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May 28, 2020, 01:37 AM
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Author Topic: ENVIRONMENT, GLOBAL WARMING, AND CULTURE  (Read 44936 times)
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Darja
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« Reply #15 on: May 25, 2020, 03:20 AM »

Jacinda Ardern Sold a Drastic Lockdown With Straight Talk and Mom Jokes

Leading New Zealand from isolation, Ms. Ardern coaxed her “team of five million” into accepting extreme restrictions. But the lessons of her success go beyond personality or charm.

By Damien Cave
NY Times
5/25/2020

Halfway into a Facebook Live video last week, updating the world on New Zealand’s plan to reopen restaurants, schools and even movie theaters, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern noticed a concern cropping up among the commenters: They thought she looked tired.

She had plenty of reason to be exhausted, managing a pandemic as well as a daughter in diapers. But instead, she blamed the unflattering beige curtains behind her, then spun her phone around to show off the vintage cane furniture with green frond upholstery in her favorite room at the prime minister’s residence.

“This is a fabulous chair,” said Ms. Ardern, a global progressive icon, plopping down after the brief tour. “And this is a much better corner, because where I was sitting before was right next to the nappy bucket, which I’m going to admit was not the freshest place to be sitting.”

“So,” she continued after a deep breath, “when it comes to health services, you’ll see those starting to wind back up.”

Pandemics are often described as crises of communication, when leaders must persuade entire populations to suspend their lives because of an invisible threat. Watching Ms. Ardern on Facebook, her favored conduit, is a lesson in rhetorical blending: epidemiology brightened with empathy, law leavened with mom jokes. And it has been strikingly effective.

Ms. Ardern helped coax New Zealanders — “our team of five million,” she says — to buy into a lockdown so severe that even retrieving a lost cricket ball from a neighbor’s yard was banned. Now the country, despite some early struggles with contact tracing, has very nearly stamped out the virus, exiting isolation with just 21 deaths and a few dozen active cases.

But at a time when Ms. Ardern, 39, is being celebrated in some quarters as a saint — when even a comedian imitating her says she’s so nice that “to make fun of Jacinda almost feels like making fun of a puppy” — a lot gets missed.

Halos can make heretics out of legitimate critics, including epidemiologists who argue that New Zealand’s lockdown went too far, that other countries suppressed the virus with less harm to small businesses.

And Ms. Ardern’s canonization diminishes two powerful forces behind her success: Her own hard work at making connections with constituents, and the political culture of New Zealand, which in the 1990s overhauled how it votes, forging a system that forces political parties to work together.

“You need the whole context, the way the political system has evolved,” said Helen Clark, a former prime minister who hired Ms. Ardern as an adviser more than a decade ago. “It’s not easily transferable.”

The Perfect Democracy?

Ms. Ardern, who declined to be interviewed for this article, is the product of a particular time and place: She grew up in a rural nation of lonely struggle, where demands were growing for a more responsive brand of politics.

In 1965, New Zealand was the world’s sixth-wealthiest country per capita, but by 1980, when Ms. Ardern was born, it had slipped to 19th. And that was before free-market reforms led to major job losses in manufacturing, public service and farming.

Ms. Ardern, the daughter of a police officer and a cafeteria worker who were Mormon, has often recalled seeing forestry jobs disappear in the small town where she grew up, leaving behind suicides, poverty and illness — including a case of hepatitis for her babysitter.

Alongside the country’s economic frustration, the electoral system seemed to have broken down. Several elections produced results widely seen as unfair, with the popular vote going to one party and the majority of legislative seats to the other.

It all reached a breaking point in 1992, when unemployment peaked at 10.7 percent and a national referendum asked New Zealanders if they wanted to remake how the country conducted elections. They responded with a resounding yes.

New Zealand adopted a German-style system that lets people cast two ballots: one for a local member of Parliament and one for a party. Ms. Ardern was in high school when the first election under the new system produced what would become a trend: gains for smaller parties, and a coalition government.

Whether it is the world’s best-designed democracy, as some government geeks claim, Kiwis have been clear about what they want. No single party has won a majority since 1996, encouraging a culture of cooperation, moderation and openness.

“There is more responsiveness required,” said Richard Shaw, a politics professor at Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand. “You have to be seen listening, and in substance actually listening, because you don’t have the institutional wherewithal to simply ignore what others think.”

That attentiveness is a vital component of Ms. Ardern’s leadership style — what has come to be known as her politics of kindness.

Much of the world first saw Ms. Ardern in action after the 2019 Christchurch terrorist attacks, when she stood with the Muslim victims of a white supremacist mass shooter and declared: “They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not.”

The urge to draw people into an “us” rather than an “us versus them” has served New Zealand well during the coronavirus pandemic, when truly everyone is being threatened.

It follows an evolution in how Ms. Ardern speaks and handles leadership. As recently as a few years ago, she presented herself as a much more conventional politician, posting videos about homelessness, social workers or a new bike repair station.

With her 2017 election victory, however, she seemed to emerge from the constraints of what might be expected from a typical (male) politician. She quickly became a leader who could talk policy from a podium, dress down a sexist commentator on camera or post a Facebook video encouraging a rugby team while a cat on her lap struggled against a plastic collar the size of a lampshade.
The Coronavirus Outbreak

    Frequently Asked Questions and Advice

    Updated May 20, 2020
        How can I protect myself while flying?

        If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)
        What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

        Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.
        How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

        Over 38 million people have filed for unemployment since March. One in five who were working in February reported losing a job or being furloughed in March or the beginning of April, data from a Federal Reserve survey released on May 14 showed, and that pain was highly concentrated among low earners. Fully 39 percent of former workers living in a household earning $40,000 or less lost work, compared with 13 percent in those making more than $100,000, a Fed official said.
        Is ‘Covid toe’ a symptom of the disease?

        There is an uptick in people reporting symptoms of chilblains, which are painful red or purple lesions that typically appear in the winter on fingers or toes. The lesions are emerging as yet another symptom of infection with the new coronavirus. Chilblains are caused by inflammation in small blood vessels in reaction to cold or damp conditions, but they are usually common in the coldest winter months. Federal health officials do not include toe lesions in the list of coronavirus symptoms, but some dermatologists are pushing for a change, saying so-called Covid toe should be sufficient grounds for testing.
        Can I go to the park?

        Yes, but make sure you keep six feet of distance between you and people who don’t live in your home. Even if you just hang out in a park, rather than go for a jog or a walk, getting some fresh air, and hopefully sunshine, is a good idea.
        How do I take my temperature?

        Taking one’s temperature to look for signs of fever is not as easy as it sounds, as “normal” temperature numbers can vary, but generally, keep an eye out for a temperature of 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. If you don’t have a thermometer (they can be pricey these days), there are other ways to figure out if you have a fever, or are at risk of Covid-19 complications.
        Should I wear a mask?

        The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.
        What should I do if I feel sick?

        If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.
        How do I get tested?

        If you’re sick and you think you’ve been exposed to the new coronavirus, the C.D.C. recommends that you call your healthcare provider and explain your symptoms and fears. They will decide if you need to be tested. Keep in mind that there’s a chance — because of a lack of testing kits or because you’re asymptomatic, for instance — you won’t be able to get tested.
        How can I help?

        Charity Navigator, which evaluates charities using a numbers-based system, has a running list of nonprofits working in communities affected by the outbreak. You can give blood through the American Red Cross, and World Central Kitchen has stepped in to distribute meals in major cities.

In June 2018, she opened up even more to her audience, with a Facebook Live of herself leaving the hospital with her newborn daughter, Neve. She was the first world leader to give birth in office since Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan in 1990. The comments pouring in were overwhelmingly positive, but hinted at high expectations.

“Get some rest and enjoy her before you get back to work,” one woman wrote.

Her response was not to hide from critics who questioned whether she could do the work of both a mother and a world leader. She made them watch. When Ms. Ardern returned after about six weeks, her Facebook presence became more active — a flood of scenes from home and work as she communicated her way through the challenge.

“She felt she had to hit the ground running,” said Ms. Clark, the former prime minister, who has stayed close to Ms. Ardern. “There was a lot of meanspirited criticism — the ‘part-time prime minister’ hashtag — which would never have been said about a man.”

Around this time, Ms. Ardern started doing weekly updates, often from home, mixing comments about nap time with details about poverty or transportation legislation. With each update, she got better at boiling down government into a conversation you might hear over dinner.

In her most popular Facebook Live video, from just before the start of the lockdown on March 25 — 5.3 million views and counting — Ms. Ardern appeared in a faded green sweatshirt after putting Neve to sleep. Her elbow on her knee, she asked everyone to be kind.

“Stay at home, break the chain and you’ll save lives,” she said.

It was the start of a relationship that was less saint and disciples, more friends or teammates. “You’ll be seeing me lots and lots,” she told the people tuning in. And they have.

In addition to daily briefings with public health officials, Ms. Ardern also started hosting her own question-and-answer sessions with experts, which she used to target misinformation, and she deployed Facebook Live updates to respond to questions from commenters.

Her popularity — her halo — has sometimes seemed to blind her fans to deeper problems.

New Zealand started out with little contact tracing capacity and fewer I.C.U. beds per capita than most developed countries. The government struggled to work through requests for exceptions to the lockdown. And epidemiologists say the shutdown may have caused undue harm to businesses without corresponding benefits to public health.

“The harder you push your lockdown, the more you get unintended consequences,” said Dr. Simon Thornley of Auckland University. “If you want to separate people more effectively, then you have to keep more of the food and services open, more of society open, so people don’t congregate.”

Dr. Thornley said he worried that a second wave of infections would lead to another overly harsh response. But he noted that Ms. Ardern had been quick to listen and pivot, allowing gatherings of up to 100 people sooner than Australia and many other countries that have eased lockdowns.

It reflects something that Ms. Ardern has talked about a lot in her most recent Facebook videos: agility. With unemployment soon expected to reach nearly 10 percent, and with an election scheduled for September, the next phase of New Zealand’s coronavirus response will require Ms. Ardern to do a lot of adapting and explaining.

Facebook will be where to find her. In her video detailing the eased restrictions, Ms. Ardern, who did look tired, even in her favorite chair, promised viewers she would stay in touch.

“Thanks for joining me,” she said, smiling. “And look after yourselves.”


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Darja
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« Reply #16 on: May 25, 2020, 03:35 AM »


Coronavirus: at a glance

A summary of the biggest developments in the global coronavirus outbreak
   
Helen Sullivan
Guardian
Mon 25 May 2020 05.52 BST

Key developments in the global coronavirus outbreak today include:

Global cases pass 5.4m

There are currently 5,407,701 confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. The death toll stands at 345,060. Both figures are likely to be higher, due to differing test rates, definitions and deliberate underreporting.

US bars travellers who have been in Brazil in last two weeks

The White House has announced it is prohibiting foreigners from traveling to the US if they had been in Brazil in the last two weeks, two days after the South American nation became the world’s second-worst affected country in terms of coronavirus cases. Brazil meanwhile registered 15,813 new cases and 653 new deaths in 24 hours, taking the total number of fatalities to 22,666, and cases to 363,211 confirmed cases, the Health Ministry said.

White House official likens China’s handling of coronavirus to Chernobyl cover-up

A top White House official on Sunday likened China’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak to the Soviet Union’s cover-up of the meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986. Robert O’Brien, Donald Trump’s national security adviser, accused China of a cover-up that will “go down in history along with Chernobyl”, ramping up efforts to deflect attention from a Covid-19 death toll in the US fast closing on 100,000.

