Sioux Falls Atheists
Sioux Falls Atheists and Atheism, Agnostics and Humanism

290 Atheism & Humanism News Articles
for June 2020
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6-30-20 Coronavirus: What's behind alarming new US outbreaks?
As coronavirus outbreaks are slowly brought to heel in many places around the world, the US is among a handful of countries facing a surge of new infections. More than two dozen states are now seeing increases in new cases over the last 14 days. Of these, Texas, Florida, Arizona and California have emerged as the country's latest virus epicentres. But while cases are clearly rising, state leaders and health experts are divided on the cause. Here's a look at these four US hotspots, the facts and figures raising alarm, and the theories that may help explain each surge. First, it's important to note that across the US, more efficient testing has played some role in the climbing case count. The number of Covid-19 tests being administered now is nearly double what it was in April and May. But the positive test rate tells us that testing can't explain away the rise. If lots of tests are being conducted and the spread of the coronavirus has been reduced, then the positive case rate would fall in tandem. The World Health Organization says that states should have a positive case rate at or below 5% for two weeks before they loosen restrictions on movement. Even with testing success stories, it's clear that the southern and western US are seeing a particularly sharp spike in infections and their rate. As of 30 June, Texas, Florida, Arizona or California all fall under that category - and all fail to meet the bar. After nearly three months of new cases hovering between 1,000 and 2,000 each day - Texas' infection count has spiked in the last two weeks, with up to 6,000 new illnesses reported in a single day. The sharp rise in cases has been mirrored by record highs in hospital admissions - reaching at 5,913 on Monday - and stoking fears that the state's hospitals will soon be overwhelmed. If this trajectory persists, Houston, the state's most populous city, "would become the worst affected city in the US", possibly rivalling what's happening now in Brazil, wrote Peter Hotez, director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital, on Twitter. "I cannot really see how things get better on their own." Why the rise? Many point to the south-western state's leading role peeling back lockdown measures.

6-30-20 Fauci warns US could face 100,000 daily coronavirus cases
At a senate hearing, the country's top expert on infectious diseases said he was "very concerned" by the surge in cases across the US. Dr Anthony Fauci explained that the current "40 plus thousand cases" ultimately put the "entire country at risk". He added, when answering Senator Elizabeth Warren's question about how many new deaths and cases the US might expect, that he "would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day". Over the weekend the United States passed over 2.5 million Covid-19 cases in total, according to Johns Hopkins University. Last week, Texas, Florida, Georgia and Arizona all experienced record highs of new cases.

6-30-20 Lockdown measures return as covid-19 cases spike in several countries
MORE than half a million people are now confirmed to have died from the coronavirus, as local outbreaks around the world trigger fears of a second wave of covid-19. Globally, a record 189,077 cases were reported on 27 June, and cases are rising in Africa, Asia and North and South America. Some of the surge is due to greater testing, and the rate of deaths is yet to see an equivalent increase. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) believes the growth in daily cases is down to a genuine acceleration in the spread of the virus. “Intense transmission is going on in many communities in many parts of the world,” a spokesperson says. There are also flare-ups in countries that successfully lowered infection rates but have since relaxed restrictions. Azra Ghani at Imperial College London notes that in many countries that rapidly introduced lockdowns, such as South Korea, only around 5 per cent of people have had the virus. “Which means as soon as you start to open up and connections start to come back between countries, it’s very likely to take off again,” she says. The South Korean government declared the start of a “second wave” of infections last week, due to small clusters of cases after an easing of restrictions in May. A jump in cases in the Australian state of Victoria has led to the reintroduction of lockdown in some areas of Melbourne. China has reimposed a lockdown on 400,000 people in Anxin county near Beijing after 18 new cases. “We are likely to see, in every place, a relaxation and then maybe a ramping up of interventions again to control it. I expect we will see continual waves,” says Ghani. The US, which has the world’s highest number of confirmed cases and deaths, has had an uptick in both in places that previously seemed to have the virus under control. Two months ago, almost all 50 states had an estimated reproduction number (R) of under 1, indicating that the epidemic was in decline. But according to one analysis, 33 now have an estimated R of 1 or above, meaning the virus will spread exponentially.

6-30-20 Covid-19 news: UK deaths fall below five-year average
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the worst of the covid-19 pandemic “is yet to come” because of “the lack of national unity and lack of global solidarity.” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists yesterday that despite many countries making progress, the pandemic is still accelerating globally as more than 10.4 million coronavirus cases and 509,000 deaths have been confirmed worldwide. “Some countries are now experiencing a resurgence in cases as they start to reopen their economies and societies,” he said. He urged governments to “test, trace, isolate and quarantine,” and warned that the virus would infect many more people if countries did not start implementing the right policies. A combination of antiviral drugs commonly used to treat HIV does not reduce the death rate among patients hospitalised with covid-19, a randomised trial has found. The trial compared 1596 patients given the combination of lopinavir and ritonavir to 3376 patients who did not receive the drugs and received usual care. After 28 days, there was no significant difference in death rates, length of hospital stay or the need for ventilation between the two groups. However, the study did not include large numbers of people on ventilators because of the difficulty administering the drugs to them. This study was part of the larger RECOVERY trial initiative, which has been testing the effectiveness of six potential covid-19 treatments and recently found that the steroid dexamethasone reduces death rates among severely ill covid-19 patients. The WHO is sending a team to China next week to investigate the origins of the covid-19 pandemic, it revealed yesterday. It isn’t yet clear who will be included in the WHO team or what the focus of their investigation will be. Evidence so far suggests the virus jumped from bats into humans, possibly through an intermediate animal. Australia is reimposing coronavirus restrictions in 10 postcodes across the city of Melbourne after new clusters of cases were detected in the last few days. Starting on Thursday, people living in these areas will only be allowed to leave home for essential reasons. Gyms, swimming pools and cinemas will also be closed.

6-30-20 Scotland could eliminate the coronavirus – if it weren't for England
Scotland may be only weeks away from no new daily cases of coronavirus. As the nation gets close, cases from over the border will become a big problem. SCOTLAND is only weeks away from suppressing the coronavirus altogether, a situation that highlights the different approaches taken by the nation and England in recent months. While Scotland initially made many of the same mistakes as England, since late March, its government has acted on its own scientific advice. The two nations responded to the coronavirus similarly from January and up until March, says Devi Sridhar at the University of Edinburgh. “There are a couple of things where Scotland’s gone slightly earlier, but not radically.” One early Scottish success came in community testing for the disease. When Kate Mark at the National Health Service Lothian in Edinburgh realised that suspected cases were increasing, her team began testing people in their homes and set up one of the world’s first drive-through testing centres. But on 12 March, the UK government abandoned all community testing efforts to focus on testing in hospitals and other healthcare settings, due to a lack of resources. From then on, the disease spread fast until, on 23 March, prime minister Boris Johnson announced a lockdown across the UK. This wasn’t soon enough to prevent waves of deaths in care homes in Scotland and England. In both nations, protecting social care had been deprioritised in favour of healthcare. When Scotland began collecting data on covid-19 in care homes on 11 April, 37 per cent of homes were already infected, according to a report co-authored by David Henderson at Edinburgh Napier University. “In certain weeks, there was a 300 per cent increase in care home deaths in England, and 200 per cent in Scotland,” he says. “We could say we were slightly better, but I wouldn’t say a 200 per cent increase in deaths is something to shout about.” Then the paths taken by Scotland and England began to diverge. Two days after the national lockdown began, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon created a scientific advisory group for Scotland to supplement the advice from the UK-wide Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies. “That’s probably when you started seeing more divergence,” says Sridhar.

6-30-20 Coronavirus-hit Arizona reverses course on reopening
Arizona has abruptly reversed course on reopening its economy as coronavirus cases spike there and across the US. The state's governor has ordered the closure of bars, nightclubs, gyms, cinemas and water parks. Florida and Texas have also performed U-turns on relaxing restrictions as the whole US Sun Belt region becomes a new virus epicentre. At least 16 US states have paused or rolled back reopenings as their infection caseloads balloon. Some jurisdictions are shutting down for the looming Independence Day weekend amid fears that packed beaches and bars could fuel new outbreaks. Governor Doug Ducey's directive - which will apply until at least 27 July - also prohibits gatherings of more than 50 people in Arizona. The order came a day after the state set a single-day record for new coronavirus cases at 3,858. "Our expectation is that our numbers next week will be worse," Governor Ducey, a Republican, told a press briefing. "We're not going back to normal any time soon." Arizona's stay-at-home orders were lifted in mid-May in line with criteria set by the White House, allowing businesses to reopen. The Republican governors of Texas and Florida slammed the brakes on reopening last Friday when they shut bars and imposed other restrictions as their virus caseloads surged to record levels. On Monday, Kansas and Oregon joined a growing number of US states that are requiring everyone to wear masks in public. New Jersey on Monday announced it would postpone the restart of indoor dining because people had been flouting social distancing guidelines and not wearing masks. The city of Jacksonville, Florida, where the mask-shunning President Donald Trump plans to accept the Republican nomination in August, on Monday announced face coverings must be worn indoors. Los Angeles County - the most populous county in California, which has seen a significant spike in virus cases recently - banned all fireworks displays for the 4 July weekend and said it would close down beaches. Meanwhile New York, formerly the US epicentre of the virus, announced its lowest number of hospital admissions and deaths since the pandemic began. "You remember at one time we had 800 deaths per day," said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. "Today we have eight."

6-30-20 Coronavirus: US officials warn 'this is just the beginning'
Health officials across the US have expressed growing concern about the nation's ability and willingness to slow or end the coronavirus pandemic. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expert said on Monday the US has "way too much virus" to control. It comes as top US disease expert Anthony Fauci, who is due to testify to Congress, says an "alarmingly large" number of Americans are "anti-science". Many US states have paused reopenings as their infection caseloads balloon. On Tuesday, cases rose by more than 40,000 in one day for the fourth time in the past five days. The surge - which is occurring particularly strongly in southern and western states - has forced at least 16 states to pause or reverse their reopening plans, according to CNN. For some the new measures come over a month after they first began to reopen their economies. Dr Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), warned that the US is not responding like other countries who have shown success in containing the coronavirus, and has allowed the virus to spread much more widely and rapidly. "We're not in the situation of New Zealand or Singapore or Korea where a new case is rapidly identified and all the contacts are traced and people are isolated who are sick and people who are exposed are quarantined and they can keep things under control," Dr Schuchat said in an interview with The Journal of the American Medical Association on Monday. "We have way too much virus across the country for that right now, so it's very discouraging." New Zealand declared the country infection-free on 8 June, and since then has had to contain several cases that came from international travellers. South Korea has aggressively employed contact tracers, and since 1 April has recorded fewer than 100 cases per day. Singapore's outbreak peaked in mid-April when 1,400 new cases were reported in one day. The US has recorded 2,682,897 confirmed cases of coronavirus as of Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University, and has a total of 129,544 deaths. "This is really the beginning," Dr Schuchat added.

6-30-20 Nobody knows how bad this coronavirus surge is
To make good policy, we need to know what's actually happening. ore than six months after the first case of the novel coronavirus was diagnosed in the U.S., and more than three months after we shut down large chunks of America's economy to stop the spread of the disease, cases are surging once again around the country. Areas that were largely spared the worst back in the spring — primarily states in the South, Southwest, and West Coast — are seeing cases surge to record levels. In the case of Florida, daily confirmed case counts nearly match New York's at the height of the crisis in early April. And yet, while the rest of the developed world (and big chunks of the commentariat) stares in slack-jawed horror at American stupidity, most Americans aren't radically changing their behavior. One reason: Daily death counts have barely budged, which has led some observers — and key policymakers like Vice President Mike Pence — to cast doubt on the seriousness of the situation, or even to question whether the rise in cases is real. But the surge is real, not an artifact of increased testing. We know this because the test positivity rate — the percentage of tests coming back positive — has surged along with an increase in cases. If the rate were falling even as cases rose, as was the case in New York over the course of the spring, that would be a sign that the rise in cases was largely or entirely an artifact of increased testing — casting a wider net was catching more cases even as the spread slowed. Since the opposite is true, we should reach the opposite conclusion: The rise in cases is not only real, but could well be an underestimate, with actual infections rising more rapidly than the testing infrastructure can track. So why aren't death counts rising? Possibly it's just a matter of time. People don't die the moment they are infected, and over the next few weeks death counts may begin to rise (as they have already begun to do in Arizona). But there's an arguably more benign possibility, which some have seized on: that it's a consequence of changing demographics of the epidemic. Close to half the Americans who died from COVID-19 contracted the virus in nursing homes, mostly in the spring. The age profile of the recent surge looks quite different. The median age of those recently infected in Florida has dropped to 36. In California, a majority of those testing positive for the virus were under 50, while a majority of those who died were over 75. Maybe we're doing a better job of protecting the most vulnerable, even if we're doing a poor job of stopping the virus from spreading more generally. But that word — "maybe" — is the problem. To make good policy, we need to know what's actually happening. Infections are rising rapidly — but are they really hitting new record highs? Or are we still only partway up a slope that is gong to go much higher in relatively short order? Have the demographics of the epidemic changed dramatically? Or are we just seeing the full demographic picture more clearly than we were in the spring? To know the answers, we'd need to know what actually happened in the worst-hit areas of the country back in the spring, and also have a fine-grained picture of what's happening now.

6-30-20 Coronavirus: EU to allow in visitors from 14 'safe' countries
The EU has named 14 countries whose citizens are deemed "safe" to be let in from 1 July, despite the pandemic - but the US, Brazil and China are excluded. Those named include Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco and South Korea. The EU is ready to add China if the Chinese government offers a reciprocal deal for EU travellers, diplomats say. Many border controls have been lifted for EU citizens travelling inside the bloc. Rules for UK travellers are part of the current Brexit negotiations. But UK nationals are still to be treated in the same way as EU citizens until the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December, the EU Commission says. So during this period UK nationals and their family members are exempt from the EU's temporary travel restriction. On the current "safe" list, still likely to be amended, are Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay. EU nations in the 26-member Schengen zone normally allow passport-free border crossings for EU citizens, but national authorities have reimposed restrictions in this crisis. The UK is currently negotiating temporary "air bridges" with several EU member states, so that coronavirus does not totally block summer holidays - the busiest season in Europe for tourism, which employs millions of people. The EU procedure to formalise the list, and criteria by which countries are judged safe or not, are to be finalised by midday on Tuesday. A qualified majority of EU countries - at least 55% of the EU countries, representing 65% of the EU population - have signed off on list. There were splits between those such as Spain - wanting the boost of tourism, but preferring to play safe because they have been hit so hard by Covid-19 - and others like Greece and Portugal, which depend on tourism but are less scarred by the virus.

6-30-20 Couple stands in front yard to point guns at protesters
A row over race and policing in the US state of Missouri ended up with a confrontation between protesters and armed homeowners - and President Donald Trump retweeting and deleting a viral video. On Sunday, 28 June, hundreds of protesters marched to the home of St Louis Mayor Lyda Kewson to call for her resignation. She lives on a private street and residents say protesters forced open an iron gate. St Louis police say the owners of another house, lawyers Mark and Patricia McCloskey, heard a commotion and called for help. They told officers they had armed themselves because they felt threatened. Local media report that Mr McCloskey repeatedly shouted "Private property. Get out." After a series of verbal clashes, the protesters moved on to demonstrate outside the mayor's home a block away.

6-30-20 Young skater goes viral performing at Black Lives Matter Plaza
A video of Kaitlyn Saunders skating on the square opposite the White House has amassed over 350,000 views. The nine-year-old decided she wanted to contribute after hearing about the protests. Kaitlyn's mother Katrice said she was "in awe" of her daughter skating there. In early June, the mayor of Washington DC named the square outside the White House Black Lives Matter Plaza in a rebuke to President Trump after he had ordered authorities to forcibly remove peaceful protesters so he could cross the street to take a photo in front of a church. Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, also unveiled a two-block long mural painted onto the street leading up to the White House declaring "Black Lives Matter".

6-29-20 Coronavirus: Worst could be yet to come, WHO warns
The worst could be still to come in the Covid-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned, six months on from when the outbreak began. WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the virus would infect many more people if governments did not start to implement the right policies. His message remained "Test, Trace, Isolate and Quarantine", he said. More than 10m cases have been recorded worldwide since coronavirus emerged in China late last year. The number of patients who died is now above 500,000. Half the world's cases have been in the US and Europe but Covid-19 is rapidly growing in the Americas. The virus is also affecting South Asia and Africa, where it is not expected to peak until the end of July. "With 10 million cases now and half a million deaths, unless we address the problems we've already identified at WHO, the lack of national unity and lack of global solidarity and the divided world which is actually helping the virus to spread... the worst is yet to come," he said. "I'm sorry to say that, but with this kind of environment and conditions we fear the worst." He also urged more governments to follow the examples of Germany, South Korea and Japan, which kept their outbreak in check through policies that included rigorous testing and tracing. The US has reported more than 2.5 million cases and about 126,000 deaths with Covid-19 so far - more than any other nation. US states that emerged from lockdown in recent weeks - notably in the south - have been reporting sharp increases in new infections in recent weeks. The spike has led officials in Texas, Florida and other states to tighten restrictions on business again. The country with the second-highest number of recorded cases is Brazil, with a total of 1.3 million, and deaths in excess of 57,000. On Monday a state of emergency was declared in the capital Brasilia, following a surge there. Like most Brazilian governors and mayors, the local authorities in Brasilia eased social distancing restrictions earlier this month and allowed shops to reopen.

6-29-20 Covid-19 news: Leicester faces prolonged lockdown after local outbreak
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. The spread of coronavirus in Texas has taken a “swift and very dangerous turn,” the state’s governor Greg Abbott told journalists on Sunday. The statement came as restrictions are being reintroduced across the US amid a rise in cases, and concerns that hospitals could become overwhelmed. Bars in Texas closed again last week and restaurants’ indoor seating capacity was again limited to 50 per cent. Since early June, all businesses had been allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity, and restaurants at 75 per cent. In Florida, bars have been ordered to stop serving alcohol and in the state of California, bars in Los Angeles and six other counties were closed again yesterday. The number of new weekly coronavirus cases are rising in 36 US states, including Texas, Florida and California. Only two US states – Connecticut and Rhode Island – reported a decline in coronavirus cases last week compared to the previous week. A coronavirus vaccine candidate jointly developed by China’s military research unit and Chinese company CanSino Biologics has been approved for military use, the company said in a filing to the stock exchange today. On 25 June, China’s Central Military Commission approved the use of the vaccine candidate by the military for a period of one year. The vaccine candidate, called Ad5-nCov, isn’t approved for commercial use. More than 100 coronavirus vaccines are currently in development. 400,000 people are under a strict new lockdown in China’s Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing. More than 300 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Beijing since a new outbreak emerged there in mid June. A new scientific journal aims to rapidly flag misinformation and highlight credible research about covid-19. Rapid Reviews: Covid-19, published by MIT Press, will provide reviews of covid-19 pre-prints – online repositories of preliminary findings that haven’t yet been independently peer reviewed.

6-29-20 Beyoncé's BET speech: 'Vote like our life depends on it'
Beyoncé urged black communities to vote in the upcoming US elections, as she accepted an honour for her humanitarian work at the BET Awards. Dedicating her award to protesters around the country, the star said: "You're proving to our ancestors that their struggles were not in vain." "I'm encouraging you to continue to take action, continue to change and dismantle a racist and unequal system. "We have to vote like our life depends on it, because it does." Beyoncé was presented with her award by Michelle Obama, who praised the star's commitment to the black community. "You can see it in everything she does, from her music that gives voice to black joy and black pain, to her activism that demands justice for black lives. "And she's doing it all while staying devoted to her children and the loved ones she holds dear," she continued. "To my girl, I just want to say - you inspire me. You inspire all of us." The BET Awards celebrate black artists and sports personalities. Previous recipients of the ceremony's humanitarian award include boxer Muhammad Ali, music producer Quincy Jones and civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton. The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, as well as the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, were reflected throughout this year's ceremony. DaBaby, who won best male hip-hop artist, re-enacted the last moments of Mr Floyd's life, rapping his hit Rockstar with his face pressed against the ground as a police officer knelt on his neck. The performance also featured images from protests, as dancers held signs that said "Black Lives Matter" and "Defund The Police", as the rapper and Roddy Ricch danced on top of police cars. Twelve-year-old Keedron Bryant, who went viral on social media with a song about his fears of being a young African-American, opened the show with an a cappella performance of the poignant track, I Wanna Live. That was followed by an all-star performance of Public Enemy's 1989 anthem Fight the Power, featuring Nas, YG, The Roots' Black Thought, and Rapsody.

6-29-20 Coronavirus: Swift and dangerous turn in Texas cases, says governor
The spread of coronavirus infections has taken a "swift and very dangerous turn" in the US state of Texas, Governor Greg Abbott has warned. "Over just the past few weeks, the daily number of cases have gone from an average of about 2,000, to more than 5,000," Mr Abbott said on Sunday. Several southern and western states have recorded a surge in cases after lockdown restrictions were eased. The number of reported infections in the US has now surpassed 2.5 million. Over 125,000 Covid-19-related deaths have been confirmed nationwide - more than in any other country. The virus has now been linked to more than 500,000 deaths worldwide, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University in the US. The spike has led officials in Texas, Florida and other states to tighten restrictions on business again, with warnings that hospitals may soon be overwhelmed. On Sunday, Mr Abbott said that as many as 5,000 people a day were being diagnosed with the virus. US Vice-President Mike Pence said that Texas would be issued additional Covid-19 testing kits for as long was necessary. "We are going to make sure that Texas, and your healthcare system in Texas, have the resources, have the supplies, have the personnel to meet this moment," Mr Pence said. The vice-president also urged Texans to wear masks "wherever it's indicated", saying "we know from experience, it will slow the spread of the coronavirus". Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was speaking at a joint news conference with Governor Abbott on Sunday, said that a nationwide mandate to wear face coverings was "definitely long overdue". "We have the worst record of any country in the world," she added. In the Texas state capital of Austin, a requirement to wear face coverings in some circumstances in order to help mitigate the spread of the virus led to demonstrations on the city's streets by people objecting to the measure. On Sunday, Arizona also recorded a record daily increase of more than 3,800 cases. Hundreds of people reportedly travelled to rivers in the state to escape the hot weather. The reported increases in infections in southern and western states come after moves in recent weeks to reopen businesses, resulting in people from other areas pouring in.

6-29-20 Private health insurance is in crisis
Trump wants to take away people's coverage. The pandemic is beating him to the punch. President Trump is entering the full swing of campaign season by asking the Supreme Court to snatch health insurance from tens of millions of people. The Justice Department filed a brief on Thursday arguing the court should strike down the entire Affordable Care Act. This would cause something like 25 million people to lose their coverage, and radically disrupt the employer-based insurance system, which has been overhauled in response to ACA regulations. That decision will reportedly not come until after the 2020 election. But it might not even be the biggest threat to American health care. The coronavirus pandemic is already inflicting spectacular damage to that employer-based system where about half of Americans get their coverage — or at least they did before the crisis hit. Even before the crisis this system was becoming steadily more expensive and rickety with each passing year. If America had any sense, the pandemic would be the death knell of the private insurance industry. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that as of May 2, about 27 million people were likely to become uninsured as a result of losing their employer-based coverage. That number has surely only increased over the following two months — since March, weekly unemployment claims have fallen from nearly 7 million per week to about 1.5 million, but even that is still about four times any pre-pandemic week. And now that the virus is surging and halting or rolling back state re-opening plans, those numbers are likely to increase once again. I would guess that by the end of the year, at least 50 million people will have lost their employer-provided insurance (or nearly a third of the total). A bit less than half of those may end up on Medicaid, and about a third on the ObamaCare exchanges. Meanwhile, insurers are certain to be hit with a huge number of COVID-19 claims. For a while it appeared as though the decline in elective surgery (as people are trying to avoid hospitals if they can help it) would counterbalance the flood of COVID-19 patients, but with the second wave — hospitals are already full to bursting in Houston and Phoenix, and worse is coming — that seems much less likely. So we have a huge decline in the number of people paying insurance premiums, and a likely large increase in expensive, prolonged intensive care treatments. Analysts have estimated that next year private premiums will increase by between 4 and 40 percent, and again, given the second wave, the actual figure will probably be on the high end of that range. Insurance company executives have already promised to soak their premium payers if they end up facing higher costs.

6-28-20 The Election Day nightmare scenarios
If the presidential election is close, chaos is likely to result. There might not even be a declared winner. If the presidential election is close, chaos is likely to result. There might not even be a declared winner. (Webmaster's comment: Trump will loose but will call for racists, white nationalists, Klan and Neo-Nazis to bring their guns to Washington and keep him in the Presidency as the new ruler of America!) Here's everything you need to know:

  1. What could go wrong? The coronavirus pandemic could wreak havoc at the polls, especially if November finds us in the midst of a second wave, as many infectious-disease experts predict. The potential for disaster was made evident in recent primaries: Shortages of workers, caused by fear of the coronavirus, led to shuttered and understaffed polling places, creating logjams that left voters waiting for hours in long lines to cast a ballot
  2. What about mail-in ballots? They should help ease the crush at polling places — but counting them will create new problems. It takes a long time to tally them under the best of circumstances, and many municipalities may not be prepared to deal with an unprecedented avalanche of mailed-in ballots.
  3. What might Trump do? It's highly likely that if Trump faced a potential loss he'd claim the vote was illegitimate. He has a long history of alleging voter fraud and election theft without evidence — groundlessly claiming, for example, that he'd have won the popular vote in 2016 "if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally."
  4. How could that happen? The Constitution left some ambiguities and holes in the mechanics of the Electoral College. Lawrence Douglas, a law professor at Amherst College, explains how this could lead to an electoral nightmare in a new book, Will He Go? Trump and the Looming Election Meltdown in 2020.
  5. What happens then? Few expect he would succeed. At noon on Jan. 20, 2021, the Secret Service and the military are constitutionally mandated to shift their allegiance to the declared winner (assuming there is one).
  6. If the Electoral College vote is tied: There's another scenario that could throw the 2020 election (or any election) into high drama: a 269-269 Electoral College tie. In that unlikely but not impossible eventuality, the race is decided in the House — not the current version, but the one newly installed by the election.

6-28-20 Trump retweets video of supporter shouting 'white power'
US President Donald Trump has retweeted a video showing one of his supporters loudly shouting "white power". (Webmaster's comment: Trump is a blatant Racist!) The supporter was among a group of senior citizens taking part in a pro-Trump rally at a retirement complex in Florida. The footage showed the Trump supporters and anti-Trump demonstrators hurling abuse and swearing at one another. President Trump has repeatedly been accused of inflaming racial tensions - accusations he denies. In his tweet, the president thanked "the great people of The Villages" - referring to the retirement community north-west of Orlando where the rally took place. "The Radical Left Do Nothing Democrats will Fall in the Fall. Corrupt Joe is shot. See you soon!!!," he wrote. The video included in the tweet showed a Trump supporter in a golf cart raising a clenched fist and shouting "white power". He appeared to be responding to a protester calling him a racist and using profanities. Other anti-Trump protesters shouted "Nazi" and other accusations at the rally-goers. Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the US Senate, said in an interview with CNN on Sunday that the video was "offensive" and should be taken down. "There's no question that he should not have retweeted it and he should just take it down," Mr Scott told the network. The US Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, was also asked about the tweet in an appearance on CNN. "I've not seen that video or that tweet, but obviously neither the president, his administration nor I would do anything to be supportive of white supremacy or anything that would support discrimination of any kind," Mr Azar said. It was not clear if the president was aware that the supporter in the video was shouting a white supremacist slogan. President Trump has previously faced accusations of sharing or promoting racist content. In 2017 he retweeted three inflammatory videos from a British far-right group, prompting a rebuke from then UK Prime Minister Theresa May. He was widely criticised in 2019 when he said in a tweet that four US congresswomen - Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar - should "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came". Three of the four congresswomen were born in the US and all four are US citizens.

6-28-20 Number of virus infections tops 10m worldwide
Coronavirus pandemic: latest updates. The number of infections globally has passed 10m and nearly 500,000 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. In the UK, the city of Leicester could be placed under a local lockdown after infections surge. The US states of Florida and Texas have reinstated curbs on bars to battle a surge in infections. China has imposed a strict lockdown near Beijing to curb a fresh outbreak, affecting nearly 500,000 people. Iran - the worst hit country in the Middle East - will make the wearing of masks mandatory from next Sunday. The US has recorded around 2.5 million cases and at least 125,000 deaths. Delhi is now India's worst-hit area, with about 73,000 recorded cases and at least 2,500 deaths.

6-28-20 Coronavirus: Florida and Texas reverse reopening as US cases pass 2.5m
Coronavirus infections across the United States have passed 2.5 million, with record numbers of cases reported in the states of Florida and Texas. The surge in cases in southern states comes after businesses were allowed to re-open in recent weeks. On Saturday, Florida reported more than 9,500 new cases, up from almost 9,000 on Friday, the previous record. The spike has led state officials to tighten restrictions on business again - as Texas also did on Friday. The leading US government adviser on coronavirus, Dr Anthony Fauci, said last week that the country had a "serious problem". More than 125,000 Covid-19 patients have died nationwide - more than in any other country. Speaking at the first White House coronavirus task force briefing in two months, Dr Fauci said on Friday that the current rises were due to regions "maybe opening a little bit too early" (Webmaster's comment: What a wishy-washy statement!) and to people themselves not following guidance. "People are infecting other people, and then ultimately you will infect someone who's vulnerable," he said. Vice-President Mike Pence - who heads the coronavirus task force - has called off campaigning events in Florida and Arizona this week. An unnamed campaign official told Reuters news agency that Mr Pence was acting out of an "abundance of caution". The events were due to drum up support for President Donald Trump's re-election bid. Meanwhile there was renewed controversy about a rally held by the president in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Washington Post reported that Trump campaign staff ordered the removal of thousands of social distancing stickers from arena seats ahead of the June 20 event. The newspaper posted a video appearing to show campaign workers removing "Do Not Sit Here, Please" labels intended to keep people apart. At the time, Mr Trump was criticised for holding an indoor rally during a surge in cases.

