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Apr 08, 2020, 06:15 AM
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 on: Today at 04:02 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Donald Trump stokes fresh coronavirus row as Wuhan reopens

US president accuses World Health Organization of China bias as New York records its highest daily death toll and Wuhan lockdown eases

    Coronavirus – latest updates
    See all our coronavirus coverage

Helen Davidson
@heldavidson
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Wed 8 Apr 2020 08.35 BST
First published on Wed 8 Apr 2020 06.16 BST

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Donald Trump blames WHO for dire situation in the US, threatens to pull funding – video

Donald Trump has criticised the World Health Organization (WHO), and by implication Beijing, saying the global body is “China centric” and “biased” towards the rival superpower.

As Wuhan, the city at the centre of the outbreak, began to return to normal life, Trump said the WHO had “been wrong about a lot of things”, and threatened to put a hold on WHO funding. When asked if that was a good idea during a pandemic, Trump denied saying it, and then said they would “look at it”.
'Liberation' as Wuhan's coronavirus lockdown ends after 76 days
Read more

“We’re going to investigate it, we’re going to look at it. But we will look at ending funding, yeah, because you know what, they called it wrong, and if you look back over the years even, everything seems to be very biased toward China. That’s not right.”

Trump has previously questioned China’s reported numbers of infections, saying last week said they were “a little on the light side”, and referred to the outbreak as the “Chinese virus”, prompting complaints from Beijing.

The fresh salvo came against a background of a worsening death toll in the US, with New York state reporting on Tuesday its highest single-day increase, with 731 fatalities. At least 3,544 people have died in New York city alone from Covid-19.

New memos revealing Trump was warned at the end of January that tough action was needed to avert hundreds of thousands of American deaths have fuelled suggestions the president is seeking a scapegoat.

The WHO declared Covid-19 a public health emergency on 30 January. Almost a month later Trump, who had compared the virus to influenza, said it was under control in the US, before declaring a national emergency on 13 March.

The US now has nearly 400,000 cases, and 13,000 deaths, compared with close to 83,000 cases in China and 3,337 deaths. Globally, there are more than 1.4m cases and just over 82,000 deaths.

Meanwhile, the British prime minister, Boris Johnson has spent a second night in intensive care amid concerns about the seriousness of his condition, and the power vacuum he leaves behind. His “designated survivor”, Dominic Raab, still requires cabinet approval for major decisions.

There are fears the UK will become the worst hit country in Europe, with more than 40% of the continent’s deaths, according to forecasts. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicted 66,000 UK deaths from Covid-19 by August, with a peak of nearly 3,000 fatalities a day.

New Zealand’s swift decision to impose strict lockdown measures last month appears to be paying off, with the nation recording its lowest number of new coronavirus cases in a fortnight.

In other developments:

    The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the outbreak began, had travel restrictions lifted on Wednesday for the first time since the months-long lockdown started. The city’s 11m residents were permitted to leave the city if they had a “green” status on the mandatory health code app. The reopening came one day after China claimed to have no new deaths from the virus for the first time since January.

    Turkey has the world’s fastest rising infection rate, growing by more than 3,000 a day. In just four weeks Turkey has reported 30,217 cases, but a lower fatality rate than other struggling countries, with 649 dead.

    Indonesia has confirmed just 2,738 cases and 221 deaths, but authorities are only able to process about 240 of the most accurate tests a day. The country of 264m didn’t confirm its first case until 2 March, prompting fears the virus was left to spread, particularly in capital city Jakarta. President Joko Widodo has announced greater restrictions on residents, having earlier resisted lockdown measures.

    Italy has declared its own ports “unsafe” and will not authorise any migrant rescue boat to land until the end of the pandemic emergency.

    A former Chinese property executive and outspoken critic of China’s response to the pandemic is under investigation for “serious violations of discipline and law” - a euphemism for graft accusations.

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There’s no respite from Lucifer-In-ChiefTrump’s vindictiveness and foolishness

By Terry H. Schwadron, DCReport @ RawStory - Commentary
on April 8, 2020

As we know, even in the midst of a national emergency, Donald Trump could find time and bandwidth to continue his retribution campaign.

He dismissed Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence agencies, for doing “a terrible job,” satisfying his own thirst for vengeance for anyone who actually adhered to law and practice over blind loyalty to Trump himself. Indeed, asked about it the next day, Trump underscored his action by saying, Atkinson “was no Trump supporter, that I can tell you.”

It was an act that we once would have labeled corruption, by Democrats and Republicans – that is using the office for personal purposes – if Congress and too many Americans had not since become inured by so many like instances.

    The firing of the inspector general for the intelligence agencies reflects the continuing Trump insistence for personal loyalty over experience of almost any kind.

The reason this particular act still sticks in the craw is not only because of the timing, but because it reflects the continuing Trump insistence for personal loyalty over experience of almost any kind. It is exactly that kind of attitude that has led to such confusion in messaging and such bureaucratic delays in addressing both coronavirus effects and the economic mess it has created.

Governors and medical personnel are complaining loudly about a reality at total odds with Trump’s description of the current state of crisis response. We see a White House rewrite of recent history to glorify the Trump administration while the emerging record shows a documented case of delay and confusion.

At heart: a disdain for science and expertise.

Once Congress reconvenes later this month, we have other such cases lining up in bad judicial appointments and national security appointments who bring no experience.

Trump has nominated Judge Justin Walker, a counselor to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), to U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, despite less than six months as a district court judge and an “unqualified” rating from the American Bar. Trump also announced that Stephen Feinberg, a New York billionaire who owns military contractor DynCorp International, will lead a White House executive board that reviews the effectiveness and legality of foreign intelligence. He has no particular experience but a lot of loyalty.

Ratcliffe Redux

All this reflects the preliminaries before we take our ringside seats to look in as Trump nominee Rep. John Ratcliffe, a Texas Republican with absolutely no credentials, comes before the Republican-majority Senate for confirmation as director of national intelligence.

By contrast, Trump’s appointment of Rep. Mark Meadows, his most ardent congressional defender from North Carolina, as White House chief of staff, required no such Senate approval.

It is especially interesting to see these changes come about now, just after having finished reading “A Very Stable Genius” by Washington Post reporters Phil Rucker and Carol Leonnig, a book that underscores the Wild West spontaneity of an uncontrolled West Wing. And, the change comes as this White House has reflected an unparalleled inability to manage national effects of a global coronavirus panic.

Apart from the skill-sets of the new appointees, it is notable just how many senior officials and cabinet officers this White House has churned through, and Trump’s preference to use acting titles for more and more appointees just to avoid Senate review.

That review should prove particularly important this time since Ratcliffe’s name was withdrawn previously for lying about his record as a prosecutor in Texas, and now has been put forward only because the temporary holder of the job, Richard Grenell, the controversial ambassador to Germany, is even less qualified.

Bad or Worse

The Washington Post editorialized against approval of Ratcliffe, a rabid defender of Trump during the House impeachment proceedings, as being an aggressive attacker of the findings of U.S. intelligence services – as is the wont of Trump.

Actually, the editorial went further, rejecting the false and bad choice being offered through Ratcliffe’s nomination.

The editorial noted Trump believes he can force the Senate to swallow his choice because the alternative is to retain the even more objectionable Grenell — despite having absolutely no experience in the intelligence world and a record of insulting Europeans.

As the appropriate federal rules prescribe, if Ratcliff is not confirmed Grenell can remain in the post for seven more months. Trump would force the Senate to choose between the two.

In replacing Joseph Maguire, a former SEAL, both Grenell and Ratcliffe are Trump loyalists first, and ill-equipped to oversee 17 government intelligence agencies. Last summer, the previous Ratcliffe nomination lasted five days before withdrawing, an act drawing approval from senators from both parties. They said he lacked any qualifications for the job – and had lied about his successful prosecution of terrorists cases in which he was never involved.

When he scrapped the appointment, Trump conceded that the White House had never vetted Ratcliffe before nominating him.

Maybe Mark Meadows can take care of that part this time.

Conspiracy Nuts

Both Ratcliff and Grenell have disputed intelligence agency findings that Russia intervened in the 2016 election — or since — to aid Trump. Ratcliffe has promoted the conspiracy theory that the investigation into the meddling was the result of “a secret society of folks within the Department of Justice and the FBI” trying to prevent Trump’s election. During the House impeachment hearings, Ratcliffe demanded an investigation of the whistleblower in the Ukraine matters. As director of national intelligence, Ratcliffe presumably could just order such an investigation himself.

Trump fired the previous acting director, Joseph Maguire, after a member of his staff briefed the House Intelligence Committee that Russia had “developed a preference” for Trump in 2020. The absence of such reporting in the coming months would, no doubt, make interference easier.

Clearly, the question for Republican senators is whether to politicize the workings of intelligence for a president who does not even want to sit through briefings.

They could easily just insist on a more qualified candidate.

If coronavirus has no other effect, perhaps it can underscore the country’s need for competence over Trump personal loyalty.

