of-force policies, and prosecution of cops who use excessive force. A Yahoo News/YouGov poll from June 1 showed similar results on a range of reform ideas, as did the Kaiser survey.
7-1-20 Oklahoma woman shot while trying to remove Nazi flag
A US woman has been shot while trying to remove a Nazi flag from someone's front yard in the state of Oklahoma. Garfield County Sheriff's office said the woman had been at a party nearby when she took one of two flags being flown outside Alexander Feaster's home. Mr Feaster, 44, then reportedly shot her in the back with a semi-automatic rifle as she ran away. The 26-year-old woman is expected to recover from her injuries and Mr Feaster is being held in custody. Sherriff Jody Helm said the woman was found lying in a ditch with four gunshot wounds after deputies responded to a call early on Sunday morning. Sherriff Helm initially suggested the woman had tried to steal the swastika-emblazoned flag for a dare, but in an interview with NBC News she said there was "conflicting information" surrounding the woman's motive. An affidavit seen by NBC News says "several" cameras at Mr Feaster's home show he fired on the woman "without warning". A neighbour then moved a red pickup truck near the home to serve as a barricade, and a witness trained a rifle on the property as a precaution while waiting for deputies to arrive. Mr Feaster was later taken into custody without incident. He has been charged with assault and battery with a deadly weapon, and shooting with intent to kill, and is due to appear in court on 9 July. A neighbour told local radio KFOR that he had been flying the flags for around a year, and they had been snatched from his home a few times in the past. They added that he would occasionally dress up in black uniform with a red swastika armband - an outfit reminiscent of Nazi SS uniforms. But he was said to mostly keep to himself. Another woman and friend of the victim said there had been "no problems" with Mr Feaster before, but that his flags were a cause for concern. "I feel like these flags are a disaster waiting to happen," she told the Enid News and Eagle.