COVID-19 has put political leaders and health care systems worldwide to the test. Although lockdowns are the common approach, some countries have opted for less stringent measures. As scientists and public policy experts, we have spent years analyzing how countries prepare and respond to pandemics. We believe this is certain: The policy and communication choices that national leaders make has a measurable impact on the effectiveness of pandemic response. Some countries respond with scienceIn particular, Germany and New Zealand have handled the crisis effectively. Both countries have not wavered from a science-based approach and strong, centralized messaging.Germany discovered its first cases on Jan. 27. At the time, the country’s health minister considered COVID-19 a low threat; still, Charité University Hospital in Berlin began developing a test. Within a month, new test kits were available – and Germany’s labs had already stocked up. By mid-March, the country had closed schools and retail businesses. Testing was swiftly rolled out, and within approximately two weeks, Germany was processing more than 100,000 tests per week. Around this same time period, the United States had tested approximately 5,000 people and did not reach numbers similar to Germany until several weeks later. Chancellor Angela Merkel led Germany’s coordinated response, which included social distancing policies along with the early and wide-scale testing. Not everything went smoothly. In many instances, lower-level health services still had autonomy; this led to a degree of discontinuity in policy implementation across states. Yet most Germans voluntarily adhered to the policies set forth by the national government. Now Germany is moving to lift restrictions.New Zealand, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, responded with a slogan: “We must go hard and we must go early.” In mid-February, travelers from China were banned. On March 23 – a month after its first case – New Zealand committed to a total elimination strategy and implemented a strict national lockdown despite having only 102 COVID-19 cases and no recorded deaths. Schools were closed. So were nonessential businesses. Social gatherings were banned. A 14-day self-isolation period was required for anyone entering the country, with a few Pacific Island exceptions. With a population of just under 5 million, New Zealand has already tested more than 175,000 potentially infected people – approximately 4% of its population. It is now expanding the program. Like Germany, the country has emphasized science, leadership and consistent messaging. Prime Minister Ardern builds public trust through regular appearances on social media, including posts aimed at children. As of May 9, the country had fewer than 1,500 confirmed cases and 20 deaths from COVID-19. Instead of hand-washing, a hands-off approachBrazil and Nicaragua have taken a decidedly different approach. Leaders of both countries have adopted a “hands-off” policy – in some cases, even discouraging citizens from following public health measures taken in other countries.On Feb. 25, Brazil recorded its first case. Since then, the country has reported more than 300,000 cases and 20,000 deaths – the third largest outbreak in the world, behind only the U.S. and Russia. Over these months, President Jair Bolsonaro has said the virus is not a threat, calling it a “little flu.” He has also encouraged defiance of social distancing measures put in place by governors. Brazil has many advantages over its neighbors for an effective pandemic response: universal health coverage, a large community-based primary care delivery system, and experience responding to the Zika health crisis in 2015. But the lack of leadership from Bolsonaro have led some to label him as the “biggest threat” to the country’s ability to fight the SARS-CoV-2. His continued attacks on scientists, universities and experts, along with the lack of organized federal response, have disrupted efforts to control the pandemic. An Imperial College of London study showed Brazil with the highest rate of transmission of the 48 countries examined. Nicaragua has also failed to acknowledge the dangers of this virus. President Daniel Ortega, an authoritarian leader who has remained in office despite term limits and sustained popular protests demanding his resignation, is resisting travel restrictions while encouraging schools and businesses to stay open. He discourages the use of masks, even by health care workers. With his wife and vice president, Rosario Murillo, Ortega has suggested that citizens attend church and go to the beach; they even organized a huge parade called “Love Against COVID-19” on March 14. The ruling couple, however, are noticeably absent for many of these activities, at which social distancing is impossible. In a country of more than 6 million, Nicaragua reported 25 confirmed cases and eight deaths from COVID-19 as of May 15. But many experts suspect the true number of infections is much higher, both because of minimal testing – the government only allows 50 tests per day – and because many COVID-19 deaths are classified as “pneumonia.” Since January 2020, pneumonia deaths in Nicaragua have reportedly been increasing. But there is little government transparency in Nicaragua, so the data is difficult to confirm. Lessons for the USReliance on science and centralized messaging help countries move faster to safely lift restrictions. Confusing and mixed messages, coupled with distrust of scientific experts, lets the virus spread. In the U.S., messaging is confusing and decentralized and defers to state governments for the majority of policy development. This decentralization has led to vastly different actions by governors. Georgia and Texas reopened as cases continued to increase, while Washington and Oregon extend lockdowns well into the summer. A coordinated, science-driven, national-level strategy is vital to an effective response. But at the moment, the U.S. federal government has communicated more like Brazil and Nicaragua, rather than Germany and New Zealand. The examples we highlight here are a warning to all of us. [Get facts about coronavirus and the latest research. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter.]This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts.Read more: * It is safe to go to a pool, the beach or a park? A doctor offers guidance as coronavirus distancing measures lifted * Rapid home-based coronavirus tests are coming together in research labs — we’re working on analyzing spit using advanced CRISPR gene editing techniquesThe authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Iran’s president urged his Cabinet on Wednesday to speed up harsher laws in so-called honor killings, after a particularly disturbing slaying of a 14-year-old girl by her father shocked the nation. President Hassan Rouhani pushed for speedy adoption of relevant bills, some which have apparently shuttled for years among various decision-making bodies in Iran. The killing of teen Romina Ashrafi last week in the Iranian town of Talesh, some 320 kilometers (198 miles) northwest of the capital, Tehran, prompted a nationwide outcry.
WASHINGTON -- Senior military officials are set to brief President Donald Trump in the coming days on options for pulling all American troops out of Afghanistan, with one possible timeline for withdrawing forces before the presidential election, according to officials with knowledge of the plans.The proposal for a complete withdrawal by November reflects an understanding among military commanders that such a timeline may be Trump's preferred option because it may help bolster his campaign.But they plan to propose, and to advocate, a slower withdrawal schedule, officials said.The move is part of the Pentagon's attempt to avoid another situation like the one in December 2018 and again in October 2019, when Trump surprised military officials by ordering the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. Diplomatic chaos and violence followed, and the president subsequently modified each announcement. American troops remain in Syria, although in smaller numbers.Senior military officials believe a quick withdrawal from Afghanistan would effectively doom the peace deal reached this year with the Taliban.In recent months, Trump has repeatedly voiced a desire to leave Afghanistan sooner than the timeline laid out in the Feb. 29 peace agreement with the Taliban, which stipulated U.S. troops would leave in 12 to 14 months if the insurgent group met certain conditions.The Pentagon is expected to try to persuade a commander in chief who has made clear his desire to end America's involvement in what he has criticized as "endless wars" -- and who has regularly surprised the military with his decisions.The debate also highlights the mounting difficulty facing the February agreement. Political strife, the novel coronavirus and bloody Taliban attacks have almost derailed what little progress has been made since the deal's signing.This article is based on conversations with five officials familiar with the debate over the troop withdrawal. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deliberations were intended to be private.The Pentagon is set to lay out multiple options in the meeting with Trump.One would give Trump the option of pulling all forces from the country before Election Day. But the Pentagon has other options that would withdraw forces more slowly, with one plan sticking close to the current timeline that would keep American forces in the country until May 2021.Senior officials believe the president may be able to be persuaded that protecting the peace agreement, which his administration sponsored and supports, will require a slower drawdown of forces, to give the Taliban an incentive to reduce attacks.Defense Department officials are also arguing to the White House that they cannot yet guarantee that Afghanistan will not again become a haven for attacks against the United States. Arguably the only clear-cut condition of the February deal, outlined in one of the secret annexes, is that the Taliban must publicly renounce the Islamic State group and al-Qaida before the full troop withdrawal begins.There are currently fewer than 12,000 troops in Afghanistan. The U.S.-led mission in the country is in the process of drawing down to 8,600 troops as part of the February agreement. This smaller American contingent will rely heavily on Special Operations forces and joint U.S.