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Top biologist to Fox News host: Unproven drug treatment hyped by Trump is ‘complete and utter nonsense’

on April 8, 2020
By Matthew Rozsa, Salon

Dr. William Haseltine, a biologist renowned for his work in confronting the HIV/AIDS epidemic, fighting anthrax and advancing our knowledge of the human genome, told Fox News on Monday that an unproven drug treatment for the new coronavirus hyped by President Donald Trump was a “quack cure.””It’s sad to me that people are promoting that drug. We know already from studies at best it will have a very mild effect — at very best,” Haseltine told Fox News host Dana Perino about hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug that Trump has repeatedly promoted against the advice given by Dr. Anthony Fauci.

After reviewing how previous studies show the drug to either have no effect or only a “very mild” one, Haseltine said “the thing that makes me sad about that story is some people may take it who are on other medications or have other underlying conditions and may have very serious — even life threatening — consequences. It is not something to take unless a doctor prescribes it.”

Perino then asked Haseltine about “stories of people saying that they’ve had this Lazarus effect by using this drug,” an apparent reference to a claim made by her Fox News colleague Laura Ingraham.

Haseltine replied, “That is nonsense — complete and utter nonsense. And, in any situation, there are always going to be people who promote one kind of quack cure or another, and there are Lazarus effects. In every epidemic I’ve ever looked at, it’s always the case.”

Shaughnessy Naughton, a chemist and the president of a nonprofit PAC named 314 Action that elects scientists to Congress, told Salon on Tuesday that “I think the real problem is what it speaks about Donald Trump’s management of this crisis. It’s no different than when he said, ‘It’s only affecting 15 people,’ or ‘it’s going away in April,’ or ‘there’s a test for anybody who wants a test’ or ‘there’s a vaccine in the horizon.’ Now he’s hyping a drug where we don’t really know what the efficacy or safety of it is. It speaks to his chaotic mismanagement of this crisis.”

Trump stirred up controversy last month when he tweeted that “HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine.” He later added that he hoped the two drugs would be “put in use IMMEDIATELY. PEOPLE ARE DYING, MOVE FAST, and GOD BLESS EVERYONE!”

Ingraham joined Trump in touting the drug, claiming that “one patient was described as Lazarus getting up after . . . he was like on death’s door. And they started getting a protocol of hydroxychloroquine at Lenox Hill, and it suddenly — like Lazarus, up from the grave. I mean, that’s an actual case.”

Rodney J.Y. Ho — a professor and director of the Targeted, Long-acting and Combination Anti-Retroviral Therapy (TLC-ART) program at the University of Washington — told Salon last month that although “drug levels achieved in blood with current dosing regimen for hydroxychloroquine is higher than what is needed in test tubes to kill COVID-19 virus,” this does not mean the drug can effectively treat it.

“Nothing has been tested thoroughly by the FDA, but because it’s available by prescription and it’s a pill, you can order it,” Ho said.

Haseltine himself told Salon last month that Trump bears a considerable amount of blame for the extent to which the pandemic has ravaged America.

“He should have been warning us it was coming,” Haseltine said. “He should have been preparing by stockpiling all the necessary equipment. But even today we’re not doing what we should do. Let me put it that way. What we should be doing is contact tracing identifying people who may have come in contact with infected patients and having mandatory quarantines for everybody who’s been exposed. And quarantining not at home, but in hotel rooms, single occupancy hotel rooms.”

He also told Salon that we “don’t know” how difficult it will be to develop a vaccine.

“With SARS 1, people tried to make vaccines in animals, including monkeys, but it didn’t work very well,” Haseltine added. “So they tried what they thought would work, which was using a surface protein of the virus. And they didn’t work very well to stop the virus and they didn’t last for very long. So there hasn’t been a successful virus vaccine developed for any of the coronaviruses. That suggests it might be difficult but we don’t know yet. I’m hoping it’s going to be easy, but nobody knows.”

He continued, “It is an unresolved question at this point. If you want to know why, I can give you some information about why.”

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Trump claims he ‘didn’t see’ Navarro’s White House memo warning him millions could die

Raw Story
4/8/2020
By Matthew Chapman

At Tuesday’s press briefing for the White House’s coronavirus task force, President Donald Trump was asked about adviser Peter Navarro’s memo issued to him warning that millions of people’s lives would be at risk.

His response was that he doesn’t believe millions of people will die — but that “I didn’t see” the memo in question. He proceeded to praise Navarro and his memo even after saying he wasn’t familiar with what the reporters were talking about.

Watch below:

    Trump on February White House memo addressed directly to him that warned of potentially millions of coronavirus deaths in the US: “I didn’t see it.” pic.twitter.com/woGxfKJ24T

    — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 7, 2020

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Trump goes on confused rant when asked why he opposes funding for the Postal Service in coronavirus stimulus

Raw Story
4/8/2020
By Matthew Chapman

At the White House coronavirus task force press conference briefing on Tuesday, President Donald Trump was asked why he didn’t support the Democratic proposal to send stimulus money to the Postal Service.

Trump’s response was to say that the Postal Service has been “losing billions of dollars a year for many, many years” and scorned the idea that suddenly “I’m now the demise of the Postal Service.” He then claimed the real problem with the Postal Service is that they get ripped off by tech companies like Amazon — something his own advisers have repeatedly told him is not true.

The Postal Service’s importance in delivering goods to people while they are in quarantine — and its potential importance in conducting elections predominantly by mail — has been a key point of stimulus negotiations.

Watch below:

    Here's the president ranting at length about the Post Office during a #TrumpPressBriefing about a deadly pandemic pic.twitter.com/dIAFRfBdlV

    — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 7, 2020

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Trump announces he will deploy hundreds of scarce ventilators — to the United Kingdom

Raw Story
4/8/2020
By Matthew Chapman

At Tuesday’s coronavirus task force press briefing, President Donald Trump opened by discussing the allocation of ventilators, which are critical to taking care of patients with breathing problems. He suggested that he will start deploying ventilators overseas, to the United Kingdom.

“We’re gonna work it out for them,” he said, suggesting that he will send over 200 ventilators.

Trump’s commitment comes as several states continue to face the risk of shortages and are begging for more equipment from the federal stockpile.

Watch below:

    As state governors plead with Trump to do more to help them, Trump says he's sending ventilators to the UK pic.twitter.com/pVe5urk8RB

    — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 7, 2020

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First responders suspect ‘crazy increase in cardiac deaths’ in NYC is linked to COVID-19

4/8/2020
By Bob Hennelly, Salon

In the midst of this brutal pandemic, the nation’s governors are the ones that are leading the nation to try to keep the coronavirus from spreading. Yet even their best efforts may fall short of containment.

This article originally appeared at Salon.

That’s because the coronavirus is zeroing in on the nation’s poorest and most vulnerable, who, for decades, have been existing off of our public health radar. As this subgroup of victims often dies in their homes, first responders with whom I spoke believe that many of these patients will be forgotten in the hospital-centric COVID-19 body count.

This final disenfranchisement is the culmination of a lifetime of health care deprivation, resulting in the prevalence of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease in this population. Moreover, it appears that those dying of COVID-19 are disproportionately the poor and people of color, attesting to systemic inequality in the United States.

As the Washington Post reported, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “and most state health departments have not released information about the race and ethnicity of those who have tested positive” for COVID-19. Rather, public reports have “broken down cases by age and gender, while most states have provided information only by county.”

But what we are learning from the locales that are tracking the ethnic and racial breakdown of COVID-19 victims is disturbing.

According to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, more than half of the people in Chicago who have the novel coronavirus are African American. Over 70 percent of those that have died from the virus are African American — even though African Americans make up just 30 percent of the city’s population.

“The virus is an equal-opportunity crisis … but the impact and the burden of it is not going to be shared equally,” Dr. Ashwin Vasan, a public health expert and assistant professor at Columbia University, told USA Today. “Like most things in society, it’s going to be regressive. It’s going to be felt disproportionately by the poor, the vulnerable, the marginalized, and obviously that falls down in this country on communities of color.”

Between the near universal lack of testing, the propensity for the poor and undocumented immigrant populations to avoid official places like the hospital, and the crush of dead bodies from coast to coast precluding autopsies, we really have no idea where we are in the spread of this existential threat.

This is not merely a manifestation of systemic racism and classism. It reveals a lack of situational awareness about the trajectory of the pandemic itself, which will seriously undermine containment. It also will determine how long we as a nation, as a planet, have to manage every aspect of our lives around an invisible killer virus.

Consider how on April 5, during his daily COVID-19 update, Governor Andrew Cuomo told the nation that the state had recorded 594 COVID-19 deaths — a decline from the 630 daily deaths reported the day before. “You could argue that you are seeing a plateauing,” Cuomo told reporters.

His sanguine assessment of a “flattening” was repeated the following day on Sunday, when the day’s death toll hit 599 — higher than 594 but still below 630, the toll of two days earlier.