6-28-20 Mississippi moves to strip Confederate emblem from state flag
Politicians in the US state of Mississippi have taken a major step towards removing the Confederate emblem from the state flag. On Saturday, both chambers of the Republican-led state congress voted to begin the process of changing the flag. Mississippi is the last state in the US to feature the emblem on its flag. The Confederate emblem is viewed by many as a racist symbol, with recent protests over the death of George Floyd reigniting debate over its use. The flag was originally used by the slave-owning states who lost the US Civil War (1861-65). The vote passed in both chambers of the Mississippi legislature: in the House of Representatives by a margin of 84-35, and then in the Senate by 36-14. It means a bill to change the state flag can now be formally introduced. It is expected to be proposed on Sunday when the state congress is back in session, US media report. A two-thirds majority was needed to begin the process. This was viewed as the biggest test because only a simple majority is needed to pass the final bill. And in a major boost to the movement for change, Republican Governor Tate Reeves said that he would sign a bill to do so if it was approved in congress. He had previously said that he would not veto a bill, but did not publicly back it. "The argument over the 1894 flag has become as divisive as the flag itself and it's time to end it," he wrote on Twitter. He added: "We should not be under any illusion that a vote in the Capitol is the end of what must be done - the job before us is to bring the state together." "I would never have thought that I would see the flag come down in my lifetime," Democrat Barbara Blackmon, who is African-American, said on Saturday. If the bill passes, a commission will design a new flag, to be be voted on in November.

6-28-20 Princeton to remove Woodrow Wilson's name from policy school
Princeton University says it is to remove the name of former US President Woodrow Wilson from a building on its campus because of his racist beliefs and policies. The move follows a wave of protests across the US sparked by the death of African-American man George Floyd. Wilson was US president from 1913 to 1921 and helped to establish the League of Nations, a forerunner of the UN. However, he supported segregation and imposed it on several federal agencies. He also barred black students from Princeton while serving as university president and spoke approvingly of the Ku Klux Klan. In a separate development on Saturday, the lower house of the Mississippi state congress passed a resolution that could remove the Confederate emblem - now viewed by many as a racist symbol - from the state flag. Mississippi's Republican Governor Tate Reeves tweeted that he would sign a bill to change the current flag if the legislation was approved, saying arguments over the 1894 emblem had become as divisive as the flag itself. The measure now moves to a Senate committee before going to the chamber. Outlining the university's decision on Saturday to remove Wilson's name, Princeton president Christopher Eisgruber said in a statement that "Wilson's racism was significant and consequential even by the standards of his own time". He said that the board of trustees had concluded that "Wilson's racist views and policies make him an inappropriate namesake" for the university's public policy school. A residential college will also lose Wilson's name. The name of the school will be changed to the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. Mr Eisgruber said Princeton had honoured President Wilson "not because of, but without regard to or perhaps even in ignorance of, his racism". "That, however, is ultimately the problem," he added. "Princeton is part of an America that has too often disregarded, ignored, or excused racism, allowing the persistence of systems that discriminate against black people."

6-27-20 US reels from record spike in Covid-19 cases
Some states dealy plans to reopen after more than 40,000 new cases were recorded on Friday. Health experts in the US call for urgent action after a record number of new cases were recorded on Friday. Top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci says there is "a serious problem" - but Vice-President Mike Pence hails "progress". The US has more than 2.4 million confirmed infections and at least 125,000 people have died - more than any other country. Meanwhile, the number of reported cases in India has surged to more than 500,000. Restrictions on some non-essential overseas travel will be relaxed in the UK from 6 July. More than 9.8 million cases and 494,000 deaths worldwide - Johns Hopkins University.

6-27-20 Coronavirus: US has 'serious problem', says Fauci
US infectious disease chief Dr Anthony Fauci says the nation has a "serious problem" as 16 states reel from a spike in Covid-19 cases. At the first White House task force briefing in two months, Dr Fauci said: "The only way we're going to end it is by ending it together." As health experts said more must be done to slow the spread, Vice-President Mike Pence praised US "progress". More than 40,000 new cases were recorded across the US on Friday. The total of 40,173, given by Johns Hopkins University, was the highest daily total so far, exceeding the record set only the previous day. There are over 2.4 million confirmed infections and more than 125,000 deaths nationwide - more than any other country. During Friday's briefing, the White House task force also urged millennials to get tested, even if they are asymptomatic. Mr Pence said the president requested the task force address the American people amid surges in infections and hospital admissions across southern and western states. In Texas, Florida and Arizona, reopening plans have been paused due to the spike. While some of the increase in daily cases recorded can be attributed to expanded testing, the rate of positive tests in some areas is also increasing. Health officials in the US estimate the true number of cases is likely to be 10 times higher than the reported figure. Dr Deborah Birx, coronavirus response coordinator, thanked younger Americans for heeding official guidance on testing. "Whereas before we told them to stay home, now we are telling them to get tested." She noted this "great change" in testing guidance would allow officials to find "the asymptomatic and mild diseases that we couldn't find before". Following Dr Birx's presentation of the recent data, Dr Fauci said: "As you can see we are facing a serious problem in certain areas." He added: "So what goes on in one area of the country ultimately could have an affect on other areas." Dr Fauci said the current rises were due to everything from regions "maybe opening a little bit too early", to opening at a reasonable time "but not actually following steps in an orderly fashion", to the citizens themselves not following guidance. "People are infecting other people, and then ultimately you will infect someone who's vulnerable," he said.

6-27-20 Trump unmasked
The president's refusal to endorse mask-wearing is a scandal that will cost thousands of American lives. The alarming news of spiking coronavirus cases across the United States is only made worse when considering the very easy way by which the deadly virus can be thwarted. On Wednesday, the U.S. reported more than 36,000 new COVID-19 cases, the highest number since the pandemic began (until Thursday's 41,000). With more than 125,000 Americans dead, and projections for that number to reach 180,000 by the early fall, the United States is facing historic devastation, even as much of the rest of the world begins its recovery. That so much of this could have been prevented had Americans simply worn facemasks is a damning indictment of both our national response and the broken culture that shaped it. Even more, the fact that President Trump has never urged Americans to wear masks, but rather actively undermined that recommendation by his own refusal to do so, is the clearest proof of his inability to fulfill even the most basic obligations of the presidency — and a dire warning about the deadly consequences should he be president for four more years. From the start, Trump has failed to take the pandemic seriously, dismissing it initially as an insignificant illness that would go away on its own. When that didn't happen, Trump leaned into his crackpot tendencies, recklessly pushing hydroxychloroquine as a miracle cure for the virus. That didn't work either. Yet when public health officials began to insist that Americans socially distance and wear masks whenever out in public — an admittedly frustrating reversal from their original position that face coverings wouldn't stop infections from spreading — Trump ignored their recommendations. Nearly two months ago, experts concluded that if 80 percent of Americans wore masks, the rate of coronavirus infections would drop drastically. This week, a new study showed that should 95 percent of Americans wear masks, the projected 180,000 deaths by October 1 could be reduced to fewer than 150,000. But none of this has altered Trump's stance. Expertise rarely does. Even as he rushed the nation into reopening, Trump refused to promote the single best measure for safely doing so. Instead, on Twitter and in interviews, Trump said he wouldn't be wearing a mask, mocked Joe Biden for doing so, and wondered aloud if masks would do any good. Because Trump is incapable of understanding the virus — he has confused coronavirus with a bacterial infection and just this week revealed he didn't know what the “19” in COVID-19 meant — he would rather sow confusion and weaken scientific consensus, a strategy also meant to shift the blame from him. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal earlier this month, Trump repeatedly questioned the efficacy of masks, describing them as “a double-edged sword.” They are not. But even more than his words, Trump's failure to wear a mask sends a powerful signal to his followers that they don't need to do so either. Given how attached Trump's supporters are to his symbolic presence and how dismissive they are of traditional authorities, his continually unmasked face has been a decisive nail in a very deadly coffin. That much was clear at last week's rally in Tulsa and in the Students for Trump event in Phoenix on Tuesday, where attendees at both events congregated indoors overwhelmingly without masks. We don't yet have reports of attendees from either events testing positive for coronavirus, but there are grim warning signs of what they should expect in the escalating rates of infection across America's southern half where people have returned to normal life while not wearing masks. All of this might be very different had the president months ago taken to wearing a mask in public and presented it as a patriotic act to heal the nation and save the economy. Instead, Trump's lackeys at Fox News and in governor's mansions followed the president's lethal lead. Conservative pundits likened mask orders to totalitarianism and state executives, like Florida's Ron DeSantis and Texas' Greg Abbott, chose to kiss up to Trump rather than protect their own citizens.

6-27-20 Trump orders statues be protected from 'mob rule'
US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order calling for protesters who target monuments to be imprisoned. The measure says anyone who damages a public statue must be prosecuted to the "fullest extent of the law". Mr Trump's order also calls for withholding federal funds from local jurisdictions and police departments that fail to stop such "mob rule". A number of US statues have been pulled down since the police killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd. The president issued the order on Friday evening hours after he abruptly cancelled a planned trip to his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, writing on Twitter that he would stay in Washington DC to "make sure LAW & ORDER is enforced". The measure says: "Many of the rioters, arsonists, and left-wing extremists who have carried out and supported these acts have explicitly identified themselves with ideologies - such as Marxism - that call for the destruction of the United States system of government." It accuses the protesters of "a deep ignorance of our history". The order cites the recent targeting of a San Francisco bust to Ulysses S Grant, who owned a slave before he became Union Army commander and defeated the slave-owning Confederacy during the Civil War, a statue in Madison, Wisconsin, of an abolitionist immigrant who fought for the Union, and a Boston memorial commemorating an African-American regiment that fought in the same conflict. "Individuals and organizations have the right to peacefully advocate for either the removal or the construction of any monument," the executive order says. "But no individual or group has the right to damage, deface, or remove any monument by use of force." It cites existing laws providing for up to 10 years in prison for anyone who damages federal property. The order warns local jurisdictions that neglect to protect such monuments could face having their federal funding tied to public spaces withheld.

6-27-20 Coca-Cola suspends social media advertising despite Facebook changes
Coca-Cola will suspend advertising on social media globally for at least 30 days, as pressure builds on platforms to crack down on hate speech. "There is no place for racism in the world and there is no place for racism on social media," the drinks maker's chairman and CEO James Quincey said. He demanded "greater accountability and transparency" from social media firms. It came after Facebook said it would label potentially harmful or misleading posts left up for their news value. Founder Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook would also ban advertising containing claims "that people of a specific race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, caste, sexual orientation, gender identity or immigration status" are a threat to others. The organisers of the #StopHateforProfit campaign, which accuses Facebook of not doing enough to stop hate speech and disinformation, said the "small number of small changes" would not "make a dent in the problem". More than 90 companies have paused advertising in support of #StopHateforProfit. As a result of the boycott, shares in Facebook fell 8.3% on Friday, eliminating $56bn (£45bn) from the company's market value and knocking $7.2bn off Mr Zuckerberg's personal net worth, Bloomberg reported. As a result of the loss, Louis Vuitton boss Bernard Arnault replaced the Facebook founder as the world's third richest individual. Coca-Cola told CNBC its advertising suspension did not mean it was joining the campaign, despite being listed as a "participating business". Mr Quincey said the company would use the global "social media platform pause" to "reassess our advertising policies to determine whether revisions are needed". Clothes maker Levi Strauss & Co also said it would be pausing advertising on Facebook following Mr Zuckerberg's announcement. Unlike Coca-Cola, it accused the social media firm of not going far enough. "We are asking Facebook to commit to decisive change," CMO Jen Say said.

6-27-20 Jeyaraj and Fenix: Outrage mounts over deaths in Indian police custody
Outrage is mounting over the deaths in custody of a father and son in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. P Jeyaraj, 58, and his son Fenix, 38, were arrested for allegedly keeping their stores open past permitted hours - Tamil Nadu is still observing a lockdown to curb the spread of Covid. Both men were kept in police custody an entire night and died within hours of each other two days later. Relatives of the two men say the men were subjected to brutal torture. As details of the alleged torture emerged, people began demanding action. State opposition lawmakers have taken to the streets in protest, a traders body has condemned the actions of police, and a local court has taken up the issue for hearing. The policemen who arrested the two men have been transferred, and the state government has awarded compensation of one million rupees (£10,716; $13,222) to their families. The incident has also found its way to social media, which has in turn brought it into the national spotlight. Initially, many questioned why there is little to no outrage over the deaths of the two men, when so many Indians on social media have been vocal about the fate of George Floyd in the US, whose death at the hands of a white officer has triggered a huge movement against police brutality. Many Indian social media users have been supporting the protests against white police brutality against black Americans. However, this incident has been slower to pick up, partly because it took place in a smaller city - Thoothukudi, and it took some time to come to the attention of national media. But in recent days, the issue has begun gaining traction as furious discussion began on various social media platforms. In a video which has had more than a million views, one user said she was "sick of people not discussing what happens in south India because it is not in English" and then proceeded to give a graphic account of the alleged torture of the two men. There is also massive outrage that the policemen believed to be responsible for the men's deaths are not being charged with murder and have been merely transferred.

6-26-20 Coronavirus: Is the pandemic getting worse in the US?
The news in the US has been dominated by anti-racism protests in recent weeks, but coronavirus is now back in the headlines. Several states have seen a record number of cases this week, leading to fears that the country is experiencing a second wave of infections. But Vice-President Mike Pence said those fears were "overblown" and accused the media of using "grim predictions" to scare the American people. So what is going on in the US? With about 2.5 million coronavirus cases, the US has the highest number of confirmed infections in the world - about a quarter of the global total. The situation got really bad in late March but by May, cases were declining and most states had begun to ease restrictions put into place to halt the spread of the virus. The number of new cases rarely fell below 20,000 though, because as some states were bringing their outbreaks under control, others were only just beginning to see flare-ups. For this reason, the top US health official for infectious diseases, Anthony Fauci, sees the current situation as a continuation of the initial outbreaks. "People keep talking about a second wave," he told a reporter recently. "We're still in a first wave." Spikes in those new hotspots mean the number of daily cases has been higher twice this week than previous record back in late April, according to data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project. But it's important to note that the number of tests being carried out now is about double what it was in April and May so it's likely the true scale of that outbreak wasn't fully captured. The North East has been by far the worst-hit region, with about a quarter of all US cases and more than a third of all US deaths occurring in the states of New York and New Jersey. But in recent weeks, the region has brought its outbreaks under control. The South and West of the country, on the other hand, have seen a big rise in the number of infections. The Midwest is also starting to see an increase.

6-26-20 Coronavirus: US hits record high in daily cases
The United States recorded an all-time daily high of 40,000 coronavirus infections on Thursday, figures from Johns Hopkins University (JHU) show. A recent surge in infections and hospitalisations has prompted the states of Texas, Florida and Arizona to pause reopening plans. JHU's previous high of 36,400 was on 24 April when less testing took place. The US has 2.4 million confirmed infections and 122,370 deaths - more than any other country. While some of the increase in daily cases recorded is down to increased testing, the rate of positive tests in some areas is also increasing. Health officials in the US estimate the true number of cases is likely to be 10 times higher than the reported figure. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said up to 20 million Americans may have been infected with coronavirus. The estimate was based on blood samples collected from across the country which were tested for the presence of antibodies to the virus. The surge in cases was being driven by young people testing positive, especially in the south and west of the US, said the head of the CDC, Dr Robert Redfield. Texas, which has been at the forefront of moves to end lockdown measures, has seen thousands of new cases, prompting Republican Governor Greg Abbott to call a temporary halt to its reopening. "This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business," he said on Thursday. Florida's governor said there was no plan to continue reopening step-by-step. "We are where we are. I didn't say we were going to go on to the next phase," Ron DeSantis told reporters on Thursday. Arizona has emerged as another epicentre of the crisis. Disease trackers there say the state has "lost control of the epidemic", the Washington Post reports. Governor Doug Ducey, who had been giving businesses a "green light" to reopen, now says Arizona residents are "safer at home". The light is at "yellow", Gov Ducey said on Thursday. "I'm asking for Arizonans to proceed with caution, to go slower, to look both ways." Other states, including Alabama, California, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Wyoming, have all seen record daily increases in the number of confirmed cases this week.

6-26-20 The steep price of denial
When Europe reopens its borders to tourists on July 1, visitors from three backward, high-infection countries will reportedly not be welcome: Russia, Brazil, and the U.S. This is how far our country has fallen. We have by far the most coronavirus cases in the world, with 2.4 million confirmed infections and more than 120,000 deaths (a quarter of the global total), and may surpass 200,000 deaths by summer's end. Worst of all, a white flag of surrender has been raised in the White House and in many state capitols: If we can't beat this virus, let's pretend it's gone. So people began returning too soon to indoor restaurants, bars, and stores, without masks or distancing, and new hot spots of infection were ignited. Texas has record numbers of new cases and hospitalizations, and there are also alarming spikes in Florida, Arizona, South Carolina, and California. Many of the newly infected are people in their 20s and 30s, who are less likely to die. But they have parents, grandparents, teachers, and bosses. As Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told Politico: "Just because it starts with young people, doesn't mean it will stay with young people." Remember Italy in March — the overwhelmed hospitals, the older patients left to die in hallways, the empty towns and cities? Last Saturday, when the U.S. reported nearly 32,000 new COVID-19 cases, Italy reported 264. Spain, France, and most of the rest of Europe also have the virus largely contained. In the U.S., confused citizens are getting conflicting and politicized messages from Washington, state capitals, and health officials. Many people have just thrown up their hands, unsure what's safe and what's not. Meanwhile, the virus is gaining traction in the South and West, making a terrible second wave in the fall much more likely. "I would rather spend this summer in Rome with my family than in Phoenix," Jha said. But for Americans, Rome is not an option. We are now global pariahs.

6-26-20 Obamacare: Trump asks Supreme Court to invalidate Affordable Care Act
The Trump administration has asked the US Supreme Court to invalidate Obamacare, which has provided health insurance to millions of Americans. Government lawyers said the act became invalid when the previous Republican-led Congress axed parts of it. Democratic challenger Joe Biden attacked the move, saying Mr Trump had put millions of lives at risk during the coronavirus pandemic. Health care will be a key battleground in the November presidential election. Some 20 million Americans could lose their health coverage if the court overturns the Affordable Care Act, which was introduced by Donald Trump's Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama. Mr Trump says the scheme costs too much and has promised a different plan to replace it, preserving some popular elements of the existing law but covering fewer people. Under the act, millions of people in the United States must purchase health insurance or face a tax penalty. But in 2017, Congress removed a key plank of the policy, eliminating the federal fine for those who did not sign up, known as the "individual mandate". In its filing to the Supreme Court late on Thursday, the justice department argued "the individual mandate is not severable from the rest of the act". As a result, it said, "the mandate is now unconstitutional as a result of Congress's elimination... of the penalty for non-compliance". Mr Biden, who wants to rally the public behind an expanded Affordable Care Act, said some coronavirus survivors could lose their comprehensive healthcare coverage if the act was overturned. "They would live their lives caught in a vice between Donald Trump's twin legacies: his failure to protect the American people from the coronavirus, and his heartless crusade to take healthcare protections away from American families," Mr Biden said. The US has been badly hit by the pandemic, recording 2.4m confirmed coronavirus infections and 122,370 deaths - more than any other country. But the true number of infections is likely to be 10 times higher than the reported figure, according to the latest estimate by health officials.

6-26-20 US House passes 'George Floyd' police reform bill
The US House of Representatives has passed a sweeping police reform bill that currently has little prospect of becoming law amid partisan gridlock. The Democratic-controlled chamber voted 236-181 for the measure mainly along party lines on Thursday night. The legislation is named after George Floyd, the unarmed black man whose death in police custody last month ignited worldwide protests. But US President Donald Trump has threatened to veto the measure. And his fellow Republicans in the Senate are proposing their own, less far-reaching bill. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act was passed exactly a month after the Minneapolis, Minnesota, man's death - at warp speed for a usually deliberative and ponderous legislative body. The Democratic bill would hold police officers personally liable for damages in lawsuits, ban no-knock warrants often used by police in drug raids, and halt the flow of military surplus equipment to police departments. Three Republicans crossed party lines to vote in favour. But Senate Republicans have refused to take up the House version, arguing it is an overreach that would undermine law enforcement. Both the Republican and Democratic proposals would curtail police chokeholds, introduce new training procedures, seek to expand the use of body cameras and create a national registry for officers accused of misconduct. However, Democrats say the Republican bill will not protect black Americans, arguing that it relies on data collection and financial incentives for state and local police departments to adopt reforms on their own. On Wednesday, Senate Democrats denied Republicans the votes needed to open floor debate on their legislation. President Trump said: "If nothing happens with it, it's one of those things. We have different philosophies." Neither bill would defund the police, and divert that spending to other community services, as called for by Black Lives Matter activists. (Webmaster's comment: It's essential the we purge the police forces of all the racists, white nationists, Klan and Neo-Nazis in their ranks!)

6-26-20 George Floyd death: What US police officers think of protests
When massive protests against police brutality broke out across the US in May 2020, Charles Billups was not at all surprised. A black policeman in New York for decades before his retirement, the former officer, 60, tells the BBC: "It's the chickens coming home to roost". "This is something that's been mustering for a while," says Mr Billups. Not for the first time has anger against law enforcement in America spilt out into demands for change - national attempts to reform the country's patchwork of nearly 18,000 police departments have periodically cropped up since the early 20th Century. But outrage over a spate of deaths of black Americans at the hands of police, especially the death of George Floyd, a former club bouncer asphyxiated during an arrest, has spurred a clear bout of soul searching within police departments themselves. Officers are divided over if and how reforms should come about. For Mr Billups, now chairman of the Grand Council of Guardians, an organisation for African-American law enforcement officers in New York state, the problems lie at the top. A policy of tough policing put forward in the 1980s, the so-called 'broken windows' theory, has long been destructive for relations between minorities and law enforcement, Mr Billups says. Only recently have authorities begun to step away from more draconian policing principles, but Mr Billups thinks that a belief in the efficacy of tough tactics persists among the mostly white, and long-entrenched, leadership of many police departments. "The head is the thinker. The body's going to conform to the head. If the head is not healthy, the body's not going to gain weight," he says. "You gotta change the top," says Mr Billups. "It's a large number of [people who believe in] old-school policing that's still running a lot of these agencies, and the old-school way of thinking just doesn't work no more." Black officers have always known and felt differently, says Terence Hopkins of the Dallas police department. "We happen to be African-American people before we were law enforcement," he says, "so that gives us a different view as opposed to our white counterparts." (Webmaster's comment: It's essential the we purge the police forces of all the racists, white nationists, Klan and Neo-Nazis in their ranks and at the top!)

6-26-20 One glaring question about the police killing of Elijah McClain
Why is someone who was already restrained being given ketamine? The police killing of Elijah McClain in Aurora, Colorado, did not attract much national attention when it happened this past August. But McClain's death has drawn wide outrage in recent weeks; a petition for a new investigation of the officers responsible drew more than 2 million signatures, and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) has directed the state's attorney general to review the case. Here is one question the Polis administration should give particular scrutiny: Why was McClain given ketamine, a strong tranquilizer often described as a date rape drug, during his deadly encounter with the cops? And why has ketamine become a policing tool in the first place? Much of the story of McClain's death is horribly familiar: Like Trayvon Martin, he was walking home from a convenience store with an iced tea. Like Tamir Rice, the police were summoned to accost him for noncriminal behavior: in this case, wearing a ski mask (McClain was anemic and often donned extra layers to keep warm) and waving his arms, perhaps in time to music in the headphones he reportedly was using. Like Philando Castile, he attempted to assert his rights, telling officers (per their account), "I have a right to go where I am going." Like Walter Scott, the police decided he was resisting arrest. Like George Floyd and Eric Garner, he protested, "I can't breathe" when officers applied pressure to his neck. Like too many other names to mention, he was Black and unarmed. But the ketamine element is not familiar. Subjected to the chokehold, McClain briefly lost consciousness. After coming around, the police claimed, he began struggling again — though it is difficult to imagine how this behavior could have posed multiple armed officers any threat given that McClain was already handcuffed. Nevertheless, Aurora Fire paramedics who had been summoned to the scene because of the neck restraint "injected McClain with ketamine while police personnel held him on the ground," Sentinel Colorado reports. McClain ended up hospitalized, suffering cardiac arrest on the ride there. He was visibly bruised and eventually declared brain-dead. Six days after he was stopped by police, his family took him off life support, and he died. (Webmaster's comment: He was murdered by police because he was black!)

6-26-20 'Stop using our pain to attract black consumers'
Many brands, big and small, have posted their support for the anti-racism protests that took place around the world after the death of George Floyd. But some of them have been accused of appropriating the protests, and "jumping on the PR bandwagon" of the movement, while not doing enough on diversity within their own companies. BBC Minute’s Joice Etutu has been speaking to consumers and business leaders who want those brands who post their support to make sure they’re supporting diversity in a meaningful way.

6-26-20 Coronavirus: Sweden says WHO made 'total mistake' by including it in warning
Swedish state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has rejected a warning from the World Health Organization that included Sweden among countries in Europe at risk of a Covid-19 resurgence. The WHO on Thursday warned that several countries and territories were seeing a rise in infections. Eleven were in the UN agency's Europe region. But Dr Tegnell told Swedish TV it was a "total misinterpretation of the data". Sweden had seen a rise in cases, he argued, because it was testing more. According to WHO data, EU member state Sweden has seen 155 infections for every 100,000 inhabitants in the past 14 days, far higher than anywhere else in the organisation's defined Europe region, other than Armenia. Regional Director Hans Henri Kluge said in a press conference on Thursday that in 11 countries, which included Sweden, "accelerated transmission has led to very significant resurgence that if left unchecked will push health systems to the brink once again". The other countries and territories were: Moldova, North Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ukraine, Kosovo, Armenia, Azerbaijan and the Central Asian states of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Sweden's response to the pandemic has been very different to other European countries. There has been no lockdown, with schools and cafes staying open, but large gatherings have been banned and most Swedes observe social distancing. It has seen 5,230 deaths in a population of 10 million - a far higher mortality rate than its neighbours. This week Sweden reported its highest number of daily infections since the outbreak began, with 1,610 on Wednesday. Dr Tegnell told SVT on Friday that Sweden was seeing a rising number of infections because it was testing far more than before. It was "unfortunate", he said, that the WHO was "confusing Sweden" with countries at the start of their epidemic. "They didn't call to ask us," he complained. "The number of admissions to intensive care is at a very low level and even deaths are starting to go down." Observers say the death rate in Sweden is now down to normal levels for the time of year. Dr Tegnell said it was particularly concerning that Sweden had been identified as an at-risk country when borders were beginning to open up.

6-26-20 The second-worst Ebola outbreak ever is officially over
Tools used in the fight are now being applied to COVID-19 and another Ebola outbreak in Congo. The second-largest Ebola virus outbreak ever has finally come to an end. Beginning in Congo in August 2018, the outbreak sickened 3,470 people (SN: 5/18/18). Nearly two-thirds of those patients, or 2,287, died. June 25 marks 42 days after the last patient linked to the outbreak went home from the hospital on May 14. That’s two full incubation periods for the virus. With no new cases, Congo health officials and the World Health Organization have officially declared the outbreak over. Lasting 22 months, this was Congo’s 10th fight against Ebola. Cases were concentrated in the North Kivu and Ituri Provinces, and health officials struggled against militant groups and misinformation to contain the virus. In contrast to past Ebola outbreaks, doctors had an effective vaccine in their arsenal that helped curb case numbers this time around (SN: 5/21/18). In 2019, that vaccine became the first, and still only, vaccine to win approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (SN: 12/20/19). Two new treatments also proved highly effective at keeping patients alive in clinical trials during the outbreak (SN: 8/12/19). (One of those treatments is made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc., a major sponsor of the Society for Science & the Public, which publishes Science News.) To curb the spread of the deadly virus, local health workers traced 250,000 people who had come into contact with infected individuals, tested 220,000 samples and vaccinated 303,000 people, the WHO says. Congo “is now better, smarter and faster at responding to Ebola, and this is an enduring legacy which is supporting the response to COVID-19 and other outbreaks,” Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said June 25 in a statement.

6-25-20 Elijah McClain: Colorado to review black man's death in custody
Colorado is to re-examine the death of a young black man in police custody after growing outrage and a petition signed by more than two million people. Governor Jared Polis said confidence in law enforcement was "incredibly important now more than ever". Elijah McClain died after being put in a chokehold and injected with ketamine in Denver last year. His case is among several to receive renewed attention following the death of George Floyd last month. Mr Floyd's alleged murder by Minneapolis police has prompted a wave of demonstrations worldwide against police brutality and institutional racism. On Thursday, New York police said an officer who appeared in footage to use a banned chokehold during an arrest in Queens on Sunday had been arrested and charged with strangulation. New York police banned the chokeholds in 1993 and earlier this month Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation making their use a crime. In a series of tweets, he said he had heard from many Coloradans who had "expressed concerns with the investigation of Elijah McClain's death". "A fair and objective process free from real or perceived bias for investigating officer-involved killings is critical," he said. "As a result, I have instructed my legal council to examine what the state can do and we are assessing next steps." Nearly 2.7 million people have signed a petition demanding justice and calling for a more in-depth investigation be held. The unarmed 23-year-old was walking in the Denver suburb of Aurora on 24 August last year when he was stopped by three white police officers. A district attorney report later said there had been an emergency call about a "suspicious person" matching his description. There was a struggle after Mr McClain resisted contact with the officers, who wanted to search him to see if he was armed, the report says. On body cam footage Mr McClain can be heard saying, "I'm an introvert, please respect my boundaries that I am speaking". One of the officers then says "he is going for your gun" and they wrestle him to the ground and put him in a chokehold. The report says Mr McClain lost consciousness, was released from the chokehold and began to struggle again. The officers called for assistance, with fire fighters and an ambulance responding. A fire medic injected Mr McClain with 500mg of the drug ketamine to sedate him. Mr McClain was then put in "soft restraints" on a stretcher and put inside the ambulance. The medic who had administered the drug then noticed that Mr McClain's chest "was not rising on its own, and he did not have a pulse". He was declared brain dead on 27 August. The family's lawyer Mari Newman said footage of the incident showed that "the police were nothing short of sadistic, brutalizing and terrorising a gentle, peaceful man as he lay there begging". (Webmaster's comment: There was no gun. Just a desire to kill a black man.)