-Afghan cells, known as "regional targeting teams," that are focused on counterterrorism missions across the country."Any reduction under 8,600 U.S. troops will be conditions-based after the U.S. government assesses the security environment and the Taliban's compliance with the agreement, and in coordination with our NATO allies and partners," Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement.Another factor that has contributed to Trump's desire for an early withdrawal is the coronavirus and its unchecked spread throughout Afghanistan after it crossed over the country's western border from Iran.The Pentagon believes that at least 50% of Afghan security forces most likely have the virus, meaning that any training and joint operations between United States and Afghan forces have been paused, halting a key pillar of the American war effort, especially against Islamic State enclaves in the country's east. But airstrikes against the group still continue.As part of the peace agreement, the U.S. military is shutting several bases. But the spread of the coronavirus has also accelerated the closing of smaller Special Operations outposts used by the elite units while operating alongside their Afghan counterparts.In a statement on Saturday, the Taliban declared a temporary cease-fire for the three days of the Islamic festival Eid al-Fitr, which started on Sunday and marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of daytime fasting.The Afghan government followed, declaring a cessation of fighting even though officials had recently declared that they were restarting offensive operations after waves of Taliban attacks had killed hundreds of security forces after the February agreement. Sunday's cease-fire is the second of the entire war. The first, widely praised on all sides and in the international community, was in 2018, also during Eid."This development offers the opportunity to accelerate the peace process," Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy for Afghan peace, said in a statement. "Other positive steps should immediately follow: the release of remaining prisoners as specified in the U.S.-Taliban agreement by both sides, no returning to high levels of violence, and an agreement on a new date for the start of intra-Afghan negotiations."The exchange of 6,000 prisoners was one of the first sticking points after the U.S.-Taliban deal, as it all but forced the Kabul government to release Taliban prisoners even though it was not a signatory of the agreement.Top American officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have pressured President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan to release the prisoners in the hopes that it would pave the way for the Afghan government to negotiate with the Taliban. Ghani has ordered their release in a series of groups, as has the Taliban, but after the announced cease-fire, Ghani pledged to release up to 2,000 more in an attempt to use the three-day cease-fire as a reset for a peace deal that was on the verge of falling apart.On Tuesday, the Afghan government released 900 Taliban prisoners, the largest in one day since the slow process of prisoner release started and in what Afghan officials described a "goodwill" move in the hopes the cease-fire could be extended before direct negotiations.During the closing days of the Obama administration, the Pentagon was also pressing the White House to slow its planned drawdown.President Barack Obama had been intent on ending the long war in Afghanistan, but the military thought it precipitous. Commanders argued that removing troops would threaten what little progress had been made after years of prolonged fighting, but officials also acknowledged the pause would give the a new president time to reassess options. In October 2015, Obama halted his drawdown. Trump and America's NATO allies ultimately added forces after the Taliban had retaken broad parts of the country.The current plan of keeping forces in Afghanistan until May 2021 would allow Trump, if he is reelected, to reevaluate his decision to remove troops based on the level of Taliban violence and how well the peace agreement is working. Some American officials also say the political pressure to remove the troops could be different in a second term.And if Trump is defeated, a new president may want to reassess whether a continued American troop presence is necessary.Lisa Maddox, a former CIA analyst, said that cutting short the deployment by only a few months might not seem like a lot, but the current situation in Afghanistan was fragile."It sends a message to our Afghan partners that we are running away," she said. "Extra time allows for better turnover, which is a complicated process given the U.S. government's involvement in supporting the country's security and governance."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
A treasure trove is being curated at the University of Delaware, and the 2020 candidate is well aware of its explosive potentialRichard Nixon had tapes. Hillary Clinton had emails. Joe Biden has an archive spanning 36 years in the US Senate. It’s a record of his thinking, on everything from criminal justice to the Iraq war, and it could offer rich pickings for reporters and Republican opposition researchers.The Biden senatorial papers comprise 1,875 boxes of “photographs, documents, videotapes and files” and 415 gigabytes of electronic records at the University of Delaware in his home state. They recently came to public attention when Biden was accused by Tara Reade, a former staffer, of sexually assaulting her in a Capitol Hill basement in 1993.While vehemently denying that allegation in a TV interview on 1 May, the former vice-president simultaneously acknowledged the explosive potential of the archive’s many other contents.“The fact is that there’s a lot of things, of speeches I’ve made, positions I’ve taken, interviews that I did overseas with people, all of those things relating to my job, and the idea that they would all be made public in the fact while I was running for public office, they could be really taken out of context,” he told interviewer Mika Brzezinski on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program.