On Monday, when the day’s death total was 731, Cuomo tried to explain it away as a “lagging indicator.”

Cuomo has pointed to a decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations, admissions to intensive care units and intubations — the insertion of a breathing tube hooked up to a ventilator — as more proof of a “possible flattening of the curve.”

This cautiously upbeat yet seriously flawed assessment was celebrated by the news media, itself battle weary from reporting a non-stop stream of grim news capped off each day by the buffoonery of our modern-day Caligula in the White House.

Over that weekend, as a reporter for the Chief-Leader, which covers New York City’s civil service, I was in constant contact with the city’s FDNY Emergency Medical Services (EMS) unions and their members, who were describing a horrific spike in fatal cardiac arrests in people’s homes on an unprecedented scale.

Over Twitter I was getting frontline reports from EMS workers, who noted that, in a pre-COVID-19 world, they might see one or two cardiac arrest calls per shift. These days, they are attending to as many as thirteen cardiac arrest calls per shift.

FDNY data provided to the Chief-Leader compared EMS cardiac arrest calls from March 20 to April 5 in 2019 to the same period in 2020. That data found that the number of fatal cardiac calls spiked from 22 to 32 deaths per day in 2019, to 200 in a single day in 2020.

Moreover, the odds of a 911 cardiac patient surviving dropped markedly as well. In 2019, FDNY EMS got between 54 to 74 cardiac calls that resulted in between 22 to 32 deaths a day.

By contrast, in the midst of this pandemic, the department was averaging 300 such calls that ended with well over 200 of these patients dying in their homes.

As a consequence of the unprecedented demand from the pandemic on the city’s hospitals, for the first time EMS crews were ordered not to transport cardiac-arrest cases to the hospital if they were unable to restart the patient’s heart at the scene.

“No adult non-traumatic or blunt traumatic cardiac arrest is to be transported to a hospital with manual or mechanical compressions in progress without either return of spontaneous circulation or a direct order from a medical control physician unless there is imminent physical danger to the EMS providers on the scene,” reads the directive issued by the Regional Emergency Medical Advisory Committee (REMAC) of New York City.

Under an obscure New York State public-health law, REMAC is designated to “develop, approve and implement pre-hospital treatment and transport protocols for the City of New York in the event of an emergency.”

There is no confirmation that any of these latest cardiac arrest deaths playing out in people’s homes as part of this catastrophic spike are COVID-19 related.

As I reported in the Chief-Leader, unlike the hundreds of COVID-19 deaths occurring in the city’s hospitals, which are registered as such, there is no such tracking of the deceased encountered by the FDNY EMS personnel.

“Our members have been saying they just are not seeing this flattening of the curve if you look at call volume and the crazy increase in cardiac deaths,” said Vincent Variale, president of DC 37’s Local 3621, which represents the FDNY’s EMS officers. “This pandemic in not just playing out in the hospitals but in the community and in people’s homes.”

Variale, who himself just recovered from a bout with COVID-19, is concerned that actual containment of the pandemic will prove to be elusive without comprehensive testing for both the living and the dead.

“We are never going to get ahead of this disease until we know who has it,” he said. “Even now, first responders don’t have access to testing and so we can inadvertently spread the disease when we are asymptomatic to the very people we are trying to help.”

The number of deaths in New York City is now so large it has overwhelmed the normal corpse processing protocols with crematoriums working double shifts, according to Michael Lanotte, the executive director New York State Funeral Directors Association.

“Even with the additional hours of operation it will take two weeks to get a cremation scheduled,” Lanotte said. “I have been told by my members that we are seeing four to six times the normal rate of home deaths.”

To get a sense of scale of what’s playing out in New York City, consider that pre-COVID-19, the five boroughs averaged 158 deaths a day across all locations.

Not everyone shared in Gov. Cuomo’s upbeat assessment.

Dr. Stuart Dichek, who leads the New York Pandemic Response Working Group and is based at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, shared his frontline perspective on Fox.

“I can tell you that many patients in the Brooklyn area have been dying at home or have been found dead at home,” Ditchek said. “The hospitals are overwhelmed so the reporting systems may not be what you believe.”

Long before the pandemic, Katy McFadden, a Brooklyn-based nurse midwife and activist and a former neonatal intensive care unit registered nurse, was organizing to bring attention to the stark disparities between the level of health care funding between wealthy communities and poorer communities of color.

“I saw the [FDNY EMS] guidance about not bringing in cardiac arrest cases to the hospital . . . . if you combine that with the widespread lack of coronavirus testing, we have no idea what the actual coronavirus death toll is,” she said.

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‘Still in that hut in Kenya’: Trump’s new White House press secretary is a birther – and a huge hypocrite

Raw Story
4/8/2020
By David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement

President Donald Trump on Tuesday appointed Christian conservative Kayleigh 'i am a blow up doll'  McEnany, who is his re-election campaign’s national press secretary, to be the new White House press secretary.

Like her boss, Kayleigh McEnany is a birther.

And like her boss, McEnany is a huge hypocrite.

Here’s the new, incoming White House press secretary from 2012, the year President Obama was re-elected, spouting birtherism and racism:

    How I Met Your Brother — Never mind, forgot he’s still in that hut in Kenya. #ObamaTVShows

    — Kayleigh McEnany (@kayleighmcenany) August 30, 2012

There’s this tweet, also from 2012, that furthers the birther conspiracy and adds to it the racist implication that Black people don’t perform as well as white people, or that if they get into good schools it’s only through affirmative action programs, which is false.

    birth certificates and college transcripts #ThingsThatEnrageDemocrats

    — Kayleigh McEnany (@kayleighmcenany) August 20, 2012

It’s not just McEnany’s birtherism and racism that are disturbing to see in anyone working in the White House, it’s her hypocrisy as well.

In 2015 McEnany was not impressed with then-candidate Trump:

    Everyone seems to have a plan except Trump #GOPDebate

    — Kayleigh McEnany (@kayleighmcenany) August 7, 2015

But she focused much of her time attacking President Barack Obama, for issues she ignores with President Trump.

Here she goes after Obama for golfing (NCRM has not verified if her claim is true):

    @Copponex Obama’s golfing is absurd. 9 weekends in a row. Thanks for all your comments on the site. They are very insightful.

    — Kayleigh McEnany (@kayleighmcenany) June 3, 2011

Here she attacks President Obama for blaming his predecessor, which Trump does almost daily.

    Waiting for #Obama to speak… how many times should we expect to hear him #BlameBush ?

    — Kayleigh McEnany (@kayleighmcenany) August 5, 2011

Here she praises Mitt Romney for not attacking his fellow Republicans – something Trump does on a regular basis:

    @jonnycinq This is what I like about Romney. very rarely sinks into attacking Republican colleagues. The barbs should be pointed at Obama.

    — Kayleigh McEnany (@kayleighmcenany) September 8, 2011

Here she attacks Obama for increasing the national debt after the global financial crisis. Trump has increased the debt in three years far more than Obama ever did in eight.

    Obama: “Everything in this bill will be paid for”… right, by future generations.

    — Kayleigh McEnany (@kayleighmcenany) September 8, 2011

Here she attacks Obama for not going to church regularly. Her boss almost never does – yet claims to be highly religious, and uses the evangelical right as a shield.

    Obama: “My Christian faith is important to me.” Maybe you should try going to church?

    — Kayleigh McEnany (@kayleighmcenany) February 10, 2012

Finally, we’ll just leave these last two hypocritical tweets here without comment:

    At least none of the candidates look orange like Obama during the State of the Union. #CNNDebate

    — Kayleigh McEnany (@kayleighmcenany) January 27, 2012

    #RushLimbaugh: Obama looked like a carrot during the #SOTU hahaha!

    — Kayleigh McEnany (@kayleighmcenany) January 26, 2012

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‘This is nepotism’: Trump faces backlash for letting Ivanka 'i am not a parasite' Trump ‘run’ coronavirus meeting

Raw Story
4/8/2020
By David Edwards

Viewers lashed out at President Donald Trump on Twitter after he allowed his daughter Ivanka to host a coronavirus relief meeting.

At a White House meeting on relief for small businesses, Trump praised his daughter by falsely claiming that she had “created 15 million jobs.”

    Trump just told the completely egregious lie that Ivanka Trump “created over 15 million jobs.” That would be more than twice the total number of jobs created in the country before coronavirus wrecked the economy. pic.twitter.com/zniSteAbv6

    — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 7, 2020

In return, Ivanka Trump complimented her father for an “absolutely incredible” response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Ivanka Trump is the first person to speak after Trump at a White House small business coronavirus relief event and praises her “absolutely incredible” father. pic.twitter.com/IakKCNAApX

    — The American Independent (@AmerIndependent) April 7, 2020

According to CNBC correspondent Kayla Tausche, Trump turned the meeting over to his offspring after asking several White House advisers to speak.

    After opening comments from Mnuchin, Carranza and Kudlow, Pres. Trump turns the bank CEO round table call over to Ivanka Trump to run.