China says virus pushing US ties to brink of ‘Cold War’

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Sunday that Washington seemed infected by a “political virus” but that Beijing would nevertheless be open to an international effort to find the coronavirus source.“Some political forces in the US are taking China-US relations hostage and pushing our two countries to the brink of a new Cold War,” Wang said.

Dominic Cummings reported to police over lockdown breach

Boris Johnson’s chief advisor is facing a possible police investigation under health laws over a claim that he breached self-isolation rules in north-east England, after a weekend of mounting pressure on the prime minister to sack his chief adviser. Boris Johnson described Cummings as acting “responsibly, legally and with integrity”.

First Spanish beaches to reopen as lockdown eases

Coronavirus lockdown measures will finally be eased for people in Madrid and Barcelona from Monday, while elsewhere in Spain the first beaches are due to reopen, AFP reports. Residents in the two cities can now meet in groups of up to 10 people in their homes or on the terraces of bars and restaurants. The gates of the capital’s parks will also be reopened, and major museums will be able to receive a limited number of visitors.

Australian children return to school

Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, on Monday deployed hundreds of crowd control staff to enforce social distancing on public transport amid an expected commuter surge as schools and offices reopened and coronavirus cases fell. Australia has reported just over 7,100 Covid-19 infections, including 102 deaths, well below figures reported by other developed countries.

Chile’s healthcare system ‘very close to the limit’

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said on Sunday that the country’s healthcare system is under strain and “very close to the limit”, as the number of confirmed novel coronavirus infections approached 70,000, after a rapid increase in recent days. The Ministry of Health reported 3,709 new cases in the last day, bringing the total to 69,102. The death toll is at 718.

India resumes domestic flights despite record spike in new cases

Domestic flights will resume across India on Monday, the federal civil aviation minister has said, despite a 24-hour record increase in new cases on Sunday. The announcement follows a day of “hard negotiations”, the minister said, after some states sought to limit the number of flights.

South Africa announces further easing of lockdown

South Africa will further relax coronavirus lockdown restrictions from 1 June, President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced, allowing large areas of the economy to fully reopen. “Cabinet has determined that the alert level for the whole country should be lowered from level four to level three,” he said in an address broadcast on television, describing the move as a significant shift in approach to the pandemic.


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« Reply #17 on: May 25, 2020, 03:38 AM »


Exclusive: big pharma rejected EU plan to fast-track vaccines in 2017

World’s top drug firms turned down proposals for work on pathogens like coronavirus   

Daniel Boffey in Brussels
Guardian
Mon 25 May 2020 05.00 BST

The world’s largest pharmaceutical companies rejected an EU proposal three years ago to work on fast-tracking vaccines for pathogens like coronavirus to allow them to be developed before an outbreak, the Guardian can reveal.

The plan to speed up the development and approval of vaccines was put forward by European commission representatives sitting on the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) – a public-private partnership whose function is to back cutting-edge research in Europe – but it was rejected by industry partners on the body.

The commission’s argument had been that the research could “facilitate the development and regulatory approval of vaccines against priority pathogens, to the extent possible before an actual outbreak occurs”. The pharmaceutical companies on the IMI, however, did not take up the idea.

The revelation is contained in a report published by the Corporate Observatory Europe (COE), a Brussels-based research centre, examining decisions made by the IMI, which has a budget of €5bn (£4.5bn), made up of EU funding and in-kind contributions from private and other bodies.

The IMI’s governing board is made up of commission officials and representatives of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries (EFPIA), whose members include some of the biggest names in the sector, among them GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Pfizer, Lilly and Johnson & Johnson.

A global lack of preparedness for the coronavirus pandemic has already led to accusations in recent weeks that the pharmaceutical industry has failed to prioritise treatments for infectious diseases because they are less profitable than chronic medical conditions.

The world’s 20 largest pharmaceutical companies undertook around 400 new research projects in the past year, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. Around half were focused on treating cancer, compared with 65 on infectious diseases.

There are eight potential vaccines for coronavirus in clinical trials, but there is no guarantee of success. One of the most promising, being developed at Oxford University, is said to have only a 50% chance of being approved for use.

The COE report says that rather than “compensating for market failures” by speeding up the development of innovative medicines, as per its remit, the IMI has been “more about business-as-usual market priorities”.

The report’s authors cite a comment posted on the IMI’s website, since removed, selling the advantages of the initiative to big pharma as offering “tremendous cost savings, as the IMI projects replicate work that individual companies would have had to do anyway”.

The European commission’s “biopreparedness” funding proposal in 2017 would have involved refining computer simulations, known as in silico modelling, and improved analysis of animal testing models to give regulators greater confidence in approving vaccines.

The hunt for a coronavirus vaccine

Minutes of a meeting of the IMI’s governing board from December 2018 reveal that the proposal was not accepted. The IMI also decided against funding projects with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, a foundation seeking to tackle so-called blueprint priority diseases such as Mers and Sars, both of them coronaviruses.

“While the scope of a regulatory topic as proposed by the commission was not supported by EFPIA industries, the theme of regulatory modernisation is considered very important by industries, and will be further discussed,” the minutes record. “Interaction with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) continues but no immediate co-investment is expected.”

In response to the report, a spokeswoman for the IMI said infectious diseases and vaccines had been a priority from the outset. She highlighted a €20m project known as Zapi launched in 2015 following the Ebola pandemic and which focuses on biopreparedness.

The IMI launched funding for “innovations to accelerate vaccine development and manufacture” in January.

The spokeswoman said the topic had been competing with other priorities at the time of the 2017 proposal, including research into tuberculosis, auto-immune diseases and digital health.

“The report seems to suggest the IMI has failed in its mission to protect the European citizen by letting pass an opportunity to prepare society for the current Covid pandemic,” she said.

“This is misleading in two ways: the research proposed by the EC in the biopreparedness topic was small in scope, and focused on revisiting animal models and developing in silico models to better define/anticipate the type and level of immune response elicited in animals and humans in order to increase regulators’ confidence in the evidence base for alternative licensing procedures.

“IMI’s projects have contributed, directly or indirectly, to better prepare the research community for the current crisis, eg the Ebola+ programme or the Zapi project.”

The COE report says the directing influence of big pharma on the IMI’s research agenda has led it to becoming dominated by industry priorities, and sidelining poverty-related and neglected diseases, including coronaviruses.

The thinktank points to official evaluations that found the IMI had enabled competing global companies to work together with small and medium-sized businesses and academia, but that it was difficult to identify positive socioeconomic outcomes.

The most recent evaluation in 2017 questioned whether the European pharmaceutical industry should continue to be the “main driver” on the future of medicine.

The COE also says that as a result of the industry’s domination of the IMI, there are significant gaps in funding for diseases pinpointed by the World Health Organization (WHO) Report on Priority Medicines for Europe and the World as of public health importance, for which pharmaceutical treatments either do not exist or are inadequate.

Seven of the 25 priority areas the WHO identified have no IMI projects, including neonatal conditions and postpartum haemorrhage, according to the report.

Seventeen IMI projects relate to Alzheimer’s disease, 12 to diabetes and 10 to cancer. As important as these diseases are, there is no lack of wider interest in providing treatments, leading the report to question whether EU money has been appropriately spent.

“Clearly, these disease areas are not suffering from a market failure, as the global pharmaceutical industry is investing heavily in them already, which is not surprising, given the large market potential for new treatments,” the CEO writes.

An IMI spokeswoman said that about a third of the IMI budget was spent on infectious diseases, including antimicrobial resistance, vaccines, Ebola and tuberculosis, and that other funds went on cross-cutting issues in drug development.


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« Reply #18 on: May 25, 2020, 03:40 AM »


Benjamin Netanyahu appears in court on corruption charges

Israeli PM could face more than a decade in prison if convicted in three separate cases

Oliver Holmes in Jerusalem
Guardian
25 May 2020 14.32 BST

Defiantly railing against attempts to “overthrow” him before donning a face mask to enter court, Benjamin Netanyahu sat for the first day of his high-profile corruption trial, which threatens to put Israel’s longest-serving leader behind bars and open deep divisions within the country.

Speaking in the corridors of the courthouse ahead of the hearing, Netanyahu decried police and prosecutors he accused of attempting to topple him. “When there is a strong rightwing leader like me, everything is permitted to bring him down,” he said, flanked by loyal ministers. “This is an attempt to overthrow us.”

At the start of the hour-long proceedings, one of the judges – also in face masks and behind clear plastic screens – asked Netanyahu if he had read and understood the charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. He responded: “Yes, your Honour.”

His lawyer argued for the court to grant a three-month delay to deal with the huge caseload of evidence. The case, with hundreds of witnesses, could last months if not years.

Public interest in the trial is so intense that police closed off streets around the court in Jerusalem to prevent crowds from gathering too close.

Netanyahu chaired the first official cabinet meeting of his new unity government, sworn in a week ago on Sunday morning. By the afternoon, he had become the first sitting Israeli prime minister to fight criminal charges in court.

A poster has been hung above the main highway in Tel Aviv with a photo of the prime minister. “Israel is ashamed,” it said.

Netanyahu, 70, has forcefully denied the allegations, calling them a politically motivated witch-hunt. Perhaps fearing negative visuals from courtroom, his lawyers tried and failed to have him exempted from appearing.

    Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid)

    Benjamin Netanyahu is a politician with a huge awareness for history. No matter what he does from now on as the Prime Minister of Israel this iconic picture will forever be in the history books pic.twitter.com/1kd3tnQuCO
    May 24, 2020

Ahead of the trial, he battled the allegations outside court, smearing the domestic media and judiciary as conspirators against him, often to the point that he has been accused of stirring up public hatred.

Within earshot of the court, supporters of Netanyahu – who has been in power for more than a decade – shouted out his nickname: “Bibi! Bibi! Bibi!”

“Wake up the people of Israel,” shouted one protester, Sarit Ayalon, 58, an academic. “The media became a voice for one side,” she said, holding an Israeli flag.

Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, who indicted Netanyahu, filed police complaints this month over what he said were coordinated death threats. At the pro-Netanyahu protest, a sign had been erected on which the attorney general’s face had been cut and pasted on to the image of a man in jail.

Nahum Barnea, a columnist for the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, compared the vitriol against the judiciary to rightwing politicians’ goading of Yitzhak Rabin in the 1990s. After months of incitement for his efforts to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians, the former prime minister was murdered by an ultranationalist extremist.

“The campaign that has been mounted against the justice system … is reckless and dangerous,” Barnea wrote. “Netanyahu and his associates … are shutting their eyes as to what this campaign is liable to lead to. They are playing with fire.”

Indicted last year in three separate cases, Netanyahu faces more than a decade in prison if convicted. He is accused of accepting expensive gifts including champagne, jewellery and cigars, and colluding with Israeli media magnates to publish favourable stories about him while smearing his political opponents.

Unlike one of his predecessors, Ehud Olmert, who stepped down after it appeared he would be indicted, Netanyahu has refused to leave power, and his role as head of the new unity government has bolstered his position.

Crucially, the coalition deal he signed affords him extra protection, exempting him from a rule that obliges ministers to resign if charged with a crime.

Yuval Shany, vice president of research at the Israel Democracy Institute, warned of a vast conflict of interests in having a prime minister up in court while still in office.