“They’re papers or position papers, they are documents that existed and that – for example, when I met with [Vladimir] Putin or when I met with whomever, and all of that could be fodder in a campaign at this time.”Biden, 77, also insisted that the collection does not contain personnel records, sending journalists on a wild goose chase through the National Archives and Senate in search of evidence of a complaint filed by Reade at the time of the alleged incident. The trail went cold, but the University of Delaware treasure trove remains tantalizing.Last week the Republican National Committee launched a digital advertising campaign, raising questions about whether the university is keeping documents under seal related to the Reade allegation. One of the ads alleges: “University of Delaware is complicit in sexual assault cover-up.”Judicial Watch, a rightwing activist group, is taking legal advice on whether it has grounds to take the university to court for access to the records. Its president, Tom Fitton, said on Thursday: “If we find that the documents are being withheld from us contrary to law, we are prepared to sue.”Biden’s defenders argue he is merely following precedent: past senators who ran for president have not been required to disclose all their papers. But Fitton contended: “It’s not that they’re being required; the question is whether the records are available under law. If he had them at his house, maybe there’s an argument, but they’re not at his house. They’re at a university and subject to Foia [Freedom of Information Act].”Biden’s records were donated to the University of Delaware in 2012. The university did not respond to questions for this article but Andrea Boyle, a spokeswoman, told CNN earlier this month that it is still “curating the collection”, a process likely to continue well into 2021, and the papers will not be released until two years after Biden retires from public life.> It sets up the Republican line perfectly, which is, ‘What’s he hiding? How come he won’t show us?’> > Larry SabatoThat is unlikely to deter newspaper editors sensing that Biden, first elected to the Senate in 1972 at the age 29, is likely to have skeletons in the closet. His long political career includes the 1991 confirmation hearings for supreme court justice Clarence Thomas, accused of sexual harassment, as well as his support for a 1994 crime law that contributed to mass incarceration. Then there was his 2003 vote authorizing the invasion of Iraq, which he has since said he regrets.Furthermore, critics on the progressive wing of the Democratic party would be eager to scrutinize Biden’s links to the financial services industry, a big player in Delaware. Conservatives might hunt for documents linking Biden’s son, Hunter, to overseas business interests. In a replay of the 2016 campaign, when he encouraged Russia to hack Clinton’s emails, Donald Trump may welcome a chance to make mischief by demanding “transparency”.Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said: “His papers are much more voluminous than Hillary Clinton’s emails, so I would expect there would be even more stories. Republicans are going to say, ‘You just know there’s some interesting material at the University of Delaware’. No, there really isn’t, but they know it’s a safe thing to say because it can’t be disproven before the election.”There are practical objections, Sabato added, but Republicans will seek to turn those to their advantage. “First of all, you couldn’t publish it all or even open it all. He had an incredibly long career, a 50-year political career, and there are some personal items in there as well, from what I understand. How could you even manage to make it available to researchers, much less the general public, just a few months ahead of an election? It’s not going to happen.“Therefore, it sets up the Republican line perfectly, which is, ‘What’s he hiding? How come he won’t show us?’ No one out there is going to going to say, ‘Well, of course, it’s an enormous amount of material and why would he and most of it’s junk,’ which is true, by the way .”Other presidential candidates have faced similar pressures. Rich Galen, a campaign strategist for actor and former Republican senator Fred Thompson’s unsuccessful 2008 bid, recalled: “His papers from the Senate were at the University of Tennessee and his opponents kept quacking about the fact that we had locked them up, literally, because we didn’t want to go through every morning having some 12-year-old take five words out of a 300-word essay and have to defend it all day.“So we just said to hell with you, if that’s what the fight is going to be about, then the fight will be about not getting access to the papers as opposed to what’s in the papers. And it’s a little hard to make the case that Biden won’t give up the papers at the University of Delaware while Trump has been in federal court for 27 years to protect his financial records.”
President Hassan Rouhani urged Iranian lawmakers to "cooperate" with his government in a speech on Wednesday during the inaugural session of the new parliament following a February election swept by conservatives. The parliament, a legislative chamber that shapes debate in Iran, had been closed for six weeks until April 7 as part of measures aimed at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus. Iran has been hit by the Middle East's deadliest outbreak of the virus.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said he spoke Wednesday with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, following an Israeli court ruling that a former teacher accused of sexually abusing her students in Australia was fit to stand trial and be extradited. Rivlin noted that the matter was central to his state visit to Australia in February and that he had promised Morrison and Australia’s pro-Israel Jewish community he would monitor the case closely.