    — Kayla Tausche (@kaylatausche) April 7, 2020

As the meeting continued, multiple bank executives thanked both Trump and his daughter for helping small businesses.

But the reaction from viewers was not as positive. Read some of the tweets below.

    Ivanka created 15 million jobs. No words

    — Andrew Brown (@Abro673) April 7, 2020

    Why is @IvankaTrump in charge of anything during this crisis? Who elected her? #Nepotism

    — Dave Curry (@CarlSaganRox) April 7, 2020

    Trump just claimed that Ivanka created 15 million jobs before the virus hit.

    Can we vote now?

    — TheSaltyProfessor (@SaltyProfessor) April 7, 2020

    On what planet did Ivanka create 15 million jobs? Asking for the entire planet. #TrumpPressBriefing

    — Schovillova (@Schovillova) April 7, 2020

    Trump is on TV, next to Ivanka, lying about the PPP, how people are “loving it” and how money is getting out in “record time.”

    — Evan Falchuk (@efalchuk) April 7, 2020

    Why in the world is Ivanka at this cabinet meeting? Oh wait. Praising daddy. Carry on.

    — Gail Helt (@ghelt) April 7, 2020

    Who elected @IvankaTrump to handle this?

    This season of The Apprentice is wild!

    — Better Call Saul-ruk (@tsawruk) April 7, 2020

    seriously, what’s #Ivanka doing in the White House?

    worst example of nepotism in the HISTORY of U.S. politics

    go manage a hotel or golf course …

    — CÆTUS (@caetuscap) April 7, 2020

    Ivanka? Why is Ivanka even involved in this? This is just crazy.

    — Todd Michael Schultz (@ToddMikeSchultz) April 7, 2020

    Why the hell is @IvankaTrump in this briefing? Why in the actual fuck.

    — 🔥 the DNC down (@bizzle_scott) April 7, 2020

    Why is Ivanka speaking re: small business coronavirus relief efforts right now??

    — #stayhomestaywell (@thebabeMimi) April 7, 2020

    I have to say I never thought that the banking beat would ever involve watching a video conference with Ivanka Trump.

    — Neil Haggerty (@haggertynDC) April 7, 2020

    Just a small question. If Ivanka and other members of Trump family have and do so much business in China, how did they not know what was going on in China with the pandemic last year? One would think that with that many businesses it would be prudent to know about these things.

    — Charles Steinmetz 🇺🇸 👩‍👩‍👧‍👧 ⛳🏌️‍♂️ (@twindad031207) April 7, 2020

    tRumpy is holding a brief on SBA and daughter wife Ivanka is there beside him. WTAF @SenatorLankford. It’s streaming on FB. Why are continuing to let the bullshit go on?

    — Bliss Butler (@blissiejane) April 7, 2020

    Ivanka is trying to get her hands on that #coronavirus relief money.

    — 🏝 Kim (@kim) April 7, 2020

    on what topic? where to get new kidneys in case of an emergency?

    — Art Martin (@gartmartin9) April 7, 2020

    Take your daughter to work day?

    — Columbo527 (@MagnaPopaTude) April 7, 2020

    Do sweatshops qualify for any of the loan packages?🤔

    — Justice is Coming (@firedup79) April 7, 2020

    My only saving grace is that she is not sitting in his lap.

    — Bonnie Krosin (@blkrosin) April 7, 2020

    SNL can’t be any funnier than this scene right here.

    — Alexandra Rosas (@GDRPempress) April 7, 2020

    First time I have seen Ivanka not sitting in DADDY’S lap

    — NoMoreConspiracies🆘 (@Mistmi01) April 7, 2020

    Ivanka, you incredibly vapid marionette, daddy pulls the strings and voices the words, while you sit and look pretty for him.

    If the economy was strong, it would not have crashed. Daddy has been forcing the Fed to shore up the stock market to con the public. https://t.co/nmuqpeOg4g

    — cynthia r monachino (@cynroseM) April 7, 2020

    The incompetent and unqualified Ivanka is back at the WH fielding questions?

    Of course she is. This is nepotism because but for her daddy being in the WH, she’d probably be in jail for real estate fraud.

    — lawhawk (@lawhawk) April 7, 2020

    Look everyone, Ivanka is presidenting. The ONLY woman Trump Trump believes, supports & takes seriously, talking to Bank CEO’s at a roundtable conference call DURING A FUCKING PANDEMIC.

    Maybe NOW’S not the time to use nepotism to GAMBLE with OUR LIVES. pic.twitter.com/PgPcIq7dgo

    — concerned citizen (@sdeklc14) April 7, 2020

 2 
 on: Today at 03:38 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Amsterdam to embrace 'doughnut' model to mend post-coronavirus economy

Dutch officials and British economist to use guide to help city thrive in balance with planet
   
Daniel Boffey
Guardian
Wed 8 Apr 2020 07.00 BST

A doughnut cooked up in Oxford will guide Amsterdam out of the economic mess left by the coronavirus pandemic.

While straining to keep citizens safe in the Dutch capital, municipality officials and the British economist Kate Raworth from Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute have also been plotting how the city will rebuild in a post-Covid-19 world.

The conclusion? Out with the global attachment to economic growth and laws of supply and demand, and in with the so-called doughnut model devised by Raworth as a guide to what it means for countries, cities and people to thrive in balance with the planet.

Raworth’s 2017 bestselling book, Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist, has graced the bedside table of people ranging from the former Brexit secretary David Davis to the Guardian columnist George Monbiot, who described it as a “breakthrough alternative to growth economics”.

The inner ring of her donut sets out the minimum we need to lead a good life, derived from the UN’s sustainable development goals and agreed by world leaders of every political stripe. It ranges from food and clean water to a certain level of housing, sanitation, energy, education, healthcare, gender equality, income and political voice. Anyone not attaining such minimum standards is living in the doughnut’s hole.

The outer ring of the doughnut, where the sprinkles go, represents the ecological ceiling drawn up by earth-system scientists. It highlights the boundaries across which human kind should not go to avoid damaging the climate, soils, oceans, the ozone layer, freshwater and abundant biodiversity.

Between the two rings is the good stuff: the dough, where everyone’s needs and that of the planet are being met.

On Wednesday, the model will be formally embraced by the municipality of Amsterdam as the starting point for public policy decisions, the first city in the world to make such a commitment.

“I think it can help us overcome the effects of the crisis”, said Amsterdam’s deputy mayor, Marieke van Doorninck, who joined Raworth in an interview with the Guardian via Skype before the launch. “It might look strange that we are talking about the period after that but as a government we have to … It is to help us to not fall back on easy mechanisms.”

“When suddenly we have to care about climate, health, and jobs and housing and care and communities, is there a framework around that can help us with all of that?” Raworth says. “Yes there is, and it is ready to go.”

The central premise is simple: the goal of economic activity should be about meeting the core needs of all but within the means of the planet. The “doughnut” is a device to show what this means in practice.

Raworth scaled down the model to provide Amsterdam with a “city portrait” showing where basic needs are not being met and “planetary boundaries” overshot. It displays how the issues are interlinked.

“It is not just a hippy way at looking at the world,” says Van Doorninck, citing the housing crisis as an example.

Residents’ housing needs are increasingly not being satisfied, with almost 20% of city tenants unable to cover their basic needs after paying their rent, and just 12% of approximately 60,0000 online applicants for social housing being successful.

One solution might be to build more homes but Amsterdam’s doughnut highlights that the area’s carbon dioxide emissions are 31% above 1990 levels. Imports of building materials, food and consumer products from outside the city boundaries contribute 62% of those total emissions.

Van Doorninck says the city plans to regulate to ensure builders use materials that are as often possible recycled and bio based, such as wood. But the doughnut approach also encourages policymakers to lift their eyes to the horizon.

“The fact that houses are too expensive is not only to do with too few being built. There is a lot of capital flowing around the world trying to find an investment, and right now real estate is seen as the best way to invest, so that drives up prices,” she says.

“The doughnut does not bring us the answers but a way of looking at it, so that we don’t keep on going on in the same structures as we used to.”

The port of Amsterdam is the world’s single largest importer of cocoa beans, mostly from west Africa, where the labour is often highly exploitative.

As an independent private company it could reject such products and take the economic hit, but at the same time almost one in five households in Amsterdam qualify for social benefits due to low incomes and savings.

Van Doorninck says the port is looking at how it moves on from dependence on fossil fuels as part of the city’s new vision, and she expects that to naturally evolve into a wider debate over other pressing dilemmas brought to the forefront by the doughnut model.

“It gives space to talk about whether you want to be the place where products are being stored that are produced by child labour or by other forms of labour exploitation,” she says.

Raworth adds: “Who would expect in a portrait of the city of Amsterdam that you would include labour rights in west Africa? And that is the value of the tool.”

Both recognise the need for national government and supranational authorities to get on board. Raworth’s last meeting just before the lockdown in Belgium was with the European commission in Brussels, where she says great interest was expressed.