“If, God forbid, we have a war, is it because there is a security threat or this is a wag the dog type of moment when you want to distract public attention?” he said. “This is in itself a very unhealthy situation.”


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« Reply #19 on: May 25, 2020, 04:08 AM »


Pious Pig Pompeo blasted by ex-State Department adviser for running a ‘grift’ out of his office

on May 25, 2020
Raw Story
By Matthew Chapman

On Saturday’s edition of MSNBC’s “AM Joy,” former State Department adviser Nayyera Haq excoriated Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for his apparent use of his office for personal gain, including the “Madison Dinners” in which he lavishly entertained businessmen on the taxpayer’s dime.

“NBC News has a report on whether Mr. Linick was investigating these dinners,” said Joy Reid. “‘It’s unclear whether the inspector general was inspecting the Madison Dinners, but two administration officials told NBC News that Linick made some type of inquiry to the protocol office last week, before he was fired. One of the officials said Pompeo’s office was then notified.’ … your thoughts?”

“Let’s not forget where Secretary Pompeo comes from,” said Haq. “From Congress, and he rose up with the tea party. This is exactly the kind of thing that they decried: Using elite access to government with taxpayer dollars. I have never in my time in government heard of a harpist being brought in to entertain American bigwigs and CEOs. I mean, it’s gone well beyond farce at this point.”

“The inspector general was actually investigating at least three different things for Secretary Pompeo,” said Haq. “There was ignoring workplace violence from his protocol staff. There’s his own personal errands being run on taxpayer dime, and also, by congress directed itself, an investigation into whether or not the Saudi arms sales were completely out of order and out of line with U.S. foreign policy. So he’s already underwater prior to hosting these dinners, that really had nothing to do with economic diplomacy, which would be bringing CEOs overseas to try to help or boost in open markets American companies, or even public diplomacy which would be inviting ambassadors to build those networks and connections.”

“This is entirely self-serving, and as you said it’s just an extension of the grift we see coming from the White House,” said Haq. “It goes straight to the State Department as well.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9vdYj-Rfs8&feature=emb_title

**********

Ex-RNC head tips off Democrats how to derail Miss Lindsey 'i love being Trump's drag queen' Graham’s ‘sham’ Biden investigation

on May 25, 2020
Raw Story
By Matthew Chapman

On MSNBC Saturday, former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele advised Democrats how to fight the politically motivated investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

“I’m going to give you the last word on this,” said host Joy Reid. “You have Lindsey Graham pretending to investigate Joe Biden, who used to call him his friend, a piece in which Trump is mad at people like Lindsey Graham, because they’re not doing enough to slime Joe Biden.”

“Look, the investigations into Biden and Burisma and Hunter and all of that — I just have this to say,” said Steele. “If anybody gets subpoenaed, don’t show up, or if you do, say I’ll show up when all the folks who were subpoenaed in the administration show up, we’ll do this together. Because the reality of it is, it exposes what this really is about. This is not about anything serious. This is not about anything that is, you know, a death knell to the national security of the country. This is about raw politics and using the agencies of the federal government to go after your political opponents.”
Defend democracy. Click to invest in courageous progressive journalism today.

“Everyone should know what it is and call it out for what it is,” continued Steele. “So this investigation is a joke. It’s a sham. I think we need to see that for what it is.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8UekoRxzH4&feature=emb_title

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Miss Lindsey 'i love being Trump's drag queen' Graham can’t ‘suck up to Trump enough’ because he’s desperate to get re-elected: MSNBC guest

on May 25, 2020
By Tom Boggioni
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

Appearing on MSNBC’s “AM Joy” on Sunday morning political consultant Jimmy Williams claimed that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has draped himself around Donald Trump after once despising him because he is desperate to hang onto his Senate seat and the power that comes with it.

Using a report in Vanity Fair that stated that Trump barely tolerates the senior Republican senator, and a new ad that is brutally critical of Graham, Williams claimed Graham is now a shell of the man who once hung out with the late Senator John McCain (R-AZ).

“I think most Americans with moral decency will look at that and say this did not have to happen,” he began. “Regarding Lindsey Graham, someone who does not have moral clarity or decency, or at least he used to back when he was John McCain’s best friend and now he’s Donald Trump’s best friend.”
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“There is nothing that Lindsey Graham can do to suck up to Donald Trump enough to keep him from just basically enveloping him,” he continued. “This is a guy that used to be for immigration reform, he put out a package for immigration reform during President Obama’s presidency. Now he cares about two things: getting re-elected and getting right right-wing judges on the bench. We are using his own words. We didn’t say that crazy talk that he did.

“I know plenty of people have voted for Lindsey Graham in the past that are pissed off as hell,” he continued. “Our job is to make Lindsey’s life an utter living hell between now and November the 3rd. We’ll raise a ton of money and we want your help. We’ll make sure to let everybody knows what Lindsey Graham’s record is. When you sit in Washington D.C. for as long as he’s sat in Washington, D.C., you got a record. I can’t wait to show people Lindsey Graham’s record — it absolutely sucks.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cu80E-aSGLI&feature=emb_title

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Kayleigh 'i am not a blow up doll' McEnany called out by conservative on Fox News for her ‘grotesque’ behavior defending Trump

on May 25, 2020
Raw Story
By Tom Boggioni

Appearing on Fox News Sunday, the editor of the conservative Dispatch slammed White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany for her no-holds-barred defense of Donald Trump, calling her behavior “indefensible and grotesque.”

Speaking with host Chris Wallace, who also called out the new press secretary’s recent foray before the press, saying “I spent six years in the White House briefing room covering Ronald Reagan. I have to say, I never, and in the years since, I never saw a White House press secretary act like that. If Kayleigh McEnany had told Sam Donaldson  and me what questions we should ask, that would not have gone well,” Jonah Goldberg joined in the pile-on.

Calling McEnany’s behavior “indefensible and grotesque,” he continued, “There’s this cliche in Washington that President Trump wants a Roy Cohn as attorney general. What Donald Trump wants in a press secretary is a Twitter troll who goes on the attack, and doesn’t actually care about doing the job they have, and instead wants to impress, really, an audience of one — and then make another part of official Washington another one of these essentially cable news and Twitter gladiatorial arenas”
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Watch below:

    .@JonahDispatch says @PressSec Kayleigh McEnany’s behavior is “indefensible and grotesque” and that Trump wants a “Twitter troll who goes on [the] attack, doesn’t actually care about doing the job they have…” in a press secretary. pic.twitter.com/2cPZgVe0c5

    — Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) May 24, 2020

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‘Pretty sick’: Conservative columnist says ‘shamelessness’ is Trump’s greatest superpower

on May 25, 2020
Raw Story
By Sarah K. Burris

Conservative Washington Post columnist Max Boot recalled that infamous moment in 2016 in which then-candidate Donald Trump sneered at Hillary Clinton and said, “No puppet! No puppet! You’re the puppet!” That philosophy seems to be making a resurgence as Boot wrote Sunday that Trump has employed an “I know you are but what I am,” kind of campaign for 2020.

“Yet the basic idea proved so successful that President Trump and his supporters are recycling it,” wrote Boot. “They are accusing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden of four sins of which Trump himself stands accused with far better cause: racism, sexual assault, corruption, and mental unfitness.”
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The strategy for Trump’s campaign has been to try and create scandals that are similar to his own. Instead of the Russia scandal, Trump and his sometimes-lawyer Rudy Giuliani attempted to create a Ukraine scandal for former Vice President Joe Biden. It ended up being the reason that Trump was impeached in 2019.

As Biden quipped African-Americans “ain’t black” if they vote for a racist president like Donald Trump. Ironically, Trump’s campaign then attempted to label Biden the racist. This is the same president who claimed there were “very fine people on both sides” of the Charlottesville rally where Nazis and white supremacists marched in the streets with tiki torches chanting “Jews will not replace us.”

Boot called it “pretty sick.” He recalled a speech Trump made where he attacked Jewish people who vote for Democrats.

“I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty,” Trump proclaimed. Boot noted that at the time, there was nonexistent Republican outrage.

“Shamelessness is, as I’ve noted before, Trump’s superpower. No other candidate could have the chutzpah to accuse his opponent of so many offenses for which there is far more copious evidence of his own guilt,” Boot closed. “Yet it worked for Trump once and could work for him again. If there’s one thing he has learned from a lifelong career as a huckster, it is to never underestimate the gullibility of his supporters.”

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Democrats and Never-Trumpers gaming out ‘doomsday scenarios’ if president refuses to leave office: report

on May 25, 2020
Raw Story
By Tom Boggioni

According to a report in the New York Times, Democratic strategists and Never-Trumper conservatives fear Donald Trump will refuse to leave office should he lose in November and are making plans and figuring out their legal options should such an unprecedented state of affairs come to pass.

The report, by the Times’ Reid Epstein, begins with one such possible scenario.

“In October, President Trump declares a state of emergency in major cities in battleground states, like Milwaukee and Detroit, banning polling places from opening. A week before the election, Attorney General William P. Barr announces a criminal investigation into the Democratic presidential nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr,” he suggested. “After Mr. Biden wins a narrow Electoral College victory, Mr. Trump refuses to accept the results, won’t leave the White House and declines to allow the Biden transition team customary access to agencies before the Jan. 20 inauguration.”

Admitting that his suggestion sounds “far-fetched,” he added, “Not to a group of worst-case scenario planners — mostly Democrats, but some anti-Trump Republicans as well — who have been gaming out various doomsday options for the 2020 presidential election. Outraged by Mr. Trump and fearful that he might try to disrupt the campaign before, during and after Election Day, they are engaged in a process that began in the realm of science fiction but has nudged closer to reality as Mr. Trump and his administration abandon longstanding political norms.”

According to Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown University law professor, no one should put anything past the unpredictable Trump who has played by his own rules for the past three and a half years.

“In the eight to 10 months I’ve been yapping at people about this stuff, the reactions have gone from, ‘Don’t be silly, that won’t happen,’ to an increasing sense of, ‘You know, that could happen,’” she explained.

According to Marc Elias, a Washington lawyer who leads the DNC’s legal efforts to fight voter suppression, it’s more likely “the Trump administration could act in October to make it harder for people to vote in urban centers in battleground states — possibilities, he said, that include declaring a state of emergency, deploying the National Guard or forbidding gatherings of more than 10 people.”

Saying it would depress voter turnout, particularly among Democrats, he added, “That to me is that frame from which all doomsday scenarios then go.”

According to Joe Biden adviser Bob Bauer, Americans should be prepared for the president to pull out all the stops to stay in the Oval Office where he is also protected from lawsuits.

“Since 2016, Donald Trump has shown that he is always ready to sacrifice our basic democratic norms for his personal and political interests,” the attorney explained. “We assume he may well resort to any kind of trick, ploy or scheme he can in order to hold onto his presidency. We have built a strong program to plan for and address every possibility to ensure that he does not succeed.”

A spokesperson for Trump 2020, in turn, attempted to make the case that Democrats have a history of questioning election results, before stating that the election will go off on the appointed date.

“Hillary Clinton, Stacey Abrams and the entire Democratic Party refused to accept the results of their elections and pushed the Russia collusion conspiracy theory for years,” explained Tim Murtaugh. “Now Joe Biden’s allies have formed actual conspiracy committees where they’ll work up new hoaxes to further undermine our democracy. They are wasting their time. As President Trump has repeatedly said, the election will happen on Nov. 3.”