6-25-20 Bubba Wallace: Nascar president said it was right to fear hate crime
Nascar said it was right to fear a hate crime had been committed against driver Bubba Wallace, which was later dismissed after an FBI investigation. It concluded that the noose found in the team garage of Wallace last Sunday was actually a handle on a garage door and had been there since last year. "Upon learning of and seeing the noose, our reaction was to protect Bubba," said Nascar president Steve Phelps. "We're living in a highly charged and emotional time." The incident occurred during the Geico 500 at Talladega, Alabama. Wallace - the sport's sole full-time black driver - received messages of solidarity from fellow Nascar drivers and sports stars around the world after the discovery. Following the conclusion of the investigation, the 26-year-old said the image he saw of "what was hanging in my garage is not a garage pull". "It was a noose," he told CNN. "Whether tied in 2019 or whatever, it was a noose. So, it wasn't directed at me but somebody tied a noose. That's what I'm saying." Nascar released a photo of the noose on Thursday. Phelps added: "As you can see from the photo, it was real, as was our concern for Bubba. "With similar emotion, others across our industry and our media stood up to defend the Nascar family. Our Nascar family. Because they are part of the Nascar family, too. We are proud to see so many stand up for what's right."

This is without any doubt a hangman's noose!

6-25-20 The world is putting America in quarantine
The United States is in the midst of a full-blown second wave of coronavirus. According to Worldometers, Tuesday had 36,015 new cases — the highest number since May 1, and the third-highest ever. Arizona, Florida, South Carolina, California, and Texas are headed for a dire emergency fast. So far deaths have thankfully not returned to their previous highs, probably in part because the new surge appears to be hitting younger patients. But deaths are also a lagging indicator, and they are highly likely to start increasing soon. Europe, where most countries have largely contained the virus (after initial screw-ups), is looking at America with slackjawed horror. The European Union is likely to close its borders to American travelers when it restores some international travel on July 1. Canada will most likely keep its U.S. border mostly closed when the current agreement expires on July 21. Around the world, it is beginning to sink in how profoundly rotten the United States is. Unless America manages to turn things around, it will slide from the center of the international order to a peripheral, mistrusted basketcase, and it will deserve it. It is plainly obvious why the U.S. is experiencing a second wave. The point of coronavirus lockdowns, as I and dozens of others explained months ago, was to buy time for the government to set up more fine-grained containment protocols that could contain the virus more effectively. With transmission reduced to a manageable rate and a test-trace-isolate system in place, countries can return to something like normal life, and an increasing number are doing so. It's a tricky business and renewed lockdowns may be necessary, as fresh outbreaks in China and elsewhere have shown, but it can be done. But the Trump administration did not even try this on a national level, or do anything of significance. Indeed, American politics is so broken that we couldn't even manage the simplest common-sense containment strategy of mandating universal mask-wearing in any indoor space. American public health experts spent weeks on a bizarre and scientifically illiterate crusade against masks — a study years ago found that even cheap homemade masks significantly reduce droplet-based infection — but even after plenty of new evidence has come in, Trump and most Republicans keep insisting a mask is a matter of personal choice. Instead masks got sucked into the conservative grievance industrial complex, becoming another postmodern cultural signifier for right-wingers trying to own the libs. Trump simply cannot grasp what the pandemic is, because in his mind nobody save himself is a real person. Appearances are all that matter — he is plainly most upset about the Bad Numbers of infections and deaths, and continues to suggest in public that the U.S. should be testing less so he looks less bad. He promises there will be no more lockdowns even as cases spike, and recently held a huge indoor rally in Tulsa — perhaps the worst possible thing he could do, especially because his followers mostly refused to wear the free provided masks. Despite being poorly attended, that rally still could easily turn out to be a mega-spreader event. It is no doubt extremely alarming for people around the world coming to really grasp the fact that the world's most powerful country is being run by an incompetent buffoon who could not be trusted with a lemonade stand yet still commands the lockstep loyalty of one of two major political parties. "I can't imagine what it must be like having to go to work knowing it's unsafe," Siouxsie Wiles, a New Zealand disease scientist, told The Washington Post. "There are just going to be more and more people infected, and more and more deaths. It's heartbreaking." Indeed, American political reporters have struggled to grasp the reality of Trump as well, though the ongoing catastrophe seems to have finally beaten it into their heads.

6-25-20 Coronavirus: New York imposes quarantine on eight US states
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have asked people travelling from states where Covid-19 cases are rising to go into self-isolation for 14 days. New Jersey's Phil Murphy said people in the three states had been "through hell and back" and did not want "another round" of virus infections. Some southern and western states have been reporting record numbers of cases. The University of Washington predicts 180,000 US deaths by October - or 146,000 if 95% of Americans wear masks. On Wednesday, White House spokesman Judd Deere said the quarantine would not apply to President Trump, who has been in Arizona and is due in new Jersey at the weekend. "The president of the United States is not a civilian. Anyone who is in close proximity to him, including staff, guests, and press, are tested for Covid-19 and confirmed to be negative," he said. So far, the US has recorded more than 2.3 million cases of the virus and more than 121,000 deaths and health officials say the coming weeks will be crucial to stem the outbreaks. On Tuesday America's top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci told lawmakers there was "a disturbing surge of infection" and "increased community spread" in many southern and western states. He told Americans to take social distancing measures, saying: "Plan A, don't go in a crowd. Plan B, if you do, make sure you wear a mask." Which states are subject to the quarantine? Currently, those states are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Utah, the governor of New York state Andrew Cuomo told reporters. People coming from those states - including returning New York, New Jersey and Connecticut residents - will be asked to quarantine upon arrival for 14 days. Anyone found breaking the quarantine could face fines of $1,000 (£800) rising to $5,000 for repeated violations, Mr Cuomo said. He added that US states would be added or taken off the quarantine list depending on the number of new cases per 100,000 people or the rate of positive tests.

6-25-20 Europe virus cases rise 'for first time in months'
A brief look back at the government briefings. Europe sees its first increase in weekly coronavirus cases in months, according to the World Health Organisation. The rise comes as countries continue to ease restrictions. The WHO also says the pandemic has not yet reached its peak in Central and South America. The UK government is finalising details of "travel corridors" so some arrivals will not need to quarantine. Most of Western Europe is due to be on an initial list of exempt countries. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut ask people arriving from nine other US states to quarantine for 14 days. The Australian army is sending 1,000 army personnel to Victoria amid a surge in virus cases. The Eiffel Tower in Paris reopens more than three months after France went into lockdown.

6-25-20 Coronavirus: 'Very significant' resurgences in Europe alarm WHO
Europe has seen an increase in weekly cases of Covid-19 for the first time in months as restrictions are eased, the World Health Organization (WHO) says. In 11 countries, which include Armenia, Sweden, Moldova and North Macedonia, accelerated transmission has led to "very significant resurgence", said Regional Director Dr Hans Henri Kluge. His warnings about the risk of resurgence had become reality, he said. If left unchecked, he warned health systems would be "pushed to the brink". More than 2.6 million cases of Covid-19 and 195,000 deaths have been reported in the WHO's European region, which is expansive, covering 54 countries and seven territories across Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia. Almost 20,000 new cases and more than 700 new deaths are being recorded daily. "For weeks, I have spoken about the risk of resurgence as countries adjust measures," Dr Kluge told a virtual news conference on Thursday. "In several countries across Europe, this risk has now become a reality - 30 countries have seen increases in new cumulative cases over the past two weeks. "In 11 of these countries, accelerated transmission has led to very significant resurgence that if left unchecked will push health systems to the brink once again." The 11 countries were later identified by the WHO as Armenia, Sweden, Moldova, North Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Kosovo. Dr Kluge said countries such as Poland, Germany, Spain and Israel had responded quickly to dangerous outbreaks associated with schools, coal mines, and food production settings, and brought them under control through rapid interventions. Despite warning about resurgences, he said the WHO anticipated that the situation would calm down further in the majority of countries over the summer. "But we have indeed to prepare for the fall, when Covid-19 may meet seasonal influenza, pneumonia, other diseases as well, because ultimately the virus is still actively circulating in our communities and there is no effective treatment, no effective vaccine, yet."

6-25-20 'They want to throw God's wonderful breathing system out'
Before holding a vote to mandate the wearing of masks in public places to stop the spread of coronavirus, Palm Beach County commissioners were harangued by residents who accused them of obeying the devil, imposing a communist dictatorship and dishonouring the American flag. Florida has just reported a daily record of 5,508 new coronavirus infections, bringing its total number of confirmed infections to 109,014, with 3,281 deaths. (Webmaster's comment: Many of the religious, as always, ignore reality and reject reason.)

6-25-20 BAME scientists half as likely to get funding from UK research council
Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) scientists are almost half as likely to be awarded funding to research climate change, wildlife and other environmental science as their white peers. Statistics published last year in response to a parliamentary inquiry had already exposed the inequality in the billions of pounds of annual research funding awarded in the UK each year. The issue has risen up the agenda recently in the wake of George Floyd’s death in the US and social media campaigns such as #blackintheivory and #ShutDownSTEM. New data published by UK Research and Innovation yesterday – which was originally due to be published more than half a year ago – now breaks down funding by seven individual research councils. The figures shine a light on the vast differences between the agencies. The gap between successful funding applications is biggest at the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). For 2018/19, 28 per cent of white principal investigators were awarded funds by NERC, versus 15 per cent for those that were BAME. The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) was the only one of the seven research councils for which BAME researchers were more likely to be successful in their application for funding. The success rate for BAME principal investigators in 2018/19 was 41 per cent compared with 28 per cent if they were white. But the agency also has the biggest gap between the amount of money that researchers are awarded depending on their ethnic background. While white researchers won £509,000 on average from the AHRC in 2018/19, BAME researchers received less than half that, £232,000 on average. Although the gap was particularly large that year, white researchers received more money on average for four of the five most recent years for which data is available. The disparity was almost as bad at NERC. White applicants won £538,000 on average compared with £273,000 for their BAME peers, in 2018/19. In absolute terms, the funding gap was smallest at the Science and Technology Facilities Council, with white researchers winning £17,000 more on average over the same period.

6-25-20 Four numbers that explain impact of George Floyd
It's been a month since the 25 May death of George Floyd in police custody. From global protests to policy changes and the destruction of colonial symbols, communities are asking the United States and world to undo systematic racism. The BBC takes a look at what's changed in the US and why it's important.

6-24-20 Covid-19 news: Cases rising in Europe following eased lockdowns
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Coronavirus cases rising in Europe following eased lockdowns, says WHO. New cases of the coronavirus rose in Europe last week, for the first time in months. The increase was driven by 11 countries that have had a “very significant resurgence”, Hans Kluge, head of the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe, said today. If left unchecked, such outbreaks will “push health systems to the brink once again”. The countries and territories with notable increases in cases are Sweden, Armenia, Republic of Moldova, North Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, and Kosovo, according to a WHO spokesperson. Kluge said there had also been outbreaks in Poland, Germany, Spain and Israel in schools, coal mines and food production settings, but authorities there had responded quickly. “Where new clusters of cases appeared, these have been controlled through rapid and targeted interventions,” said Kluge. Germany, for instance, saw new daily cases rise from around 300 to over 600 last week, after an outbreak in a slaughterhouse. In response, the Guetersloh area reimposed lockdown conditions. “There is no effective treatment yet and no effective vaccine yet, hence it’s so important we are not complacent,” said Kluge. Several US states have also seen increases in the number of new coronavirus cases. California, Florida and Texas, the three states with the biggest populations in the US, are seeing rising numbers of covid-19 infections, with several thousand new cases a day. The first medicine found to speed recovery from coronavirus, remdesivir, has been recommended for official approval in the European Union. The drug, which works by blocking virus replication, is already being used in hospitals “off-label”. Pregnant women in the US are more likely to develop severe covid-19, according to new figures from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency has found that 32 per cent of pregnant women with the virus were hospitalised, compared with 6 per cent of women in the same age group who were not pregnant.

6-24-20 US police kill up to 6 times more black people than white people
In some parts of the US, police kill black people at a rate six times higher than they kill white people. The differences are most stark in the northern Midwest, especially Chicago, and in north-eastern states like New York. Protest movements like Black Lives Matter have highlighted the disproportionate killing of black people by US police, and called for major changes in policing practices. However, official data on police killings can be unreliable. The database run by the Bureau of Justice Statistics is known to undercount deaths, partly because police forces don’t have to contribute data. That makes it harder to stop the killings. Gabriel Schwartz and Jaquelyn Jahn at Harvard University compared police killings in different regions of the US between 2013 and 2017. They used data from Fatal Encounters, an independent organisation that gathers public and media reports of killings, and fact-checks them. The researchers assigned each death to one of the US’s 382 “metropolitan statistical areas”. These are “cities and the areas surrounding cities”, says Jahn, and reflect where people spend most of their time. Rates of police killings varied widely. For the overall population, the highest rates of killings were in south-western states like California and New Mexico, where more than 1 in 100,000 people were killed by police every year. In the north-east, rates were often lower than 0.3 people per 100,000. However, the pattern changed when the team looked for differences linked to ethnicity. In south-western states, police killed black people 1.81-2.88 times more often than they killed white people. In the north Midwest and north-east, the disparity was often more than 2.98. In the Chicago metropolitan area, black people were killed 6.51 times more often than white people. “They are showing for the first time that there’s a lot of variation by place in racial inequalities in police killings,” says Justin Feldman at New York University. That in turn should help us understand why some places have such large disparities, and how to reduce the deaths, he says. (Webmaster's comment: We must purge our police forces of all racists, white nationalists, klan and neo-nazis! They joined the police for the explicit purpose of killing non-whites. Only when they are removed will the killings stop.)

6-24-20 Covid-19 news: UK health leaders warn of 'real risk' of a second wave
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic.UK health leaders warn there is a “real risk” of a second wave (Webmaster's comment: It's going on right now in the United States.) A second wave of coronavirus infections in the UK is a “real risk” and all political parties should work together to ensure the country is ready for it, warned a group of health leaders including presidents of the Royal College of Physicians, Surgeons, GPs and Nursing and the chair of the British Medical Association. In a letter addressed to leaders of UK political parties published on the British Medical Journal’s website, they say, “the available evidence indicates that local flare-ups are increasingly likely and a second wave a real risk. Many elements of the infrastructure needed to contain the virus are beginning to be put in place, but substantial challenges remain.”The European Union is considering blocking US visitors from travelling to EU nations. People in countries with severe outbreaks of coronavirus “where the virus is circulating most actively,” would not be allowed to enter, according to an EU diplomat quoted by CNN. The list of blocked nations could include the US, Brazil, Russia, Peru, Chile, Panama and Saudi Arabia. Mothers with suspected or confirmed covid-19 should be encouraged to breastfeed as the “benefits of breastfeeding substantially outweigh the potential risks for transmission”, says a scientific briefing from the World Health Organization.

6-23-20 Trump's visa ban is economic suicide
American technology companies are unsurprisingly among the biggest critics of President Trump's decision on Monday to freeze new work visas, including those used by many tech workers and their families, through the end of the year. "This is a full-frontal attack on American innovation and our nation's ability to benefit from attracting talent from around the world,” said the head of a pro-immigration group funded by Silicon Valley. That's not wrong, but let's momentarily put aside the wants and needs of Big Tech execs and employees. Here's a conundrum: American schools are nothing spectacular. For instance, high schoolers here rank 30th in the world in math, while their overall performance versus teenagers around the world has been stagnant for two decades. And concerns about the quality of U.S. secondary education go back a lot further than that. And yet, somehow, the U.S. remains a country that continually pushes forward the state of scientific and tech progress. Sure, that means we have lots of big, profitable tech companies that generate lots of good, high-paying jobs. But being a science and tech leader is also key to our national security, as the AI worriers in Congress constantly remind us. It's also hard to imagine America's global reputation and brand being what it is if the U.S. were a tech laggard. Are the Avengers really going to have their headquarters in some backwater? So how does America keep pulling off this trick, year after year, decade after decade? It's a question I once asked Stanford University economist Eric Hanushek, renowned for his work on all manner of education issues. His profound but simple explanation: "We are able to attract very smart people from abroad, keep them here, and have them work.” He's undoubtedly right. Foreign-born workers account for a fifth of STEM workers with a bachelor's degree and more than half of those with a Ph.D. And in a paper released last April, researchers Sari Pekkala Kerr and William Kerr find that immigrants account for about a quarter of U.S. entrepreneurship and innovation. Immigration from Asia is a key driver, with Chinese and Indian ethnic inventors accounting for 22 percent of U.S. patents in 2018 versus fewer than 3 percent in 1975. You can't have an economically vibrant America without global talent coming here and thriving. America turning its back on that is something close to a national suicide attempt. But let's not get carried away. This is only a temporary ban, right? We should hope so — but there are reasons to be doubtful. First it's being implemented by an administration that repeatedly demonstrated its deep skepticism that immigration is good for America, much less fundamental to our national project. Cato Institute immigration expert Alex Nowrasteh speculates that this proclamation, like most of Trump's previous "temporary” bans, "will probably last longer than is necessary or won't be canceled at all until a Democratic president takes office,” especially given a recent Supreme Court case giving him broad power to limit immigrant entry. Also not encouraging: The Trump White House explanation for the ban — to protect workers — is an evidence-free mess. Past government efforts to restrict immigration during downturns give little reason to expect success this time around. During the Great Depression, there were state and local efforts to repatriate Mexican workers, with some 400,000 to 500,000 eventually sent home. But the places that lost their Mexican workers either did no better than other cities and regions, or did worse.

6-24-20 Black women scientists missing from textbooks, study shows
Scientists featured in textbooks are predominantly white men, according to a study. US biology textbooks highlighted seven men for every woman scientist. And black women were not represented a single time in any of the works analysed. Based on the current rate, it will be centuries before the books used to teach undergraduate biology in the US match the diversity of their readers, say researchers. "We didn't see any, for instance, black women scientists across any textbook," said Dr Cissy Ballen of Auburn University in Alabama, US. The study analysed more than 1,000 scientific names featured in seven modern biology textbooks used to teach undergraduates entering science and medicine in the US. They ranged from historical figures such as Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel to contemporary scientists such as Jane Goodall. Overall, 13% of the scientists featured were women, while 6.7% were from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds. Previous research has shown the importance of diverse, relatable role models in science, said Dr Ballen. "Not to be able to see anyone like them in these kinds of fundamental textbooks that they're using, I think it would have a really negative effect," she said. There have been some gains in recent years, particularly where women and Asian men are concerned, said the researchers. Despite this, the scientists portrayed are not representative of their target audience, particularly among Asian and Hispanic women, while black woman were not represented at all. Textbook publishers are "tasked with balancing an accurate portrayal of history while showcasing contemporary science that reflects a diverse population of learners", they said. Biology is relatively gender diverse compared with other areas of science, such as physics. In the US, around 60% of biology graduates are women.

6-24-20 Top US health official Fauci warns of 'disturbing' new US surge
America's top infectious disease expert has told lawmakers that the US is seeing a "disturbing surge" in coronavirus infections in some states. A panel of health officials, including Dr Anthony Fauci, said the next few days will be crucial to stem the new outbreaks. Cases are climbing rapidly across a number of US states. The four top experts also testified they were never told by President Donald Trump to "slow down" testing. Their comments come after Mr Trump told a weekend rally in Oklahoma that he had asked his team to do less testing to help keep official case counts down. "To my knowledge, none of us have ever been told to slow down on testing," Dr Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified to a congressional committee investigating the US response to the pandemic. "In fact, we will be doing more testing," he added. The other three officials - representing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services - also disputed Mr Trump's comment, saying they had never been directed to slow testing. Brett Giroir, the health department assistant secretary who oversees US diagnostic capacity, told lawmakers he expects the US will be able to conduct 40 to 50 million tests per month by autumn. The White House has said the president's comment about slowing testing was "in jest". But on Tuesday the president appeared to contradict that, telling reporters: "I don't kid." About 2.3 million Americans have been infected with coronavirus and at least 120,000 have died - more than any other nation. But Mr Trump told a campaign event in Phoenix, Arizona, later in the day that the coronavirus "plague" was "going away".

6-24-20 Coronavirus: EU considers barring Americans from travel list
EU ambassadors meet on Wednesday to plan reopening external borders on 1 July, and travellers from the US could be among those not allowed in. A number of European countries are keen to open up to tourists but others are wary of the continued spread of coronavirus. The 27-member bloc must first agree the measures that non-EU countries should meet before deciding on a safe list. The virus is spreading in the US, so it is likely Americans would be barred. Brazil, Russia and other countries with high infection rates would also be left off a safe list, according to reports from Brussels. The EU is not yet thought to have agreed how they will assess which countries meet health standards - one of the criteria for entry. Part of the problem is assessing reliable health data, reports say. Latest figures from the EU's health agency, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, highlight Brazil, Peru, Chile, Panama and Saudi Arabia as countries with the highest "case notification rate". Russia and the US have a lower rate of cases per 100,000 inhabitants but are still higher than most of Europe. The US has seen 2.3 million infections and 120,000 deaths and cases are climbing in several states. (Webmaster's comment: We have become the world epicenter of the virus making "America Great Again!")

6-24-20 Coronavirus: US cases at highest level for two months
New Covid-19 cases in the US have risen to their highest level in two months, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the outbreak. On Tuesday the US reported 34,700 new cases. Only two days - 9 and 24 April with 36,400 cases - have seen higher numbers, according to AP news agency. States including Arizona, California, Mississippi, Nevada and Texas had record numbers of new cases, AP said. Health officials say the coming weeks will be crucial to stem the outbreaks. On Tuesday America's top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci told lawmakers there was "a disturbing surge of infection" and "increased community spread" in many southern and western states. "A couple of days ago there were 30,000 new infections" in a single day, he said. "That's very troubling to me." He told Americans to take social distancing measures, saying: "Plan A, don't go in a crowd. Plan B, if you do, make sure you wear a mask." The US has recorded more than 2.3 million cases of the virus and more than 120,000 deaths. Meanwhile Brett Giroir, the health department assistant secretary who oversees US diagnostic capacity, told lawmakers he expected the US would be able to conduct 40 to 50 million tests per month by autumn. The overall number of infections in the US rose by a quarter last week, with 10 states reporting a rise in cases of more than 50%, according to Reuters news agency. But the president, who has so far refused to wear a mask, insisted at the event that the coronavirus "plague" was "going away" and again referred to the virus as the "kung flu", which the White House denies is a racist term. Dr Fauci and other health experts told Congress on Tuesday that they were never advised by President Donald Trump to "slow down" testing and said they planned to increase testing. Their comments come after Mr Trump told a weekend rally in Oklahoma that he had asked his team to do less testing to help keep official case counts down. The White House has said the president's comment was "in jest". But on Tuesday the president appeared to contradict that, telling reporters: "I don't kid."

Cases are rising again in the US. Number of daily confirmed coronavirus cases.

6-23-20 Why New Zealand decided to go for full elimination of the coronavirus
Michael Baker, the doctor who devised New Zealand’s aggressive coronavirus response, explains what inspired his successful strategy. New Zealand has been widely praised for its aggressive response to covid-19. At the time of writing, the country had just 10 active cases. But Michael Baker, the doctor who formulated New Zealand’s elimination strategy, says that even some of his colleagues initially thought it was too radical a plan and resisted its implementation. “Some likened it to using a sledgehammer to kill a flea,” he says. The first case of covid-19 in New Zealand was recorded on 28 February. Like most countries, it initially planned to gradually tighten its control measures as the virus gained momentum. But Baker, a public health expert at the University of Otago who is on the government’s covid-19 advisory panel, believed that this was the wrong approach. “I thought we should do it in the reverse order and throw everything at the pandemic at the start,” he says. Baker was inspired by the World Health Organization’s report from its joint mission to China in February, which documented how the country largely contained covid-19 when it was already in full flight. This convinced Baker that New Zealand could also stop the virus from spreading and even wipe it out entirely if it implemented a strict lockdown as soon as possible. Other experts, however, argued that New Zealand should take a lighter approach like Sweden, which never fully locked down. Many believed the spread of covid-19 was inevitable and that an elimination strategy would “never work”, says Baker. Others thought that locking down the country would lead to mass unemployment, poverty and suicide, which would outweigh the benefits of containing the virus. The government ultimately decided to go with Baker’s advice, possibly because of his public health track record. In the 1980s, for example, he helped establish the world’s first national needle exchange programme, which has meant that rates of HIV among injecting drug users in New Zealand are some of the lowest globally. On 25 March, when New Zealand had only 205 covid-19 cases and no deaths, the government implemented one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, only permitting people to leave their homes for essential reasons like buying food and going to the doctor. This followed the closure of New Zealand’s borders to non-nationals on 19 March. (Webmaster's comment: And it worked! But America would never do it because of arrogance and ignorance!)

6-23-20 Covid-19 news: England to relax restrictions amid scientists' warnings
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. UK government to relax two-metre distancing rule amid warnings from scientists. The UK government is relaxing the current two-metre distancing rule to “one-metre plus” in England, despite the warnings of some scientists that coronavirus cases remain too high to loosen restrictions. The new guidance comes into effect as of 4 July, when some other restrictions will also be eased. “Where it is possible to keep two metres apart, people should,” prime minister Boris Johnson told the House of Commons earlier today. “But where it is not, we will advise people to keep a social distance of one-metre-plus.” This means keeping a metre apart, while taking other precautions, such as avoiding face-to-face seating, wearing face coverings and using hand sanitiser, Johnson went on to explain. Businesses will be encouraged to implement the use of protective screens, change office layouts and shift patterns and improve ventilation, for example. The number of excess deaths in the UK since mid-March now stands at 65,700, according to an analysis of data from the Office of National Statistics by the Financial Times. Excess deaths are a calculation of how many more deaths have occurred than would normally be expected, and include deaths from any cause. An ongoing survey by the WHO suggests routine healthcare has been diminished in many countries as a result of the pandemic. Of the 82 countries that have responded so far, almost three-quarters report that dental and rehabilitation services have been disrupted, while two-thirds report disruptions to immunisation programmes and treatment for non-infectious diseases, WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a media briefing yesterday. Mental health services, antenatal care, cancer diagnosis and treatment and services for children have also been disrupted in more than half of the countries.

6-23-20 Minority scientists still face many forms of institutional racism
“IN SCIENCE, I am surrounded by a lot of privileged white people,” says Aya Osman, a neuroscientist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Born in Sudan, she moved from the UK to the US two years ago for her postdoctoral degree. “On my first day of orientation, I was the only black doctor,” she says. “Everyone else black in that room worked in cleaning or as administrative staff. It was the craziest thing I’ve seen.” She isn’t alone in identifying the vast discrepancies in access and position that fall along ethnic lines in the sciences. The reverberations of George Floyd’s death last month during a police arrest in the US have sounded through academia, with thousands of scientists striking over racism in their fields. They have good reason: the odds of succeeding in science are still overwhelmingly stacked against black people and those from other ethnic minority groups. In the UK, around 7 per cent of undergraduate students are black, matching the percentage of black people aged 18 to 24. But the number plummets when you look at PhD students at top universities, according to figures the UK’s Higher Education Statistics Agency provided to New Scientist. For the past five years, the proportion of black PhD students at Russell Group universities – seen as the UK’s most prestigious – has stagnated at around 2 per cent. The figures are even lower at some institutions: the five-year average for UK-born black students at the University of Oxford is 1.3 per cent, for example. The story is similar in the US, where African Americans make up nearly 13 per cent of the population, but win only 6.5 per cent of doctorates earned, according to the latest statistics from the National Science Foundation. Osman thinks economics and mental health are two big reasons why there aren’t more black people in science. “There’s a mental health impact to being black,” she says. “Knowing your history comes from slavery and colonialism, and then being in white spaces and having to pretend that it doesn’t matter. It’s exhausting.”

6-23-20 The scariest part of America's reckless reopening
There is a useful metaphor in ethics about a ladder. It can be thought of a few different ways, but I like the version paraphrased from ethicist Christopher Gilbert by Quartz the best: "On the lowest rung, you think only of yourself. Past the middle rung, you're thinking of the decision's influence on some. And on the highest rungs, you're wondering how every choice impacts all affected by it." It seems intuitive that, under normal circumstances, we should strive to reach the highest rungs of this ladder whenever we are able. But we are not living under normal circumstances: even as the United States careens toward overtaking its previous coronavirus peak, the country is throwing caution to the wind. Movie theaters, hair salons, amusement parks, and restaurants are fast on their way to reopening — if they haven't already. And with discretion left largely up to the consumer, it is on us, then, to decide if, just because we can access these luxuries, we should be enjoying them. The answer, largely and discouragingly, seems to be yes; while Americans continue to express fears about the disease to pollsters, cases are nevertheless ballooning. In failing our "can" versus "should" test during the nation's reopening, Americans are proving that ethical consumption at all might be a pipe dream — because if we can't even care about our own imperilment, how will we ever care about other's? Let's go back to the ladder for a moment. When Gilbert, the ethicist, was describing it to Quartz, he was using it to explain how we ought to weigh the repercussions of how we act as customers. The lowest level represents, for example, people who buy what is cheap, convenient, and coveted without a second-thought as to why it is so cheap and convenient. A more ethical individual would resist buying from places like Amazon or Walmart, thinking of the low-income employees who are being exploited. On the highest rungs of the ladder, that thinking might expand to encompass, say, the sweatshop workers who make the product we've ordered, or the detriment the order has on local, struggling small-business owners selling similar products. Of course, not everyone has the freedom to act on that thinking: lower-incomes and different physical needs mean many people don't have the option of being idealistic in their spending habits. But on the whole, and whenever possible, it is laudable to weigh how, and with whom, we are spending our money. In practice, that can be very easy. I disagree with Chick-fil-A's history of political spending, but I don't go there anyway because I'm a vegetarian. It becomes trickier when we have to consider the consequences of things we want to do: say, travel, despite airplane emissions contributing significantly to the climate crisis, which experts say could result in more than 143 million refugees by 2050. It's also a lot harder to care — as terrible as that sounds — because the consequence (people being displaced and dying) feels so remote from the action (buying a plane ticket to go to Disneyland). But if the coronavirus pandemic has proven anything, it's that caring about others is a very difficult thing to convince people to do, especially when it requires even the most minor lifestyle adjustment. And again, the consequences feel so distant that you don't have to imagine them at all; you might never learn who you infect or kill. What's particularly worrisome, though, is that at this juncture, Americans appear unwilling to care even when the consequences are not remote: when they are, in effect, as intimate as they could possibly be. While consumer activists have long tried to prompt citizens to be mindful about their spending — to hop up to the second or third rung of the ladder — it is starting to seem like even the first rung is too big an ask. With the coronavirus shutdown lifting, Americans are proving unwilling to alter their habits, seeking out opportunities to have their hair cut, or eat in a restaurant, or see a new movie regardless of the stakes. Trailers for Christopher Nolan's Tenet, which is still unbelievably slated to be released on July 31, ought to run with risk disclaimers the way prescription drug commercials do on TV: Side effects of seeing Tenet in theaters may include fever, shortness of breath, body aches, drowsiness, loss of taste or smell, an increased risk of leg and foot amputations, and may cause death. Talk to your doctor about if Tenet is right for you.