“The world is experiencing a series of shocks and surprise impacts which are enabling us to shift away from the idea of growth to ‘thriving’, Raworth says. “Thriving means our wellbeing lies in balance. We know it so well in the level of our body. This is the moment we are going to connect bodily health to planetary health.”

 3 
 on: Today at 03:35 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

How did coronavirus start and where did it come from? Was it really Wuhan's animal market?
Coronavirus outbreak


It’s likely Covid-19 originated in bats, scientists say. But did it then jump to pangolins?

Graham Readfearn
Guardian
Wed 8 Apr 2020 06.22 BST

In the public mind, the origin story of coronavirus seems well fixed: in late 2019 someone at the now world-famous Huanan seafood market in Wuhan was infected with a virus from an animal.

The rest is part of an awful history still in the making, with Covid-19 spreading from that first cluster in the capital of China’s Hubei province to a pandemic that has killed about 80,000 people so far.

Stock footage of pangolins – a scaly mammal that looks like an anteater – have made it on to news bulletins, suggesting this animal was the staging post for the virus before it jumped to humans.

But there is uncertainty about several aspects of the Covid-19 origin story that scientists are trying hard to unravel, including which species passed it to a human. They’re trying hard because knowing how a pandemic starts is a key to stopping the next one.

Prof Stephen Turner, head of the department of microbiology at Melbourne’s Monash University, says what’s most likely is that virus originated in bats.

But that’s where his certainty ends, he says.

On the hypothesis that the virus emerged at the Wuhan live animal market from an interaction between an animal and a human, Turner says: “I don’t think it’s conclusive by any means.”

“Part of the problem is that the information is only as good as the surveillance,” he says, adding that viruses of this type are circulating all the time in the animal kingdom.

The fact that the virus has infected a tiger in a New York zoo shows how viruses can move around between species, he says. “Understanding the breadth of species this virus can infect is important as it helps us narrow down down where it might have come from.”

Scientists say it is highly likely that the virus came from bats but first passed through an intermediary animal in the same way that another coronavirus – the 2002 Sars outbreak – moved from horseshoe bats to cat-like civets before infecting humans.

One animal implicated as an intermediary host between bats and humans is the pangolin. The International Union for Conservation of Nature says they are “the most illegally traded mammal in the world” and are prized for their meat and the claimed medicinal properties of their scales.

As reported in Nature, pangolins were not listed on the inventory of items being sold in Wuhan, although this omission could be deliberate as it’s illegal to sell them.

“Whether the poor pangolin was the species at which it jumped, it’s not clear,” Turner says. “It’s either mixed in something else, mixed in a poor pangolin, or it’s jumped into people and evolved in people.”

Prof Edward Holmes, of the University of Sydney, was a co-author on a Nature study that examined the likely origins of the virus by looking at its genome. On social media he has stressed that the identity of the species that served as an intermediate host for the virus is “still uncertain”.

One statistical study looked at a characteristic of the virus that evolved to enable it to latch on to human cells. Pangolins were able to develop this characteristic, but so were cats, buffalo, cattle, goats, sheep and pigeons.

Another study claimed to have ruled out pangolins as an intermediary altogether, because samples of similar viruses taken from pangolins lacked a chain of amino acids seen in the virus now circulating in humans.

The study Holmes worked on suggested that the scenario in which a human at the Wuhan market interacted with an animal that carried the virus was only one potential version of the Covid-19 origin story. Another was the possibility that a descendent of the virus jumped into humans and then adapted as it was passed from human to human.

“Once acquired, these adaptations would enable the pandemic to take off and produce a sufficiently large cluster of cases to trigger the surveillance system that detected it,” the study said.

Analysis of the first 41 Covid-19 patients in medical journal the Lancet found that 27 of them had direct exposure to the Wuhan market. But the same analysis found that the first known case of the illness did not.

This might be another reason to doubt the established story.

Prof Stanley Perlman, a leading immunologist at the University of Iowa and an expert on previous coronavirus outbreaks that have stemmed from animals, says the idea the link to the Wuhan market is coincidental “cannot be ruled out” but that possibility “seems less likely” because the genetic material of the virus had been found in the market environment.

Perlman told Guardian Australia he does believe there was an intermediary animal but adds that while pangolins are possible candidates, they “are not proven to be the key intermediary”.

“I suspect that any evolution [of the virus] occurred in the intermediate animal if there was one. There has been no substantial changes in the virus in the three months of the pandemic, indicating that the virus is well adapted to humans.”

So-called wet markets – where live animals are traded – have been implicated in previous outbreaks of coronaviruses, in particular Sars.

Dr Michelle Baker, an immunologist at CSIRO who studies viruses in bats, says some of the research on Covid-19’s origins have stepped off from what was known from the past.

But “we really don’t know” how accurate theorigin story is, she says: “There’s some sort of connection [to the Wuhan market] and there were people exposed to the market that were infected.”

Baker says what is “very likely” is that the virus originated in a bat. “It’s a likely scenario but we will never know. The market was cleaned up quite quickly. We can only speculate.”

“These wet markets have been identified as an issue because you do have species interacting,” she says. “It’s an opportunity to highlight the dangers of them and an opportunity to clamp down on them.”

Turner adds: “We’ve found the ancestors of the virus, but having broader knowledge of the coronavirus in other species might give us a hint about the evolution of this thing and how it jumped.”

 4 
 on: Today at 03:30 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Coronavirus latest: at a glance

A summary of the biggest developments in the global coronavirus outbreak
 
Kate Lyons
Guardian
Wed 8 Apr 2020 06.12 BST

Key developments in the global coronavirus outbreak today include:

Global cases pass 1.4m and death toll exceeds 82,000

There are now more than 1.43m confirmed cases worldwide and in excess of 82,100 global deaths. The US has more than 399,000 cases and close to 13,000 deaths. In the UK there are close to 56,000 cases and more than 6,100 deaths.

Boris Johnson spends his second night in intensive care

The foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, who is running the government while Boris Johnson receives treatment in hospital for coronavirus, says he is confident the prime minister will recover. Johnson spent his second night in intensive care on Tuesday.

Modelling suggests UK will have worst coronavirus death toll in Europe

Leading disease data analysts have projected that the UK will become the worst-affected country in Europe, accounting for more than 40% of total deaths across the continent. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in Seattle predicts 66,000 UK deaths from Covid-19 by August, with a peak of nearly 3,000 a day, based on a steep climb in daily deaths early in the outbreak. The modelling is contested.

First train departs Wuhan after 11 weeks of lockdown

Nearly three months after Wuhan, the origin point for the coronavirus pandemic, was locked down, travel in and out of the city has been allowed.

Donald Trump threatens to withdraw funding from the World Health Organization

The US president has labelled the global body “China-centric”. At Monday evening’s press briefing, after saying he would withdraw funding. Trump later walked back that statement and said he was “looking into it”.

Schools and workplaces will be closed in Indonesia’s capital of Jakarta

Greater restrictions have been imposed in the city to slow the spread of coronavirus, where a sudden rise in burials has raised concerns over undetected cases. So far, officials have confirmed 2,738 cases of coronavirus, and 221 deaths, most of which have occurred in Jakarta. Indonesia has been criticised for failing to act quickly in response to the coronavirus threat and for downplaying the threat of the virus in the country.

US folk and country singer John Prine has died aged 73 from Covid-19

Prine was hospitalised on 26 March, and was in intensive care for 13 days before dying on Tuesday at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee.

The death toll in Italy continues to rise

Deaths from coronavirus in Italy rose by 604 on Tuesday, although the country marked the lowest day-to-day increase in new infections since it was quarantined.

*************

'If it comes, it will be a disaster': life in one of the only countries without coronavirus

The Pacific nation of Vanuatu is one of the few places that is coronavirus-free, but efforts to stop its arrival have been hampered by a category five cyclone

Yasmine Bjornum in Port Vila
Guardian
8 Apr 2020 23.11 BST

On Sunday morning, 62 guests prepared to check out of an idyllic resort, surrounded by palm trees and overlooking a lagoon, in Vanuatu’s capital of Port Vila.

But instead of taxis waiting to take them to the airport, familiar faces were anxiously waiting to take their loved ones back home.

The 62 guests were mostly Port Vila residents who had been quarantined for 14 days under the surveillance of the ministry of health. They were the last people to have entered the country just before the south Pacific nation closed all of its borders as a precautionary measure against the threat of Covid-19.

Vanuatu – a nation of just under 300,000 people, whose 80 islands are strung across the ocean, 1,800km east of Australia – remains one of the few countries in the world without any confirmed cases of the coronavirus. There are a few countries in Africa that still have no cases, but the bulk of these Covid-free countries are in the Pacific. Nations such as Palau, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Samoa have been protected by their remoteness, but their remoteness, low incomes and weak health infrastructure would make them incredibly vulnerable were the virus to reach them.