Edward B. Foley, a law professor at Ohio State University, suggested there is one historical precedent for a highly contested election.

“The 2020 election could resemble the contest of 1876, which nearly split the country a decade after the Civil War,” The Times reports. “That election was not decided until Gov. Samuel J. Tilden of New York conceded to Gov. Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio two days before the inauguration. The departing president, Ulysses S. Grant, had made contingency plans for martial law because he was concerned there would be simultaneous competing inaugurations.”

Added Foley, “We’re setting ourselves up for an election where neither side can concede defeat. That suggests that the desire to dispute the outcome is going to be higher than ever.”

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James Carville explains why Trump’s attacks on Biden’s mental state won’t work: He told people ‘to drink Clorox!’

on May 25, 2020
Raw Story
By Sarah K. Burris

In an interview over the weekend, President Donald Trump attacked former Vice President Joe Biden as being so mentally absent that he can’t even think. It was an attack that Democratic strategist James Carville didn’t think would work well up against who he called “The Clorox Kid.”

“Anybody can make a gaff, make a word come out the wrong way,” said Carville. “Nobody ever stood in front of the whole United States and told them to drink Clorox, right? We have to quit chasing this stupidity around. He is getting beat, and he’s getting beat bad. He’s getting beat in the Fox poll, the Quinnipiac poll, the NBC poll.”

He went on to quote Axios reporter Jonathan Swan, who said in an earlier segment that Trump’s team is working to change the subject and that they think Americans can’t sustain their level of fear of the coronavirus through November.

“They’re not going to be successful,” Carville said about the Trump team’s efforts. “And we don’t need to be helping him be successful. He doesn’t know where he is right now. You can look, the American people are turning on him by the day. Joe Biden is fine. Joe Biden performed, I thought superbly in a lot of the debates. Yeah, he said some things sometimes that came out the wrong way. Go look at Trump’s gaffs. Look at the things that he has said and the words he’s mispronounced. I mean, they’re just silly. We don’t need to follow this kind of silliness that he puts out. And the idea he’s going to go play golf, and that’s going to turn this election around for him, that’s his only hope, play golf? Man, can’t lose doing that. At least you’re not talking to the public.”

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Michigan lieutenant governor thinks Trump is creating mail-in-ballot conspiracy to explain away his loss in November

on May 25, 2020
Raw Story
By Sarah K. Burris

President Donald Trump is already making excuses for his loss in November, said Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist in an interview with MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt.

Speaking to her Sunday, Gilchrist said that he thinks all of this is a set-up.

“The truth is more people are killed by deer in a year than have ever been proven to commit voter fraud at a given time,” he explained. Indeed, more people are killed by lightning, vending machines falling on them, falling coconuts and champagne corks than commit voter fraud each year.

“I think that the president wants to set us up so that there can be a conversation about the legitimacy of an election that he is looking to lose,” Gilchrist explained in a previous MSNBC interview.
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Hours earlier, Trump was tweeting his conspiracy that anyone who votes from mail-in-ballots will contribute to a rigged election. It’s an ironic comment as so many Republicans have voted using mail-in ballots.

    The Democrats are trying to Rig the 2020 Election, plain and simple! https://t.co/jlDhzGRnqa

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 25, 2020

“That is a really unfortunate thing. That’s not how we do democracy here in the United States, and we need to be ready to respond to that forcefully,” said Gilchrist.

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Fox News catches Trump lying about mail-in ballots: ‘There’s not evidence of significant fraud’

on May 25, 2020
Raw Story
By David Edwards

A Fox News segment on Sunday refuted President Donald Trump’s claim that mail-in voting is a “scam” that gives an advantage to Democrats.

“The United States cannot have all Mail In Ballots,” Trump wrote in a tweet on Sunday. “It will be the greatest Rigged Election in history. People grab them from mailboxes, print thousands of forgeries and ‘force’ people to sign. Also, forge names. Some absentee OK, when necessary. Trying to use Covid for this Scam!”

“The press says there’s not evidence of significant fraud in voting by mail,” Fox News host Howard Kurtz pointed out in a segment moments later. “And it may not be true that it helps Democrats over Republicans.”

Republican polling expert Kristen Soltis Anderson argued that Trump’s assumptions about mail-in voting are wrong.

“There’s actually evidence that it doesn’t help one party or the other more,” Anderson explained, noting that more Republicans cast more mail-in ballots than Democrats in one recent California election.

She went on to say that Republicans — not Democrats — were guilty of mail-in ballot fraud in a recent North Carolina case.

“It happens but it’s very infrequent and it’s not something confined to Democrats,” Anderson said. “The most prominent case was a Republican doing it. So I think Republicans should not push back on this in the way that they are.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1lL9RSWwZs&feature=emb_title

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Moody’s chief economist pours cold water on Trump’s boast he’ll bring the economy back quickly

on May 25, 2020
Raw Story
By Tom Boggioni

Appearing on CNN with host John King, a financial analyst for Moody’s dashed any hope Donald Trump might have had that the economy will bounce back quickly to pre-COVID -19 levels, saying it will be a long haul and it’s very likely permanent that damage has been done.

Following clips of the president predicting a quick rebound, King pressed Moody’s Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi, “I read your analysis every week and you have a different view about whether the economy is going to bounce back immediately and whether we may hit another ditch come fall.”

“After that, I think the economy just goes sideways, treads water at best until we get a vaccine that is distributed and adopted,” Zandi began. “It’s hard to imagine businesspeople investing and expanding their businesses, consumers doing what they typically do until people feel comfortable that they’re not going to get sick if they go out and about.”

“It’s difficult for me to see this economy getting back on the rails until the other side of that vaccine. and then, John, even after that, it’s going to be a struggle because we’re going to see lots of businesses fail, bankruptcies, you can already see that in the headlines yesterday with Hertz filing for bankruptcy. It’s going to take a long time to get this economy back to where it was,” he added.

“We’ve lost — peak to trough will lose 25 million jobs. of course, there’s tens of millions of more people who have lost hours and wages,” Zani explained. “But 25 million jobs? We’ll get half of those back by Labor Day. and the unemployment rate is going to remain around 10% until we get that vaccine. and it won’t be until mid-decade until the economy can adjust and we get those jobs back. The kind of jobs we’re going to get back are different than the ones we have now. We’re going to lose a lot of jobs in the retail sector, hospitality, we’re going to have a lot of work re-educating people to make sure they have the skills necessary to take the jobs.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cj_WNy4Xr9A&feature=emb_title


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« Reply #20 on: May 25, 2020, 05:23 AM »

Trump leveled on Morning Joe for spending Memorial Day weekend spewing nothing but ‘trash’

on May 25, 2020
Raw Story
By Tom Boggioni

MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” crew kicked off Memorial Day morning slamming Donald Trump for spending the weekend tweeting “disgusting” attacks on his critics, with one panelist saying if Trump was a relative, any family would step in.

After co-host Mika Brzezinski reading off a series of ugly tweets from the president that attacked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams, she added, “Why do we read these? Why do we read these? Because everyone is freaking out about what Joe Biden said. They’re doing, like, two to three minutes of coverage, extensive coverage.”

“This guy [Trump] can’t go five minutes without defaming someone, libeling them, saying disgusting, cruel things,” she continued. “If we’re going to spend as much time on President Trump’s disgusting comments as we do on Joe Biden’s, we’re going to be on the air for a long time — we’ll never get off the air, it is endless.”

Host Joe Scarborough added, “I’ve had calls from the press, ‘what should Biden do?’ I’m, like, are you kidding me? Since that time, that off-handed remark, Donald Trump has called a black woman, who has dedicated her life to public policy, mocked her for being obese, mocked the appearance of the speaker of the House, the highest-ranked woman in history, called a former secretary of state, former first lady, and the last nominee for the Democratic party a, quote, ‘skank.'”

Asked to comment, former George W. Bush State Department official Elise Jordan came down hard on the president.

“Joe, the kind of tweets that Donald Trump was retweeting this weekend, and the trash that was coming off his Twitter account,” she began. ” If you have a relative tweeting things like that, you step in. If your father or mother is going crazy on the Twitter account, you stop them.”

“It just is intolerable and I can’t believe that, at the same time, you have Joe Biden’s comments — which were unfortunate, but he apologized immediately and showed humility — that Trump — some Trump supporters are trying to say, “Oh, let’s keep talking about that.” when you look at just the complete trash emitting from Donald Trump’s Twitter feed,” she added.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JInXfa1q3fY&feature=emb_title

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Trump White House ‘flailing’ because they see election slipping away: AP reporter

on May 25, 2020
Raw Story
By Tom Boggioni

On Monday morning, MSNBC “Morning Joe” regular Jonathan Lemire claimed that Donald Trump’s manic spree of ugly tweets aimed at his critics — combined with White House attacks on presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden — shows that the president and his campaign are “flailing” because they know the election is likely lost.

With host Joe Scarborough asking, “What is going through the president’s mind? What is his state of mind? Why does he seem even more unbalanced and unmoored today than he has over the past three and a half turbulent years?” Lemire stated the combination of the coronavirus pandemic with its mounting death toll and the collapsing economy is more than the president can handle.

“These are the things the president knows are going to very much damage his re-election chances,” Lemire reported. “Obviously, he’s never been one to show much in the way of empathy. He struggled with previous tragedies. a hurricane or forest fire but he’s rarely talked about that in terms of this pandemic. He’s rarely offered sympathy to those gone.”

Continuing in that vein, while discussing the president’s ugly Twitter smears over the weekend, he offered, “What we’re seeing here is a frustration from a president who is not overseeing the country that he wanted.”

“More than that, [he] is unable to run the campaign he wanted,” he added. “He thought, as of a couple months ago, he’d be running a campaign on the back of a robust economy, he’d be able to talk about Obamagate and deep state. He’d be able to dwell on Joe Biden’s latest gaffe and none of that is in the cards right now.”

“We’re seeing him desperate, he and his allies trying to revive that over the weekend with seizing upon the Biden joke.,” he continued. “There is this frustration here, this flailing from the White House, from his campaign team, knowing that right now, his own internal polls say if the election were held today, he would lose.”

“That has led to, more than anything, a sort of unmoored, unhinged Twitter spree that we saw this weekend, instead of a focus on those who have died in the pandemic,” he concluded.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJZVLSPpOR0&feature=emb_title


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« Reply #21 on: May 26, 2020, 03:03 AM »

China has a vaccine candidate that can kill the coronavirus in humans

By Chris Smith
BGR
5/26/2020

    Coronavirus vaccine candidate Ad5-nCoV from Chinese pharmaceutical company CanSino is both safe and effective, according to the results of a Phase 1 clinical trial.
    Researchers looking at 108 healthy volunteers who received the test drug in mid-March found the vaccine generates the kind of immune response that can kill the novel coronavirus.
    The side-effects were mild and transitory, suggesting that the coronavirus treatment is safe to use. The Ad5-nCov drug has now moved to the next phase of clinical trials.

The coronavirus health crisis is still ravaging countries around the world. As European countries and US states start reopening, the virus is still raging in other countries, with South America and Russia being new epicenters for the disease. Even China locked down another region due to COVID-19 worries, and experts warn that a second wave is inevitable. The World Health Organization (WHO) said COVID-19 might be here to stay, but that’s not as bad as it sounds. An increasing number of therapies have yielded positive results, and researchers are quickly coming up with two other treatment avenues that might work. Some of them are working on antibody drugs that would work just like plasma transfusions from COVID-19 survivors, and others are creating vaccines that would hopefully train your immune system to produce its own antibodies capable of neutralizing the virus.