6-23-20 H-1B among visas hit by Trump's new foreign worker freeze
US President Donald Trump has extended a pause on some green cards and suspended visas for other foreign workers until the end of 2020. DHigh-skilled tech workers, non-agricultural seasonal helpers, au pairs and top executives will be affected. The White House said the move will create jobs for Americans hurting economically due to the pandemic. But critics say the White House is exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to tighten up immigration laws. In a briefing for reporters, the administration said the freeze, in place through the end of the year, would impact about 525,000 people. That includes an estimated 170,000 people blocked by the decision to extend a ban on some new green cards - which grants permanent residence to foreigners. The White House first announced it was halting those visas in April, an order that had been set to expire on Monday. Existing visa holders are not expected to be affected under the new restrictions announced on Monday. The order also applies to H-1B visas, many of which are granted to Indian tech workers. Critics say these visas have allowed Silicon Valley companies to outsource American jobs to lower-paid foreign employees. Last year, there were about 225,000 applications competing for 85,000 spots available through the H1-B visa programme. The order will suspend most H-2B visas for seasonal workers, including those in the hospitality industry, except those in agriculture, the food processing industry and healthcare professionals. The order will restrict J-1 short-term exchange visas, a category that includes university students and foreign au pairs who provide childcare. Professors and scholars are not included in the order. There will be a provision to request exemptions. L visas for managers and other key employees of multinational corporations will also be suspended. The aim is to get "the best and the brightest" and "the most value for our economy", a senior official said on the background call. But the American Civil Liberties Union said: "It's the exploitation of a pandemic to reshape immigration law, while superseding Congress." The new policy is also opposed by many businesses, which rely on foreign workers.

6-23-20 US soldier Ethan Melzer accused of planning attack on own unit
A US soldier has been charged with terrorism offences for planning a deadly ambush on his unit by sending information to a neo-Nazi group. Ethan Melzer, 22, stands accused of sending sensitive details about his unit to the Order of Nine Angles. The US Department of Justice calls it an "occult-based neo-Nazi and racially motivated violent extremist group". He was allegedly planning for information to be passed to jihadists, who would then carry out an attack. His plan was thwarted late last month by the FBI and the US army. He was arrested on 10 June. Private Melzer has been charged with conspiring and attempting to murder US nationals, conspiring and attempting to murder military service members, providing and attempting to provide material support to terrorists, and conspiring to murder and maim in a foreign country. Private Melzer enlisted in the US Army in December 2018 and began his active service in June 2019. "As alleged, Ethan Melzer, a private in the US Army, was the enemy within," said Audrey Strauss, acting US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, in a statement. "Melzer allegedly attempted to orchestrate a murderous ambush on his own unit by unlawfully revealing its location, strength, and armaments to a neo-Nazi, anarchist, white supremacist group." He is accused of planning to provide information intended to be conveyed to jihadist terrorists, she added. He allegedly exchanged communications regarding passing information about an anticipated deployment of his unit to a purported member of al-Qaeda. Members of the Order of Nine Angles, also known as O9A, have expressed admiration for both Nazis, such as Adolf Hitler, and Islamic jihadists, such as Osama Bin Laden, the statement said. "Melzer declared himself to be a traitor against the United States, and described his own conduct as tantamount to treason. We agree," said FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. "He turned his back on his county and his unit while aligning himself with members of the neo-Nazi group ONA. Today, he is in custody and facing a lifetime of service - behind bars - which is appropriate given the severity of the conduct we allege today." UK anti-racism campaigners Hope Not Hate used its annual State of Hate report to call for the Order of Nine Angles to be banned. (Webmaster's comment: Don't confuse Satanism with Athesism. Atheists do not worship or believe in Satan anymore than they worship or believe in God! Atheists do not believe in any Supernatural Beings!

6-23-20 Seattle to end police-free protest zone after shootings
Seattle's mayor has said the city plans to take back a district that is being occupied by armed protesters, after three people were shot at the weekend. Mayor Jenny Durkan said the violence had become "increasingly difficult" for businesses and residents. She said the city would work with the demonstrators to end the so-called Capitol Hill Occupied Protest zone. The city centre zone was taken over by protesters on 8 June after police withdrew following violent clashes. Mayor Durkan, who has been under growing pressure to crack down on the protest zone, told a news conference on Monday the city police department would return to its precinct "peacefully and in the near future". "The cumulative impacts of the gatherings and protests and the night-time atmosphere and violence," she said, "has led to increasingly difficult circumstances for our businesses and residents. "The impacts have increased and the safety has decreased." Her announcement followed a shooting on Sunday night at the edge of the zone in the Capitol Hill neighbourhood. The 17-year-old victim, who was shot in the arm, refused to speak to the police. In another shooting early on Saturday, a 19-year-old man died and a 33-year-old man was left critically wounded. At Monday's news conference, Police Chief Carmen Best said her officers had been confronted by a "hostile crowd" after the Saturday attack that hampered emergency workers as they tried to reach the victims. She said that since the East Precinct had been abandoned, rapes, assaults, burglaries and vandalism had been reported in the area. Mayor Durkan was asked during an interview on CNN earlier this month when the authorities might retake the zone. She replied: "I don't know, we could have the summer of love!" According to local media, the area is largely peaceful during the day, with people relaxing in the park while volunteers hand out free food. It spans a six-block radius of the city's trendy arts scene that has been gentrified in recent years as tech workers drove up property prices.

6-23-20 Coronavirus: Germany outbreak sparks fresh local lockdown
German authorities in North Rhine-Westphalia are bringing back local lockdown measures after a coronavirus outbreak linked to a meatpacking plant. More than 1,500 employees of the Tönnies plant have tested positive. State premier Armin Laschet said the "preventative measures" in Gütersloh district, home to about 360,000 people, would last until 30 June. It is the first such move since Germany began lifting its lockdown restrictions nationwide in May. The country has been praised for its response to the crisis, but there are fears infections are rising again. Mr Laschet described the outbreak linked to the Tönnies meatpacking plant, south-west of the city of Gütersloh, as the "biggest infection incident" in the country. "We have decided that further measures are necessary," he told reporters. People are not barred from leaving the area, but Mr Laschet appealed for local residents "not to travel to other districts". Bars, museums, cinemas and gyms must all close, and restaurants can only serve meals to take away. Stricter social distancing measures are back in force, meaning people can only meet one person from outside their own household in public. Schools and nurseries for 50,000 children have been closed. There is also a mandatory quarantine in place for all employees of the affected plant. Three police units have been deployed to enforce the measures, accompanied by aid workers. Authorities have put up metal fencing around residential buildings where workers live and are distributing food to more than 7,000 employees. Mr Laschet said it was important that the workers in quarantine are treated humanely. Only 24 residents of the district who do not work at the plant have so far tested positive for the virus, he added. Bulgarian, Polish and Romanian consular staff have all visited the region and translators are on hand to speak to migrant workers.

6-23-20 How Asia's biggest slum contained the coronavirus
In one of the world's most congested shanty towns, social distancing is not a luxury people can afford. And density is a friend of the coronavirus. Imagine more than 500,000 people spread over 2.5 grubby sq km, less than a square mile. That's a population larger than Manchester living in an area smaller than Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Eight to 10 people live together in poky 100 sq ft dwellings. About 80% of the residents use community toilets. Homes and factories coexist in single buildings lining the slum's narrow lanes. Most people are informal daily-wage workers who don't cook at home and go out to get their food. And yet Dharavi, a sprawling slum in the heart of Mumbai, India's financial and entertainment capital, appears to have brought an outbreak under control - for now. Since the first case was reported on 1 April, more than 2,000 infections and 80-odd deaths have been reported here. Half of the cases have recovered. Daily reported infections dropped from a high of 43 a day in May to 19 in third week of June. The average doubling rate had gone up from 18 days in April to 78 in June. The scale of the measures put in place - a mix of draconian containment, extensive screening and providing free food to an out-of-work population - has been extraordinary. Municipal officials say they have traced, tracked, tested and isolated aggressively to halt the spread of infection. At the heart of this has been the screening effort, involving fever camps, doorstep initiatives and mobile vans. The early door-to-door screening by workers in sweltering personal protective gear was not sustainable when the weather turned hot and muggy. So the effort pivoted to the fever camps, where more than 360,000 people have been screened for symptoms so far. At each camp, a team of half-a-dozen doctors and health workers in protective clothing screen up to 80 residents every day for temperature and blood oxygen levels using infrared thermometers and pulse oximeters. People showing flu-like symptoms are tested for the disease on spot. Those who test positive are moved to local institutional quarantine facilities, a bunch of schools, marriage halls, sports complexes. More than 10,000 people have been put into quarantine so far. If their condition deteriorates, patients are moved to public and three private hospitals in the area.

6-23-20 Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro ordered to wear mask in public
A judge in Brazil has ordered President Jair Bolsonaro to wear a protective mask when he is in public spaces in the capital, Brasilia, and the surrounding federal district. The far-right president has been criticised for belittling the risk posed by the coronavirus. He dismissed it as "a little cold" at the start of the pandemic. He has also repeatedly appeared in public without a mask while greeting his supporters. At one rally, he was filmed coughing without covering his mouth and on another occasion he was seen sneezing into his hand and shaking the hand of an elderly woman immediately afterwards. Federal Judge Renato Borelli said that if the president - and other public officials - did not comply with the requirement to wear a mask when out in public, he would incur a fine of 2,000 reais ($387; £310) per day. Brazil has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world after the United States, with more than 1.1m confirmed cases and more than 51,000 coronavirus-related deaths. Despite the high number of cases and fatalities, President Bolsonaro on Monday renewed his call for the easing of lockdown measures and the reopening of shops and businesses. He said that the way the pandemic had been handled had "maybe been a bit over the top" and that the measures taken to contain it should not be allowed to become more damaging than the pandemic itself. The president's insistence that the economy should be prioritised has been deeply divisive and he has clashed with state governors who have introduced restrictions on movements and requirements to wear masks in public.

6-22-20 Covid-19 news: WHO says poor global leadership making pandemic worse
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. Lack of global leadership is the ‘greatest threat’ in fighting the pandemic, says WHO. The greatest threat in fighting the pandemic is the lack of global political leadership and unity between different governments, World Health Organization (WHO) director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said today at a virtual health forum organised by the World Government Summit in Dubai. “The world is in desperate need of national unity and global solidarity. The politicisation of the pandemic has exacerbated it,” he said. He also called for more countries to adopt universal healthcare, which he said was “the foundation of global health security and of social and economic development.” US president Donald Trump said he asked US public health officials to “slow down” testing for coronavirus. Speaking at a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he said, “testing is a double-edged sword … when you do testing to that extent, you will find more cases. So I said to my people, ‘slow the testing down’.” Senior advisers to the White House later said the president was joking. The rally in Tulsa could have been a “super-spreader” event, Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University, said yesterday. More than 6000 people attended the indoor event, the first party political rally in the US since the start of the pandemic. The WHO reported another record for the largest daily increase in confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide yesterday. 183,020 new cases were recorded within 24 hours on Sunday, with most occurring in the Americas including 54,771 in the US and 36,617 in Brazil. Several large local outbreaks of coronavirus in Germany, including at the one of the largest meat processing facilities in Europe, caused a jump in the country’s estimated R number from 1.06 on Friday to 2.88 today. 1331 people, more than 20 per cent of those who work at the Tönnies slaughterhouse in Gütersloh, have now tested positive for coronavirus. In response, authorities have closed the slaughterhouse, quarantined employees and their families and closed schools in the local area. Lars Schaade, vice president of Robert Koch Institute, a government public health agency, said, “since case numbers in Germany are generally low, these local outbreaks have a relatively strong influence on the value of the reproduction number.”

6-22-20 Bubba Wallace: Nascar driver emotional as drivers push car to start-line
Bubba Wallace's fellow Nascar drivers pushed his car to the start-line for the Geico 500 at Talladega, Alabama, to show their support for him a day after a noose was found in his team garage. The 26-year-old, who is the sole black full-time driver, was overcome with emotion by the show of solidarity. On the racist incident, Nascar chief Steve Phelps said: "We're going to use every effort to find who has done this. "They will be banned from this sport for life." The latest round in the Nascar series was moved to Monday from Sunday because of rain. The American, who races for Richard Petty Motorsports, posted a selfie on social media in front of his car with his fellow Nascar drivers standing in unison in the background. And just before the driver began his race his team communicated to him: "Let's go shut these haters up." The incident involving the noose - a symbol connected to lynching and America's slave history - is being investigated by the FBI and the US Justice Department. Meanwhile, Phelps said security had been stepped up at the Talladega Superspeedway, which had already had restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus. "This is a family that needs to take care of one of its family members whose been attacked," he added. Wallace has received plenty of support with the hashtag #IStandWithBubba trending on Twitter. Basketball great LeBron James also tweeted: "Sickening! @BubbaWallace my brother! Know you don't stand alone! I'm right here with you as well as every other athlete." Wallace is a vocal supporter of the Black Lives Matter campaign and was instrumental in getting the Confederate flag banned from Nascar races. Nascar banned the flag last week, however a plane towing a Confederate flag was spotted flying over the Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday. It has been a common sight at Nascar circuits but for many it remains a symbol of slavery and racism. (Webmaster's comment: We've festered with this racist hatred since 1865. Let's put a stop to this evil and imprison all racists!)

6-22-20 World needs leadership, WHO says as cases surge
Greatest threat is not the virus itself but lack of global solidarity and leadership - WHO. World Health Organization records highest one-day increase in total cases, with 183,000 added in one day. Most came from Brazil, followed by the US and India. The high level of confirmed cases is partly down to a global increase in testing. UK PM Boris Johnson will discuss reducing the 2m distancing rule - decision expected on Tuesday. South Korea is going through a "second wave" of coronavirus, officials say, even though new infections are falling. France is re-opening cinemas, swimming pools and holiday centres. All children up to 15 are back at school. Globally, there have been almost 9m confirmed cases since the outbreak began, with 467,000 deaths.

6-22-20 Coronavirus: Brazil becomes second country to pass 50,000 deaths
Brazil has become the second country, after the US, to register more than 50,000 deaths from Covid-19. It comes amid growing political tension and just days after the country confirmed more than one million coronavirus infections. Graphs of Brazil's deaths and infections show a continuing climb. The World Health Organization (WHO) has also recorded the biggest one-day increase in cases globally, with most of the new infections in the Americas. The decision of Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro to oppose lockdowns and focus on the economy has been hugely divisive. Two health ministers - both doctors - have left their posts as deaths and infections have surged. The first was sacked by Mr Bolsonaro, the second resigned after disagreeing with the president. On Sunday, Brazil's health ministry announced that 641 more deaths had been registered in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 50,617. Over the same period it also registered more than 17,000 new infections. Only the US has fared worse overall, with 2.2 million cases and nearly 120,000 deaths. Brazil has recently been recording about 1,000 deaths a day, although figures at weekends tend to be lower. Many experts believe the lack of testing nationally - some of them say the level is 20 times less than needed - suggests the overall figures could be considerably higher. The northern states of Amazonas, Pará and Ceará have seen more than 12,000 deaths in total, but it is São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro that have seen the biggest spikes, now standing at 12,500 and 8,800 fatalities respectively. Regionally, the WHO says that, of the 183,000 new cases reported globally in 24 hours, more than 60% were from North and South America. Mexico, Peru and Chile have been particularly badly hit, aside from the US, and on Sunday Argentina passed 1,000 deaths. Latin America and the Caribbean now have more than two million infections.

6-21-20 Coronavirus: What is a second wave and is one coming?
Coronavirus is far from over. Some countries are still dealing with large epidemics, but even those currently controlling the virus fear "the second wave". The second phase of Spanish flu a century ago was deadlier than the first. So, is a second wave inevitable? And how bad could it be? Firstly, what is a second wave? You can think of it like waves on the sea. The number of infections goes up and then comes back down again - each cycle is one "wave" of coronavirus. Yet, there is no formal definition. "It's not particularly scientific, how you define a wave is arbitrary," Dr Mike Tildesley, from the University of Warwick, told the BBC. Some describe any rise as a second wave, but it is often a bumpy first wave. This is happening in some US states. To say one wave has ended, the virus would have been brought under control and cases fallen substantially. For a second wave to start you would need a sustained rise in infections. New Zealand, which has its first cases after 24 days without coronavirus, and Beijing which is facing an outbreak after 50 virus-free days are not in this position. But some scientists argue Iran may be starting to meet the criteria for a second wave. Will a second wave come to the UK? The answer lies almost entirely with the decisions we make so it could go either way. "I really think at the moment there's huge uncertainty... but to be honest it's something I'm very concerned about," says Dr Tildseley. The potential is clearly there - the virus is still around and it is no less deadly or infectious than at the start of 2020. Only around 5% of people in the UK are thought to have been infected and there is no guarantee they are all immune. "The evidence is the vast majority of people are still susceptible, in essence if we lift all measures we're back to where we were in February," says Dr Adam Kucharski from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. "It's almost like starting from scratch again."

6-22-20 Coronavirus: South Korea confirms second wave of infections
Health officials in South Korea believe the country is going through a second wave of coronavirus, despite recording relatively low numbers. The country had been a success story in dealing with Covid-19, but now expects the pandemic to continue for months. Head of the Korea Centers for Disease Control (KCDC), Jung Eun-kyeong, said the first wave lasted up until April. Yet since May, clusters of new cases have grown, including outbreaks at nightclubs in the capital, Seoul. Between those periods, daily confirmed cases had fallen from nearly a thousand to zero infections recorded for three days in a row. Officials on Monday said that over the last 24 hours, 17 new infections had been recorded, from different clusters in large offices and warehouses. Dr Jeong said the recent resurgence had led her to conclude that the country was in the grip of a second wave of the virus, and that she expected it to continue. Until now, the KCDC had said that South Korea's first wave had never really ended. But Dr Jeong said it was now clear that a holiday weekend in early May marked the beginning of a new wave of infections focused in the greater Seoul area, which had previously seen only a few cases. Earlier on Monday, the city of Daejeon, south of the capital, announced it would ban gatherings in public spaces such as museums and libraries after a number of small virus clusters were discovered. The mayor of Seoul also warned that the capital may have to return to strict social distancing, should cases top 30 on average over the next three days and the bed occupancy rate of the city's hospitals exceeds 70%. South Korea has managed to avoid locking down the country and has instead relied on voluntary social distancing measures alongside an aggressive track, trace and test strategy to combat the virus. A total of 280 people have died since the country reported its first case on 20 January. Overall, more than 12,000 infections have been recorded and it is thought that currently there remain 1,277 active cases in the country.

6-22-20 Donald Trump re-election team denies TikTok teens behind low rally turnout
President Donald Trump's re-election team has rejected claims that a social media campaign by TikTok users and K-Pop fans was behind the lower-than-expected turnout for Saturday night's Oklahoma rally. Teenagers are said to have booked tickets without intending to turn up so as to produce empty seats. The Trump 2020 team said one million requests had been made for tickets. But it insisted that it had weeded out bogus reservations. The Bank of Oklahoma Center venue in Tulsa seats 19,000. The event was also planned to extend outside, though that part of it was cancelled. The Tulsa fire brigade is quoted as saying more than 6,000 attended, but the 2020 campaign suggested the figure was much higher. The team's campaign director said in a statement that "phony ticket requests never factor into our thinking" as entry to rallies is on a first-come first-served basis. Brad Parscale blamed the media and protesters for dissuading families from attending. "Leftists and online trolls doing a victory lap, thinking they somehow impacted rally attendance, don't know what they're talking about or how our rallies work," Mr Parscale said. "Registering for a rally means you've RSVPed [confirmed attendance] with a cellphone number and we constantly weed out bogus numbers, as we did with tens of thousands at the Tulsa rally, in calculating our possible attendee pool." Former Republican strategist and a critic of Mr Trump, Steve Schmidt, said teenagers across the US had ordered tickets without intending to turn up. His 16-year-old daughter and her friends had requested "hundreds" of tickets. A number of parents responded to Mr Schmidt's post saying that their children had done likewise. House representative, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading progressive figure, praised the young people and K-pop fans she said had "flooded the Trump campaign w/ fake ticket reservations".

6-22-20 Bubba Wallace: Noose found in garage stall of black US racing driver
US-based motor-racing organisation Nascar says it is investigating after a noose was found in the garage stall of African-American driver Bubba Wallace. Wallace, Nascar's only full-time black driver, successfully campaigned to get the Confederate flag banned from races. The flag has been a common sight at Nascar circuits but for many it remains a symbol of slavery and racism. In a statement, Nascar condemned the "heinous" act at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. "Late this afternoon, Nascar was made aware that a noose was found in the garage stall of the 43 team," the organisation said. "We are angry and outraged and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act. We have launched an immediate investigation and will do everything we can to identify the person(s) responsible and eliminate them from the sport." It added: "As we have stated unequivocally, there is no place for racism in Nascar and this act only strengthens our resolve to make the sport open and welcoming to all." In a statement on Twitter, Wallace, 26, described the incident as a "despicable act of racism" that left him "incredibly saddened". "This will not break me. I will not give in, nor will I back down," he said. Earlier this month, Nascar banned the Confederate flag from all races. It came amid global protests against the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody. Wallace had called for the flag to be banned from racetracks where it had become a common sight, particularly in the sport's southern US heartland. "Get them out of here. They have no place for them, " he told CNN. "No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a Nascar race. It starts with Confederate flags." However, before Sunday's scheduled racing at Talladega, a small plane flew over the track trailing a Confederate flag and a banner that read "Defund Nascar". Nascar executive vice-president Steve O'Donnell condemned the display on Twitter.

6-22-20 Neo-Nazi militant group grooms teenagers
Secret efforts to groom and recruit teenagers by a neo-Nazi militant group have been exposed by covert recordings. They capture senior members of The Base interviewing young applicants and discussing how to radicalise them. The FBI has described the group as seeking to unite white supremacists around the world and incite a race war. The recordings were passed to US civil rights organisation, the Southern Poverty Law Center, before some were shared with BBC One's Panorama. Rinaldo Nazzaro, founder of The Base, is a 47-year-old American. Earlier this year the BBC revealed he was directing the organisation from his upmarket flat in St. Petersburg, Russia. The interviews, which took place via conference call on an encrypted app, followed a pattern - prospective members were asked by Nazzaro about their personal history, ethnicity, radicalisation journey and experience with weapons, before a panel of senior members posed their own questions. The would-be recruits were quizzed on what books they had read, including Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf, and were encouraged to familiarise themselves with the group's white supremacist ideology, which predicts and seeks to accelerate racial warfare, requiring followers to prepare for conflict and social breakdown. During the calls, Nazzaro can be heard welcoming members of other extremist groups. The young applicants, who hide behind aliases and display varying degrees of ideological awareness, describe their radicalisation by online videos and propaganda. When interviewees left the calls, senior members discussed their potential before arranging to vet them in person at a later date. The recordings make clear that The Base sought to recruit soldiers from western militaries to draw on their training with tactics and firearms. Nazzaro, who the BBC investigation has been told used to work as an analyst for the FBI and as a contractor for the Pentagon, informed one British teenager that the idea of societal collapse was a "guiding philosophy". A European teenager was told that such a collapse would be desirable, even at a local level, if it offered a "power vacuum that we can take advantage of". One boy was told "we have a goal of initially creating two to three man cells in as many areas as possible" and that the "UK is a place that we think there is a lot of potential".

6-22-20 Rethink: Pope Francis warns poor have become part of landscape
Pope Francis says that the coronavirus pandemic has shown how much the poor are disconnected from society. Poverty is often hidden away, he says, but trying to help others can help us rediscover ourselves. This coronavirus crisis is affecting us all, rich and poor alike, and putting a spotlight on hypocrisy. I am worried by the hypocrisy of certain political personalities who speak of facing up to the crisis, of the problem of hunger in the world, but who in the meantime manufacture weapons. This is a time to be converted from this kind of functional hypocrisy. It's a time for integrity. Either we are coherent with our beliefs or we lose everything. Every crisis contains both danger and opportunity. Today I believe we have to slow down our rate of production and consumption and to learn to understand and contemplate the natural world. We need to reconnect with our real surroundings. This is the opportunity for conversion. I see early signs of an economy that is more human. But let us not lose our memory once all this is past, let us not file it away and go back to where we were. This is the time to take the decisive step, to move from using and misusing nature to contemplating it. We have lost the contemplative dimension; we have to get it back. And speaking of contemplation, I'd like to dwell on one point. This is the moment to see the poor. Jesus says we will have the poor with us always, and it's true. They are a reality we cannot deny. But the poor are hidden, because poverty is bashful. In Rome recently, in the midst of the quarantine, a policeman said to a man: "You can't be on the street, go home." The response was: "I have no home. I live in the street." There is such a large number of people who are on the margins. And we don't see them, because poverty is bashful. They have become part of the landscape; they are things. Mother Teresa saw them and had the courage to embark on a journey of conversion. To "see" the poor means to restore their humanity. They are not things, not garbage; they are people. We can't settle for a welfare policy such as we have for rescued animals. which is how the poor are often treated.

6-21-20 The nursing home disaster
How coronavirus devastated America's long-term care facilities. Over 40 percent of U.S. coronavirus deaths have been linked to long-term care facilities. Why? Here's everything you need to know:

  1. How bad were the outbreaks? More than 43,000 people and at least 400 workers perished of COVID-19 in nursing and long-term care facilities. The first outbreak, which essentially launched the pandemic in the U.S., came in February at the Seattle-area Life Care Nursing facility, where two-thirds of the residents and 47 workers were infected and 37 ultimately died.
  2. Why was it so bad? For a highly infectious virus like the new coronavirus, ­nursing homes were like dry tinder in a wildfire. Mortality rates for COVID-19 rise dramatically for those over 70, especially if they have pre-existing conditions such as heart disease.
  3. Were the homes at fault? Outbreaks were inevitable, but the industry has not complied with regulations that could have reduced the scale of the disaster. In 2016, the Obama administration introduced new regulations requiring nursing facilities to train staff on dealing with the arrival of a novel and contagious virus.
  4. What role did government play? The industry claims that even as the death toll mounted, its pleas for PPE and tests were never met. As a result, many facilities experienced lethal shortages of PPE.
  5. What's being done now? On April 30, Trump vowed to "deploy every tool, resource, and power" to protect elderly Americans. In mid-May, the administration said it wanted all residents and staff tested over the ensuing two weeks. But by the end of May, more than 3,200 facilities said they still had less than a week's supply of PPE and sanitizer, and that some PPE they'd received was defective.
  6. Immunity from lawsuits: Governors in 20 states have issued orders shielding nursing facilities and their workers from legal liability during the pandemic. State officials insist that such action does not excuse gross negligence, and was necessary in order to ensure "maximum participation" among frontline health-care workers during a moment of crisis, as Democratic Connecticut. Gov. Ned Lamont put it. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has vowed to include such immunity in any additional rounds of pandemic relief legislation as a means of reducing opportunistic nuisance lawsuits.

6-21-20 Trump's shaky start in Tulsa
The news from the president's first campaign rally in months had nothing to do with crowd sizes. For the thousands of people in the audience it was the Elvis '68 Comeback Special. For the members of the press it was Fyre Festival. For the rest of us watching from home, it was a standard Donald Trump campaign rally. The president's appearance in Tulsa on Saturday, which did not quite fill the 19,000-seat indoor arena booked for it, is already being treated as a referendum on his re-election chances with voters in a state that he won by 36 percent four years ago. This is true even of the journalists who are happy to accept the idea that the event was not full because thousands of tickets had been assigned to young people who deliberately requested them with no plans of showing up. Whether his unpopularity, Tik-Tok shenanigans, some totally mysterious third case (e.g., people not wanting to attend a crowded indoor event at which few if any persons in the audience were likely to be wearing masks) is responsible for the lower-than-expected turnout is an open question. It is also a very boring one. Nothing confirms me in my long-held view that this president and the journalists who moan about him for a living deserve one another more than both sides' willingness to squabble about crowd figures. But what actually happened? Trump complained about "fake-news CNN" and called for the reopening of schools in the fall. He hypothesized about a female victim of home invasion "whose husband is away as a traveling salesman or whatever he may do." He observed that the coronavirus has "more names than any disease in history" and that "many people call it a virus, which it is." (He claimed that he was aware of at least 19 such names, including "Kung Flu.") He told the audience that they were "lucky" he was president and spoke amid raucous applause for "brand-new gorgeous helicopters" and the multitude of televisions on Air Force One. He suggested making flag burning illegal, under penalty of a year's imprisonment. He frequently used language that would have given the broadcast a rating of TV-14 if it had appeared as a scripted program. He mused about how his supporters are "the elite," not journalists, who are not elite because among other reasons he has "better hair" and "better carpets" than them. He denounced the Swedish and Brazilian responses to the pandemic. He talked for 15 minutes about ramps. He performatively drank a glass of water, a feat that could be seen as a normal part of anyone being asked to speak at great length or, alternately, as evidence that he is the "GREATEST. PRESIDENT. EVER." You decide. One thing Trump did not mention in his two hours of remarks was the death of George Floyd, whose killing on May 25 has led to nationwide calls for police reform and set in motion rioting, looting, the destruction of monuments, the creation of a quasi-sovereign landlocked nation within the borders of downtown Seattle, and the de facto abandonment of pandemic social distancing measures. Another was Juneteenth, the holiday he has previously taken (in the case of certain audiences probably somewhat deserved) credit for popularizing after rescheduling the rally in question, which had originally been scheduled for the 19th.