But even here, in this remote archipelago, which feels as far as possible from the lockdowns of Wuhan and dire scenes in Italy and New York, the shadow of the coronavirus hangs across the nation.
Though the Pacific nation is one of the few remaining countries in the world without any confirmed cases, the fear of coronavirus hangs over the country, which has closed its borders and introduced a curfew and restrictions on gatherings.

Ariitaimai Salmon’s two children were among those quarantined in the hotel after they returned from Sydney, where one is at school and one attends university.

“For my kids to have made it home was a relief even if [it meant] being in quarantine here for two weeks. They coped really well,” she said, keeping each other company and playing cards and board games. “They were just happy to be home in Vanuatu.”

Salmon is the operations and customer manager of Au Bon Marche, the country’s largestsupermarket chain. She has spent the past few weeks reassuring Vanuatu citizens that there is enough food to feed the population, even as borders close.

Au Bon Marche is one of the few companies that will survive the impacts of the response to the coronavirus.

For those in the hospitality and tourism sector, which accounts for over 40% of Vanuatu’s GDP, many of them wonder how they will recover without regular tourists.

Cruise ships have completely stopped and Air Vanuatu, the national carrier, has suspended all flights in and out of the country indefinitely. Many restaurants and hotels have voluntarily closed down while others are trying to operate within the government’s restrictions, closing at 7.30pm before a curfew kicks in, which forbids anyone from being outside their homes between 9pm and 4am.

Along the main street of Port Vila, handwashing stations have been set up outside shops, banks and restaurants, most of them consisting of large plastic containers and a portable tap. Under the state of emergency rules, all businesses have been required to set up handwashing facilities at their own cost to promote hygienic practices.

This includes kava bars, otherwise known as nakamals, which face drastic changes to their practices due to hygiene concerns. At kava bars, where the traditional psychoactive brew is served, people share the same kava bowl, dipped into the muddy brown liquid, as they drink through the night. They are also notorious for people spitting, to rid their mouths of the bitter taste after drinking.

In the wake of Covid-19, all kava bars are now only providing takeaway, and at the Blue Galaxy Nakamal, in Bladiniere Estate on the outskirts of Port Vila, Kelsie Java is pulling on disposable gloves to fill up plastic bottles full of the beloved drink to sell to customers.

“Usually I open until midnight. But now we open at 4.30pm and have to close at 7.30pm and we can only operate as a takeaway,” says Java. “Some of my customers have wanted me to stay open and want to drink kava here, but I have to explain it’s not possible. The police will check to make sure we follow the rules and our customers have come to respect that.”

Other businesses have had to shut down altogether. Christoph Tahumpir, a local businessman who exports sandalwood to China, had to close down operations when the ports closed and he is concerned about the rise of unemployment. But agrees the borders must be kept closed.

“If the virus comes here, I think about it affecting someone older in my family and not being able to visit them in hospital. It would be very sad.”

Kalfau Moli, a former member of parliament, managed to get the last flight from his home island of Malo to Port Vila before all inter-island travel operations were suspended.

“As a father and a citizen of this country, I am very worried. We don’t have the facilities to manage a virus,” Moli says. “We don’t even have water to wash our hands. Tell me where we can get water in the east of Malo? Or in Whitesands on Tanna?”

Russel Tamata, the lead spokesman for the government’s Covid-19 advisory team defends the aggressive action taken by the government.

“We know how the virus spreads and when we look at our culture and how we live, it’s in favour of this virus. If it comes, it would be a disaster. At this point, we have to be strict with our borders – our fear is that if enters Vanuatu, it would spread very quickly and we simply do not have the resources and facilities to manage it. The slightest mistake will impact us very badly.”

The Chinese government has committed to supply equipment and materials by the end of April for Vanuatu to build an intensive care unit (ICU) in Port Vila, including bringing in much-needed ventilators.
Kalfau Moli, a former MP from Vanuatu has warned that remote parts of Vanuatu are in grave danger if the coronavirus were to reach them.

Currently the country’s main hospital, Vila Central Hospital, is converting its tuberculosis ward into an isolation ward but there are still only 20 beds available in the entire hospital.

“If a patient goes into a state of complication, we only have two ventilators available in the whole country”, says Tamata.

“Even then, it’s part of the service in the theatre, there are no more on standby. We have about 60 doctors, but most of them are newly graduated, and we’ve recently received our third batch of nurses from the Solomon Islands to serve across our six provinces due to a lack of human resources.”

Due to a shortage of local nurses, Vanuatu has been hiring them from Solomon Islands since mid-2019.

Tamata says that one of the biggest challenges is managing misinformation. When Vanuatu declared a two-week state of emergency on 26 March, one of the orders included all media outlets to not publish any article about Covid-19 unless it received authorisation from the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), something that commentators have warned raises concerns about press freedom.

“There are a lot of scientific words that cannot be translated into Bislama and it can be easily misinterpreted. It’s important to manage people’s understanding during these times, as the fear can hold us back from doing our work,” says Tamata.

But while the nation is preparing for the arrival of Covid-19, its vulnerability was highlighted this week as Tropical Cyclone Harold bore down on the country. The category five storm made landfall on Monday morning, tearing into the northern islands of Vanuatu.

The total scale of the destruction is not yet clear, but pictures from Espiritu Santo and Malo Islands show villages reduced to ruins by the storm.

The strict measures put in place to respond to Covid-19 were suddenly undone by the disaster. Rules that prohibited more than five people gathering at a time had to be relaxed as as people gathered in large groups to shelter in mass evacuation centres.

Vanuatu is used to disasters – it is ranked the most vulnerable country in the world to natural disasters – and in the past week alone, the NDMO has been dealing simultaneously with flooding and volcanic ash fall. But there are fears that the dual emergencies of Harold and the coronavirus may be too much for vulnerable island state.

Other Pacific leaders, including the prime minister of Fiji, which currently has 16 cases of coronavirus, and is due to have Cyclone Harold pass by its islands in the coming days, has warned that the Pacific will need international help to recover from the storm. “TC Harold … couldn’t come at a worse time. Flights are grounded, foreign aid workers have withdrawn, and medical supplies are limited. The world must be prepared to respond to this disaster at our doorsteps,” he tweeted on Monday.

But Tamata is more optimistic about Vanuatu’s chances of withstanding the coronavirus outbreak, despite the other challenges the country faces.

“We have seen Covid-19 as a threat, but it has also been a blessing,” says Tamata. “The basic hygiene practices we are trying to promote are old stories – this is what we have been telling people for years and now people are seeing the importance of it. We have realised the gaps in our laws, especially between the public health and immigration act, and we have matured in how we make decisions ... While Covid-19 remains in the Pacific, it will still be a threat to Vanuatu, but we are ready.”

 5 
 on: Today at 03:25 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Country diary: singing stonechat gives after-hours performance

Buxton, Derbyshire: From across dark moorland, the bird poured out his tiny heart in a moving moment

Mark Cocker
Guardian
8 Apr 2020 05.30 BST

I was coming down off the moorland tops and the curved outlines of the near slopes were already immersed in darkness. Suddenly out of a featureless middle distance came the unexpected song of a stonechat.

It is not a well-known vocalisation, although the species itself has expanded both here and in lowland England. Stonechats (Saxicola rubicola) love open country – coastal dunes, heath or gorse-sprinkled places – where the males are familiar to many.

She may be brown and inconspicuous, but his head is coal-black encircled with a linen-white half-collar and across the upper bib is the most delightful evening orange. In truth, even he has a nervous, fidgety manner, as if faintly embarrassed by so much conspicuous colour. The song is comparably unassuming and rather frail – a brief scatter of bright glasslike notes that seldom carry far – but this night it sounded much clearer.

We often overlook how much diurnal birds will vocalise in darkness. Curlews and skylarks routinely fly and sing after sunset. Sedge and reed warblers will keep up the crazy free-form bebop rhythm of their mimicry-laced songs at night and it was once well known how corncrakes could sustain a single-sound file-rasping crex note on and on even until dawn.

Snipe will deliver an airborne sound, known as drumming, in which they fly repeatedly down to drive air through outer pinnate tail feathers, to produce a weird vibratory juddering effect that, in the absence of visual cues, is felt as much as heard. And perhaps most beautiful of all, if we ignore the dark’s most famous songster, is the odd night-owl blackbird who can roll out a strangely disembodied version of his customary hymn to late-morning.

I cherish these various kinds of after-hours avian music, and even more for their context. But this was the first time that I had ever heard a stonechat sing at night. Standing there, faced towards the western sky with a gibbous moon in its ice-blue lower third and the faintest lemon band of light still lying at the Earth’s rim, I found this cock stonechat pouring out his tiny heart somewhere on that blank moor perhaps the most moving moment of all.

 6 
 on: Today at 03:23 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Can pets get COVID-19? It’s complicated

on April 8, 2020
By Nicole Karlis, Salon
- Commentary

News surfaced yesterday that a tiger at New York’s Bronx Zoo tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The discovery raises new questions about whether pets can contract the virus, and if it is contagious from pets (or zoo animals) to humans.