PARIS (AP) — “Do as I say, but not as I do” was the message many British saw in the behavior of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's key aide, who traveled hundreds of miles with coronavirus symptoms during the country's lockdown. While Dominic Cummings has faced calls for his firing but support from his boss over his journey from London to the northern city of Durham in March, few countries seem immune to the perception that politicians and top officials are bending the rules that their own governments wrote during the pandemic. From U.S. President Donald Trump to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, global decision-makers have frequently set bad examples, whether it's refusing to wear masks or breaking confinement rules aimed at protecting their citizens from COVID-19.
This is the week when America's official coronavirus death toll reaches six digits. “We all want to measure these experiences because they’re so shocking, so overwhelming that we want to bring some sense of knowability to the unknown,” says Jeffrey Jackson, a history professor at Rhodes College in Tennessee who teaches about the politics of natural disasters. In the mid-1800s, a new level of numerical precision was emerging in Western society around the same time the United States fought the Civil War.
In Johannesburg's Alexandra township, two men in face masks greet each other on a sunny street. One has surreptitiously sold the other a pack of cigarettes. A bootlegging culture has sprung up across South Africa in response to the government's nearly 8-week-old ban on the sale of tobacco and alcohol, part of its strict lockdown to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Human Rights Watch is calling on the U.N.’s top human rights body to launch an independent investigation into the Philippine government’s drug war that has left thousands dead, pointing in particular to its harmful effects on children. The advocacy group made the call alongside Wednesday's launch of a report timed for the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council session next month. The 48-page report is based on nearly 50 interviews and examines the impact of about two dozen killings under President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war.
Iran's newly elected parliament convened on Wednesday, dominated by conservative lawmakers and under strict social distancing regulations, as the country struggles to curb the spread of the coronavirus that has hit the nation hard. The lawmakers were sworn in after many of them arrived for the opening ceremony wearing face masks and observing social distancing regulations. Iran is grappling with the deadliest outbreak in the Middle East, with more than 7,500 fatalities out of over 141,500 confirmed cases.
As in many Afghan households, dinner at Dr. Yousuf Aryubi’s home meant the whole family — his mother, his siblings, their children — sitting on the floor together around a mat laid with food on the carpet. During one recent dinner, Aryubi confided to his youngest brother that he was worried. Within two weeks, Aryubi and two of his siblings were dead, and dozens of family members were infected with the coronavirus.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- The latest British drama surrounding Dominic Cummings is a tricky one to explain, not least apparently for Cummings himself. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s most senior adviser may ride out the immediate crisis, with help from his boss. But both men will pay a price.A visitor from another country might wonder at all the fuss. In the pantheon of government scandals, has there been anything quite like it? All the signs of a full-blown political crisis are present: the media feeding frenzy, the public outcry, the calls for resignation, an outraged bishop and a government minister’s protest resignation. The episode has acted as a catalyst for public discontent over Johnson’s handling of the coronavirus crisis; his polling is plummeting. And yet, there was no crime, no victim, no illicit affair with a foreign spy, no elaborate cover-up, no break-in, no scurrilous leak, no abuse of office nor peddling of influence. Rather, we have a very important, and perennially controversial, adviser to the leader of the country, who packed his sick wife and four-year-old son into their car and drove 260 miles north of London to County Durham to be closer to family through the illness that would affect them both.During an extraordinary press conference in the Downing Street rose garden on Monday, Cummings explained his thinking. What if he and his wife were made so weak by their suspected Covid-19 infection that they couldn’t look after their son? He added that there had been threats against him and his house was constantly being photographed and filmed. His parents’ property had space where he could isolate without endangering anyone. He tried to take every precaution.While “Stay at Home” was the British government’s unequivocal slogan, the rules governing the lockdown allowed exceptions, including for those who needed to care for “vulnerable” persons. It’s hardly a stretch to consider a four-year-old vulnerable.Cummings’s alleged breach wasn’t the same as that of the former Scottish chief medical officer, Catherine Calderwood, who resigned after taking trips to check on her second home in the picturesque coastal town of Earlsferry in Fife. Nor was it anything like that of Neil Ferguson, the Imperial College scientist and adviser whose models informed government policy, who resigned after it was revealed he’d met during lockdown with his girlfriend (who lived with her husband and children).Johnson’s adviser has, however, angered members of the public — and even