6-21-20 Donald Trump: Tulsa rally fails to draw expected crowds amid virus fears
US President Donald Trump has held his first campaign rally since the US coronavirus lockdown began, in front of a smaller than expected crowd. Mr Trump had boasted earlier this week that almost a million people had requested tickets for the event at Tulsa's Bank of Oklahoma Center. But the 19,000-seat arena was far from full and plans for him to address an outside "overflow" area were abandoned. There had been concerns about holding the rally during the pandemic. Coronavirus was one issue Mr Trump touched on in his wide-ranging, almost two-hour-long speech to cheering supporters in Oklahoma, a Republican heartland. Mr Trump said he told officials to slow down Covid-19 testing because so many cases were being detected, in remarks later described as a joke. Those attending the rally had to sign a waiver protecting the Trump campaign from responsibility for any illness. Hours before the event began, officials said six staff members involved in organising the rally had tested positive. However, it is unclear why attendance was lower than initially anticipated. Mr Trump referred to those in the stadium as "warriors", while blaming the media and protesters for keeping supporters away. There were some volatile scenes outside the venue but no serious trouble was reported. Mr Trump's re-election campaign event was one of the biggest indoor gatherings held in the US since the country's Covid-19 outbreak began, and came at a time when Oklahoma is seeing a rise in confirmed cases. More than 2.2 million cases of Covid-19 and 119,000 associated deaths have been reported in the US, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. In his opening remarks, Mr Trump said there had been "very bad people outside, they were doing bad things", but did not elaborate. Black Lives Matter activists were among the counter-protesters to gather outside the venue before the event. On the coronavirus response, Mr Trump said he had encouraged officials to slow down testing because it led to more cases being discovered. He described testing as a "double-edged sword". "Here is the bad part: When you do testing to that extent, you are going to find more people, you will find more cases," he told the cheering crowd. "So I said 'slow the testing down'. They test and they test." The coronavirus, Mr Trump said, had many names, including "Kung Flu", a xenophobic term that appears to be a reference to China, where Covid-19 originated. Almost 120,000 people have died with Covid-19 in the US since the pandemic began, a number that health experts say could have been much higher had testing not been ramped up. Testing, health officials say, is important to understand where and how widely coronavirus is spreading, and therefore prevent further deaths. A White House official later said the president was "obviously kidding" about Covid-19 testing.

6-21-20 Trump’s 'comfort-blanket' Tulsa rally may disappoint
The Trump campaign event in Tulsa had all the colour and character of one of his typical rallies. There were women in red, white and blue cowboy hats, cut-off jeans and fringed boots. The guy in the red-brick "build the wall" suit turned up, as did perennial warm-up act Diamond and Silk. Mike Lindell, better known as "My Pillow" impresario, worked the crowd, hugging and posing for selfies. The "Make America Great Again" hats, the Hillary Clinton "lock her up" chants, the ear-piercing soundtrack heavy on Rolling Stones, Elton John and Frank Sinatra - squint, and it felt like the kind of raucous celebration that powered Trump to the White House in 2016 and buoyed him through the ups and downs of his presidency. The only thing missing, really, was the capacity crowd - the kind the president was bragging he always gets just two days ago - as vast swathes of blue upper-deck seats remained empty even as Trump entered the stage. Blame the coronavirus for discouraging people from attending, as cases spike in Tulsa and elsewhere. Blame protesters - as the Trump campaign did - for supposedly blocking access to the rally site. Blame mischievous liberals for claiming they flooded the Trump team with fake ticket requests, encouraging the campaign to prepare for massive overflow crowds. Whatever the reason, those massive crowds simply didn't materialise. Both Mike Pence and Donald Trump cancelled speeches at an outdoor venue that sat mostly unfilled. It wasn't a bad turnout, particularly given the circumstances, but when your campaign boasts of more than a million RSVPs, it's an embarrassing look to hit way, way below that mark. Campaign manager Brad Parscale was one of those boasting the loudest, and given that he was already reported to be on shaky ground with the president, his continued tenure may be in serious jeopardy. This rally was reportedly planned by aides to break the president out from a few weeks of gloominess. Instead, it may further sour his mood. As for Trump's speech, it was also a throwback to his 2016 campaign heyday - part sounding board for new political themes and part crowd-sourced therapy session, as the mostly mask-less crowd roared and laughed to the president's delight. He attacked Joe Biden, his presumptive Democratic opponent, as a globalist, a career politician and a "helpless puppet of the radical left". He criticised the Supreme Court, Germany, contractors that tried to charge too much for a new Air Force One jet, bird-killing windmills, protesters who pull down statues and a "military-industrial complex" upset that he wasn't dropping bombs on other countries. He said Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a Somali refugee, "was telling us how to run our country" and blamed China for giving the US the "kung flu" virus. He opened with a nearly 10-minute complaint about the unfair treatment he received from the media after making a slow walk down a ramp following his speech at the West Point graduation.

6-21-20 Donald Trump: TikTok users and K-pop fans said to be behind poor Tulsa turnout
Tik-Tok users and K-Pop fans were behind the smaller than expected numbers at US President Donald Trump's first campaign rally in months, social media users have claimed. Mr Trump's campaign manager had blamed "radical" protesters and the media. But political strategist Steve Schmidt said teenagers across the US ordered tickets without intending to turn up to ensure there would be empty seats. The campaign had reported at least one million ticket requests for the event. Mr Schmidt, a critic of the president, said his 16-year-old daughter and her friends had requested "hundreds" of tickets. A number of parents responded to Mr Schmidt's post saying that their children had done likewise. Despite Mr Trump's campaign anticipating large crowds, the 19,000-seat arena at at Tulsa's Bank of Oklahoma Center was far from full and plans for him to address an outside "overflow" area were abandoned. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading progressive figure, praised the young people and K-pop fans she said had "flooded the Trump campaign w/ fake ticket reservations". It is unclear how many of the hundreds of thousands of ticket reservations touted by the Trump campaign were fake, but one TikTok video from 12 June encouraging people to sign up for free tickets to ensure there would be empty seats at the arena has received more than 700,000 likes. The video was posted after the original rally date was announced for 19 June. The news had sparked angry reaction because it fell on Juneteenth, the celebration of the end of US slavery. The location of the event, Tulsa, was also controversial, as it was the site of one of the worst racial massacres in US history. After news of the smaller crowd numbers emerged, the account's owner Mary Jo Laupp praised the response, telling young people who were too young to vote: "Remember that you, in doing one thing and sharing information, had an impact." If true, it would not be the first time social media users have shown their political impact in recent weeks. Fans of K-pop, South Korea's popular music industry, have been active in drowning out hashtags used by opponents of Black Lives Matter (BLM) in recent weeks, and raised money following the death of African-American George Floyd last month.

6-21-20 Geoffrey Berman: Trump fires top US prosecutor who refused to quit
US President Donald Trump has fired a top federal prosecutor who refused to leave office, Attorney General William Barr has said. Geoffrey Berman, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said on Friday that he had learned he was "stepping down" in a press release. Mr Berman insisted he would stay in post and continue his investigations. On Saturday, Mr Barr told him that he had asked the president to remove him immediately, and that he had done so. Top US Democrat Nancy Pelosi said she believed there were "base and improper motives" in the sacking of Mr Berman and that the Attorney General "must be held accountable for his actions". Mr Berman oversaw the prosecution of a number of Mr Trump's associates. They included the president's former lawyer Michael Cohen, who has served a prison sentence for lying to Congress and election campaign finance fraud. Mr Berman's department has also been investigating the conduct of Rudy Giuliani, Mr Trump's current personal lawyer. The row between the attorney general and the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan began on Friday night, when Mr Barr issued a press release announcing that Mr Berman was "stepping down" after two-and-a-half years in the post. Mr Berman had "done an excellent job", achieving "many successes on consequential civil and criminal matters", Mr Barr said. He added that the president intended to nominate Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Jay Clayton, who has never served as a federal prosecutor, as Mr Berman's successor. Not long afterwards, Mr Berman issued his own a statement, saying he had learned he was "stepping down" from the press release. "I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning, my position," he added. "I will step down when a presidentially appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate." Mr Barr's announcement appeared to surprise the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lindsey Graham. He said Mr Clayton's nomination would still have to be approved by New York's two Senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, who are both Democrats. Senator Schumer tweeted: "This late Friday night dismissal reeks of potential corruption of the legal process. What is angering President Trump? A previous action by this US Attorney or one that is ongoing?"

6-21-20 America trying to 'rule the world', says Russian spy chief
The head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service has told the BBC that America has been trying to "rule the world" and this could lead to "disaster”. In an exclusive interview, Sergei Naryshkin also said that Russia doesn’t trust what the British government says about the Salisbury poisonings. Russia’s spy chief, who was talking to the BBC's Steve Rosenberg on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two, claimed people in the West forget about Russia’s contribution to the defeat of Nazism. (Webmaster's comment: The Russians are the ones who defected the Nazis! They drove the Nazis back from Stalingrad and Moscow all the way to Berlin freeing millions in 1,000s of Nazi death camps!)

6-20-20 John Bolton: Judge rejects Trump bid to ban ex-adviser's book
A US judge has rejected a request by President Donald Trump to stop the publication of a memoir by his former National Security Adviser, John Bolton. The justice department argued that the book had not been properly vetted. Washington DC District Court Judge Royce Lamberth said the government had "failed to establish that an injunction would prevent irreparable harm". Mr Bolton had "gambled" with US national security and already "exposed his country to harm", the judge said. Hundreds of thousands of copies of the book - The Room Where It Happened - have been printed and distributed, and are due to go on sale on Tuesday. In the memoir Mr Bolton paints an unflattering picture of a president whose decision-making was dominated by a desire to be re-elected in November. Mr Trump has said the book is "made up of lies and fake stories". The justice department's lawyers argued that Mr Bolton had breached an obligation to complete a pre-publication review of his manuscript to ensure that it contained no classified information. Mr Bolton's lawyers dismissed the claim. They insisted that the manuscript was thoroughly examined and that Mr Trump simply did not like the contents. In his 10-page ruling, Judge Lamberth wrote that Mr Bolton had opted out of the pre-publication review process before its conclusion and that he "likely jeopardized national security by disclosing classified information in violation of his non-disclosure agreement obligations". He nevertheless denied the government's injunction request. "In taking it upon himself to publish his book without securing final approval from national intelligence authorities, Bolton may indeed have caused the country irreparable harm," he wrote. "But in the internet age, even a handful of copies in circulation could irrevocably destroy confidentiality. A single dedicated individual with a book in hand could publish its contents far and wide from his local coffee shop. With hundreds of thousands of copies around the globe - many in newsrooms - the damage is done. There is no restoring the status quo."

6-20-20 Inside Wuhan: Life after coronavirus lockdown
On 8 April, the Chinese government lifted lockdown in Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus pandemic began. Two months on, 11 million people are still trying to restart their lives – and one Wuhan film-maker has set out to capture it. How has Wuhan changed? And what can the rest of the world learn about life after lockdown?

6-20-20 Black Lives Matter organizers discuss the local and global aspects of the movement
A conversation with Siana Bangura, an author, poet and organizer in London, and Miski Noor, an organizer and writer with Black Visions Collective in Minneapolis. From Minneapolis to London and across the globe, protests continue over racism, police brutality, inequality, and injustice. To understand what activists see as a moment of global solidarity, The World's host Marco Werman spoke with two of them. Siana Bangura is an author, poet and organizer in London, and Miski Noor is an organizer and writer with Black Visions Collective in Minneapolis. They've each been pushing for changes to policing in their cities for years. Marco Werman: I would just like to know first, what have the past two to three weeks or so been like for both of you? Miski, what has it been like for you? Miski Noor: It's been, you know, an incredibly painful time in Minneapolis, seeing our folks be attacked and being attacked ourselves by police and white supremacists, being overtaken by the National Guard and having so many of our community spaces burnt. What we're trying to do is really build this city. We want justice for George Floyd, and we know justice isn't enough. Which is why we've been saying that now is the time to defund the police and invest in the community. Right now, what I was doing before getting on with you is listening to the Minneapolis City Council vote to disband the police department, right? So it's been hard, and it's been incredibly transformational, and it's been such a powerful, powerful thing to witness. Werman: Siana, London has seen what's going on in the U.S. in Minneapolis. What have you been feeling the last two or three weeks? Siana Bangura: Firstly, Miski, massive solidarity to you folks. So I just want to thank you for that. And in terms of how we are trying to express solidarity over here, this is a moment of reckoning. So in terms of how I've been feeling, I — you know, for the past two weeks I have been in a state of all sorts of emotions, quite frankly, which I think is fair to say for a lot of black people, if not the wider global community, the diaspora. Whatever happens in the U.S. often, if not always, has a knock-on effect on the rest of us. And I think, you know, I have been banging on for the longest time. This is just a fact of history that — let's never forget that the U.K. is the belly of the beast. It's the racist parents of the U.S. And so in my country, people have a really big culture of deflection, of saying it's not so bad here. "At least, you know, we're not as bad as the U.S." And it's like, where do you think they learn everything from, right? And so we are now forcing people to take a really long, hard look in the mirror in this country. This particular time, if I may say, feels a little bit different. I do strongly feel that. We've never had this in the midst of a global pandemic where in the U.K. the black communities here have been disproportionately affected by the consequences of the COVID outbreak, right? And then you see that on top of that, in the same way that our siblings in the U.S. are also disproportionately wildly affected by the COVID outbreak. They are also — the police still have time to also kill you on top of that. And that is clearly unbearable. One big thing we've been doing is we're saying, well, actually, this is a time to reckon with the fact that this country also has a prison-industrial complex and this country also kills black people. So we stand in solidarity but want to you use this moment to also say actually, look in the mirror the U.K., your history is disgusting. You're not innocent either. (Webmaster's comment: It's obvious our police departments are the hotbeds and centers of racism in the United States! We need to gut them of all the male brutes, racists, white supremacists, Klan, and Neo-Nazis they have hired! Show them no mercy!)

6-20-20 Breonna Taylor: Louisville officer to be fired for deadly force use
A policeman involved in the killing of an African-American woman in the US state of Kentucky will be fired, Louisville city officials have said. Breonna Taylor, 26, was shot when officers entered her flat on 13 March during a drugs investigation. Mayor Greg Fischer said Brett Hankison, one of three officers involved, would lose his badge. The others have been placed on administrative leave. Ms Taylor's name has become a rallying cry at global anti-racism protests. Mayor Fischer did not provide more details regarding the decision to fire Mr Hankison. "Unfortunately, due to a provision in state law that I very much would like to see changed, both the Chief and I are precluded from talking about what brought us to this moment, or even the timing of this decision," he said. Police suspected Ms Taylor's flat was being used to receive drugs by a gang based at a different address 10 miles (16km) away. One of the suspects was an ex-boyfriend of Ms Taylor. She was one of three people named on the warrant, according to Louisville NBC affiliate Wave 3. But Ms Taylor was not the main subject of the investigation, the city's Courier-Journal newspaper reports. In a letter to Mr Hankison published by the Courier-Journal, Louisville Police interim chief Robert Schroeder wrote that his conduct was "a shock to the conscience" that "demands your termination". Mr Hankison is accused of "blindly" firing 10 rounds into Ms Taylor's apartment, displaying "an extreme indifference to the value of human life". "I am alarmed and stunned you used deadly force in this fashion," Mr Schroeder added. "The result of your action seriously impedes the department's goal of providing the citizens of our city with the most professional law enforcement agency possible. I cannot tolerate this type of conduct by any member of the Louisville Metro Police Department." Attorneys for Ms Taylor's family said they want to see the other officers fired as well. "We also look forward to these officers being prosecuted for their roles in her untimely death." (Webmaster's comment: Brett Hankison should be arrested, charged with murder, tried, convicted, and imprisoned for life!)

6-20-20 Protesters topple statues in US states
Juneteenth marks the end of slavery in the United States of America and falls on 19 June. Events to commemorate the day this year saw hundreds of protesters gather in several states to topple statues associated with slavery. One was as high as 75-feet tall, and another was set on fire.

6-20-20 US Attorney Geoffrey Berman denies he is stepping down
A top federal prosecutor has issued a statement saying he has not resigned, despite the US justice department announcing he was stepping down. Geoffrey Berman, the US Attorney in Manhattan, said he learned he was "stepping down" in a press release issued by US Attorney-General William Barr on Friday evening. Mr Barr gave no reason for the move. He said Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Jay Clayton would be nominated to succeed Mr Berman. Mr Berman has overseen the prosecution of a number of US President Donald Trump's associates since he took office in 2018. They include President Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen, who has served a prison sentence for lying to Congress, the US legislature, and election campaign finance fraud. Mr Berman's department has also been investigating the conduct of Rudy Giuliani, Mr Trump's current personal lawyer. He is also leading the investigation into Jeffrey Epstein and who earlier this month accused Prince Andrew of "shutting the door" on his probe. In his statement, Mr Berman said had "no intention of resigning", adding he would only step down when a successor had been confirmed by Congress. Mr Berman was appointed to his position by a court, making it unclear whether President Trump has the legal authority to remove him, BBC North America correspondent Anthony Zurcher says. Senior Democrats have accused Mr Barr of politicising the US Justice Department and making legal decisions at the behest of President Trump. The row comes days after former National Security Adviser John Bolton said in a book that President Trump had pressed Mr Berman's office to halt an investigation into the Turkish Halkbank in a bid to make a deal with Turkey's president. Mr Clayton's "management experience and expertise in financial regulation give him an ideal background" to lead the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, Mr Barr said. The US attorney in New Jersey, Craig Carpenito, will serve as acting head of the office until Mr Clayton has been confirmed

6-20-20 Coronavirus: Brazil becomes second country to hit one million cases
Brazil has become the second country in the world to confirm more than one million cases of Covid-19, as the disease continues to spread. United States reached one million cases over 1 month and 3 weeks ago. The health ministry also posted a record number of new cases in the past 24 hours - more than 54,000. In addition, there were more than 1,200 deaths for the fourth consecutive day, taking the total to nearly 49,000. A lack of testing suggests the true figures are higher and experts say the outbreak is weeks away from its peak. The new figure was revealed hours after the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the pandemic was entering a "new and dangerous" phase, with its director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warning that cases were rising at the same time as people are growing weary of lockdowns and governments are seeking to restart their economies. Latin America is among the areas currently seeing a spike in infections. There are major outbreaks in a number of countries, including Chile and Peru, while Mexico became the seventh country to officially surpass 20,000 virus-related deaths on Friday. But only the US has seen more infections than Brazil, where far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has been heavily criticised for his response to the crisis. He has repeatedly clashed with state governors and mayors who have adopted strict restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, shutting down major cities. Mr Bolsonaro argues that the economic impact of the measures will be much bigger than the virus itself, a position shared by many. But his overall approach to the crisis has led to the resignation of two doctors as health minister. (Webmaster's comment: The virus is out of control in both Brazil and in the United States!)

6-19-20 Coronavirus: Why US is expecting an 'avalanche' of evictions
As hair salons, churches and restaurants reopen across the US, so are eviction courts. Advocates and experts say that an unprecedented crush of evictions is coming, threatening millions of Americans with homelessness as a possible second wave of the pandemic looms. Sitting in her car parked outside of the little white house in Kansas City, Missouri, where she'd lived for two years, Tamika Cole was overwhelmed. She'd worked a long shift as a machine operator the night before, at a factory where she makes detergent bottles for $18 an hour. It's good, stable work. Nevertheless, Cole was on the brink of losing her home. Her nerves were shot. "What am I supposed to do?" she said. "I'm tired of crying." Cole said that she came home in early May to find an eviction notice affixed to her door. She believed that it was because of a dispute she had with her upstairs neighbour, but that her landlord never spoke to her about it before filing the eviction against her. Due to the coronavirus, an eviction moratorium was in place in Kansas City, and Cole's landlord couldn't force her to move out right away. But she said that didn't stop him from trying to make her as uncomfortable as possible, entering her apartment without her knowledge, cutting off her electricity, and unscrewing and removing a barred security door on her unit. Now, due to the rapid reopening of Missouri and states like it all over the country, the moratorium was allowed to expire. The renter protections Cole had were gone and she was facing homelessness in the middle of the pandemic. "I've been up all night," she said. "I'm just trying to make it." In Kansas City, local courts declared a moratorium on evictions after a campaign by local tenants' rights activists. Similar campaigns have had success nationally, and as the pandemic went into full swing in the US in mid-to-late March, most places halted eviction proceedings in some form - either on the state or local level - as both a means of shoring up newly out-of-work renters and as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus. The federal CARES Act, which passed in early April, froze evictions for renters living in federally subsidised housing or in property backed by government loans. Surveys estimated that in the month of May, nearly a third of renters failed to pay their landlords on time, and over half had lost jobs due to the crisis.

6-19-20 Coronavirus: Is the pandemic getting worse in the US?
The news in the US has been dominated by anti-racism protests for the past couple of weeks, but coronavirus is now back in the headlines. Several states have seen a record number of cases in recent days, leading to fears that the country is experiencing a second wave of infections. But Vice-President Mike Pence said those fears were "overblown" and accused the media of using "grim predictions" to scare the American people. So what is going on in the US? The number of infections is going up! With more than two million coronavirus cases, the US has the highest number of confirmed infections in the world - about a quarter of the global total. The situation got really bad in late March but by May, cases were declining and most states had begun to ease restrictions put into place to halt the spread of the virus. The number of new cases rarely fell below 20,000 though, because as some states were bringing their outbreaks under control, others were only just beginning to see flare-ups. For this reason, the top US health official for infectious diseases, Anthony Fauci, sees the current situation as a continuation of the initial outbreaks. "People keep talking about a second wave," he told a reporter last week. "We're still in a first wave." Spikes in cases in those new hotspots mean the country's overall seven-day average has now risen for several days in a row for the first time since cases peaked in early April. (Webmaster's comment: Cases have been increasing for the last ten days!) The North East has been by far the worst-hit region, with about a quarter of all US cases and more than a third of all US deaths occurring in the states of New York and New Jersey. But in recent weeks, the region has brought its outbreaks under control. The South and West of the country, on the other hand, have seen a big rise in the number of infections, according to data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project. There's no debate over whether cases are going up again, but there is over why. President Donald Trump blames it on increased testing, telling the Wall Street Journal he thinks "testing is overrated" because "in many ways, it makes us look bad." (Webmaster's comment: And our nation should look bad because we are worse than other nations.) The US has conducted more tests than any other country - about 25 million so far - so that does go some way to explaining why it has the highest number of cases in the world, although international comparisons are difficult to make for a number of reasons. But there's plenty of evidence to suggest the recent rise in infections is down to more than just a higher number of people being tested.

6-19-20 New York City declares Juneteenth an official holiday
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced that Juneteenth - the 19 June date which marks the end of US slavery - will become an official holiday. It comes as millions of Americans plan to commemorate, with marches and personal observances, the 1865 date when the last US slaves were freed. Several states already observe the day as an official holiday and there is a push to declare it a national holiday. The date's significance has grown this year amid Black Lives Matter protests. Mayor de Blasio said in a press conference on Friday that the date would be marked as an official city holiday beginning in 2021, and will also be a public school holiday. "We'll work with all the unions to work through the plan, give this day the importance and recognition it deserves," Mr de Blasio said. "Every city worker, every student will have the opportunity to reflect the meaning of our history and the truth." Earlier this week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an order making Juneteenth - also known as Emancipation Day and Freedom Day - a paid holiday for state workers. Mr Cuomo said he would introduce legislation to make the day a holiday for all New Yorkers by 2021. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam also promised to make Juneteenth a holiday by 2021 in the former capitol of the Confederacy which rebelled against the US during the Civil War for the legal right to enslave black people. In Pennsylvania, Gov Tom Wolf has also signed an order making Juneteenth a holiday for state workers. "In recent weeks, people around the nation have joined together to demand an end to systemic racism and oppression of African Americans," he said in the statement. "Freedom for all is not fully realised until every person is truly free. This Juneteenth we have an opportunity to unite against injustice and create lasting change," he continued. Texas was the first US state to declare Juneteenth a holiday in 1980. Now all but four US states observe or recognise the date in some form. This year, the date has become particularly prominent in the public consciousness amid a wave of protests over racial inequality following the deaths of several unarmed African Americans. Juneteenth rallies are planned in Washington DC and across the country.

6-19-20 Canadian province investigates racist 'game' played by hospital staff
A Canadian province is investigating claims that healthcare staff played a racist "game" by betting on the blood alcohol level of indigenous patients. The claims, involving staff in at least one British Columbia hospital, came to light after a community leader filed a complaint on Thursday. Health Minister Adrian Dix called the allegations "abhorrent" and has hired an independent investigator. He would not say which hospital was named in the complaint. "The allegation is that a game was being played to investigate the blood alcohol level of patients in the emergency rooms, in particular with indigenous people and perhaps others. And if true, it is intolerable and racist and of course (has) affected profoundly patient care," Mr Dix told a press conference Friday. He did not say if any staff faced disciplinary action. The game was allegedly dubbed "The Price is Right", after the popular game show. Staff lost if they guessed above the real blood alcohol limit. The game was played when indigenous patients were admitted to hospital, but other races may have been targets as well, Mr Dix said. The original complaint named one hospital, but he said the investigation would look into allegations of racism by staff across the healthcare system, and he expected more issues would come to light. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the former Representative for Children and Youth in the province, will lead the investigation. The complaint was filed by Daniel Fontaine, CEO of Métis Nation British Columbia, after a healthcare worker mentioned the game during a San'yas indigenous cultural safety training session. He says he is not surprised, and that the government has known about racism in the healthcare system for years. "There is something seriously wrong here besides The Price is Right. The Price is Right is just one game," he told CBC. A 2019 report by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer found that eliminating racism would improve cancer outcomes, as patients would be more likely to trust their healthcare providers. A national report in 2015 called First Peoples, Second-Class Treatment found that racism against indigenous people in the healthcare system contributed to their overall poorer health outcomes, compared to non-indigenous Canadians.

6-19-20 Four reasons why this was a bad week for Trump
It's been a trying week for Donald Trump on a number of fronts, as his political challenges appear to be multiplying. While the mass demonstrations and violent clashes of the past month appear to be in the rear-view mirror, new headaches are emerging while old ones come back with a vengeance. Even in a presidency that seems to bounce from crisis to crisis, some unexpected and others self-made, this week has been a particularly rough ride.

  1. Covid-19 cases spiking: In an interview on Wednesday evening, Donald Trump said that the coronavirus was "fading away", echoing comments he made earlier this year - before US deaths rose past 100,000 - that the pandemic would eventually disappear "like a miracle". The evidence indicates, however, that the virus is not only still a public health threat in the US, its rate of spread is increasing once again.
  2. Supreme Court setbacks: One of Trump's key campaign promises in 2016 was that he would appoint conservatives to the federal courts. In the ensuing three-and-a-half years, he's followed through, seating nearly 200 new judges, including two justices to the nine-person US Supreme Court. First, the court discarded the Trump administration's contention that a 1964 civil rights law did not provide workplace discrimination protections to gay and transgender employees. Then, it invalidated the White House's attempt to rescind an Obama-era programme giving temporary normalised immigration status to undocumented migrants who entered the US as children.
  3. Tell-all books: For months former National Security Adviser John Bolton's memoir has been a storm whose distant rumbling suggested trouble to come. This week the book's juiciest bits were revealed with the force of a thunderclap. The president is seemingly uninterested in the details of governing and uninformed on basic issues of foreign policy, Bolton writes, providing numerous anecdotes and episodes.
  4. Sinking poll numbers: Last week the Trump campaign wrote a "cease and desist" letter to CNN, demanding that it apologise and retract a poll that showed the president trailing presumptive Democratic opponent Joe Biden by 14 points, 55% to 41%. Trump's team called the survey biased and poorly conducted, among other allegations. And 67% of Americans currently say the nation is heading on the "wrong track" - the highest mark of Trump's White House term.

6-19-20 Twitter labels Trump tweet 'misleading media' for first time
Twitter has labelled a video tweeted by US President Donald Trump as having "manipulated media" for the first time. The video shows a black child running away from a white child while playing, with a fake CNN caption. The caption reads: "Terrified toddler runs from racist baby", before the video accuses CNN of "fake news". Twitter's decision to place a large warning label on the video is the latest escalation in a row between Twitter and the president. In late May, Twitter added fact-checking verification notices to the president's tweets for the first time, following up two days later with hiding some tweets behind a warning. Mr Trump responded by signing an executive order that seeks to curb the long-standing legal protections of social media firms. This latest warning is the first time Twitter has used the "manipulated media" warning on one of the president's tweets - designed to indicate the photo or video has been significantly edited. It also comes at a time of increased racial tension in the United States and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. After the initial shot of the children running, another caption appears: "Racist baby probably a Trump voter." It then cuts to text promising "what actually happened", showing the original context of the two children at play - as CNN did in its original report in September of last year. "America is not the problem. Fake news is," the video declares before it ends. But clicking on the prominent warning that Twitter attached to the tweet brings users to a page where Twitter warns: "The president shared a version of the video which many journalists confirmed was edited and doctored with a fake CNN chyron." It's also worth pointing out that this is a clear attack on CNN. The media organisation has frequently found itself a target of Trump's cries of "fake news". But in recent weeks, its journalists - and those from other outlets - have also been the target of physical attacks during protests sparked by the death of George Floyd. Here, the issue of "fake news" quite obviously comes back to President Trump, though. He is plugging it to his millions of followers online.

6-19-20 Trump in Tulsa: City faces up to violent past ahead of rally
President Donald Trump is holding his first political rally since the start of the pandemic in Tulsa, Oklahoma, this weekend. His choice of location and the date have raised tensions in a city struggling to come to terms with its history of violent racism. On 1 June 1921, a white mob ransacked the prosperous black neighbourhood of Greenwood, killing an estimated 300 people and burning 35 blocks of homes and businesses to the ground. The bodies of the victims were buried in mass graves and, for decades, the memory of those fearful first few days in June were buried with them. "Following the massacre, both blacks and whites swept this under the rug," says Mechelle Brown, programme co-ordinator at the Greenwood Cultural Center, which preserves the history of the neighbourhood. "They had to focus on surviving. They said that to talk about it meant to relive it, and it was too painful to relive." The killing started after a young black man was accused of assaulting a young white girl in a downtown office elevator. The man, Dick Rowland, was arrested and there were fears he would be lynched. A group of African Americans went to the jail to protect him and were confronted by a larger group of white men. Shots were fired and the ensuing violence lasted for several days. Thousands of white men, some of them deputised by the police, descended on Greenwood. Ten thousand people were forced from their homes. Others were murdered. Eyewitnesses said planes circled overhead dropping bombs of turpentine or coal oil while buildings were torched from the ground. It remains the deadliest single act of racial violence in American history. Nobody was ever charged in the looting and destruction and city officials who stood by - or took part - were never held accountable for failing to protect their black residents. But as the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre approaches, the city has begun to reckon with its past.