Nadia, a four-year-old Malayan tiger who lives at the Bronx Zoo, was suffering from a dry cough and loss of appetite, which prompted the test for novel coronavirus. Nadia’s symptoms were first noticed on March 27, and zoo officials decided to test her “out of an abundance of caution,” according to a statement from the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Fortunately, Nadia is expected to recover, but it is likely she isn’t the only zoo animal infected. While tests have yet to confirm positive coronavirus results, other cats at the zoo — including Nadia’s sister Azul, two Amur tigers and three African lions — developed dry coughs as well. The zoo believes that a caretaker with novel coronavirus infected the cats before developing any symptoms.
Defend democracy. Click to invest in courageous progressive journalism today.

“Though they have experienced some decrease in appetite, the cats at the Bronx Zoo are otherwise doing well under veterinary care and are bright, alert, and interactive with their keepers,” the statement read. “It is not known how this disease will develop in big cats, since different species can react differently to novel infections, but we will continue to monitor them closely and anticipate full recoveries.”

This is the first known coronavirus infection of an animal in the United States, and in a tiger anywhere around the world. As the zoo emphasized on Twitter, the test used for Nadia is not the same test used for humans. The results were confirmed by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Iowa.

Still, pets have tested positive for the coronavirus, albeit on other continents. As questions abound over human-to-animal transmission, here’s what we know so far.

Cats are at risk of getting COVID-19

According to new research by scientists at Harbin Veterinary Research Institute, in China, five domestic cats were intentionally exposed to high doses of the novel coronavirus, known scientifically as SARS-CoV-2. In the experiment — whose results were posted on bioRxiv, but have to be peer reviewed — two of the cats that were euthanized had viral RNA in their upper respiratory tracts. The remaining three cats were placed in cages next to three uninfected felines. Later, researchers detected viral RNA in one of the exposed cats, which suggests that it got infected from a droplet from one of the three infected cats. More tests are needed to scientifically conclude cat-to-cat transmission.

Intriguingly, despite being infected, none of the infected house cats showed symptoms of illness.

A separate study of feral cats in Wuhan, which is also not yet peer reviewed, showed that some had antibodies to the coronavirus, suggesting that they did have some level of exposure to the coronavirus. The cats weren’t ill while tested.

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “We are still learning about this virus, but we know that it is zoonotic and it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations.”

If you are sick with SARS-CoV-2, or suspect you have it, the CDC recommends treating a pet like a human in your household (regardless of species) and keeping social distance.

“Although there have been no reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus,” the CDC states.

Can humans get the coronavirus from cats?

There is no evidence that suggests humans are getting the coronavirus from cats, or any pets. The CDC asserts:

“The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads mostly from person to person through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, and talking. Recent studies indicate that people who are infected but do not have symptoms likely also play a role in the spread of COVID-19. At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19 to people or that they might be a source of infection in the United States.”

Several health officials have reiterated this. Karen Terio, head of the Zoological Pathology Program at the University of Illinois veterinary school (where tests for the Bronx Zoo tiger were conducted) told the New York Times: “Given the number of people in this country that have been infected with the virus and have become ill, and the number of people in this country that own domestic cats, it seems fairly improbable that cats are an important source of the virus for people if the first case we’re diagnosing it in is a tiger.”

In 2012, it was estimated that there were 74.1 million pet cats in America.

Can dogs, or other house pets, get COVID-19?

According to the same study of the cats from the researchers at Harbin Veterinary Research Institute, dogs are not really susceptible to the infection. Chickens, pigs and ducks are not likely to get infected, either. Similar to the way the researchers studied cats, five 3-month beagles were administered high doses of the coronavirus, and housed with two beagles who weren’t exposed. Swabs were collected from the animals every two days for the next two weeks. Researchers detected viral RNA on the second and sixth days in a couple dogs who were inoculated in their feces, but none of the dogs contained the infectious virus. “These results indicate that dogs have low susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2,” the researchers concluded. The researchers also investigated the susceptibility of pigs, chickens, and ducks, and concluded they aren’t likely to get infected, like dogs.

In Hong Kong, two dogs tested positive for COVID-19. The first one, who was 17 years old, died after having a “weak positive” test result, according to South Morning China Post. “It is very likely that the two positive cases [in Hong Kong] are examples of human-to-dog transmission,”  Malik Peiris, a leading public health virologist at the University of Hong Kong, told the South Morning China Post.

Ferrets, on the other hand, have a similar susceptibility as cats.

Can you get the coronavirus by petting an animal?

Again, there’s no evidence right now to suggest that if you pet a dog that has been sneezed on by an infected person, you’ll get infected yourself. While you should always wash your hands before and after petting an animal, and ask the owner for permission to pet while practicing social distancing, experts aren’t as worried about this as being a source of transmission. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Chief Veterinary Officer Gail Golab told the Washington Post: “We’re not overly concerned about people contracting COVID-19 through contact with dogs and cats.”

“The virus survives best on smooth surfaces, such as countertops and doorknobs,” Golab said. “Porous materials, such as pet fur, tend to absorb and trap pathogens, making it harder to contract them through touch.”

 7 
 on: Today at 03:21 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Seal the deal: amorous mammals forced to contend with cruise ships

Harbour seals struggle to match volume of passing ships when trying to attract a mate

Nicola Davis
Guardian
Wed 8 Apr 2020 00.01 BST

Cruise ships are drowning out the roars of seals that are important for bagging a mate, researchers have found in the latest study to reveal the consequences of human activity on wildlife.

Ships are known to produce low-frequency sounds which can overlap with calls made by marine creatures. But now researchers studying harbour seals say such noise could be taking its toll.

“As it gets noisier, it becomes harder for harbour seals to be heard,” said Dr Michelle Fournet, a co-author of the research at Cornell University, noting the animals’ roars serve a number of purposes – including advertising to females and establishing underwater territories.

Writing in the journal Biology Letters, Fournet and colleagues report that they lowered an array of microphones into Glacier Bay in Alaska and recorded underwater sounds during May to October 2015. The team then analysed data from a nine-day period that overlapped with the peak breeding period for harbour seals.

Among the sounds recorded were roars of male harbour seals, as well as the noise from other animals and passing shipping. “Vessels in general are one of the largest contributors to underwater sound in this area,” said Fournet.

Overall, the team analysed recordings of 545 underwater roars, produced by at least four different male harbour seals.

Fournet said widespread animals such as harbour seals are generally thought to be resilient to human activity.

However the team found little, if any, difference in the loudness of roars made by the seals during noisy periods, when cruise ships were known to be passing, compared with those made during quiet periods when the ships were absent. The duration or frequency of the roars also showed no tangible difference.

Instead, the team found that the loudness of a roar beyond the rest of the soundscape fell by about 0.86 decibels for every one decibel increase in noise in the environment caused by the cruise ships. In other words, the area over which they could communicate shrank.

“Because the harbour seals are already calling as loud as they can possibly call … as ocean noise gets louder, the ability to detect that signal goes down,” said Fournier, adding that the animals were likely calling loudly even during quiet periods as this would be advantageous both in bagging a mate and defending territory – but it meant they may not be able to turn up the volume when cruise ships show up.

The team say the findings could potentially mean it is harder for males to find a mate, not least since the peak time for vessels including cruise ships overlaps with the animals’ breeding season. They add that more research is needed to see if this is indeed the case, noting that the passage of cruise ships in Glacier Bay is concentrated to just two periods of the day.

Fournier added the coronavirus pandemic has opened up a new opportunities for research. “We are working right now on trying to get a hydrophone in the water so that we can listen [during breeding season] in the absence of ships for the first time,” she said.

Dr Sarah Marley, an expert in the impact of noise on marine animals from the University of Portsmouth who was not involved in the study, said that noise from human activities has been increasing in the oceans – a trend that could change animals’ behaviour or mask sounds they make for important activities.

But, she added, the new findings do not necessarily mean harbour seals have failed to adapt, noting that even quiet times in Glacier Bay may be noisier than locations without any shipping and hence require a louder roar.

“It could be that the seals are already roaring at maximum levels during the so-called ‘quiet’ periods, and just can’t go any further to communicate during the really noisy periods,” she said.

Marley added that the findings could have important ramifications for the UK, which has a population of about 43,000 harbour seals living in areas that, at least in part, overlap with those used by humans.

“If man-made noise is impeding the breeding success of harbour seals, this could have important repercussions at the local and national level for seal management and conservation,” she said.

 8 
 on: Today at 03:19 AM 
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Human impact on wildlife to blame for spread of viruses, says study

Increased contact with animals likely cause of outbreaks such as Covid-19, say experts, as conservationists call for global ban on wildlife markets
 
John Vidal
Guardian
Wed 8 Apr 2020 00.01 BST

Hunting, farming and the global move of people to cities has led to massive declines in biodiversity and increased the risk of dangerous viruses like Covid-19 spilling over from animals to humans, a major study has concluded.

In a paper that suggests the underlying cause of the present pandemic is likely to be increased human contact with wildlife, scientists from Australia and the US traced which animals were most likely to share pathogens with humans.