A series of reports in the past few days detailed the progress made so far on the vaccine front, with drugs from Oxford and Moderna showing promising results in pre-clinical and early-stage clinical trials. These are just two of the more than 100 vaccine candidates in development, and more than 12 drugs that reached clinical trials. They’re also not the only ones to show promise, as another promising vaccine candidate made in China appears to be safe and effective.

We’ve talked of CanSino’s Ad5-nCoV drug before, a candidate that reached human trials back in March around the same time as Moderna’s RNA candidate. Moderna produced early results for Phase 1 of tests, but the company was criticized for putting out partial data rather than a full study. Dr. Anthony Fauci explained why Moderna’s results are promising, as they suggested that the drug is both effective and safe for use on humans.

Ad5-nCoV is based on a weakened common cold virus (adenovirus), which can infect cells without causing disease. Its purpose is to deliver a piece of genetic material from the SARS-CoV-2 virus that provides instructions for the cell to manufacture the spike protein of the coronavirus. The immune system would detect these proteins as a pathogen and mark them accordingly so antibodies can block them. If actual SARS-CoV-2 cells infect the body, the antibodies would recognize the spike protein and bind to it.

CanSino’s results were published in full in the medical journal The Lancet, detailing the results of the first phase of the study. The researchers inoculated 108 healthy volunteers in mid-March with three different doses of the vaccine. They then took blood samples from all volunteers and recorded symptoms and side effects.

The drug was able to generate the desired immune response as soon as 14 days after the shot, with researchers finding the kind of neutralizing antibodies that Fauci spoke about earlier this week. These are antibodies that can link to the spike protein of the COVID-19 virus and prevent it from infecting cells. The neutralizing antibodies increased significantly at 14 days and peaked at 28 days after vaccination. The T-cell response peaked at 14 days after injection.

When it comes to safety, the researchers detailed several symptoms but they were all mild. The most common one was pain at the injection site. The most common systemic adverse reactions were fever, fatigue, headache, and muscle pain. No adverse reactions were noted beyond 28 days of vaccination, and the ones reported were mild or moderate in severity. One participant in the high dose group developed a high fever as well as fatigue, shortness of breath, and muscle pain, but the effects lasted only 48 hours.

That’s all fantastic news but it’s important to bear in mind that these are just the Phase 1 results, and there’s no guarantee the vaccine will work.

“These results represent an important milestone. The trial demonstrates that a single dose of the new adenovirus type 5 vectored COVID-19 (Ad5-nCoV) vaccine produces virus-specific antibodies and T cells in 14 days, making it a potential candidate for further investigation,” Beijing Institute of Biotechnology Professor Wei Chen said in a statement. “However … the ability to trigger these immune responses does not necessarily indicate that the vaccine will protect humans from COVID-19 … we are still a long way from this vaccine being available to all.”

A mid-stage trial of the vaccine is already underway in Wuhan, Reuters reports.

CanSino’s coronavirus drug in on Morgan Stanley’s shortlist of six promising COVID-19 vaccines that are most likely to succeed alongside candidates from Moderna, Oxford, and other drugs that are in clinical trials. A single vaccine might not be enough to satisfy the world’s needs, as Dr. Fauci said in a paper.

***********

Covid19 Live

https://ncov2019.live/data


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« Reply #22 on: May 26, 2020, 03:06 AM »

World health leaders urge green recovery from coronavirus crisis

Open letter to G20 leaders says addressing climate breakdown key to global revival
Guardian
5/26/2020
   
Doctors and medical professionals from around the globe have called on world leaders to ensure a green recovery from the coronavirus crisis that takes account of air pollution and climate breakdown.

More than 200 organisations representing at least 40 million health workers – making up about half of the global medical workforce – have signed an open letter to the G20 leaders and their chief medical advisers, pointing to the 7 million premature deaths to which air pollution contributes each year around the world.

Chief medical officers and chief scientific advisers must be directly involved in designing the stimulus packages now under way, the letter urges, in order to ensure they include considerations of public health and environmental concerns. They say public health systems should be strengthened, and they warn of how environmental degradation could help to unleash future diseases.

The signatories also want reforms to fossil fuel subsidies, with public support shifted towards renewable energy, which they say would make for cleaner air, cut greenhouse gas emissions and help to spur economic growth of nearly $100tn in the next three decades.

In the letter, the health professionals link air pollution and fragile public health systems with the impacts of the virus, saying air pollution “was already weakening our bodies”, exacerbating the impact of the disease.

“We have witnessed first-hand how fragile communities can be when their health, food security and freedom to work are interrupted by a common threat. The layers of this ongoing tragedy are many and magnified by inequality and under-investment in public health systems. We have witnessed death, disease and mental distress at levels not seen for decades,” they write.

Better preparation could have reduced the impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the letter. “We must learn from these mistakes and come back stronger, healthier and more resilient,” they write.

Studies have suggested that air pollution may play a role in worsening Covid-19 symptoms or increasing mortality, though scientists also say it is too early to draw hard conclusions about the full impacts. The clearing skies that have accompanied lockdown in many countries are under threat, however, as industrial activity resumes without new safeguards.

Last week a comprehensive study found daily carbon dioxide emissions around the world had fallen by about 17% as a result of the lockdowns, and that if normal activity resumed there would be only about a 4% fall for the full year, compared with last year. Such a fall would make little difference in the climate crisis.

Some countries are considering a green recovery from the crisis by attaching stern conditions to any bailouts for fossil fuel-dependent industries, such as aviation, and by pumping money into infrastructure that reduces greenhouse gases, from broadband for remote working to better cycle lanes and electric vehicle charging points. A recent study from Oxford University found this would yield more jobs and a better return on public investment than returning to business as usual.

“Health professionals are at the frontlines of this emergency, and we are seeing the immense loss of lives because of acting too late,” said Miguel Jorge, the president of the World Medical Association. “We know now more than ever that healthy lives depend on a healthy planet. As we walk on the road to recovery, we need to build a system that will protect us from further damage. We need a healthy and green recovery.”

Health professionals are concerned that the world will resume its unhealthy practices as the immediate impacts of the coronavirus fade, without learning the lessons needed to put us on a healthier path that would reduce the likelihood of such devastating pandemics in future, as well as reducing illness from other causes and staving off climate breakdown.

“Covid-19 has forced the world to pause and take stock, providing us with a unique opportunity to make changes that will benefit the planet and all the people on it,” said Annette Kennedy, president of the International Council of Nurses. “Climate change poses an imminent and serious threat to the health of the world’s population. We are calling on governments to make sure that pollution levels do not return to previous levels, so that our children and grandchildren will be able to grow up healthily in a liveable and sustainable climate. Only by investing in both healthcare and the environment can we create a sustainable future.”

The signatories include the World Medical Association, the International Council of Nurses, the Commonwealth Nurses and Midwives Federation, the World Organization of Family Doctors and the World Federation of Public Health Associations, as well as thousands of individual health professionals.

The letter has been sent to all G20 leaders, including Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel and Xi Jinping, who are under pressure to approve a green recovery, as well as those who have been criticised for a lax approach to the crisis or for using it to weaken environmental protections, including Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Jair Bolsonaro.


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« Reply #23 on: May 26, 2020, 03:08 AM »

What happened in Michigan was no mistake: Infrastructure was privatized for profit — and it’s crumbling

on May 26, 2020
By Sophia Tesfaye, Salon

President Trump spent another week feuding with a Democratic governor, this time as Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer dealt with historic levels of rainfall which led to the collapse of a pair of privately-owned dams in the state. Instead of momentarily pausing his politics of petty revenge, Trump made matters worse, as is his wont.The president diverted already strained resources for a campaign stop in Michigan that doubled as a political stunt, advertising his personal refusal to wear a mask, even in settings where everyone else is required to. Trump’s antagonistic rhetoric towards a state that is facing multiple life-or-death crises at the same time was widely criticized. But what he did more quietly did this week reveals just how vulnerable his deregulatory actions have left America.

In a move strikingly reminiscent of the Ukraine scandal, Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday to threaten to withhold federal funding from Michigan, even as floodwaters from the two breached dams forced thousands of residents of the city of Midland to flee their homes. Trump apparent goal was to coerce Michigan officials not to send vote-by-mail applications to the state’s 7.7 million registered voters vote-by-mail. As usual, the president was unclear about exactly what funding he had in mind. Hours later he sent another tweet claiming that his administration had already activated military and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) response teams but said Gov. Whitmer “must now ‘set you free’ to help.” Whitmer said at a news briefing on Tuesday that she had already contacted federal officials for help and activated the National Guard. Once again, nobody really knows what Trump was talking about.

Nevertheless, the salient point here is that the president of the United States, after witnessing the flooding of an entire region amid a major public health crisis rages on was to suggest, in public, that the government and people of Michigan owed him something in exchange for federal aid. Trump then traveled to a Ford plant in Michigan on Thursday and offered this explanation for the failure of the privately-owned dams: “Perhaps there was a mistake.”

Like many disasters, the beginnings of the Michigan dam failures are far removed in time from the actual event, so this event can hardly be described as a mistake. All indications are that this week’s historic flooding was caused by years of neglect and mismanagement of a public good that was co-opted for private profit. It doesn’t help that the headquarters of Dow Chemical, including a Superfund site with known cancer-causing chemicals, is directly downstream of all this floodwater.

The owner of the breached dams, Lee Mueller, who heads a company called Boyce Hydro, has been cited numerous times in recent years. State regulators had even revoked one of the company’s four dam operating license in 2018 over an inability to handle a major flood. At least two of Boyce Hydro’s dams were identified as being “high hazard,” meaning that according to the National Dam Safety Program and FEMA, loss of life would likely result if they failed or were incorrectly operated.

The potential failure of the Edenville Dam, wrote federal regulators, “would pose a very substantial risk to life and property, and Boyce has repeatedly failed to comply with the orders of the Regional Engineer and other Commission staff or to work with Commission staff to resolve these instances of noncompliance, notwithstanding being given many opportunities to do so.” The dam was flagged as unable to handle heavy rainfall as long ago as the 1990s. But Mueller, a Trump supporter who publicly backed the president against impeachment in a Reuters article last year, didn’t want to pay to repair them. After years of delay, Boyce Hydro finally agreed to sell the dams to a task force of residents from four neighboring counties who hoped to implement overdue repairs. This is yet another example of the wealthy privatizing their profits and socializing the losses.

The Army Corps of Engineers says more than half of the nation’s 91,458 dams are privately owned, and according to E&E News, a majority of them are more than 50 years old. Jokes about Trump’s always-impending and never-arriving “Infrastructure Week” have long gone stale, but it’s worth remembering that increased infrastructure spending, like the kind needed to upgrade the nation’s aging water infrastructure, was one of Trump’s biggest campaign promises.

“We have a great plan and we are going to rebuild our infrastructure,” Trump said on Fox Business Network in an August 2016 appearance. He further claimed that the numbers Hillary Clinton was proposing ($275 billion) was “a fraction of what we’re talking about, we need much more money than that to rebuild our infrastructure. Well, I would say at least double her numbers and you’re going to really need more than that. We have bridges that are falling down.”