some of Britain’s usually supportive right-wing media — because he too left the impression that he was above the rules. He didn’t ask his boss about his decision. He didn’t disclose it. He took three days to show even the foggiest understanding of why people might be bothered. He may claim not to regret his actions, but it was wrong to blame the subsequent public outrage on the media (after he confirmed most of the details of what was reported).Some of his justifications raised eyebrows. He said he took a separate 30-minute drive to a scenic spot in the Durham countryside with his wife and son to “test his eyesight” before the return trip to London. Once you have to get into this level of detail, the audience has stopped listening and will have made up its mind. Ironically, that’s an insight Cummings and Johnson exploited to devastating effect during the 2016 “take back control” Brexit campaign. With the world dealing with more important things, I’ve found it hard to summon the appropriate level of righteous indignation over Cummings. He did nothing terribly wrong, from what I can see, except that a man in his position ought to have known better. He was tone deaf in his refusal to see how the revelations would be received, arrogant in his initial brush-off and insensitive to what the people he wooed in the last election might be feeling.Regardless of the rights and wrongs of his initial actions, the subsequent handling of the disclosures will take a toll; having a non-elected adviser giving press conferences on a stage usually reserved for political leaders is troubling. The success of lockdown measures depend on public buy-in. If the reaction to the Durham saga is that people feel freer to flout the guidelines, then messaging — which is meant to be Cummings’s great genius — becomes much harder.There’s also a longer term cost to the government’s moral authority and credibility. Fairness is not a uniquely British value, but it has a mobilizing power here. The 2009 parliamentary expenses revelations, a genuine scandal where lawmakers were shown to be abusing the allowances, seriously undermined public confidence in elected representatives and reverberates today. A 2019 PwC report noted that seven out of 10 of those polled believe there is “one rule for some and a different rule for people like me.” The lockdown was sold in terms similar to the mobilizing effort during the war, as a collective endeavor. Now most Britons seem to think the rules haven’t been applied equally. Cummings’s continued presence will be a constant reminder of that grievance, a scab that the resurgent opposition Labour Party will pick at gladly. The prime minister’s defense of his adviser also underlines how invaluable he is to the Johnson project. Whether or not Cummings sticks around, Johnson will have to rebuild the confidence that was left on the side of the road during that trip to County Durham. Meanwhile, there is still a major health and economic crisis to manage.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Therese Raphael is a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion. She was editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal Europe.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Only about half of Americans say they would get a COVID-19 vaccine if the scientists working furiously to create one succeed, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. “Definitely the worst thing that could happen is if we rush through a vaccine that turns out to have significant side effects,” Collins added.
The baseball league is on. Students have begun returning to school. As South Korea significantly relaxes its rigid social distancing rules as a result of waning coronavirus cases, the world is paying close attention to whether it can return to something that resembles normal — or face a virus resurgence.
From Argentina to Panama, a number of officials have been forced to resign as reports of fraudulent purchases of ventilators, masks and other medical supplies pile up. “Whenever there’s a dire situation, spending rules are relaxed and there’s always someone around looking to take advantage to make a profit,” said José Ugaz, a former Peruvian prosecutor who jailed former President Alberto Fujimori and was chairman of Transparency International from 2014-17. Coronavirus clusters are still spreading in Latin America, fueling a spike in deaths, swamping already-precarious hospitals and threatening to ravage slumping economies.
Defying dire predictions, Venezuela so far seems to have avoided the coronavirus wave striking much of South America. President Nicolás Maduro’s government says the nation of roughly 25 million people has done widespread testing while recording just over 1,200 virus cases, along with 11 deaths, since the first case was diagnosed in mid-March. Other independent health experts, however, don't think Maduro could conceal a significant surge in cases.
These are children of the global pandemic. Italy was the first European country to be hit by COVID-19, and her mother is a doctor in the public health system that has seen 27,500 personnel infected and more than 160 doctors dead nationwide.
To the general public, the video of a white police officer pressing his knee into the neck of a black man prone on the street, crying out for help until he finally stopped moving, was horrifying. Four officers were fired a day after George Floyd's death, a stunning and swift move by the Minneapolis chief with the mayor's full backing. The officers were dismissed soon after a bystander’s video taken outside a south Minneapolis grocery store Monday night showed an officer kneeling on the handcuffed man’s neck, even after he pleaded that he could not breathe and stopped moving.