6-19-20 What is Juneteenth day? What you need to know about a historic holiday
The historic holiday, which celebrates the official end of slavery in the US, has taken on renewed significance this year. There have long been calls for it to be instituted as a federal holiday. This year, amid nationwide anti-racism protests following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, many companies have given employees the day off. The BBC spoke to Dr Greg Carr, professor of Afro-American studies at Howard University, and a number of Americans planning to celebrate.

6-19-20 The harm reduction phase of the pandemic
Right or wrong, people are fed up with lockdowns. So how do we best protect public health going forward? his past week, as I was leaving a newly re-opened restaurant, where wait staff wore masks and half the tables were marked for disuse to ensure distance between patrons, I saw an older man with a disposable mask wrapped around his upper arm. "They said I have to wear it," I overheard him say. "They didn't say where!" This is the attitude a significant minority of Americans now hold toward public health measures intended to curb the spread of COVID-19: They are nonsense to be flouted, and they were nonsense — perhaps intentionally totalitarian nonsense — from the start. That perception of vindication and the behavior it produces, like wearing your mask on your bicep, is why we've reached what should be the harm reduction phase of the pandemic.
1. The lockdowns and other social distancing rules, with public health experts insisting these were necessary to save lives.
2. The small, few lockdown protests, which some public health experts and journalists (including me) worried could become superspreader events if COVID-19 was as contagious as some studies suggested.
3. The large, numerous protests of police brutality and racial inequality, to which some public health experts responded by issuing very mild warnings heavily glossed with approval of the demonstrations.
4. President Trump's rally in Tulsa this weekend, which already has been heavily covered as a potential superspreader event, once again with dire warnings from some public health experts and journalists.
Reality, of course, is not this neat. Trump's rally is indoors, and most protests were outside. Moreover, the public health experts who decided protesting police brutality is worth the risk of contagion are not necessarily the same experts now warning against the rally in Tulsa. Chief pandemic adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday he "of course" would not attend the rally because of the risk, but Fauci was also "very concerned" about the policing protests, which he called "the perfect setup for the spread of the virus." When we think of "public health experts" as a single entity which has shamelessly contradicted itself, we aren't thinking rightly. Some public health experts did flip-flop, giving unadmitted priority to their political opinions over their professional expertise. Others didn't. Some changed their minds about the nature of the risk between January and June as better information became available and updated their advice accordingly. Others gave different advice because conditions changed: Testing and hospital capacity expanded; mask use increased; and the virus may well be seasonal, making outdoor assembly in warm weather very low risk. Regardless of such qualifications, the perception of a brazen reversal is widespread, and it isn't groundless. Public health messaging in aggregate changed considerably, and part of that change was politics. Criticism of Trump's Tulsa rally from that same aggregate will be the final confirmation for those already inclined to doubt public health expertise. The pandemic response, these playwrights conclude, was nothing but politicking.

6-19-20 Coronavirus was already in Italy by December, waste water study finds
Italian scientists say sewage water from two cities contained coronavirus traces in December, long before the country's first confirmed cases. The National Institute of Health (ISS) said water from Milan and Turin showed genetic virus traces on 18 December. It adds to evidence from other countries that the virus may have been circulating much earlier than thought. Chinese officials confirmed the first cases at the end of December. Italy's first case was in mid-February. In May French scientists said tests on samples showed a patient treated for suspected pneumonia near Paris on 27 December actually had the coronavirus. Meanwhile in Spain a study found virus traces in waste water collected in mid-January in Barcelona, some 40 days before the first local case was discovered. In their study, ISS scientists examined 40 sewage samples collected from wastewater treatment plants in northern Italy between last October and February. Samples from October and November came back negative, showing that the virus had not yet arrived, ISS water quality expert Giuseppina La Rosa said. Waste water from Bologna began showing traces of the virus in January. The findings could help scientists understand how the virus began spreading in Italy, Ms La Rosa said. However she said the research did not "automatically imply that the main transmission chains that led to the development of the epidemic in our country originated from these very first cases". Italy's first known non-imported virus case was a patient in the town of Codogno in the Lombardy region. The town was closed off and declared a "red zone" on 21 February. Nine other towns in Lombardy and neighbouring Veneto followed and the entire country went into lockdown in early March. The ISS said the results confirmed the "strategic importance" of sewage water as an early detection tool because it can signal the virus's presence before cases are clinically confirmed. Many countries are now using the technique.

6-18-20 Covid-19 news: NHS Test and Trace still not reaching enough contacts
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. The UK government’s contact tracing scheme for England only reached 73 per cent of people diagnosed with coronavirus between 4 and 10 June, government figures revealed today. This falls short of the 80 per cent target recommended by the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) for the second week in a row. Of the 5949 people who tested positive for coronavirus during this time, NHS Test and Trace only managed to contact 4366. Yesterday, Independent SAGE – an alternative group of scientists – published a report saying the 80 per cent target is currently “impossible” to meet. In addition, not everyone contacted by NHS Test and Trace was reached quickly enough. Only 75 per cent of people who were contacted were reached within the government’s target of 24 hours. 8.6 per cent of people were only contacted after 72 hours, when the chance that an infected person has already spread the virus is high. 350,000 people in Beijing, China have been contacted to arrange testing and 22 million people in the city are now under lockdown conditions after a new outbreak of coronavirus cases linked to the Xinfadi food market. The new outbreak may have started a month earlier than first thought, due to some people not experiencing symptoms, said Gao Fu, the director of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention at a seminar on Tuesday. Officials in Beijing reported 21 new coronavirus cases today, down from 31 on Wednesday and bringing the new outbreak’s total to 158 cases. An estimated 33,000 people in England outside of hospitals and care homes had covid-19 between 31 May and 13 June, according to preliminary results from a random swab testing survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This is lower than the 149,000 people thought to have been infected between 3 and 16 May and is consistent with ONS modelling that suggests the number of people testing positive in England has been falling since 26 April. An American Airlines passenger was removed from a flight on Wednesday after refusing to wear a face covering in accordance with the airline’s new covid-19 safety policy, introduced earlier this week.

6-18-20 Uber and Lyft pricing algorithms charge more in non-white areas
The algorithms that ride-hailing companies, such as Uber and Lyft, use to determine fares appear to create a racial bias. By analysing transport and census data in Chicago, Aylin Caliskan and Akshat Pandey at The George Washington University in Washington DC have found that ride-hailing companies charge a higher price per mile for a trip if the pick-up point or destination is a neighbourhood with a higher proportion of ethnic minority residents than for those with predominantly white residents. “Basically, if you’re going to a neighbourhood where there’s a large African-American population, you’re going to pay a higher fare price for your ride,” says Caliskan. Unlike traditional taxis, ride-hailing services have dynamic fares, which are calculated based on factors including the length of the trip as well as local demand – although it is unclear what other factors these algorithms take into consideration because ride-hailing companies don’t make all of their data available. The researchers analysed data from more than 100 million trips taken in Chicago through ride-hailing apps between November 2018 and December 2019. Each ride contained information including pick-up and drop-off location, duration, cost and whether the ride was an individual or shared trip. The data doesn’t include demographic details such as the ethnicity of the rider. In that period, 68 million trips were made by individual riders, and the majority of these used Uber. The duo compared the trip data against information from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which provides aggregate statistics about neighbourhoods, including population, ethnicity breakdown, education levels and median house prices. They found that prices per mile were higher on average if the trip pick-up or drop-off location was in a neighbourhood with a lower proportion of white residents, a lower median house price, or lower average educational attainment.

6-18-20 Baltimore brothers wrongfully jailed for 24 years get $3.8m
Two Baltimore brothers who served 24 years in jail for a murder they did not commit have each received $1.9m (£1.5m) compensation from the state. Eric Simmons and Kenneth "JR" McPherson were released in May 2019 after prosecutors re-examined their cases and found errors by investigators. It comes amid a national debate in the US over how to reform the police and criminal justice system. Both men, who are black, had alibis for the 1994 killing. They were in their early 20s when they were jailed for murdering a 21-year old man in East Baltimore, Maryland. The Innocence Project, which worked to uncover new evidence in the case, says police pressured a 13-year-old suspect to identify Mr Simmons and Mr McPherson, and threatened the boy with murder charges if he refused. Another witness, who was a paid police informant in a separate case, claimed to have seen the murder from her third-floor apartment, a distance of 150ft (45m). Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby said on their release last year that Mr McPherson was at a nearby party when the shooting happened and that Mr Simmons was home in bed. Mr Simmons, 49, said that although he appreciated the money from the Maryland Board of Public Works, no amount can replace the time lost. "My mother died in '09, and I can't get that back," he told the Washington Post. "Money can't fix the time I got jumped on and [guards] would beat me and put me in the hole. Money can't fix that. "I wake up every day and ask if it's real," he said, recalling times he would wake up in prison and think he was back home. A failed appeal in 2010 "almost took the life out of me", he said. "If it was up to me, I wouldn't have wanted to wake up after that. It was just God who put breath in my body." According to the Innocence Project, there are 30 exonerees in the state. Mr Simmons and McPherson are the ninth and 10th people to receive compensation for their wrongful conviction.

6-18-20 The coronavirus surge means an economic stall is inevitable
The coronavirus surge means an economic stall is inevitable. There is a high probability in the coming months, then, that the economy is going to stall out well short of recovery, and markets will tank as a result. Democrats should be ready to exploit this possibility with a big bailout bill that both extends the best parts of existing relief measures indefinitely, and adds additional rescues, especially for state and local governments. We have recently learned yet again that this virus is extremely difficult to contain. Aside from the ongoing disaster in the U.S., China has been forced to put containment measures back in place in Beijing due to a fresh outbreak there. New Zealand saw its first cases in weeks thanks to travelers from Britain. Even island countries with effective test-trace-isolate systems who manage to completely eradicate the virus within their borders are going to have to be on their toes until a vaccine is developed. But the United States is not an island nation, and has no such test-trace-isolate system on the national level. Indeed, even modest, virtually cost-free containment strategies like mask-wearing have run afoul of the conservative grievance industrial complex, and the general apathy of the population. Reporters across the country find big crowds going to bars and restaurants with little protection. The Montgomery, Alabama city council recently voted down a mandatory mask measure even after multiple doctors testified that their ICUs were in danger of being overrun. Now, there is a slight bit of good news that, while new cases are increasing in many states, so far the death rates have not. This appears to be because new cases are hitting younger people who are more able to fight off the disease. However, we are also learning that this virus can be nasty even for younger people. A high proportion of people hospitalized from COVID-19 end up with serious damage to one or more organs, particularly the lungs, which can end up permanently scarred. One study from China found that the vast majority of people with asymptomatic cases showed at least some lung damage in scans. Strokes and heart attacks are also common complications, due to what the virus does to the blood. A need for long-term care or rehabilitation is common, and a small fraction of patients end up permanently disabled. Furthermore, the most important economic rescue program — the enormous boost to unemployment insurance — will expire at the end of July.

6-18-20 Trump's bid to end Obama-era immigration policy ruled unlawful
The US Supreme Court has ruled against President Donald Trump's bid to end a programme that protects hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation. The justices upheld lower court rulings which found his move to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme was "unlawful". It protects "Dreamers" - undocumented youths brought to the US as children. The Trump administration has sought to end the Obama-era policy since 2017. The Supreme Court took up the case after lower courts ruled that the Trump administration did not adequately explain why it was ending the programme, criticising the White House's "capricious" explanations. On Thursday, the justices voted 5-4 to uphold the lower courts' findings that the administration's order violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which says a government action cannot be "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or otherwise not in accordance with law" or "unsupported by substantial evidence". The ruling, which does not prevent the Trump administration from continuing in its efforts to end the programme, affects an estimated 700,000 young people who entered the US without documents as children. In response to the decision, Mr Trump asked rhetorically in a tweet: "Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn't like me?" Most of the children protected by the Daca programme are from Mexico and other Latin American countries. A 2012 executive order, created by former President Barack Obama, shields these so-called "Dreamers" from deportation, and provides work and study permits. President Obama signed the order following failed negotiations for immigration reform on Capitol Hill. In order to qualify for Daca, applicants under the age of 30 are required to submit personal information to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), including addresses and phone numbers. They must go through an FBI background check and have a clean criminal background, and either be in school, recently graduated or have been honourably discharged from the military. In exchange, the US government agrees to "defer" any action on their immigration status for a period of two years. It is only available to individuals residing in the US since 2007.

6-18-20 What Bolton's book reveals about Trump — and America
Damning new allegations reveal the true scope of the president's apparent autocratic inclinations. We already knew that President Trump is ignorant, inept, and corrupt. The allegations in former National Security Adviser John Bolton's new book reveal why that matters: The United States can no longer plausibly claim to lead the so-called "free world" — not if its president is bargaining away the rights of oppressed minorities, pining for the execution of American journalists, and horse-trading with autocrats to undermine free and fair elections in his own country. Excerpts from the new memoir by Bolton became public on Wednesday and were an immediate sensation. Bolton made several alarming allegations about his time with the president:
Trump on several occasions apparently indicated to Chinese President Xi Jinping that he wouldn't oppose that country's construction of prison camps to imprison and re-educate Uighur Muslims. "According to our interpreter, Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which he thought was exactly the right thing to do," Bolton wrote. Trump's comments meant "we could cross repression of the Uighurs off our list of possible reasons to sanction China, at least as long as trade negotiations continued." (The president on Wednesday signed a bill that criticizes the Chinese treatment of the Uighurs, but that is clearly a case of too little, too late.)
Efforts to pressure Ukraine in helping Trump muddy former Vice President Joe Biden's reputation — the basis of the impeachment effort against Trump — were far from the only time the president misused his official powers. For example, he allegedly offered to call off federal criminal investigations involving Chinese and Turkish firms as a personal favor to the leaders of those countries. "Had the House not focused solely on the Ukraine aspects of Trump's confusion of his personal interests," Bolton writes, "there might have been a greater chance to persuade others that 'high crimes and misdemeanors' had been perpetrated."
One one occasion Trump allegedly sought re-election help from Xi, asking the Chinese leader to purchase soybeans to boost his standing with American farmers during the 2020 campaign. "Trump then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming U.S. presidential election, alluding to China's economic capability and pleading with Xi to ensure he'd win," Bolton writes. "He stressed the importance of farmers and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome. I would print Trump's exact words, but the government's prepublication review process has decided otherwise."
Trump reportedly mused about having journalists jailed for unflattering stories about his administration. "These people should be executed," the president said, according to Bolton. "They are scumbags."

6-18-20 John Bolton: Ten biggest claims in his Donald Trump book
The presidency of Donald Trump has already generated a long reading list, but the latest offering from former National Security Adviser John Bolton has attracted more attention than most, given the author's high-ranking status and the nature of his claims. His work - The Room Where It Happened - portrays a president ignorant of basic geopolitical facts and whose decisions were frequently driven by a desire for re-election. Critics of Mr Trump have asked why Mr Bolton did not speak up during impeachment hearings, while the president himself has called his former top adviser on security matters "incompetent" and a "boring old fool". The White House is trying to stop the book's release, but US media have obtained advance copies and have started publishing details from it. Here are some of the most eye-catching allegations.

  1. Trump wanted help from China to win re-election
  2. and said building internment camps was the 'right thing to do'
  3. Trump offered 'personal favours to dictators'
  4. The Democrats should have gone further with impeachment efforts
  5. Trump suggested he wanted to serve more than two terms
  6. Trump didn't know the UK was a nuclear power
  7. or if Finland was part of Russia
  8. He was very close to actually quitting Nato
  9. Invading Venezuela would be 'cool'
  10. Even allies ridiculed him

6-18-20 John Bolton: White House makes last gasp bid to stop book's release
The Trump administration is making a last-ditch effort to stop the publication of a damaging new book by a former national security adviser. Among several allegations, John Bolton says Donald Trump "pleaded" for help from China to win re-election in 2020. The Justice Department has filed an emergency order seeking to block the release on national security grounds. Constitutional experts say the move is unlikely to succeed and US media have already published extracts. The new work - The Room Where It Happened - is due to go on sale on 23 June. In it, John Bolton paints a picture of a president whose decision-making was dominated by a desire to win the presidency again. Many of the allegations are based on private conversations and are impossible to verify. The Trump administration has pushed back against Mr Bolton, with the president saying the book was "made up of lies and fake stories". "Many of the ridiculous statements he attributes to me were never made, pure fiction," Mr Trump tweeted on Thursday, adding: "Just trying to get even for firing him like the sick puppy he is!" Despite this, Mr Bolton's book has been keenly anticipated, given his formerly high-ranking status as the president's top adviser on security matters. Among the book's allegations:

  • President Trump sought help from Chinese President Xi Jinping to win the 2020 vote, stressing the "importance of farmers and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome"
  • He also said China's construction of internment camps in the Xinjiang region was the "right thing to do"
  • President Trump was willing to intervene in criminal investigations "to, in effect, give personal favours to dictators he liked". Mr Bolton said Mr Trump was willing to assist Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over a case involving a Turkish company
  • The US leader said invading Venezuela would be "cool" and that the South American nation was "really part of the United States"
  • President Trump was unaware the UK was a nuclear power and once asked a senior aide if Finland was part of Russia

6-18-20 John Bolton: Trump sought Xi's help to win re-election
US President Donald Trump sought help from Chinese President Xi Jinping to win re-election, ex-National Security Adviser John Bolton's new book says. Mr Bolton says Mr Trump wanted China to buy agricultural produce from US farmers, according to details of the forthcoming book previewed by US media. He also says Mr Trump "remained stunningly uninformed on how to run the White House". The Trump administration is trying to block the book from going on sale. Speaking to Fox News, Mr Trump said of Mr Bolton: "He broke the law. This is highly classified information and he did not have approval." "He was a washed-up guy," the president added. "I gave him a chance." John Bolton joined the White House in April 2018 and left in September the following year, saying he had decided to quit. President Trump, however, said he had fired Mr Bolton because he disagreed "strongly" with him. He is known as a foreign policy hardliner and also served in the administration of President George W Bush. As national security adviser, he was the top counsellor to the US president on security matters at home and abroad. Mr Bolton's 577-page tome, The Room Where It Happened, is due to go on sale on 23 June. But on Wednesday night, the Department of Justice sought an emergency order from a judge to stop the book's release. The publisher, Simon & Schuster, said in a statement: "Tonight's filing by the government is a frivolous, politically motivated exercise in futility." It said hundreds of thousands of copies of the book had already been distributed around the world and the injunction would accomplish nothing. Mr Trump's Democratic challenger in this November's election, Joe Biden, said in a statement about the book: "If these accounts are true, it's not only morally repugnant, it's a violation of Donald Trump's sacred duty to the American people."

6-18-20 George Floyd death: Three police reform plans compared
Republican senators have unveiled their plans to improve policing following the death of George Floyd. How does it compare with those put forward by the White House and Democrats? And which will succeed? In advance of national guidance from Washington, police departments across the country have begun taking reforms on themselves. Police departments in major US cities like Denver, Chicago and Phoenix have all banned chokeholds in the wake of Mr Floyd's death. And the New York police commissioner announced this week that the anti-crime unit - a team of roughly 600 plain clothes officers - would be disbanded. But these patchwork efforts would be bolstered by federal legislation, which could make police reforms mandatory nationwide.

  • Senate Republicans: Provides incentives for police departments to ban chokeholds and unannounced police raids, known as "no-knock warrants" - though stops short of outright bans
  • House Democrats Bans the use of chokeholds and carotid holds, meant to temporarily cut off blood flow to the brain, also known as "sleeper" holds, Eliminates the use of no-knock warrants
  • White House Provides financial incentives for police departments to commit to "best practices", including banning chokeholds, but does not outright ban the practice

6-18-20 Rayshard Brooks shooting: US policeman faces murder charge
A police officer who fatally shot a fleeing black man in the back last week in Atlanta, Georgia, will be charged with murder and assault, officials say. Garrett Rolfe, who has already been fired, faces 11 charges related to Rayshard Brooks' death. If convicted, he could face the death penalty. The other officer at the scene, Devin Brosnan, will testify as a prosecution witness in the case, officials said. The case comes amid US protests over police killings of black Americans. Lawmakers in Washington are currently debating new police reform laws. Officials said this was the ninth time that an Atlanta police officer had been prosecuted for homicide. They added that it is believed to be the first time a police officer would testify against a member of his own unit, though Mr Brosnan's lawyer denied his client would be a witness in the case. President Trump has said he is concerned about the way the case against Mr Rolfe is being handled. "I hope he gets a fair shake because police have not been treated fairly in our country," he told Fox News. "You can't resist a police officer like that," he added, referring to Mr Brooks' actions during the incident. Mr Brooks, 27, failed a sobriety test on 12 June after he was found asleep inside his car that was blocking a drive-through lane at a Wendy's restaurant. After pulling over his vehicle, the father-of-four appeared "slightly impaired, but his behaviour during this incident was almost jovial", Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said on Wednesday. For over 40 minutes, video shows him complying with officers as he consented to a weapons search and provided them with his identification details. However, as officers tried to handcuff him, he began struggling. The footage appears to show Mr Brooks punched Mr Rolfe, grabbed Mr Brosnan's stun gun and turned back while fleeing to fire it at Mr Rolfe. Mr Brooks suffered two gunshots to the back that caused organ injuries and blood loss. One police bullet also hit a witness' vehicle, nearly killing the driver, investigators say.

6-18-20 What happened when a city disbanded its police force
Camden, New Jersey, created a brand new police force to forge better ties with its residents. Their aim was for the police to be guardians, not warriors of their community. The city used to have one of the highest crime rates in the United States but now, eight years later, it is seeing its lowest crime rate in 50 years. Description

6-18-20 Aunt Jemima to change branding based on 'racial stereotype'
US company Quaker Oats has announced it will rename its Aunt Jemima line of syrups and foods, acknowledging the brand was based on a racial stereotype. For over 130 years, the brand's logo has featured a black woman named after a character from minstrel shows in the 1800s that mocked African-Americans. Quaker said past branding updates to address these issues were "not enough". Criticism against the brand has renewed amid the national debate over racism sparked by George Floyd's death. Kristin Kroepfl, Quaker Foods North America's chief marketing officer, said the company is working "to make progress toward racial equality through several initiatives". "We also must take a hard look at our portfolio of brands and ensure they reflect our values and meet our consumers' expectations," Ms Kroepfl said, adding that Aunt Jemima's origins are "based on a racial stereotype". "We are starting by removing the image and changing the name." The company has not offered further details on the coming changes, which were first reported by NBC News. In addition, Aunt Jemima is to donate at least $5m (£3.9m) over the next five years to support the African American community, according to parent company PepsiCo. The branding on Aunt Jemima's syrups, mixes and other food products features an image of a black woman that has often been linked to stereotypes around slavery. In a 2015 opinion piece for the New York Times, Cornell University African-American literature professor Riché Richardson described Aunt Jemima as "an outgrowth of Old South plantation nostalgia and romance". Prof Richardson said the brand perpetuated the idea of a "mammy" character - a submissive black woman who nurtured her white master's children. Founded in 1889, the Aunt Jemima logo was based on storyteller, cook and missionary Nancy Green, the company's site says. Ms Green was born into slavery in Kentucky in 1834, according to the African American Registry non-profit database.

6-17-20 The four major public health threats we need to act on now
Viral pandemics aren't the only worry: antibiotic resistance, a drop in vaccination and other issues could rapidly put the world's health in peril. Governments across the world now know the importance of being prepared for fast-moving international public health emergencies. Diseases caused by viruses capable of hopping from animals to humans pose serious threats, but are by no means the only dangers we need to take seriously.

  1. Vaccine hesitancy: The spread of misinformation has caused falls in measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccination in countries including the US and UK, contributing to an uptick in measles cases worldwide. The collapse of HPV vaccination in Japan in 2013 due to fears about adverse events is expected to cause some 5000 extra cervical cancer deaths.
  2. Antibiotic resistance: A 2016 report commissioned by the UK government estimated that, globally, 700,000 people die annually due to antibiotic resistance, and that this could rise to 10 million by 2050. This includes people who catch superbugs while in hospital and lives lost to drug-resistant tuberculosis, respiratory tract infections, sexually transmitted diseases and urinary tract infections.
  3. Antifungal resistance: Fungal infections are estimated to kill more people than malaria and breast cancer combined. A 2018 review described the recent rate of emergence of treatment-resistant pathogenic fungi as “unprecedented” and their effects on human health as “spiralling”.
  4. Disease X: In 2018, the WHO included “disease X” on its list of the most serious potential public health threats. It stands for any unknown epidemic disease for which preventive and curative treatments don’t exist.

6-17-20 This won't be the last pandemic. Where will the next one come from?
Several types of viruses could pose a global threat, not just the coronavirus that causes covid-19. There are estimated to be up to 800,000 viruses in animals that have the potential to infect humans. But identifying them is a task of Sisyphean proportions. One of the main programmes that seeks to detect novel viruses, PREDICT, run by the US Agency for International Development, spent 10 years and more than $200 million searching in 30 countries and managed to uncover just 931 novel viruses in wild animals, livestock and humans. Some of these are deemed potential threats to humans, including novel strains of Ebola and variants of the SARS and MERS coronaviruses. However, the project didn’t detect the covid-19 virus before it spilled over into humans. Funding for PREDICT has been extended to September to support response to the current outbreak, but its primary mission ended in March. Still, we do have some idea of what kinds of viruses to look out for. For a 2018 report published by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Maryland, Amesh Adalja interviewed more than 120 global experts in infectious disease. They agreed that a global pandemic would most likely be caused by a novel virus strain that crossed over from animals (see “We knew how to prevent a pandemic like covid-19, so what went wrong?”), meaning we had no immunity to it. They also thought it would spread between humans via coughing and sneezing, and that it could be transmitted by asymptomatic people or before the onset of symptoms. Sound familiar? The experts concluded that highly deadly viruses like Ebola are unlikely to cause a pandemic because they tend to kill hosts before they can infect many others and are less likely to be spread by asymptomatic people, says Adalja. They also thought we shouldn’t be too worried about something like plague, which is caused by Yersinia pestis bacteria, because we have broad-spectrum antibiotics that are usually effective against new bacterial strains (while we lack broad-spectrum antivirals).

6-17-20 We knew how to prevent a pandemic like covid-19, so what went wrong?
Some nations weren't prepared, others ignored best-laid plans. Why getting ready for next time has to start now. IF YOU are looking for certainty in these uncertain times, here is something to chew on. “There will be another pandemic,” says Kathryn Jacobsen, a global health epidemiologist at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Of what, starting where and when, and how dangerous it will be, we don’t know. But we had better be ready, because it could happen at any time and could be worse than this one. “We can’t let our guard down,” she says. Dealing with global outbreaks is theoretically quite straightforward, says Kenneth Timmis, a microbiologist at the Technical University of Braunschweig in Germany. “Pandemics are always combated by the same basic strategy: surveillance, interruption of infection chains and the ramping up of prevention and treatment capacity.” That holds true even though the nature, evolution, timing and source of new pathogens is uncertain, he says. “You don’t know what you’re preparing for, so you have to be generic,” says Timmis. “There are certain things you have to do and these will be universal for every country and every pandemic. We therefore only need one pandemic preparedness.” And the world has one, in the shape of a global agreement called (rather prosaically for something so dramatic) the International Health Regulations (IHR). All 194 members of the World Health Organization (WHO) have signed up to them. They are a guide to both preparedness and emergency response, and, according to Jacobsen, are largely fit for purpose. “We need some sort of international agreement about how we’re going to work together to prevent the next pandemic, but we don’t need to start from the beginning, we have a good solid starting point with the IHR,” says Jacobsen. To cut a very long story short, all the world has to do to be ready for next time is to implement those regulations. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done.

6-17-20 The pandemic playbook: A step-by-step guide to containing an outbreak
We've stopped deadly outbreaks in the past. And we can do it again, says epidemiologist Adam Kucharski. IN MAY 1997, a 3-year-old boy with a fever arrived at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kowloon, Hong Kong. It was a few weeks before the handover of the territory to China by the UK, and it would turn out to be a new biological era as well as a political one. The boy’s disease was no usual illness: he was infected with H5N1, a strain of flu that had until then been a bird virus. The realisation that H5N1 could infect people raised concerns that it might cause a pandemic. More than two decades later, that hasn’t yet happened, with only around 800 cases having been reported globally. In the meantime, however, humanity has experienced a range of other new diseases. They include SARS, caused by a coronavirus that infected 8000 people before it was contained in 2003, and the H1N1 “swine flu”, which circulated globally in 2009, probably killing more than 250,000 people. Now, covid-19 has led to more than 7 million confirmed cases, and counting. Humanity has always experienced diseases that sweep the globe. But today, we are more exposed to them. Outbreaks spread rapidly because of widespread travel – of people, animals and animal products. And as we encroach on wilderness, viruses in animals have more opportunities to jump to humans. When H5N1 appeared, it sparked renewed interest in the threat from pandemics. We have learned much since then. With the world in covid-19’s grip, it may not feel like it, but we know a lot more than we once did about emerging diseases. That knowledge is invaluable right now. It will also help us spot – and hopefully stop – the next pandemic. Of the thousands of known viruses, at least 200 can infect people. Some researchers have suggested that we sequence the genomes of all unidentified viruses in mammals and birds that could be a threat to us and then use machine-learning techniques to predict which ones could actually spread among people. But this would probably involve mapping millions of virus species, which could cost billions of dollars. Even then, it might not work. Machine learning can be very effective in situations where there is a lot of information to learn from. For example, Facebook’s facial recognition is so accurate because millions of people regularly upload and tag themselves in photos. But anticipating novel disease outbreaks using machine learning would be harder – you would be trying to predict rare events with very little data because new outbreaks are far less common than social media posts.