After taking office with Republican control of both chambers of Congress, Trump increased his theoretical ask to $1 billion. While Trump did sign a 2018 water infrastructure bill, that legislation, which passed the Senate 99-1, was a bipartisan reauthorization of $6 billion in federal funding for state-level projects and must be renewed every two years. In contrast, Trump signed an executive order rolling back Obama-era environmental standards that required the federal government to account for climate change in infrastructure projects, and also directed agencies to loosen water regulations in California.

Like Trump, the owner of Boyce Hydro tried to blame environmental regulations as the cause of his negligence. The company complained that the state had threatened it with litigation because lower water levels were killing freshwater mussels. “The state agencies clearly care more about mussels living in the impoundment than they do about the people living downstream of the dams,” Mueller said in a statement.

But even as some Republicans are reportedly lobbying for Trump to revisit his pledge to invest in infrastructure — pandemic relief funding provides “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to give a facelift to the country,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told CNN — the president awarded the largest federal building contract of his entire term in office this week. It was for his border wall. The Washington Post reports that the $1.3 billion deal to build just 42 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border was awarded to a company that has only one other border contract, and is currently under investigation by the Defense Department inspector general:

    The company that won the contract, Fisher Sand and Gravel, has been repeatedly lauded by the president in White House meetings with border officials and military commanders, the result of a long and personalized marketing pitch to Trump and ardent supporters of his barrier project.

    After its initial bids for border contracts were passed over, the company and its CEO, Tommy Fisher, cut a direct path to the president by praising him on cable news, donating to his Republican allies and cultivating ties to former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon, GOP Senate candidate Kris Kobach and other conservative figures in Trump’s orbit.

This is what happens when conservatives decide to utilize an infrastructure budget to subsidize profitable businesses. It rained a lot in Michigan this week, but the private corporation in charge of the dam let this devastating flood happen as a direct result of its neglect and cost-cutting. And that’s without considering the downstream effects of the Dow Chemical plant, which is likely to make the danger and death from this flood much worse. Republicans, of course, will pretend to be mystified.


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« Reply #24 on: May 26, 2020, 03:12 AM »


Climate change is turning parts of Antarctica green, say scientists

Researchers map ‘beginning of new ecosystem’ as algae bloom across surface of melting snow

Jonathan Watts
26 May 2020 10.00 BST
Guardian

Scientists have created the first large-scale map of microscopic algae on the Antarctic peninsula as they bloom across the surface of the melting snow, tinting the surface green and potentially creating a source of nutrition for other species.

The British team behind the research believe these blooms will expand their range in the future because global heating is creating more of the slushy conditions they need to thrive.

In some areas, the single-cell life-forms are so dense they turn the snow bright green and can be seen from space, according to the study, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature Communications.

Biologists from the University of Cambridge and the British Antarctic Survey spent six years detecting and measuring the green snow algae using a combination of satellite data and ground observation.

The result is the first large-scale algae map of the peninsular, which will be used as a baseline to assess the speed at which the white continent is turning green due to the climate crisis and potentially offering sustenance to other species.

They have already found the algae have formed close bonds with tiny fungal spores and bacteria. “It’s a community. This could potentially form new habitats. In some place, it would be the beginning of a new ecosystem,” said Matt Davey of Cambridge University, one of the scientists who led the study.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syCIvgIzpMs&feature=emb_logo

He described the algae map as a missing piece of the carbon cycle jigsaw in the Antarctic.

Antarctic temperature rises above 20C for first time on record..Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/13/antarctic-temperature-rises-above-20c-first-time-record

It identifies 1,679 separate blooms of green snow algae, which together covered an area of 1.9 sq km, equating to a carbon sink of about 479 tonnes a year. This is equivalent to the emissions of about 875,000 car journeys in the UK, though in global terms it is too small to make much of a difference to the planet’s carbon budget.

Almost two-thirds of the green algal blooms were found on small, low-lying islands around the peninsula, which has experienced some of the most intense heating in the world, with new temperature records being set this summer. The snow algae were less conspicuous in colder, southern regions.

Scientists have previously observed a change in green lichen and moss, but these grow extremely slowly compared with algae. In future, they will also measure red and orange algae and calculate how the presence of such colourful forms might be affecting the heat-reflecting albedo quality of the snow.

“I think we will get more large blooms in the future. Before we know whether this has a significant impact on carbon budgets or bio albedo, we need to run the numbers,” said Andrew Gray, the lead author of the paper.


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« Reply #25 on: May 26, 2020, 03:16 AM »


Virus pushes Pakistan's transgender dancers out of their homes

Transgender people in Pakistan are largely shunned by society

Agence France-Presse
5/26/2020

Islamabad  - Before the virus shutdown, dancer Adnan Ali had carved out a comfortable living performing at parties for newlyweds and newborns, avoiding the financial hardship faced by many in Pakistan's transgender community.

But the closure of wedding halls and scrapped celebrations where she would twist and twirl in front of applauding crowds have frozen her income, forcing her out of the one-bedroom apartment she rented in a wealthy suburb of Islamabad.

Now she shares a cramped single room in a shelter with other transgender dancers who have also lost work because of a nationwide lockdown triggered by the pandemic.

"I want to return to a routine again, to dance again and to do something good in my life," said Ali, sitting barefoot on the steps of the house in Pakistan's capital.

Transgender people in the country are known as "khawajasiras" or "hijras" -- an umbrella term denoting a third sex that includes transgender women and cross-dressers.

Many claim to be the cultural heirs of eunuchs who thrived at the courts of the Mughal emperors that ruled the Indian subcontinent for two centuries until the British arrived in the 19th century and banned them.

They are traditionally called upon for rituals such as blessing newborns or to bring life to weddings and parties, in a country where it is considered un-Islamic for a woman to dance in front of men.

Pakistan became one of the first countries in the world to legally recognise a third sex in 2009 and began issuing transgender passports from 2017. Several have also run in elections.

Despite these signs of integration, they are largely shunned by society, the victims of beatings and rapes. Those who cannot make ends meet as dancers are often condemned to a life of begging or sex work.

Outside the joy of dancing, life for 26-year-old Mena Gul has always felt like a form of self-isolation.

"We have been quarantined for our entire life, we cannot go outside and we hide our faces whenever we leave our homes," she told AFP, her wardrobe of dazzling dresses neglected. 

Now she has left behind the safety of the apartment she shared with fellow dancers in the northwestern city of Peshawar and moved into a room in one of the city's slums.

Surviving on donations

While impoverished Pakistan has relaxed its shutdown of businesses, even as a record number of new cases are reported on a near daily basis, wedding halls have not been allowed to reopen.

Over the past few months the shelter, which once helped around a dozen transgender people, has bulged to offer food to more than 70, supported by local donations.

The few rooms it offers were quickly filled, with some sleeping on the floor to maximise space.

Make-up artist Nadeem Kashish, who founded the shelter, has had to turn many people away. On the street outside, dozens pushed out of work beg passers-by for food.

"I can see that the problems will increase in the future, it's not going to end, the uncertainty has created mental and physiological problems," Kashish said, questioning whether the dancers will be able to regain the financial freedom they once had.

Dancing is a way of avoiding a life of begging or sex work for many in the marginalised transgender community, believed to number hundreds of thousands in Pakistan according to studies by non-profit groups and development organisations.

Fear of contracting the virus has caused many sex workers to stop offering services, pushing them further into poverty.

"They were already facing social humiliation and further isolation is increasing their stress and anxiety," said Taimur Kamal, a transgender rights activist, of those forced out of work.

For Ali, the Islamic month of Ramadan which ends this weekend should be a time to be swept up in the excitement of celebration and feasting with friends.

Now she spends her time searching out donations for the overburdened shelter.

"I dream of a time when this corona thing has ended and I start performing in parties again."


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« Reply #26 on: May 26, 2020, 03:33 AM »

Coronavirus latest: at a glance

A summary of the biggest developments in the global coronavirus outbreak
   
Helen Sullivan
Published on Tue 26 May 2020
Guardian

Key developments in the global coronavirus outbreak today include:

Confirmed cases worldwide near 5.5m

According to the Johns Hopkins university coronavirus tracker, infections worldwide number at least 5,495,061. The death toll stands at 346,232. True death tolls and cases are likely to be significantly higher due to differing definitions and testing rates, delays and suspected underreporting.

WHO warns of ‘second peak’ in areas where Covid-19 is declining

Countries where coronavirus infections are declining could still face an “immediate second peak” if they let up too soon on measures to contain the outbreak, the World Health Organization said on Monday. WHO emergencies chief, Dr Mike Ryan, told an online briefing: “We cannot make assumptions that just because the disease is on the way down now it is going to keep going down and we are get a number of months to get ready for a second wave. We may get a second peak in this wave.”

Mexico City records thousands more deaths than usual, amid doubt over official Covid-19 toll

This year, Mexico City has issued 8,072 more death certificates than the average for the same period in the past four years, according to a new study that suggests the country’s coronavirus death toll could be significantly higher than the official figure of nearly 7,400. The report’s authors found 37% more death certificates were issued in April 2020 than that month’s average during the previous four years. By the end of May they estimated the number may grow to 120%.

White House brings forward Brazil travel restrictions by two days

The US has amended the timing of its Brazil travel ban to come into force at 11.59pm Washington time on Tuesday. It came as Brazil recorded a daily death toll higher than the US for the first time (807 versus 620). Brazil has the world’s second highest number of infections. In its original announcement, the White House said the travel restrictions would come into force on 28 May.

Dutch PM Mark Rutte did not visit dying mother due to Covid-19 restrictions

The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, was unable to visit his dying mother in her final weeks because he obeyed coronavirus restrictions against visiting care homes, his office has said. His mother did not die of Covid-19, although there had earlier been an outbreak of the disease in the home where she was living, Dutch media reported.

UK PM’s aid refuses to apologise or resign over lockdown breach

The British prime minister Boris Johnson’s senior adviser, Dominic Cummings, has refused to apologise or resign for breaching lockdown rules. Cummings drove 264 miles from London to his parents’ estate in Durham, despite suspecting that both he and his wife had coronavirus. Cummings also admitted to having taken a second trip, to a beauty spot 30 miles from Durham, which he claimed was necessary to check his eyesight was good enough for the longer drive back to London.

WHO suspends hydroxychloroquine trial

The World Health Organization has suspended testing the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine in Covid-19 patients due to safety concerns. The WHO’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, cited a paper published last week in the Lancet that showed people taking hydroxychloroquine were at higher risk of death and heart problems than those who were not taking it. In light of the study, he said, the organisation would pause the hydroxychloroquine arm of its solidarity global clinical trial.

Coronavirus measures ‘disastrous’ for children, says Dutch watchdog

The coronavirus pandemic will have a “disastrous” impact on children’s rights worldwide, making them more vulnerable to forced labour and underage marriage, a rights group said on Tuesday. School closures left boys and girls more vulnerable to child labour, early marriage and teenage pregnancy, while millions would fall into extreme poverty because of the coronavirus outbreak, the NGO KidsRights said.

Australia will not open the country’s borders ‘anytime soon’

Australia will not open the country’s borders “anytime soon”, the PM, Scott Morrison, said on Tuesday, but added the country would continue its discussions with neighbouring New Zealand about a trans-Tasman safe travel zone. “I was speaking with Prime Minister Ardern this morning, and we’ll continue to have our discussions about the trans-Tasman safe travel zone,” Morrison told the National Press Club in Canberra.