Thousands of protesters shouted pro-democracy slogans and insults at police in Hong Kong on Wednesday as lawmakers debated a bill criminalizing abuse of the Chinese national anthem in the semi-autonomous city. More than 50 people in the Causeway Bay shopping district were rounded up and made to sit outside a shopping mall, while riot police with pepper spray patrolled and warned journalists to stop filming. Nearly 300 people were arrested across Hong Kong for unauthorized assembly, according to Facebook posts by the Hong Kong police force.
Joe Biden said Tuesday that wearing a mask in public to combat the spread of the coronavirus is a sign of leadership and called President Donald Trump a “fool” who was “stoking deaths” for suggesting otherwise. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s comments came a day after he wore a black face mask while making his first public appearance in more than two months. Biden has remained at his Delaware home amid a pandemic that has frozen the presidential campaign, but he marked Memorial Day by laying a wreath at a nearby veterans' memorial with his wife, Jill. Trump later retweeted a post that appeared to make fun of a photo of Biden in his mask, though he later said he didn't mean to be critical.
Germany has extended social distancing rules aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus epidemic to June 29, Chancellor Angela Merkel's government said on Tuesday. Up to 10 people will be allowed to gather in public places but Germans should be in contact with as few people as possible, according to the rules agreed between the federal government and 16 states. Merkel's government had been embroiled in disagreements with the least-affected states, some of which wanted to ditch the measures and open up entirely.
The Justice Department has closed investigations into stock trading by Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Kelly Loeffler of Georgia and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, according to people familiar with notifications sent to the senators. The senators came under scrutiny for transactions made in the weeks before the coronavirus sent markets downhill.
When news broke of Dominic Cummings’ lockdown trip to Durham, the first officially-sanctioned response from the Government was that the story had been cooked up by “campaigning newspapers”. The implication of the phrase was deliberate and clear: Mr Cummings was being targeted by left-wing journalists opposed to Brexit as a way of settling scores. Downing Street still appears to be clinging to the hope that they can persuade the public this is nothing more than a culture war between left and right, Leave and Remain, faction against faction. Undoubtedly there are those in the Conservative Party and beyond who have watched Mr Cummings’ travails over the past five days in a state of glee, for entirely personal or political reasons. It is also true that the first Tory MPs to call for Mr Cummings’ head, including Steve Baker and Peter Bone, are long-standing critics with something of an axe to grind, while some of the bishops who have weighed in are also veteran Europhiles. But Tory backbenchers have been warning Downing Street for days that tribalism has nothing to do with the mess the Government now finds itself in, and the 30 or more Tory MPs who have now gone public with calls for Mr Cummings to resign are from every wing of the Party. They have been bombarded with emails and letters from constituents livid at Mr Cummings’ behaviour, and the vast majority of those who are contacting them have no obvious allegiance to any particular camp. For them it is purely about right and wrong, or to use Mr Cummings’ own word, a sense of “unfairness”. Tellingly, a YouGov poll carried out on Tuesday showed that 52 per cent of 2016 Leave voters want Mr Cummings to resign, which appeared to kill off any lingering suggestions of tribal bias against Mr Cummings. The same poll said 71 per cent of people think Mr Cummings broke lockdown rules, compared with 68 per cent before his press conference, and 59 per cent of all those surveyed said he should resign, up from 52 per cent before his statement.
The author of a federal report that found U.S. hospitals faced severe shortages of coronavirus test supplies says she is not intimidated by criticism from President Donald Trump, even after he moved to replace her as chief watchdog of the Department of Health and Human Services. Christi Grimm, who has served as acting inspector general since January, told a House panel that there was no “chilling effect” from Trump's criticism of her last month and his subsequent move to replace her. “We are plowing ahead” with 14 new reports and audits on the health department's response to the virus, Grimm said during a videoconference briefing Tuesday with the House Oversight Committee.
United Nations aid agencies are warning of a potentially severe coronavirus outbreak in densely packed refugee camps in Bangladesh. Health officials reported Tuesday that 15,000 Rohingya refugees have been put in quarantine in the Cox's Bazar region of the country. The U.N. has long considered the Rohingya among the planet's most vulnerable people.