6-17-20 There will be another pandemic. Thankfully, we already know what to do
A battle plan for dealing with the inevitable next pandemic already exists – but it will take money and staying power to use it effectively when it is needed. AS SOME countries take tentative steps back towards normality, thoughts inevitably turn to the future. What lessons are there from missteps made this time that we can apply to preparing for the next pandemic? Because, even though its nature, timing and deadliness cannot be known, we can be confident that there will be another. The forces that led to this one, including ever-greater international trade and travel and encroachment on wild areas, may be taking a short break, but will be back. In an ideal world, once the virus was properly under control, leaders would come together to take stock and produce a series of thoughtful steps to prepare for the next pandemic. Yet even in places that are easing restrictions, this current outbreak is far from over. In many parts of the world, it is only just getting going. That means the knock-on effects of the complacency, short-termism and nationalism that have defined much of the patchwork preparations and response so far are still playing out. None of this is conducive to future pandemic planning. However, we cannot afford to wait for this one to be over before we prepare for the next. There is good news though: a plan already exists. You could be forgiven for not realising this, in light of some of the responses so far. Even though it isn’t perfect, it is a decent starting point for a more comprehensive plan. For a start, international regulations agreed by nearly 200 countries set out exactly how to identify a potential pandemic, the time frame for raising the alarm and even best practice for collaborating across borders and at international entry points. But agreeing to plans is one thing, sticking to them and seeing them through quite another.

6-17-20 US police reform: Trump signs executive order on 'best practice'
US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order introducing several police reforms while rejecting calls to defund or dismantle the police. His order offers federal grants to improve practices, including creating a database to trace abuses by officers. It comes amid anger over the police killings of African Americans, though Mr Trump did not comment about the ongoing US racism debate. Several US cities have proposed more radical reforms. Speaking at the White House on Tuesday, Mr Trump began by saying he had met a number of African-American families who had lost loved ones, including the relatives of Antwon Rose, Botham Jean and Ahmaud Arbery - the black jogger killed in Georgia earlier this year. No representatives of the families were present with Mr Trump, who spoke while flanked by law enforcement officers. In his address, the president again defended police while condemning looters and "anarchy". "We have to find common ground," Mr Trump said. "But I strongly oppose the radical and dangerous efforts to defund, dismantle and dissolve our police departments." He added that "without police, there's chaos". "Americans believe we must support the brave men and women in blue who police our streets and keep us safe," Mr Trump said. "Americans also believe we must improve accountability, increase transparency and invest more resources in police training, recruiting and community engagement." The latest drive for reform began after the death in police custody of George Floyd last month. Mr Floyd died after a white police officer in Minneapolis knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes. The killing spurred global protests led by the Black Lives Matter movement. There was fresh outrage after the death of another black man, Rayshard Brooks, who was shot during an attempted arrest in Atlanta last Friday.

6-17-20 Coronavirus in Beijing: 27 neighbourhoods not allowed to leave as spike continues
Millions of people in Beijing are living under renewed restrictions, as a spike in virus cases continues. The city reported another 31 cases on Wednesday, bringing the total to 137 in the past week. Before the recent spike, the Chinese capital had gone 57 days without a locally-transmitted case. The outbreak is believed to have started in the massive Xinfandi food market that supplies 80% of the city's meat and vegetables. At least 27 neighbourhoods have been classed as medium risk and one neighbourhood, near the market, is high risk. People in medium or high-risk areas cannot leave the city. People in low-risk areas can leave, but need to test negative first. However, getting a test is difficult - three testing stations told the BBC there were no tests available until July. Queues were seen outside other centres. More than 1,200 flights have been cancelled to and from the city and railway services have been reduced until at least 9 July. Primary school, middle school, and college classes are suspended, sports teams cannot play, and swimming pools and gyms are closed. However, roads are open, and companies and factories can still work. The city is on a "level two" alert, the second-highest. Restaurants, sport, packed trains, even the pub… there we were, basking in the glory of "normal-ish" life in Beijing, after more than 50 days without an infection. The market outbreak has dragged us back into a virus prevention bubble. In effect, it's very hard to leave Beijing right now. If you haven't done a test in the past week your departure is not allowed, and limited testing capacity is, understandably, being diverted to "high risk" groups. The airlines know this. That's why they've cancelled 1,255 flights in and out of the capital on Wednesday so far. For the moment, the authorities are managing Beijing districts almost like cities within the city, imposing strict measures where needed in the hope that they can control it. However, this is touching everyone's movements. The main difference between now and February is that businesses, government departments, manufacturing are all still operating. Perhaps because of this, there seems to be a general confidence that the cluster will be controlled - before becoming a full-blown second wave.

6-17-20 US Air Force sergeant charged in Boogaloo Bois murder
A US Air Force sergeant with links to the far-right Boogaloo Bois movement has been charged with the murder of a federal security officer in California, the FBI says. Steven Carrillo is accused of killing David Patrick Underwood outside the courthouse in Oakland during Black Lives Matter protests last month. He was already charged with the murder of another officer eight days later. Damon Gutzwiller was killed in an ambush near Santa Cruz on 6 June. Mr Carrillo, who is stationed at Travis air force base, was arrested during a subsequent confrontation. He appears to have used his own blood to write various phrases on the bonnet of a car he stole, the FBI said, including "boog" and "stop the duopoly". "Boogaloo" is a term used by extremists to reference a violent uprising or impending civil war in the US, the FBI said. Adherents of the loose grouping known as Boogaloo Bois, which some liken to a militia, are anti-government and often carry assault weapons. The Oakland victim, Mr Underwood, was killed in a drive-by shooting from a white van overnight on 29 May. There were large protests taking place in nearby streets over the death in police custody of George Floyd. A colleague was also shot in the attack, and the accused is charged with his attempted murder. A second man, Robert Alvin Justus, has confessed to driving the van, the FBI said, and has been charged with aiding and abetting the alleged murder.

6-17-20 Portugal finally recognises consul who saved thousands from Holocaust
Eighty years ago, a middle-aged, mid-ranking diplomat sank into deep depression and watched his hair turn grey in days, as he saw the streets of Bordeaux filling with Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis. As Portugal's consul in Bordeaux, Aristides de Sousa Mendes faced a moral dilemma. Should he obey government orders or listen to his own conscience and supply Jews with the visas that would allow them to escape from advancing German forces? Sousa Mendes' remarkable response means he is remembered as a hero by survivors and descendants of the thousands he helped to flee. But his initiative also spelt the end of a diplomatic career under Portuguese dictator António de Oliveira Salazar, and the rest of his life was spent in penury. Portugal finally granted official recognition to its disobedient diplomat on 9 June, and parliament decided a monument in the National Pantheon should bear his name. It was mid-June 1940 and Hitler's forces were days from completing victory over France. Paris fell on 14 June and an armistice was signed just over a week later. Portugal's diplomatic corps was under strict instruction from the right-wing Salazar dictatorship that visas should be issued to refugee Jews and stateless people only with express permission from Lisbon. For those thronging Bordeaux's streets hoping to cross into Spain and escape Nazi persecution there was no time to wait. "We heard the French had surrendered and the Germans were on the move," says Henri Dyner. He was three, but retains vivid memories of his Jewish family's flight from their home in Antwerp, as Nazi Germany attacked Belgium and invaded France and the Netherlands. "What I remember is the sound of the bombing, which must have woken me, and my mother telling me it was thunder. "My parents turned on the radio and heard King Leopold telling Belgians we had been betrayed and attacked by the Germans. My father had been suspecting there could be a war since 1938. He had a plan, and a car," Mr Dyner, now a retired engineer living in New York, told the BBC. Eliezar Dyner, his wife Sprince and five other relatives, including a seven-month-old baby, drove away from the bombing and into France. "My father avoided big roads, gave Paris a wide berth and stuck to the coast. He wanted to be only 10 miles ahead of the front all the time, because he thought it could be a quick war and why go too far when you might have to go back?" After seeing German warplanes strafing French trenches and hearing the news of successive German victories, Henri's father realised by the time they reached Bordeaux there would be no return to Antwerp any time soon.

6-17-20 The steroid dexamethasone is the first drug shown to reduce COVID-19 deaths
The drug might save one of every eight people on ventilators and one of 25 on oxygen. A low-cost steroid may save the lives of some people who are on ventilators or supplemental oxygen because of COVID-19, preliminary data from a large clinical trial suggest. Dexamethasone, a steroid in use for decades, reduced deaths of COVID-19 patients on ventilators by about a third compared with standard care, researchers reported in a news release June 16. Deaths of COVID-19 patients on supplemental oxygen were reduced by about 20 percent. Researchers found no benefit for hospitalized patients who didn’t need extra oxygen. If the results hold up to scrutiny once scientists have a chance to review the full data, the drug would be the first to reduce the risk of death from the disease. For many patients who wind up in the hospital with COVID-19, “question one is, ‘Will I survive?’ and question two is ‘How long will I have to stay in hospital?’ This is the first drug that says, yes, we can increase your chances of survival,” says Martin Landray, a cardiologist at the University of Oxford. Another drug, remdesivir, has been shown to shorten recovery time for seriously ill patients (SN: 5/13/20). The new finding was based on outcomes of 2,104 patients taking 6 milligrams of dexamethasone once a day for 10 days either as a tablet or by intravenous injection and 4,321 people not taking the drug. The study was stopped early once a steering committee felt enough patients had been enrolled in this segment of the study to determine whether the drug worked or not. Landray and colleagues discovered that taking dexamethasone could prevent one death for every eight patients on ventilation, and one death for every 25 patients needing extra oxygen. “It’s not a fix. It’s not a cure. It’s not a miracle, but it is really, really useful,” Landray says. He expects doctors around the world will embrace the therapy. He says that the United Kingdom’s National Health Service may soon declare dexamethasone the standard treatment for people on ventilators because of COVID-19.

6-16-20 Covid-19 news: Dexamethasone drug saves lives of coronavirus patients
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. A widely available drug called dexamethasone reduces the risk of dying from covid-19 by a third for patients on ventilators and by a fifth for those receiving oxygen, according to preliminary results from a randomised clinical trial in the UK. Dexamethasone is a steroid that is used to reduce inflammation in various conditions, including skin diseases, allergies and asthma. It is one of a range of drugs being tested as a covid-19 treatment as part of the RECOVERY trial, which has enrolled more than 11,500 patients across 175 NHS hospitals. Dexamethasone is the first drug anywhere in the world that’s been found to reduce mortality from covid-19. In the trial, 2104 covid-19 patients were randomly selected to receive dexamethasone and 4321 received standard care. The preliminary results suggest that treatment with dexamethasone could save one life for every eight patients receiving ventilation, and one for every 25 requiring oxygen. Researchers suggest the drug could have saved up to 5000 lives in the UK if it had been used to treat patients from the start of the pandemic, the BBC reports. Dexamethasone should only be taken if prescribed by a doctor. 27 new coronavirus cases were confirmed in China’s capital Beijing today, bringing the total in the past five days to more than 100 in what is the city’s first major coronavirus outbreak since April. Chinese authorities are restricting travel out of the city and have imposed additional lockdowns in some residential areas. More than 30,000 restaurants in Beijing have been disinfected and Chen Bei, deputy secretary-general of the Beijing municipal government, told journalists today that kindergartens, primary schools and high schools will shut from tomorrow. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday revoked its emergency approval of the anti-malarial drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for treating covid-19. The drugs haven’t been shown to be effective against covid-19 and some studies have linked their use to heart complications in covid-19 patients. US president Donald Trump, who previously said he was taking the drug, criticised the FDA decision yesterday, telling journalists “I took it and I felt good about taking it. I don’t know if it had any impact, but it certainly didn’t hurt me.”

6-16-20 George Floyd protests: Man shot in clash over Albuquerque statue
A man has been shot and wounded in the US state of New Mexico after violence erupted over a statue of a 16th-Century Spanish colonist. It happened when a second man opened fire after being turned upon by protesters outside Albuquerque Museum, local reports say. The protesters had been confronted by a group of armed men as they tried to pull the statue down. It comes amid heightened sensitivities over monuments linked to colonialism. A number have been pulled down in the US and other countries in the wake of the death in police custody of George Floyd last month. The unarmed African American's killing by a white police officer who knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has spurred global protests led by the Black Lives Matter movement. ccording to the Albuquerque Journal, clashes broke out when protesters took a pick-axe to the statue of Juan de Oñate - part of a monument depicting Oñate leading settlers into what was then a province of New Spain - after a peaceful demonstration on Monday night. The paper says a man was pushed to the ground and started shooting when protesters moved towards him, "some threatening him". It says the person who was shot appeared to have been one of those attempting to get to the man. The shooting sent people running for cover. Albuquerque police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said officers at the scene fired tear gas and stun grenades as they detained a number of people. Police later said in a statement that one man arrested in connection with the shooting, 31-year-old Stephen Ray Baca, had been detained on suspicion of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. The wounded man was taken to hospital and was later said to be in a critical but stable condition. Mr Baca is a former candidate for the Albuquerque City Council and the son of a former Bernalillo County sheriff, according to the Associated Press news agency. According to the Albuquerque Journal, he ran for office in 2019 on the platform that local officials were "complete wimps when it comes to fighting crime".

6-16-20 The worst-case scenarios for COVID-19 are still in play
Coronavirus is back in a serious way, although it never really left. Though new cases are still declining in some states, in others they are rising fast — like California, Texas, North Carolina, Alabama, South Carolina, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Nevada, Florida, and Arizona. In every one of those states positive test rates are either increasing or flat, implying it is not increased testing producing these increases, but increased spread. These latter two states are especially worrisome, given their large population of seniors in retirement communities and nursing homes, where a large portion of deaths have occurred. When the pandemic first struck, I figured — based on our total lack of a serious federal containment effort, and our abysmal health care system — that it would be worse here than any other rich country. That has turned out to be extremely true in terms of total cases and deaths, but not in per-person terms so far; only the New York City area had a really severe outbreak on the scale of Italy's Lombardy region. But that could very much still happen. Exponential outbreaks are clearly in progress once again in many states, and they could easily spread to others. Judging from the eagerness of many states to ditch their lockdown measures, the continuously AWOL Trump administration, and the blitheness much of the population is showing about containment precautions, it might even be more likely than not. It is still somewhat mysterious why America did not suffer galloping outbreaks in every state. Since the worst one happened in the only American city seriously dependent on public transit, it could be our dispersed and car-dependent cities provided some modest natural protection. (Though it's also important to note that dense, transit-oriented cities like Hong Kong and Taipei had almost no outbreak thanks to rapid containment.) The warmer American climate might have helped a little as well. It also appears that outside New York, lockdown measures were largely implemented before outbreaks really got going. However, automobile-dependent suburbia is not at all immune to the virus, as we are seeing across the country. Florida and Arizona have some of the hottest summer temperatures in the country, which may actually make things worse as people spend more time indoors. Overall, in not a single state was the lockdown tight enough to completely eradicate the virus, as has happened in New Zealand — where no new cases have been reported for weeks, and in-person sports have started back up. Once again, the likely culprit is the basic lack of state capacity at all levels of American government. Lockdowns are relatively easy to implement (indeed, people were largely self-isolating long before containment measures were put in place), but a test-track-isolate program in the New Zealand mold is a tricky and complicated business, requiring both competence and public confidence. Some states are trying their best, but clearly none are up to the task — at least not by themselves. Hawaii and Vermont came close to wiping out the virus, but cases are rising in both states again. California, a big, rich, powerful state run by Democrats at all important levels, did not even manage to get their daily new cases on a downward trajectory during the last two months. Instead they just kept gradually increasing, and now that the state is easing off its lockdown, they are higher than ever.

6-16-20 Seattle's police-free 'autonomous zone' is no anomaly
What you need to know about CHAZ. By now, you've probably heard of the CHAZ. Fox News has cited it as proof that Seattle has fallen into "anarchy." The D.C.-based conservative paper The Washington Times described it as "Mad Max movie mayhem come to life." President Trump has claimed, without evidence, that it is being run by "domestic terrorists" and has threatened to invade it. (Local authorities demurred). What is certain, anyway, is that in the week since Seattle's "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" was established, everyone in the world seems to have an opinion about its existence. But the roughly six city blocks and adjacent park that make up the police-free zone did not emerge out of a vacuum, as the headlines might have you believe. Beyond its obvious parallels to demonstrators taking over Manhattan's Zuccotti Park during the Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011, the CHAZ has its roots in over a century of experiments with anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist autonomous zones in the Seattle region. While the CHAZ might look and feel like "a mini-Burning Man festival" to the national and international press, it is a legitimate and worthy protest, and one that draws from the city's history of results-driven, radical self-governance. Distracting from these aims, though, is the misinformation circulating about the CHAZ (or the "CHOP," as it's increasingly known). Protesters initially established the autonomous region in the wake of the city's George Floyd protests, during which the Seattle Police Department "indiscriminately used excessive force against protesters, legal observers, journalists, and medical personnel" (this is alleged in a lawsuit, although there is ample video evidence to support it). Following more than 12,000 complaints about the police's crackdown on largely peaceful protesters, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best announced last Monday that the police would depart from Capitol Hill's East Precinct, including boarding up their facility there as part of an "exercise in trust and de-escalation." Despite hysterics from conservatives (including Fox News, which published "digitally altered and misleading photos" of the CHAZ, only to be called out by The Seattle Times), the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone is described by local observers as "exceedingly chill," complete with educational film screenings, free snacks, and a massive Black Lives Matter mural. Businesses in the area are largely supportive of the movement (the boarded-up storefronts in the area date to the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, not the protests). In lieu of armed anarchists, there are moms planting community gardens with their kids.

6-16-20 Robert Fuller: US to review black hanging deaths after outcry
US federal authorities will review investigations into the deaths of two African-Americans who were found hanged from trees in California. Local police had said there was no foul play in the deaths of Robert Fuller and Malcolm Harsch, who died in separate towns within two weeks of each other. But people have raised fears the deaths may not have been suicides. A petition for a thorough investigation into Mr Fuller's death has thousands of signatures. His body was found hanging from a tree on 10 June in the town of Palmdale. Officials said during a press conference that it appeared the 24-year-old had taken his own life. However his family claim he was not suicidal. "Everything that they've been telling us has not been right. My brother was not suicidal," Diamond Alexander, Mr Fuller's sister told a rally on Saturday. Malcolm Harsch was found hanged from a tree at a homeless encampment in Victorville on 31 May. Officials there had said that the 37-year-old's death was likely to be a suicide. His official cause of death has not yet been given. In a television interview his sister Harmonie Harsch said: "We are really just trying to get more answers as to what happened. My brother was so loving, not only to his family but even strangers. It is not like him." In a statement to AP news agency, the FBI, US attorney's office in the Central District of California and the US Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division said that they were monitoring the investigations by the Los Angeles and San Bernardino County Sheriffs. Both Sherriff's departments in Los Angeles County and San Bernadino said they would cooperate with investigators. The men's deaths come as protests take place across the US calling for an end to racial inequality, racism and police brutality.

6-16-20 Atatiana Jefferson: 'Why I will no longer call the police'
James Smith has never wanted much to do with the police but he called them to check on his neighbour in the Texas city of Fort Worth, because it was late at night and her front door was wide open. Soon afterwards he heard a gunshot, and later saw the dead body of a 28-year-old woman, his neighbour's daughter, carried out on a stretcher. James Smith is angry, hurt and tired. Every death of a black person at the hands of a police officer takes him back to the moment in October when Atatiana Jefferson was killed. "I have to live with this guilt, with this cloud hanging over me for the rest of my years," he says. Because he was the reason that the police were there that night. At around 02:30 on 12 October he was woken by his niece and nephew, who told him the front door of their neighbour's house was wide open and the lights were on. The owner of the house, Yolanda Carr, had a heart condition and had recently been in and out of intensive care, so Smith was worried something had happened to her. He went across the road and noticed the lawnmower and other gardening equipment were still plugged in, which he thought was strange. So he dialled a number in the phone book to request a "wellness check" - expecting that a police officer would come out, knock on the door and check the family was OK. He didn't know that Carr was in hospital that night and that her daughter and grandson were up late playing video games. He was standing directly opposite the house when the police arrived. One of the officers, Aaron Dean, had his gun drawn as he approached the front door and then walked around the side of the house to the back garden. Seconds later there was a gunshot. "When that bullet went off I heard her spirit say, 'Don't let them get away with it,'" Smith says. "And that's pretty much why I stayed out there all night long until they brought her out." Police soon filled the street, but they wouldn't tell him what had happened. It wasn't until they wheeled a body out six hours later that he knew Yolanda Carr's daughter, Atatiana Jefferson, had been killed. (Webmaster's comment: The police are trained to shoot first and to kill non-white people. They know they will probably get away with it!)

6-16-20 Mary Trump: Why has president's niece penned damning memoir?
US President Donald Trump's niece is set to publish an unflattering tell-all memoir about him. So who is she and why has she come forward now? On 28 July, Mary Trump is due to release Too Much And Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man, Simon & Schuster announced on Monday. The book will hit the shelves just weeks before the Republican National Convention, when her uncle will accept the party's nomination for his re-election bid in November. The memoir will reportedly reveal how she supplied the New York Times with confidential documents to print a sprawling investigation into Mr Trump's personal finances. The Pulitzer Prize-winning exclusive alleged the president had been involved in "fraudulent" tax schemes and received more than $400m (£316m) in today's money from his father's real estate empire. An Amazon blurb for the book says the author will set out how her uncle "became the man who now threatens the world's health, economic security and social fabric". "She explains how specific events and general family patterns created the damaged man who currently occupies the Oval Office, including the strange and harmful relationship between Fred Trump and his two oldest sons, Fred Jr and Donald," it continues. The blurb says the author will draw on her insights as a "firsthand witness to countless holiday meals and family interactions". The memoir will also accuse the president of having "dismissed and derided" his father once he began to suffer from Alzheimer's. Mary Trump, 55, is the daughter of Fred Trump Jr, the president's older brother, who died in 1981 at the age of 42. He struggled with alcoholism for much of his life and his premature death was caused by a heart attack linked to his drinking. President Trump has cited his brother's personal problems as spurring his administration's push for tackling the scourge of opioid addiction. In an interview last year with the Washington Post, Mr Trump said he regretted pressuring his older brother to join the family real estate business as he pursued dreams of becoming a pilot. Mary Trump has largely avoided the limelight since her uncle became president, though she has been critical of him in the past. The bad blood between them goes back at least 20 years to a lawsuit filed by her and her brother against their uncle and his siblings.

6-16-20 Colin Kaepernick: Roger Goodell encourages NFL teams to sign quarterback
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says he would "encourage" a team to sign former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick, 32, began kneeling during the US national anthem in 2016 in a protest against racial injustice and has been a free agent since 2017. The National Football League banned players from protesting in such a way but now says it was "wrong" to do so. Goodell said he will "support" a club wishing to sign Kaepernick. "If he wants to resume his career in the NFL, then obviously it's going take a team to make that decision," he told ESPN. "I welcome that, support a club making that decision, and encourage them to do that." Goodell added on Monday: "If his efforts are not on the field but continuing to work in this space, we welcome him to that table and to help us, guide us, help us make better." Kaepernick's peaceful protest has gained renewed support in the wake of the death of unarmed African American George Floyd, who died on 25 May while being restrained by a white police officer in Minneapolis, which sparked protests across the US and worldwide. Current NFL stars including Patrick Mahomes and Odell Beckham Jr had called on the league to "condemn racism and the systemic oppression of black people". New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees also posted a statement asking for forgiveness after he was criticised for saying kneeling protests would be "disrespecting the flag". The NFL has since pledged $250m (£198m) over a 10-year period to help combat systemic racism in the United States and says the fund will "support the battle against the ongoing and historic injustices faced by African Americans". (Webmaster's comment: Why should anyone respect the flag of a nation that supports the police killing of non-white people!)

6-16-20 #ShutDownSTEM strike was a start, but real action on racism is needed
Thousands of scientists participated in a strike against racism in science and academia on 10 June, with prominent academic institutions and scientific journals pledging their support. While these statements have been welcomed, many are keen for institutions to go further. “People are tired of seeing organisations that have released statements, but with no action plan in place,” says Jasmine Roberts at The Ohio State University. Black scientists who spoke to New Scientist had a number of suggestions for further action by scientific journals that supported the strike, such as inviting more Black academics to write review articles, peer review scientific papers and serve on editorial boards. “There are currently no Black editors on the Nature journal,” says Nature’s editor-in-chief Magdalena Skipper. “The implications of the lack of Black representation in our editorial staff are not lost on us.” Cell, another scientific journal, published a statement acknowledging that none of its editors are Black. Journals can’t solve this problem alone, however. Several universities have released statements condemning racism, but many were criticised for their failure to explicitly mention Black people or to lay out plans for addressing inequalities. There is mounting pressure for universities to acknowledge their racist histories and incorporate this into their curricula. An inquiry into the history of eugenics at University College London (UCL), for example, was criticised earlier this year for failing to investigate the issue in sufficient depth. On 11 June, UCL announced it would immediately start reviewing the names of spaces and buildings that were named after two prominent eugenicists, Francis Galton and Karl Pearson. But UCL is just one of many institutions worldwide that have buildings, lecture theatres or statues dedicated to scientists or other historical figures who held racist views or participated in racist acts. “Universities should stop celebrating individuals that are known to be racist,” says Cassandre Coles at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

6-16-20 Coronavirus: Hungary votes to end Viktor Orban emergency powers
Hungarian lawmakers have voted in favour of repealing extraordinary powers granted to Prime Minister Viktor Orban to fight the coronavirus. Members of parliament unanimously requested the government lift the state of emergency and Mr Orban's powers to rule by decree. The government is expected to revoke the measures by the end of the week. But opposition groups fear Mr Orban's administration has greatly expanded its powers amid the outbreak. NGOs critical of Hungary's leader issued a joint statement saying the vote to remove powers was an "optical illusion" and that the authorities retained greater powers than before the crisis. Democracy watchdog the Karoly Eotvos Institute believes the legislation does not end the measures but instead "creates a legal basis for the use of newer extraordinary and unlimited government powers", according to the New York Times. Mr Orban, however, says these powers enabled him to tackle the outbreak quickly and effectively. Lockdown restrictions have been largely lifted in the country of 10 million people. According to Johns Hopkins University, Hungary has confirmed 4,077 cases and 565 deaths. On Tuesday, lawmakers voted by 190 in favour and none against to end the state of emergency and Mr Orban's extraordinary powers. The original coronavirus protection act approved on 30 March did not set a deadline for the measures, and opponents feared it was an attempt by the prime minister to extend his control over the country. But while MPs have now asked to end the measures, they also approved a bill allowing the government to impose another state of emergency in the event of another medical emergency. Mr Orban, a nationalist and conservative, and his ruling Fidesz party, which holds an outright majority in parliament, are accused of wielding power in increasingly authoritarian ways. EU leaders have repeatedly raised concerns about Mr Orban's government. A group of 13 member states expressed "deep concern" over the extraordinary powers in March, saying they could threaten "democracy and fundamental rights".

6-16-20 Coronavirus: Beijing tightens controls amid spike in local cases
The Chinese capital Beijing has put more neighbourhoods under lockdown and boosted testing as it tries to contain an outbreak of coronavirus. There were 27 new cases reported on Tuesday, bringing the total to 106 people over five days. A Chinese official has described the new outbreak in the capital as "extremely severe". For more than seven weeks Beijing had only registered cases from people travelling in from abroad. New clusters of coronavirus are "always a concern", said Mike Ryan, emergencies programme head at the World Health Organization. "But what we do like to see is an immediate response to that and comprehensive set of measures," he added. The fresh outbreak has been linked to the city's largest wholesale market, Xinfadi. Local media reports say the virus was discovered on chopping boards used for imported salmon at the market, prompting major supermarkets in Beijing to pull the fish from their shelves. The general manager of the market has been dismissed, along with other local officials. In his comments though, the WHO's Mike Ryan was cautious about the source of the outbreak, saying the suggestion it was carried on salmon or its packaging was only a "hypothesis". Other health experts have pointed to cross-contamination as being a more likely cause. Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist of China's Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said the virus strain found in Beijing did not resemble the type circulating across the rest of the country, and the WHO has urged China to share the genetic sequencing. The market was shut early on Saturday and restrictions imposed on nearby neighbourhoods. Residents living near the market have been told they can't leave the city. All taxis are also now banned from driving beyond the city limits. By Monday Beijing had set up nearly 200 testing sites and contacted about 200,000 people who had visited the market since the end of May, state news outlet Xinhua reported. Volunteers at security checkpoints tested residents' temperatures.

6-15-20 The Lancet’s Richard Horton calls for international pandemic inquiry
Richard Horton is editor-in-chief of The Lancet, one of the world’s most influential medical journals. In his new book, The Covid-19 Catastrophe: What’s gone wrong and how to stop it happening again, Horton condemns most countries’ responses to coronavirus. He spoke to New Scientist about how the crisis has been mishandled around the world. We were too late with everything. In The Lancet, we published five papers in the last week of January that told the entire story: a new virus, rapidly killing people, human-to-human transmission. We could have mobilised more quickly. On 24 January, there were newspaper headlines that were in danger of fostering a panic: things like “Killer virus”. Panic isn’t a very good public health response. The World Health Organization (WHO) called a public health emergency of international concern on 30 January, and then [in the UK] in the next six weeks, the government took its eye off the ball. Nobody can say we didn’t know this was coming. Pandemics are number one on our national risk register. Don’t you think there is an obligation to be prepared for that? We know that the conditions for pandemics have been increasing – to such an extent that there was Exercise Cygnus in October 2016, when we [simulated] an influenza pandemic that killed hundreds of thousands. The message from that was that the country wasn’t prepared. There needed to be a pretty dramatic scaling-up of intensive care facilities, and so on. And ministers didn’t pick up on how important that was. Yet we had chief medical officers standing up saying that we were well-prepared for this pandemic. Although individually they were excellent scientists, the system in which they worked failed. We are talking about tens of thousands of deaths that were preventable.

6-15-20 Covid-19 news: New coronavirus outbreak linked to market in Beijing
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. 36 new coronavirus cases were confirmed in China’s capital Beijing today, bringing the total for the past four days to 79. Lockdown restrictions in Beijing were eased in May, and the city had reported no new confirmed cases – except for citizens returning from other countries – for 55 days before the new cases were detected. The new cluster of cases are thought to be linked to the city’s largest seafood and vegetable market, which has now been closed. Chinese authorities are warning citizens against travel to the capital and some lockdown restrictions have been reimposed in parts of the city. A study suggesting that reducing physical distancing from two metres to one metre only minimally increases coronavirus infection risk from 1.3 to 2.6 per cent is being criticised by scientists. The study, which was funded by the World Health Organization (WHO), didn’t consider how long people were exposed for and may have oversimplified the way infection risk changes with increasing physical distance, public health and statistics researchers told The Guardian. The UK government will review the current two-metre social distancing recommendation in coming weeks, a spokesperson for UK prime minister Boris Johnson told journalists today. The government’s chief medical adviser Chris Whitty previously said the two-metre rule would carry on for as long as the epidemic continues.Alabama, Florida and South Carolina reported record numbers of daily new coronavirus cases on 13 June for the third day running. On the same day, Oklahoma reported its highest number of coronavirus cases for the second day in a row. Daily new cases are also rising in Louisiana. More than a dozen US states have seen a surge in covid-19 cases in recent weeks.