Taking 142 viruses known to have been transmitted from animals to humans over many years, they matched them to the IUCN’s red list of threatened species.

Domesticated animals like cattle, sheep, dogs and goats shared the highest number of viruses with humans, with eight times more animal-borne viruses than wild mammal species.

Wild animals that have adapted well to human-dominated environments also share more viruses with people. Rodents, bats and primates – which often live among people, and close to houses and farms – together were implicated as hosts for nearly 75% of all viruses. Bats alone have been linked to diseases like Sars, Nipah, Marburg and Ebola.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found that the spillover risk was highest from threatened and endangered wild animals whose populations had declined largely due to hunting, the wildlife trade and loss of habitat.

“Human encroachment into biodiverse areas increases the risk of spillover of novel infectious diseases by enabling new contacts between humans and wildlife … We found that species in the primate and bat orders were significantly more likely to harbour zoonotic viruses compared to all other orders,” it said.

“Spillover of viruses from animals are a direct result of our actions involving wildlife and their habitat,” said lead author Christine Kreuder Johnson, director of the EpiCenter for Disease Dynamics at the One Health Institute, a programme of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

“The consequence is they’re sharing their viruses with us. These actions simultaneously threaten species survival and increase the risk of spillover. In an unfortunate convergence of many factors, this brings about the kind of mess we’re in now,” she said.

“We need to be really attentive to how we interact with wildlife and the activities that bring humans and wildlife together. We obviously don’t want pandemics of this scale. We need to find ways to co-exist safely with wildlife, as they have no shortages of viruses to give us,” said Johnson.

Separately, more than 200 of the world’s wildlife groups have written to the World Health Organization (WHO) calling on it to recommend to countries a highly precautionary approach to the multi-billion dollar wildlife trade, and a permanent ban on all live wildlife markets and the use of wildlife in traditional medicine.

The Covid-19 pandemic, says the letter, is believed to have originated at wildlife markets in China, and to have been transmitted to humans as a result of the close proximity between wildlife and people.

The groups, which include the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Zoological Society of London and Peta, say a ban on wildlife markets globally will help prevent the spread of disease, and address “one of the major drivers of species extinction”.

“This decisive action, well within the WHO’s mandate, would be an impactful first step in adopting a highly precautionary approach to wildlife trade that poses a risk to human health,” says the letter.

The organisations argue that zoonotic diseases are responsible for over 2 billion cases of human illness and over 2 million human deaths each year, including from Ebola, Mers, HIV, bovine tuberculosis, rabies, and leptospirosis.

The letter follows acting UN biodiversity chief Elizabeth Maruma Mrema’s call in the Guardian this week for a global ban on wildlife markets.

Unlike the conservation groups, Mrema, the acting executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, emphasised that millions of people, particularly in Africa, depend on wild animals for food and that alternatives to wet markets are needed.

In a growing sign that global organisations are embarrassed by the emergence of zoonotic diseases in traded animals, Cites, the body which regulates the international trade of animals, refused to be drawn into the growing debate about the origins of Covid-19.

In a terse statement it said: “Matters regarding zoonotic diseases are outside of Cites’s mandate and the Secretariat does not have the competence to make comments on the recent news on the possible links between human consumption of wild animals and Covid-19.

 9 
 on: Today at 03:17 AM 
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Scientists capture image of black hole emitting high-energy jets

Detailed image taken by Event Horizon Telescope of black hole 5bn light years away

Nicola Davis
Guardian
8 Apr 2020 14.00 BST

An image of a huge, powerful jet of plasma powered by a supermassive black hole has been captured by researchers in unprecedented detail.

The team say the bright blob on the left of the image is thought to be the disc of gas and dust swirling around the black hole, with the jet of plasma depicted by a stream of less intense red features apparently emanating from it.

Experts say the jet is part a structure known as a blazar. These are formed from quasars – supermassive black holes which are actively sucking in material – that wind up magnetic fields as they spin, resulting in material from around the black hole being shot out in two jets, one of which points towards the Earth.

“A lot of that matter [around the black hole] is fated just to cross the event horizon and never return, but some of it can be launched along those powerful magnetic field lines which thread the black hole, and that is what the jet is,” said Dr Ziri Younsi of University College London, a co-author of the study.

“Black holes don’t just swallow up a lot of matter, they spit a lot of it out too because they are highly magnetised and spinning so rapidly,” he added.

Crucially, the team say, the image is the highest resolution yet of a jet around a supermassive black hole, meaning the researchers can for the first time investigate what is happening near the base of the jet. Indeed a close-up image shows a blob near the black hole that appears to be slightly off the axis of the rest of the jet.

“It is offset by a good few degrees,” said Younsi.

That, he added, means there may be a sort of “kink” at the base of the jet, or material that is being twisted around the jet. Alternatively, the blobs could be part of the edge of the disc of gas and dust that surrounds and feeds the black hole.

But, Younsi added, questions remain, including what exactly the plasma of the jet is composed of, and exactly how the jet couples with the black hole.

The image, published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, was captured by the Event Horizon Telescope – a huge research effort involving a network of eight radio telescopes, and a large team of researchers, around the world.

The team say the black hole is part of a quasar called 3C 279, and is 200 times larger than the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. The quasar, they add, lies in a galaxy 5bn light years away in the constellation Virgo.

“It is actually very far away,” said Younsi. “Normally we wouldn’t be able to see anything, because the light would just be so red-shifted by the time it reaches us.

“But because this jet is fired almost directly towards us, all of that radiation is boosted and it appears a lot brighter than it really is and so we are able to detect it.”

The direction of the jet, pointing towards Earth, also explains another curiosity – why the jet appears to be travelling 15-20 times faster than the speed of light.

“It is a projection effect,” said Younsi, noting that the is jet actually travelling about 0.995 times the speed of light.

The new work is not the first stunning image from the Event Horizon Telescope endeavour: last year the team released the first image of a black hole, revealing a glowing halo of gas and dust.

But Younsi said the new images were even more exciting to physicists. “It is the first time we really start to see the connection of the jet with the black hole and the accretion disc [of gas and dust,]” he said. “It actually allows us to start answering questions about how black holes power jets, how black holes feed, how they grow.”

That, he added, is important as not all galaxies have a black hole with large-scale jets – including our own Milky Way. “One of the big questions is why – why don’t we have a big jet like a lot of other galaxies?” said Younsi.

Younsi said the new image was a sign of things to come.

“This is just very preliminary work, this is the beginning really,” he said.

 10 
 on: Today at 03:15 AM 
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Bangladesh sends food aid to brothels as women fight to survive lockdown

Up to 100,000 women could be left unable to support families as brothels are closed amid fears of Covid-19 outbreak

Redwan Ahmed in Dhaka
Guardian
7 Apr 2020 07.00 BST

The government of Bangladesh has started sending emergency food and aid to the tens of thousands of women working in the country’s commercial sex industry as brothels across the country close.

To try to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus, the authorities have ordered the lockdown of the sex industry, closing the country’s biggest brothel in Goalanda in the Rajbari District of Dhaka until 5 April along with many others across the country.

The closures will leave many of the estimated 100,000 women working in brothels in Bangladesh with no way of supporting themselves or their children.

Prostitution is legal in Bangladesh although one study reports that less than 10% of those working in prostitution entered the sex trade voluntarily.

An Observer investigation in 2019 found that thousands of girls and women in Bangladeshi red light districts had been trafficked into brothel prostitution as children and that many women working in the sex trade were trapped in debt bondage.

“We don’t earn much here, I make enough to survive day to day and most of us are in debt,” said one 26-year-old woman who has worked in a brothel in Goalanda for more than seven years. “What will happen if things don’t get better? Yesterday I needed to get some food but all my money is stuck in online banking apps and all the cashpoints are closed. I managed to borrow some from a friend, otherwise I would have been in big trouble.”

Local government official Rubayet Hayat, of the sub-district of Goalanda, said food and financial aid from the disaster management and relief ministry would start to be distributed by the end of this week.

“There are some 1,800 women in the brothels under our jurisdiction. We have asked for 30kgs of rice and 2,000 taka (£20) [for each of these women],” he said. “We have got the initial approval and are hoping the funds will be sanctioned by the end of this week.”

Healthcare workers at a charity hospital near to the brothel in Goalanda said more help would be needed to prevent an outbreak of Covid-19 in brothels and red light districts.

“The brothel area is very dirty and unhygienic. The rooms are inhumanly tiny. The house owners built the rooms strategically for more profit so that they can fit more rooms in a small area,” said Zulfekar Ali, the in-charge doctor at the Gonoshasthaya Kendra charity hospital. “In that same tiny room, the sex workers live, work and often cook. Many share common toilets.”

He added that many women working in the brothels are often reluctant to access healthcare services because they fear being shamed and stigmatised. “We are using loud hailers to spread awareness in the brothels, telling the women who are there to wash their hands properly,” he said.

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