United Nations aid agencies are warning of a potentially severe coronavirus outbreak in densely packed refugee camps in Bangladesh. Health officials reported Tuesday that 15,000 Rohingya refugees have been put in quarantine in the Cox's Bazar region of the country. The U.N. has long considered the Rohingya among the planet's most vulnerable people.
While the coronavirus is terrifying, imagine facing it without a home. As Leilani Farha, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, put it, “Housing has become the front line defense against the coronavirus. Home has rarely been more of a life-or-death situation.” However, for the more than 550,000 people experiencing homelessness in the United States, sheltering in place is a “luxury.”
Turkey’s COVID-19 death toll reached 4,397 as of Tuesday after 28 new deaths were reported in 24 hours, according to the country's health minister. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter that Turkey also recorded 948 more confirmed cases, bringing the total to 158,762. More than 121,500 people with the virus have recovered in Turkey, and the number of COVID-19 patients requiring intensive care continues to decline, according to Health Ministry statistics.
President Donald Trump’s demand for a full-capacity Republican convention in August is putting pressure on North Carolina health officials — and local Republicans — as coronavirus cases surge in the host county and statewide. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's administration has refused to give in, though, responding with a letter demanding a written safety plan from organizers of the Republican National Convention, slated for August in Charlotte. Asked about Trump’s tweets threatening to move the convention, Cooper said Tuesday he’s “not surprised at anything that happens on Twitter,” without mentioning the president by name.
With the weather looking up, SpaceX and NASA officials vowed Tuesday to keep crew safety the top priority for the nation's first astronaut launch to orbit in nearly a decade. Veteran NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken were set to make history Wednesday afternoon, riding SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule to the International Space Station on a test flight. SpaceX was on the cusp of becoming the first private company to put astronauts in orbit, something achieved by just three countries — Russia, the U.S. and China.
As diverse as they were in eloquence and empathy, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama each had his own way of piercing the noise of catastrophe and reaching people. Impeachment placed one indelible mark on Donald Trump's time in the White House. At every turn Trump has asserted the numbers would be worse without his leadership.
Drowned out by the coronavirus and national politics, Republican and Democratic operatives are quietly preparing for a battle of state legislative supremacy later this year that could have a profound effect on political power for the next decade. The November ballot will feature more than 5,000 elections for state House and Senate members in 35 states who will play a significant role in crafting or passing new voting districts for Congress and state legislative chambers based on census results. Republicans, who currently control a majority of state legislative chambers, generally will be on defense against a well-funded Democratic effort.
A college student police say is an armed fugitive after killing two people was looking for a young woman he knew when he began his rampage, the wife of his first victim said Tuesday. University of Connecticut senior Peter Manfredonia, 23, is a fugitive in the machete killing of the woman's neighbor, 62-year-old Ted DeMers, of Willington, Connecticut. Manfredonia was last reported seen in Pennsylvania on Sunday and is the target of a search involving police agencies and the FBI.
Russia has passed its peak of coronavirus infections, President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday, ordering a World War II victory parade postponed by the pandemic to be held next month. The postponement of the May 9 Victory Day parade had been a blow to Putin, who had hoped to gather world leaders to watch troops march on Red Square to celebrate 75 years since the defeat of Nazi Germany. "According to experts, the peak can be considered passed," Putin told Shoigu in a video link-up.
The verbal dispute between a white woman with an unleashed dog and a black man bird watching in Central Park might normally have gone unnoticed in a city preoccupied by the coronavirus pandemic. The widely watched video — posted on Facebook by Christian Cooper and on Twitter by his sister — sparked accusations of racism and led to Amy Cooper getting fired. “Unfortunately we live in an era with things like Ahmaud Arbery, where black men are seen as targets," Christian Cooper told CNN.
Two GOP governors are offering up their states to host the Republican National Convention — a day after President Donald Trump threatened to pull the convention out of North Carolina if that state’s Democratic governor doesn't assure him that the August gathering can go forward despite coronavirus fears. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp sent an open plea to Trump on Tuesday to consider his state as an alternate site for the quadrennial convention, which is set to gather more than 2,500 delegates and thousands more guests, press and security officials. Plans have been underway for more than a year to hold the convention in Charlotte, but Trump and national Republican officials have expressed concerns that local officials may not allow gatherings of that size during the pandemic.