Masks too dangerous for children under two, Japan medical group says

Children under the age of two shouldn’t wear masks because they can make breathing difficult and increase the risk of choking, a Japan medical group has said, launching an urgent appeal to parents as the country reopens from the coronavirus crisis.

Saudi Arabia to revise curfew times

Saudi Arabia will revise curfew times this week, and lift them entirely across the Kingdom with the exception of the holy city of Mecca, starting on 21 June, state news agency reported in a statement early on Tuesday. Bans on domestic travel, holding prayers in mosques, and workplace attendance in both the government and private sector will be lifted, starting 31 May, the statement added. For Mecca, the curfew time will be adjusted to 3pm-6pm and prayers will be allowed to be held in mosques from 21 June.
Iceland eases national alert

Iceland eased its national alert against the coronavirus on Monday, allowing for public gatherings of up to 200 people and night clubs and gyms to reopen as the country nears complete recovery from the outbreak. Iceland, which limited the virus spread through a meticulous test-and-trace strategy and a full lockdown, has confirmed 1,804 infections and 10 deaths. But there have been only five reported new cases in May, and more than 99% of infected persons have recovered.


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« Reply #27 on: May 26, 2020, 03:37 AM »

China's military says it is prepared to protect security in Hong Kong, as protests grow

PLA commander says 10,000 troops are prepared to ‘safeguard’ city’s sovereignty as Beijing warns against ‘underestimating’ China

Helen Davidson
Guardian
6 May 2020
China’s military is ready and able to “safeguard” Chinese sovereignty in Hong Kong, the commander of the city-based garrison has said, amid growing anger at Beijing’s plans to bypass Hong Kong’s legislature and impose national security laws in the city.

The warning came as protesters prepared for further demonstrations on Wednesday when the legislature starts debate on a controversial bill to criminalise ridicule of the Chinese national anthem.

In an interview with Chinese state television, Chen Daoxiang, the commander of the People’s Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong, said it has the “determination, confidence and ability to protect national security” in the city.

Despite international condemnation, protests on Sunday and further protests planned for this week, Beijing and Hong Kong authorities have refused to back down on Friday’s declaration by China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) to impose national security laws, bypassing Hong Kong’s legislature.

Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, maintained full support for the move, saying the Hong Kong government had been unable to pass the laws itself for 23 years, and was unlikely to in the near future.

At her weekly press conference on Tuesday, Lam defended the legality of NPC promulgating the law as “sound and robust”.

Lam repeatedly refused to answer if the proposed laws would be retrospective – a fear held by many who organised or participated in protests last year.

On Monday, China’s senior presence in the city, the Liaison office, condemned Sunday’s protests, which began peacefully but saw a heavy police response including teargas, pepper spray and water cannon, as well as two alleged protester assaults on opponents.

It warned against “underestimating” Beijing’s determination to crack down on calls for Hong Kong independence.

“We sternly warn these people and the forces behind them not to underestimate the central government’s rock-firm determination to uphold national sovereignty, security and development interests and to safeguard Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability and Hong Kong compatriots’ fundamental interests,” the liaison office spokesperson said.

Large protests are expected again on Wednesday, as Hong Kong legislators begin debating the national anthem bill. Authorities began sealing off areas around the LegCo building on Monday. Several days have been set aside for debate, and the vote is scheduled for 4 June – the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre and another source of controversy given Hong Kong’s vigil this year won’t be allowed.

Under the proposed anthem law, a person would commit an offence if they take various actions with “intent to insult” the anthem, such as changing lyrics or music or singing in a “disrespectful way”. Recent booing of the Chinese anthem, March of the Volunteers, at Hong Kong football marches has embarrassed Beijing.

The law carries financial penalties and jail time of up to three years.

Opponents say the legislation could be weaponised against pro-democracy activists and legislators. It has already led to physical confrontations in LegCo.

“If you show any disrespect, which is a loosely defined concept legally, they’ll use it against you,” says Dennis Kwok, pro-democracy lawmaker.

“This kind of law is the hallmark of an authoritarian government, whenever they see something they don’t like, they try to criminalise it. They are clamping down on freedom.”

The Hong Kong government rejected claims it suppresses freedom of speech, saying the spirit of the bill was about “respect”, and an offence only occurs if someone expresses their views by publicly and intentionally insulting the anthem.

Prominent democrat legislator Claudia Mo said the current political climate has driven opposition.

“Things have changed in the last two decades in Hong Kong,” she says. “We have reached a point of no return in not trusting this government.”

The government says it has a constitutional responsibility to enact the anthem law quickly, and has declared it a priority.


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« Reply #28 on: May 26, 2020, 03:40 AM »

Dawn of Asian century puts pressure on EU to choose sides, says top diplomat

EU foreign affairs chief says end of US-led global system may have arrived and Europe needs robust

Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor
Mon 26 May 2020
Guardian

The Asian century may have arrived marking the end of a US-led global system, the EU’s foreign affairs chief has said amid a growing discussion in Europe on how to weave a path between China and the US.

“Analysts have long talked about the end of an American-led system and the arrival of an Asian century. This is now happening in front of our eyes,” Josep Borrell told a group of German diplomats on Monday, adding that the coronavirus pandemic could be seen as a turning point and that the “pressure to choose sides is growing”.

In remarks that appear to confirm that the European Union will speed up a shift to a more independent and aggressive posture towards Beijing, he said the 27-nation bloc “should follow our own interests and values and avoid being instrumentalised by one or the other”.

“We need a more robust strategy for China, which also requires better relations with the rest of democratic Asia,” he added.

The EU has been reluctant to side with Donald Trump’s confrontational stance towards China, but Beijing’s assault on the independence of Hong Kong, its growing willingness to side with Europe’s populists and its refusal to open its markets has led to a change of heart, according to analysts.

Margrethe Vestager, the EU competition commissioner and a key figure in how Europe will handle China in the future, has recently noted what she describes as a lack of reciprocity. “In the part of west Denmark in which I grew up, we were taught that if you invite a guest to dinner and they do not invite you back, you stop inviting them,” she explained. She said Europe needed “to be more assertive and confident about who we are”.

Borrell has previously admitted the EU has been naive about aspects of China, but said this was now coming to an end. In an article published this month in many European newspapers, he urged more collective discipline towards China.

Already a raft of senior politicians in France and Germany are becoming more vocal in their criticism of China, seeing echoes of Russian efforts to divide the bloc through a mixture of disinformation or pandering to rightwing populists who ideologically should be anathema to Chinese communists.

No one knows yet how far this “new realism” will take the EU in altering its economic relationship to China. Daily EU imports from China amount to €1bn (£895m), but economists say there are already signs that some trade is not returning.

On issues ranging from supply chains to telecoms security, diversification has become the watchword. Borrell has spoken of his surprise at discovering that all of Europe’s supplies of paracetamol derive from China. The German cabinet has already approved new laws to prevent foreign takeovers of medical companies. The French finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, has said “some companies are vulnerable, some technologies are fragile and could be bought by foreign competitors at a low cost. I won’t let it happen.” Sweden’s relations with China are close to breakdown.

Andrew Small, an associate senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations thinktank, said Beijing had been able until recently to hide behind EU suspicions of Russia.

He wrote: “It benefited from the contrast that many Europeans drew between China and Russia. In this view, whereas Russia was actively hostile to the EU, China only sought to stymie European unity on a set of narrowly Sinocentric issues; whereas Russia thrived on chaos, China could be relied on as a status quo actor during crises; and whereas Russia pumped out disinformation, targeted European citizens, and sought to bring populists to power, China focused on positive image management and behind-the-scenes elite capture.”

China had after all helped Europe’s economic recovery in 2007-8 by buying debts and failing assets after the financial crash. It did not join Russia in becoming part of Nigel Farage’s Brexit chorus and it avoided support for Russia over Ukraine.

The EU’s natural desire to be tougher on China has been held back by revulsion at Trump’s methods and a fear that if Europe jettisoned China altogether, its chief partner would have to be Trump.

A key change came in spring 2019 when, frustrated by difficulties accessing the Chinese market and alarmed by the nationalist direction of Xi Jinping’s leadership, the EU labelled China “a systemic rival promoting alternative models of governance” in a landmark strategy paper. Even now it is used in evidence by the US state department for similarities to its own stance.

Many factors prompted a change of heart. The expected bonanza from China’s “belt and road” initiative had by and large failed to materialise as China’s own economy slowed down. “The period of romantic optimism had come to an end,” said Latvia’s foreign minister, Edgars Rinkēvičs. “Four years ago it was only about the economy, about trade, about the ‘belt and road’, about more investment. Now, it is more balanced.” Emmanuel Macron, the French president, in particular lobbied for the change, urging Europe to look to Russia for an alliance.

But it was not immediately clear how much the 2019 strategy paper would translate at a nation-state level. In the same month it was published, Italy became the first European country to sign a “belt and road” investment memorandum with China. Many European countries individually gave Huawei the go-ahead to run their 5G networks.

Beijing itself wanted to halt the slide in relations, declaring 2020 would be the year of Europe with two large summits and many ceremonial signings. China also continued courting eastern Europe in what has been known as the 17+1 group.

Philippe Le Corre, a nonresident fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says Covid has been “the game-changer” in finally altering European perceptions of China. “Chinese diplomacy backfired. It did not acknowledge the initial help Europe gave to China, perhaps due to the regime being discomforted by foreigners providing help. There were fake videos in Rome of Italians singing the Chinese national anthem. It was very strange.”

Small suggested Beijing appeared to have decided to use Europe at a moment of deep internal strain in a broad information battle about the supposed inadequacies of western democracy. “It was not enough to argue that the Chinese Communist party had succeeded; others had to be seen to fail,” he said.

Borrell called China’s “politics of generosity” a stunt and the European External Action Service, the EU’s diplomatic arm, swung into action accusing China of running a “global disinformation campaign to deflect blame for the outbreak of the pandemic and improve its international image”.

China’s behaviour has also backfired with European public opinion. A poll published by the Körber-Stiftung thinktank showed that 71% of Germans believe “greater transparency by China would have mitigated the corona epidemic”. A net 68% of Germans said their opinion of the US had deteriorated over the past year, but China’s reputation had also suffered, dropping by a net 11%. In France, an Ifop/Reputation Squad poll conducted at the end of April found only 12% saw China as best placed to meet the challenges of the next decade.

The key exception is Italy, but it has long been more sympathetic to China, and opinion appears fluid.

The question for European politicians now is how to harness this new awareness to resist China, without tumbling into Trump’s cold war. The first step is to compile what is being described as inventory of dependence on China, and investment screening reviews are now under way in France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Le Maire has promised “to strengthen our sovereignty in strategic value chains”, such as those of the automotive, aerospace and pharmaceutical industries.

The next test is China’s own direction. Veteran officials and advisers are not enamoured by what has been described as China’s “Sopranos school of diplomacy”. The Chinese scholar Lanxin Xiang admits he has kicked up quite a bit of dust by arguing it undermines China’s strategic objective of turning the EU into a buffer zone against the US.

Similarly Long Yongtu, who negotiated China’s passage to the World Trade Organization in 2001, which led to China’s astonishing economic growth, warned in May that China risked isolating itself from a new global economic order. “China is also an important participant in globalisation, so when somebody begins to talk about ‘deglobalisation’, of course, we need to be highly wary of that,” he said.

But with Trump seeking to rally the G7 – and specifically European powers – against China, using the fate of Hong Kong as his cause, China may find it is too late to get Europe to turn back.


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« Reply #29 on: May 26, 2020, 03:57 AM »

Trump uses Memorial Day to attack Biden and recycle old lies about his coronavirus response

on May 26, 2020
By David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement

NYT: “At Least 430,000 People Have Arrived in the United States on Direct Flights From China”

President Donald Trump used the occasion of the Memorial Day holiday to recycle old, debunked lies about his likely Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden.

In a tweet Trump made several accusations, none of them are true.

    Sleepy Joe Biden (mostly his reps.) went crazy when I banned, in late January, people coming in from China. He called me “xenophobic” & then went equally “nuts” when we let in 44,000 people – until he was told they were American citizens coming home. He later apologized!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 25, 2020

Defend democracy. Click to invest in courageous progressive journalism today.

A few facts:

Trump’s ban on incoming travel from China was not announced until January 31, and did not go into effect until February 2, at least one month after the Trump administration was notified about the China outbreak. (Reports show the Trump administration knew as early as late November about the dangerous outbreak.) It also forced many infected with coronavirus into the U.S. before the ban went into effect.

Announcing a ban is one thing, taking measures to ensure it locks out those with the coronavirus is another. There are multiple reports that despite Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar promising there would be “proactive entry health screening” at airports to ensure those coming from China were tested for coronavirus, that did not happen.

The 44,000 were not all Americans.

In fact, those coming in from China were not tested at all, and merely told to self-quarantine. They were not actually quarantined.

Similar actions were taken when Trump banned incoming travel from Europe.

Trump’s China travel ban was more of a mesh net.

“Since Chinese officials disclosed the outbreak of a mysterious pneumonialike illness to international health officials on New Year’s Eve, at least 430,000 people have arrived in the United States on direct flights from China,” The New York Times reported last month, “including nearly 40,000 in the two months after President Trump imposed restrictions on such travel, according to an analysis of data collected in both countries.”

The bulk of the passengers, who were of multiple nationalities, arrived in January, at airports in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Seattle, Newark and Detroit. Thousands of them flew directly from Wuhan, the center of the coronavirus outbreak, as American public health officials were only beginning to assess the risks to the United States.

And as former Obama Ebola czar Ron Klain notes, crews from the cargo flights were allowed in, without being tested either.

    You limited — not banned — travel in FEBRUARY — not January. You continued to let in crews on cargo ships, planes, and all other transport from China. 45 counties acted before you did — 45 other countries. https://t.co/wSFgS96dzo

    — Ronald Klain (@RonaldKlain) May 25, 2020

As for Biden apologizing, Trump has repeated this several times.

It’s a lie.

To be accurate, Biden didn’t directly say Trump is xenophobic but he did say Trump has a “record of hysteria, xenophobia, and fear-mongering.”

Lastly:

    Meanwhile, Trump allowed unrestricted air travel without any type of heath checks between European countries like Italy directly into New York City. That’s why the coronavirus pandemic hit the East Coast so hard while the West Coast was not nearly as affected. Facts matter.

    — Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) May 25, 2020

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Trump is ‘losing it’ and ‘devolving down into rabbit holes of conspiracy theories’: Conservative TV host

on May 26, 2020
Raw Story
By Matthew Chapman

On Monday, conservative CNN talk show host S. E. Cupp slammed President Donald Trump for his behavior amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think no matter who the president is, there’s always going to be someone criticizing the response to a disaster,” said anchor Brianna Keilar. “But something that has been true since the beginning of this is that the president really had a real opportunity, handed one, to unify people, to lead, to set a tone, and he’s really squandering it, isn’t he?”

“I think we should say, Brianna, this has long gone past offensive, and distasteful. I think what we’re seeing is the president losing it,” said Cupp. “I don’t think that the president’s behavior is that of a healthy, stable, balanced person. That he can’t focus all of his energy and efforts and attention on this global pandemic, on securing the physical and economic safety and health of this country, is very alarming. Instead, devolving down these rabbit holes of conspiracy theories, baseless conspiracy theories as you pointed out, attacking women for their looks and their weight, you know, threatening governors, one in Michigan for mail-in voting, another in North Carolina for not guaranteeing a full house at the RNC.”
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“This is not how a healthy, controlled person would behave at all, let alone during a pandemic, and on a weekend meant to honor the memories of our fallen soldiers,” added Cupp. “I think it’s time for us to just call this what it is. The president is not well.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDppnopz4SY&feature=emb_title

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

President roasted for ‘a lie of colossal Trumpian proportions’ by St. Louis newspaper

on May 26, 2020
Raw Story
By Bob Brigham

President Donald Trump’s attempts to blame former President Barack Obama for America’s COVID-19 response were fact-checked in a new editorial by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“Woe is Donald Trump. The long-suffering, misunderstood president just can’t make the world understand what a raw deal he got,” the newspaper wrote.

The article noted the president has attempted to blame China, the World Health Organization and Obama for America’s response.

The newspaper noted comments from Trump on April 18th, “We inherited a broken, terrible system … our cupboards were bare. We had very little in our stockpile.”

“That was Trump’s attempt, frequently repeated by the president and recycled in White House presentations, to lay responsibility for the inept pandemic response at Obama’s feet, as if three years in office were insufficient for Trump to repair all the supposed damage his predecessor wrought,” the newspaper explained. “Except it’s a lie of colossal Trumpian proportions.”

The newspaper compared the numbers between the two presidents.

“If the cupboard was bare, it’s because Trump swept it clean,” the Post-Dispatch concluded.

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

Trump adviser’s ‘repugnant’ lack of concern for human life slammed by ethics expert

on May 26, 2020
Raw Story

On Monday, President Donald Trump’s economic adviser Kevin Hassett appeared on CNN to urge the economy to reopen, saying, “Our human capital stock is ready to go back to work.”

    White House adviser Kevin Hassett: "Our human capital stock is ready to go back to work." #HumanCapitalStock pic.twitter.com/Yl9KwJf6KP

    — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 25, 2020

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Former Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub slammed Hassett, calling his calculus “repugnant” and suggesting his remarks indicate he doesn’t value human lives beyond the worth of their labor.

    The phrase "human capital stock" is repugnant. They're more than happy to lose as many "units" of our existing stocks as it takes to win an election.

    "Sure, you may lose some units you care about. But, remember, we have plenty more where they came from. So, no biggie." https://t.co/ohvLDXKqTC

    — Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) May 25, 2020

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

‘Everyone knows he’ll cheat’: Here are five ways Trump and his GOP allies could steal the 2020 election

on May 26, 2020
Raw Story
By Travis Gettys

President Donald Trump and his Republican allies appear to be cooking up some schemes for stealing the 2020 election — each one more worrisome than the last.

Veteran political columnist Michael Tomasky lays out five scenarios for The Daily Beast that could keep Trump in the White House, regardless of how the voting shakes out on Nov. 3.

“Everyone knows he’ll cheat,” Tomasky writes. “Even his supporters know he’ll cheat. His cheating is one of the things they love about him. So that he’ll cheat — while loudly accusing the other side of cheating — is a given. We just don’t know yet exactly how.”

Trump could steal this election “fair and square,” just as he won 2016, when he lost the popular vote but managed a narrow Electoral College victory with apparent help from Russian bots and other shenanigans — but this time could be even more lopsided and questionable, Tomasky warns.

“Joe Biden’s margins are likely to be bigger than [Hillary] Clinton’s were in the large blue states, and Trump’s margins are likely to be smaller in the big red states like Texas and Georgiam,” he writes. “So he could lose the popular vote by five or six million this time instead of the 2.8 million of last time.”

Trump and the GOP are already laying the groundwork to steal the election through the courts, where right-wingers are preparing to challenge a narrow Biden win in Florida in a battle over a state law allowing felons to vote — and plotting to let the Supreme Court’s conservative majority to rule in favor of the president’s re-election.

“Remember how in Bush v. Gore the five conservative justices in essence ruled against states’ rights, that supposedly time-honored conservative principle?” Tomasky writes. “That is, Florida wanted to recount the votes, but the court — in an unsigned decision that they insisted did not set precedent — overruled the state.”

“Well, this time, they might do the exact opposite!” he adds.

Tomasky says an even more likely scenario is the faithless elector, which — if the Supreme Court rules in favor next month — would allow Republican-controlled states won by Biden to appoint electors who would refuse to vote for the Democratic nominee.

“Of course the Democrats could do the same, but come on, which side do you think is more likely to do this?” Tomasky writes.

The most terrifying scenario, Tomasky warns, would be if the Electoral College was tied at 269-269 and the newly elected House of Representatives stole it for Trump.

“Congress is still likely to be Democratic, so what’s the problem?” Tomasky writes. “Here’s the problem. The 435 members of the House don’t vote as individuals. They vote as state delegations, each delegation getting one vote.”

Republicans currently control state delegations 26-25, which counts the District of Columbia, so Democrats must hold onto all their current delegations in November and pick up another to prevent Trump and GOP lawmakers from stealing the election in a proceeding presided over by Vice President Mike Pence.

“Picture it. Trump has lost the popular vote by five million,” Tomasky writes. “Through rampant voter suppression and other dirty tricks … he manages to finagle an Electoral College tie. Then it goes to the House, where this nutso scheme they came up with in 1803 when state population differentials weren’t anywhere near what they are today is used to hand Trump re-election.”

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

Fox News doctor slams Trump’s ‘not smart’ plan to pack RNC convention like a ‘herd of cows’

on May 26, 2020
Raw Story
By David Edwards

Dr. Nicole Saphier warned on Monday that President Donald Trump’s desire to “fully occupy” the Republican National Convention is “definitely not” a good idea during a pandemic.

Saphier told a Fox News panel that Trump’s threat to move the convention out of North Carolina was not the best way to deal with a public health crisis.

“I’ll tell you, yesterday North Carolina reported their highest single day increase to date,” Saphier explained. “If they’re following that White House blueprint that was put forth by the experts then they’re not ready to say that they’re going to be able to accommodate 50,000 people in indoor settings come end of August.”

“We can’t just go back to the business of usual, we’re going to pack everyone in like a herd of cows,” the Fox News contributor added, “and then potentially be transmitting this because then you have schools starting.”

Saphier pointed out that an outbreak of COVID-19 could delay school openings.

“All of the sudden the fall school year is going to be completely disrupted,” she observed. “If our goal is to try and get children back to school, that’s not smart.”

“The bottom line is putting a lot of people in a small area is definitely not good for us right now,” Saphier concluded.

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

Pompeo tells megachurch pastor he likes to ‘synthesize’ reading the Bible with his daily intelligence reports

on May 26, 2020
Raw Story
By Sky Palma

In an interview with megachurch pastor Pastor Greg Laurie, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that he reads two things during his mornings: the day’s intelligence report and the Bible.

“I manage to synthesize them … knowing that the Lord gives me the capacity to work, to be diligent,” Pompeo said. “I hope He’ll give me the wisdom and the perseverance to meet these challenges head-on in a way that protects the American people.”

Pompeo says that reading the Bible is a daily ritual for him, which helps to remind him that “the Lord is looking out over this world … The Lord is watching us,” adding that whenever he takes part in a briefing, he’s confident that God is watching over everyone on the room.


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