6-15-20 Justice Gorsuch fires a torpedo at Trump's re-election
Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch fired a torpedo at President Trump's re-election campaign on Monday morning. That almost certainly wasn't his intent, but it will be the political effect of the majority decision he authored in Bostock v. Clayton County and Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda.. Progressives will cheer the high court's 6-3 decision, ruling that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects gay and transgender Americans from discrimination in employment. But the fact that the majority decision was authored by Gorsuch and joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, leaving just three of the court's five conservatives in lonely dissent, will have explosive implications on the right. During the battle for the Republican nomination in 2016, Trump at first appealed to less religious members of the party while the religious right (conservative white evangelical Protestants and conservative white Catholics) gravitated elsewhere — some to evangelical author Ben Carson, others to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and still others to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Only after Trump had locked down the nomination and pledged to appoint judges to the federal courts who had been verified as reliably conservative by the right-leaning legal organization The Federalist Society did these crucially important groups come around to supporting the ideologically and temperamentally unorthodox (and morally repellant) nominee. These voters stuck with Trump through the election and have become some of his most loyal supporters ever since for one reason above all others: because Trump vowed to deliver the federal courts to social conservatives. Trump made good on this promise right out of the gate by nominating conservative Gorsuch to the seat on the Supreme Court formerly held by Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016 and whose seat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had held open through the remainder of Barack Obama's final year in office. By the time Gorsuch was confirmed and McConnell began fast-tracking a series of judicial nominations to the federal courts, the religious right was firmly in the president's pocket. That conservatives got a second nomination to the high court less than two years into the Trump administration, replacing the ideologically heterodox Anthony Kennedy with Federalist Society stalwart Bret Kavanaugh, only solidified the bond between Trump and social conservatives. When Trump critics accused social conservatives of having sold their souls to a president unworthy of their adoration, the stock response was now "But Gorsuch!" Translation: Trump might have flaws, but he promised to deliver us the judiciary, and on that he's made good! No matter what happened over the coming decades in the political arena, conservatives had captured the courts, and that would ensure victories on the issues that really matter to the religious right: protecting the unborn and religious freedom, and limiting gay and transgender rights. With his 29-page majority opinion in Bostock, Gorsuch blew that electoral rationale out of the water. Scholars can debate the legal ins and outs of the decision. In political terms, the result is going to be an earthquake to rival the one that reverberated throughout the right in the wake of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 decision in which Republican appointees Kennedy, David Souter, and Sandra Day O'Connor joined with the court's liberals to uphold the reproductive rights of women. There are of course many reasons why George H. W. Bush lost his bid for re-election later that year. But an important one was demoralization among social conservatives, who felt betrayed by a conservative movement that held the presidency for 12 years, appointed six justices to the Supreme Court, and yet could not produce a concrete victory on an issue that mattered more to them than any other.

6-15-20 The fight against police abuse must include economic equality
As the nation debates various strategies to attack the problem of police abuse in the wake of the George Floyd protests, thus far police departments have gotten the bulk of attention. Proposals for reforming police practices, introducing new laws and regulations, or cutting their disproportionate share of municipal budgets are all under discussion, and rightly so. But there is another aspect of our national police problem that deserves equal billing with police: economic inequality. Police attention and incarceration are extremely concentrated on poor Americans — especially black ones — who have been torn out of the American social contract. Rebuilding that contract through an assault on poverty, by jacking up taxes on the rich to fund a drastic expansion of the welfare state, would go a long way towards fighting police brutality and mass incarceration. Let me begin with a study some years ago by sociologists Bruce Western and Becky Pettit. Among other things, they looked at the risk of incarceration by age 34 for a group of men born between 1975 and 1979. They provided breakouts by educational attainment (high school dropouts, high school graduates, and some college attendance), which I have charted here. Incarceration is a decent proxy for contact with the police, and education is a decent proxy for class — in particular, high school dropouts are overwhelmingly more likely to be unemployed or poor than graduates of either high school or college. It's a rough measure, but the differences are so incredibly huge that they would swamp any mild inaccuracy. We see that black high school dropouts in this cohort had a staggering 68 percent chance of being imprisoned. White dropouts had a still-shocking 28 percent chance — much less than black dropouts, but 23 times the rate of whites with some college, and indeed more than four times that of blacks with some college. A more recent paper by Nathaniel Lewis at the People's Policy Project found similar conclusions. He broke the population into five class quintiles based on a variety of proxies, and found that when adjusting for class, whites and blacks had a similar risk of being jailed at all, being jailed after an arrest, or being jailed for more than a month. However, the poorest blacks had twice the likelihood of the poorest whites of being jailed for more than a year, in keeping with the above findings. Another new analysis by Emily Badger and Quoctrung Bui in the The New York Times bears on this situation. They demonstrate that, since the 1970s, the share of city budgets going to police has increased modestly in most cities even as violent crime has fallen sharply. Putting this together: Crime is down from the 1970s, but inequality is dramatically higher than it was then — about as high now as it was in 1929. As John Clegg and Adaner Usmani argue in Catalyst Journal, police and prisons filled the political void left by the destruction of the New Deal. The (already rather meager) social contract was withdrawn from vast chunks of American society to make political and budget headroom for deregulation, offshoring, tax cuts for the rich, and austerity — leaving an abandoned and disgruntled underclass that was and remains disproportionately black and brown, but nonetheless plurality white. The main task of police and prisons became political repression. Rather than the state winning a critical mass of consent through its actions and benefits, the lower class was beaten into submission. Police and prosecutors contained the social disorder emerging in part from poverty, inequality, and deindustrialization by constantly hassling the poor and shoving millions of them in prison out of sight of middle-class suburbanites. The incarceration rate skyrocketed starting in the 1980s, but this was largely a lower-class phenomenon, especially for blacks. The incarceration rate of white high-school dropouts roughly doubled, but for black dropouts it tripled, and from a higher base. On the other hand, the incarceration rate of college graduates of all races has remained at barely above zero, even as the rate of college attendance soared.

6-15-20 Trump the superspreader?
While coronavirus spreads in America, the president is holding a rally. resident Trump is about to fail his big coronavirus test — the test of leadership — for a second time. His original failures in the weeks and months leading up to the COVID-19 outbreak in America are by now well-documented. He was slow to take real steps to slow the spread of the virus, got angry at officials who warned the public to be prepared, and then seemed more interested in the ratings for his news conferences — or in finding a scapegoat for his failures — than in taking effective action. If we're feeling charitable, some of these failures might be understandable. Global pandemics don't come along every day, and the United States is far from the only advanced nation to get caught short by the outbreak. But Trump is about to make everything worse, because he cares more about his own needs — to bask in applause, to be re-elected, to appear "strong" — than he does about the lives of Americans. If Trump were a compassionate commander-in-chief, he wouldn't have called West Point cadets back to campus, compounding their risk of exposure to the coronavirus, just so he could give them a graduation speech. If he cared about the lives of his followers, he wouldn't be cramming 19,000 of them together in Tulsa this week for a campaign rally, creating a potential superspreader event. And if he cared about his duty more than the demands of his ego, he would be urging caution as states reopen and COVID-19 cases rise dramatically. Instead, he's rooting for a return to normal, even though normal is long gone. The West Point speech was an unnecessary risk to the cadets, who had already dispersed from campus in order to avoid an outbreak. The president's planned rally Saturday in Tulsa looms as a much greater danger: Trump's campaign expects a packed house — officials claim hundreds of thousands of tickets have been distributed, even though the event center can hold fewer than 20,000 people. Meanwhile, the city's COVID-19 case trends are already on the rise, and local officials are worried that any new outbreak might overwhelm Tulsa hospitals. "COVID is here in Tulsa, it is transmitting very efficiently," the city's health director said over the weekend. "I wish we could postpone this to a time when the virus isn't as large a concern as it is today." Perhaps the president will change his mind: He has already moved the day of the rally from its original Juneteenth date after an outcry from critics and supporters. But the dangers of convening inside have been obvious for months. The Centers for Disease Control classifies "large in-person gatherings" in its "highest risk" category for spreading the virus. The president decided he wants a rally anyway. He simply doesn't care about the health risks he is imposing on his most devoted followers. This is in keeping with Trump's overall approach to the virus, which has been to ignore it until he can't, and then to try to wish it away — through quack cures, premature proclamations of victory, or by sidestepping his own government's health recommendations to push for a reopening. When all that doesn't work, he favors appearance over substance — refusing to wear a mask in public, for example, due to fears it makes him look weak. Despite his claims of success, though, the coronavirus isn't going away. Cases are spiking in 22 states, and at least one health expert says we can't worry about a "second wave" in the fall — the first wave hasn't receded yet. Several states are now warning their hospitals may not be able to handle all the patients headed their way.

6-15-20 World to hit 8 million confirmed coronavirus cases in next 24 hours
“I think when you’re sitting in Europe, you feel like you just had the epidemic and everyone’s coming out of it. It feels like it’s over with. But it’s actually just at the start in every country in some ways,” says Azra Ghani at Imperial College London of covid-19’s spread. Her view is backed up by World Health Organization statistics, which show that the world experienced its highest daily jump in new confirmed coronavirus cases on 7 June, a record that has since been broken three more times. “Although the situation in Europe is improving, globally it is worsening,” said WHO general secretary Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a press conference on 8 June. The virus’s spread continues as the world rapidly approaches the grim threshold of half a million confirmed deaths, with 433,000 reported as of 15 June. The milestone of 8 million confirmed cases will probably be passed in the next 24 hours. The geographical burden of covid-19 is shifting. While the US is still worst affected, with more than 2 million cases and more than 100,000 deaths, it is now followed by Brazil, Russia and India, followed mostly by European countries. Peru has the eighth most cases, and the WHO has called South America the new epicentre of the epidemic. The Middle East’s share of global new cases has climbed too in the past fortnight. Cases in Africa are still relatively low, but are speeding up: reaching 100,000 took 98 days, but 200,000 just 18 days. Worldwide, the average number of daily new confirmed cases in June has settled at a higher level than in May. However, David Heymann at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine says deaths, rather than cases, are the gold standard for measuring transmission, despite reflecting events around two to four weeks ago. Unlike cases, global daily deaths are relatively static, averaging 4295 in June so far, versus 4619 in May.

6-15-20 Atlanta police shooting: Rayshard Brooks death declared homicide
A medical examiner in Atlanta, Georgia, has declared the death of an African-American man to be homicide after he was shot in an encounter with police. Rayshard Brooks died while fleeing from two white police officers in a restaurant car park late on Friday. Protests erupted after his death, weeks after another black man, George Floyd, was killed in custody in Minneapolis. Atlanta's police chief quit and the police officer suspected of shooting Mr Brooks was fired. Following his death, the Wendy's drive-through restaurant where he was stopped was set on fire on Saturday. Thousands of people joined Black Lives Matter protests across the US at the weekend. In Brooklyn, New York on Sunday, thousands gathered for a rally and silent march for black transgender lives. Organisers estimate that 15,000 people assembled for the event. In Chicago, a statue of the first US President, George Washington, was spray-painted with the words "slave owner". Washington was an active slave holder for 56 years. While spoke of his desire to end the practice, at the time of his death in 1799, 317 enslaved people lived on his Mount Vernon estate. The founding father left instructions in his will for the 123 slaves he owned outright to be freed, only once his wife Martha had died. Crowds also gathered again in Washington DC near the White House while in Los Angeles, a large number of LGBT protesters marched with rainbow flags to denounce what they said was police brutality, racism and transphobia. And anger over the killing of Mr Floyd, who died as a police officer held his knee on his neck on 25 May, fuelled new protests over the weekend in the UK. Protesters are expected to gather in Atlanta today for a march organised by the state's National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NCAAP), scheduled on the same day that Georgia's legislators return to the State Capitol.

6-15-20 George Floyd death: 'The same happened to my son'
Youa Vang Lee was at her home in Minneapolis when her son showed her the video of George Floyd dying under a police officer's knee. Lee, a 59-year-old Laotian immigrant who assembles medical supplies at a factory, heard Floyd cry out for his mother. It triggered a deep and familiar pain. "Fong was probably feeling the same way, too," she said in Hmong, her eyes filling with tears. "He was probably asking for me, too." In 2006, Lee's 19-year-old son Fong - who was born in a refugee camp in Thailand - was shot eight times by Minneapolis police officer Jason Andersen. The officer remains on the force to this day, a fact that the Lees were not aware of until told by the BBC. The officer was terminated twice, but has apparently since been rehired. Although security footage showed Lee was running away at the time, Andersen claimed the teenager had a gun. A grand jury declined to indict him and the police department ruled the shooting justified. The family sued in civil court claiming excessive force and brought evidence the gun found beside Fong's body was planted. An all-white jury found against them. Youa hadn't spoken publicly about her son in over a decade, not since the family came to the end of their legal road with nothing to show for it. But after Lee saw Floyd's death, she began asking if anyone knew of marches she could attend. "I have to be there," she said. Although no one directly discouraged her, some members of her community questioned the decision. The Twin Cities, as Minneapolis and St Paul are known, are home to the largest urban population of Hmong in the US, many of whom came to the area as refugees in the 1980s and 90s. The Hmong are an ethnic group from South-East Asia, with their own language, mainly drawn from southern China, Vietnam and Laos. Within that community, there has been heated debate about how to respond to the Black Lives Matter and Justice for George Floyd movements, which are demanding systemic change to policing.

6-15-20 Breonna Taylor: Beyoncé calls for criminal charges against officers
Pop star Beyoncé has demanded justice for a black woman killed by police in a letter to the attorney general in the US state of Kentucky. The singer urged Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron to bring charges against the three officers involved in Breonna Taylor's killing. Ms Taylor, 26, was shot eight times while she slept when officers entered her home in Louisville on 13 March. They were executing a no-knock search warrant as part of a drugs raid. A no-knock warrant is a search warrant approved by a judge that permits police to enter a home without permission. Inside, the officers exchanged fire with Ms Taylor's partner, who believed the raid was a home invasion, but no drugs were found. Police have said they knocked before using a battering ram to enter the home but this account has been disputed by Ms Taylor's family and a neighbour. The three officers involved - Jon Mattingly, Myles Cosgrove, and Brett Hankison - have been placed on administrative leave but none have been arrested or charged over Ms Taylor's death. Investigations are ongoing. "Three months have passed - and Breonna Taylor's family still waits for justice," Beyoncé wrote in the letter, shared on her official website on Sunday. Ms Taylor's killing has been propelled into the spotlight again since the death of unarmed African-American man George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota, last month. Ms Taylor's name has been used as a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter protests sweeping the US and the globe. Last Thursday, Louisville's city council voted unanimously in favour of banning no-knock warrants. Similar legislation that would ban the warrants nationwide was tabled in Congress, the US federal legislature, on the same day. Beyoncé said the legislation represented "small steps in the right direction" but were a "painful" reminder that there was still "no justice for Breonna Taylor".

6-15-20 LGBT rights: Why US Supreme Court ruling is such a big deal
The US Supreme Court over the past several decades has slowly but steadily expanded its protections of gay rights. From striking down a Texas law that criminalised "sodomy" to legalising gay marriage across the nation, the direction of US jurisprudence seemed clear. That was before Justice Anthony Kennedy, the author of several of those landmark decisions, retired and Donald Trump, with two appointments, gave the court a decidedly more conservative bent. There was some concern among LGBTQ advocates that the newly composed court would use this year's two high-profile gay and transgender rights cases to take the nation in a different direction. Those concerns proved unfounded. Neil Gorsuch, one of the Trump appointees, wrote the sweeping decision that extended federal employment protections to gay and transgender workers. He is proving to be more of an ideological wildcard than many on the left expected. Chief Justice John Roberts, another Republican-appointed justice who has at times defied predictions, joined to give the ruling a comfortable 6-to-3 margin. Both are sure to face an uproar from conservatives quarters. It's difficult to overstate the significance of the decision. While the court is establishing a long history of decisions expanding gay rights, this is the first time it spoke directly about the legal protections for transgender individuals. That the ruling comes out just days after the Trump administration announced it was removing transgender health-insurance protections only puts the issue in stark relief. Transgender rights is becoming a political battlefield, and a majority of the Supreme Court just announced which side it's on.

6-15-20 Top US court backs protection for LGBT workers
The US Supreme Court has ruled that employers who fire workers for being gay or transgender are breaking the country's civil rights laws. In a 6-3 decision it said federal law, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, should be understood to include sexual orientation. The ruling is a major win for LGBTQ workers and their allies. And it comes even though the court has grown more conservative. "An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex," Judge Neil Gorsuch wrote. Mr Gorsuch, who was nominated to the court by President Donald Trump, rejected the idea that the authors of the law had not intended such broad meaning. "The limits of the drafters' imagination supply no reason to ignore the drafters' demands," he wrote.

6-15-20 Democratic Republic of the Congo gears up to fight 11th Ebola outbreak
A new outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus disease has emerged in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), more than 1200 kilometres to the west of an earlier outbreak that has been spreading in the country since 2018. It is the 11th such incident in the DRC since the virus was first discovered in 1976. As of 14 June, authorities have reported 14 confirmed infections and three probable cases of the haemorrhagic fever in and around the northwestern city of Mbandaka in Équateur province, resulting in 11 deaths to date. The news comes less than two years after an outbreak of the disease ended in Équateur province in July 2018, and while the country’s 10th outbreak is ongoing across the eastern North Kivu and Ituri provinces, which has killed more than 2200 people. At the same time, the DRC is contending with the world’s largest measles outbreak and the spread of the coronavirus. “The last outbreak in Équateur was quickly contained – in less than 3 months – and we will make all our efforts to ensure it is done again,” says Mary Stephen at the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Regional Office for Africa. Stephen says that expertise and infrastructure built over the years will be invaluable in curbing the new outbreak, and that a programme of vaccinations, door-to-door education and mobile handwashing stations is already underway. More than 2100 people, including 679 contacts, 1309 contacts of contacts, and 127 likely contacts, have been vaccinated so far, she says. Screenings for more than 100,000 people have taken place at control points between cities, she says. The WHO has more than 20 staff on the ground supporting the Ministry of Health in Mbandaka, a major port city that sits on the Congo river, close to the border with the neighbouring Republic of the Congo. “We have a lot of experience in tackling these outbreaks,” says Eteni Longondo, the DRC’s health minister. “But that does not mean we are taking this disease any less seriously. It requires a complex system of epidemiologists, surveillance, infection prevention, risk assessment and contact tracing.”

6-14-20 Atlanta police chief resigns over Rayshard Brooks shooting
Atlanta's police chief has resigned after the fatal shooting of an African-American man during an arrest. Rayshard Brooks, 27, was shot by an officer during a struggle at a drive-through restaurant late on Friday. On Saturday protesters set fire to the Wendy's restaurant where the shooting occurred and police chief Erika Shields handed in her resignation. Atlanta is one of many US cities where the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police sparked protests. Mr Floyd, who is also African American, died after a white officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes. His death has generated widespread anger against racism and police brutality. Erika Shields had served as Atlanta police chief since December 2016 after a long career in the force. Her resignation was announced by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. "Because of her desire that Atlanta be a model of what meaningful reform should look like across this country, Chief Shields has offered to immediately step aside as police chief so that the city may move forward with urgency and rebuilding the trust so desperately needed throughout our communities," the mayor said in a statement. One of the Atlanta police officers involved in the shooting, Garrett Rolfe, has been sacked, and the other, Devin Bronsan, put on administrative duty. They have served for six and two years in the Atlanta police, respectively. (Webmaster's comment: Why haven't they been arrested and charged with murder?) The Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI) is looking at video from a security camera inside the Wendy's restaurant and also eyewitness footage. It says police were called to the restaurant because Mr Brooks had fallen asleep in his car, which was blocking the drive-through lane. According to police, Mr Brooks resisted arrest after he failed a breathalyzer test. In the eyewitness video, Mr Brooks can be seen on the ground outside the restaurant, struggling with two police officers. He grabs an officer's Taser and breaks free from the officers, running away. The other officer then manages to use a Taser on Mr Brooks and both officers then run out of the frame of the video. Gunshots can then be heard and Mr Brooks is seen on the ground. He was taken to hospital but later died. One of the officers was treated for an injury from the incident. (Webmaster's comment: Some members of police departments have become a clear and present danger to all citizens in the United States!)

6-14-20 Rayshard Brooks: Atlanta Wendy's restaurant set on fire over fatal shooting
A Wendy's drive-through restaurant in Atlanta has been set on fire, following the fatal shooting of a US black man by police. Atlanta's police chief has resigned after Rayshard Brooks, 27, was shot by an officer during a struggle on Friday evening. The officer has been fired. Mr Brooks was initially questioned after falling asleep inside his car in the drive-through queue. He resisted arrest after a failed breathalyser test, according to police, who have released bodycam footage of the incident. Protesters in Atlanta have hit the streets this weekend calling for action following his death. (Webmaster's comment: Being drunk and asleep in your car can get you murdered by police!)

6-14-20 Donald Trump says he will not watch NFL and US Soccer if players kneel
United States president Donald Trump says he will not watch the NFL or the US Soccer sides if players do not stand for the national anthem. The NFL said last week its players should be allowed to protest during the anthem, adding that it was "wrong for not listening" to players earlier. US Soccer overturned a ban on players kneeling during the anthem on Thursday. The practice was started by former NFL star Colin Kaepernick in 2016 to highlight racial inequality. Trump has opposed kneeling during the anthem and has repeatedly called on NFL players who do so to be sacked or banned. Republican congressman Matt Gaetz criticised US Soccer's decision on social media, and Trump responded to a news story of Gaetz's view by saying: "I won't be watching much any more." In a follow-up post on social media, Trump added: "And it looks like the NFL is heading in that direction also, but not with me watching." The U-turns by the NFL and US Soccer came amid ongoing protests following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African American man who died in police custody in Minneapolis after a white officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes. US Soccer introduced the ban in 2016 after women's star Megan Rapinoe took a knee in solidarity with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Kaepernick. It now says its previous stance was "wrong". The NFL tried to ban kneeling during the anthem in May 2018 and introduced a new policy with teams fined if players failed to stand, but put the policy on hold two months later. Following Floyd's death, NFL stars called on the league to condemn racism and commissioner Roger Goodell responded by saying the NFL had made mistakes and will now encourage players to speak out. Trump questioned Goodell's decision to change the NFL's stance on kneeling, saying the act would be "disrespecting our country and our flag". Kaepernick has not played since becoming a free agent in 2017 and filed a grievance against NFL owners that year, believing they were conspiring not to hire him because of the kneeling protest.

6-14-20 Antifa, explained
President Trump is blaming a radical leftist group for organizing violent protests and attacks on police. Is this true? President Trump is blaming a radical leftist group for organizing violent protests and attacks on police. Is this true? Here's everything you need to know:

  1. What is antifa? It's an umbrella movement of leftists and anti-racists, rather than an actual group. Antifa (pronounced an-TEE-fa by some, anti-FAH by others) adherents see their mission as using direct action, up to and including violence, to fight fascism and the "alt-right."
  2. Has antifa been violent in the past? Yes, at times. Most antifa activists, says Mark Bray, a history professor and author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, focus on trying to identify the names, addresses, and jobs of white supremacists who are active on the internet, and "outing" them to their employers and the public.
  3. What happened in Charlottesville? Hundreds of counter-protesters, including some who identify as antifa, showed up at a Unite the Right white-supremacist rally in August 2017. Witnesses there, including Jewish and Christian clergy, say that they were being physically threatened by neo-Nazis wielding semi-automatic rifles, clubs, and torches when antifa members inserted their own bodies as shields.
  4. What about Barr's allegations? Internal FBI documents leaked to The Nation show that the FBI's Washington field office "has no intelligence indicating antifa involvement/presence" in the D.C.-area protests. In other areas, experts say antifa is simply too small a presence to be a driving force in protests.
  5. What has President Trump said? He's blamed "antifa-led anarchists" for violent protests and has vowed to designate antifa as a "terrorist organization." Under U.S. law, however, only foreign actors such as al Qaeda or the Irish Republican Army can be so defined.
  6. Is antifa active on social media? Since Floyd's killing, Twitter and Facebook have taken down what Twitter called "hundreds of spammy accounts," many purporting to be antifa and calling for violence against police or white neighborhoods. Several of those have been traced to the white-supremacist groups Identity Evropa, Proud Boys, and American Guard.
  7. The Boogaloo movement: Boogaloo — which takes its name from the ridiculously titled 1984 movie sequel Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo — is a loosely organized, far-right movement that includes gun enthusiasts and white supremacists who say they want to trigger a race war that will bring down the U.S. government. Like antifa, there are no formal leaders or organization, and most of the action seems to take place online.

6-14-20 Polish election: Andrzej Duda says LGBT 'ideology' worse than communism
Polish President Andrzej Duda has called the promotion of LGBT rights an "ideology" more destructive than communism, in a campaign speech. He is an ally of the ruling nationalist Law and Justice Party (PiS), and is seeking re-election on 28 June. He said his parents' generation had struggled against communist ideology for 40 years and "they didn't fight for this so that a new ideology would appear that is even more destructive". Critics say PiS has an anti-gay agenda. The LGBT rights group ILGA-Europe says Poland is the worst-performing country in the EU in terms of LGBT rights, in an index published last month. PiS won a majority in parliament with a conservative-nationalist agenda strong on Catholic values, including support for traditional families and opposition to gay marriage. Speaking to supporters in Brzeg, southwestern Poland, Mr Duda said "parents are responsible for the sexual education of their children," and "it is not possible for any institutions to interfere in the way parents raise their children". On 10 June he signed a "Family Charter" of election proposals, including pledges to prevent gay couples from marrying or adopting children and to ban teaching about LGBT issues in schools. Putting LGBT rights activism in the same category as communism can be seen as inflammatory in Poland, where the anti-communist Solidarity movement led the struggle for democracy in the 1980s. Many Poles agree with the PiS message that communism was a foreign ideology imposed on Poles by the Soviet Union. PiS has clashed with the EU over judicial reforms which, according to PiS, are necessary to eliminate vestiges of communist-era corruption. Critics in the EU say PiS is politicising the judiciary and violating EU principles. The European Commission has written to the heads of five Polish provinces expressing concern about resolutions in which they declare themselves "free from LGBT ideology". The EU's executive has reminded them of their duty to guarantee non-discrimination as a core EU value.

6-13-20 French police clash with anti-racism activists in Paris
French police have clashed with activists protesting in Paris against racism and alleged police brutality. Police used tear gas against stone-throwing protesters who tried to hold a march that was banned. The rally is part is a worldwide movement inspired by America's Black Lives Matter protests. It was organised under the banner "Justice for Adama", after Adama Traoré, a young black man who died in French police custody in 2016. Among the protesters was Assa Traoré, Adama's sister, who called on them to "denounce social, racial, police violence". "What's happening in the United States is happening in France. Our brothers are dying," she added. Although the protesters were allowed to gather, they were prevented by police from marching to the Opera area. The planned onward march had been banned because of the possible threat to local businesses. Clashes erupted and tear gas was fired as officers moved against the protesters on the Place de la République. Le Parisien newspaper says 26 people were questioned by police. By early evening the demonstrators had dispersed. Smaller protests were held in other French cities, including Lyon and Marseille. France's police watchdog says it received almost 1,500 complaints against officers last year - half of them for alleged violence. In one recent case, police are accused of seriously wounding a 14-year-old boy when he was detained on suspicion of trying to steal a scooter in Bondy near Paris last month. On Monday Interior Minister Christophe Castaner announced a ban on the police "chokehold" method for restraining some suspects. The announcement came after protesters took to the streets accusing French police of using brutality towards minorities. Mr Castaner vowed that there would be "zero tolerance" of racism in law enforcement and officers strongly suspected of racism would be suspended. (Webmaster's comment: They should be arrested and charged!) He has faced a backlash from police unions and officers, who denied that racism was rampant within their ranks. On Friday officers rallied on the Champs-Élysées throwing their handcuffs on the ground.

6-13-20 Coronavirus second waves emerge in several US states as they reopen
More than a dozen US states have seen a surge in coronavirus cases in recent weeks. Many of them – including Arizona, North Carolina, Oregon and Florida – are experiencing spikes in confirmed cases as they lift stay-at-home orders, so is reopening to blame? Yes, among other factors, experts say. On 10 June, the US surpassed 2 million confirmed cases of the virus, representing a 141,000 case increase from the previous week. Two months ago, the country saw a weekly increase in confirmed cases of over 210,000, largely due to hotspots such as New York City and Seattle. Now, however, rates of new cases in each of those cities, along with the percentage of positive tests, have decreased. But places that were not as severely impacted by the first peak are driving the recent increase, including portions of Arkansas, Georgia, and California. And some states are seeing a re-emergence of cases that had been lowered after social distancing measures were put in place. In Florida, stay-at-home orders took effect on 3 April. That week, 6820 confirmed cases had been reported. The state has been reopening since 4 May, and 8886 new cases were reported between 4 and 11 June. In response to the surge in cases, the lifting of stay-at-home orders was delayed in parts of Oregon, Utah and Tennessee. For some states, there hasn’t yet been a peak in cases. In Arizona, one such state, 13.3 per cent of coronavirus tests were positive as of 12 June, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project – almost 3 times higher than the national average. “We are seeing an increase of cases coinciding with the reopening process,” says Rebecca Fischer at Texas A&M School of Public Health in the US. She adds that it’s tricky to determine the cause, particularly as the US celebrated Memorial Day at the end of May, a holiday usually associated with social gatherings. “It’s really tough to attribute the timing, per se, to an event.” Texas’ stay-at-home order expired on 30 April. When that occurred, Fischer says, more people re-engaged in the kinds of person-to-person contact that spreads the virus. Interactions following reopening could have increased community transmission and contributed to the spikes that 21 states are now experiencing.

6-13-20 Coronavirus: Coming to terms with months on the front line
It was the worst day of Anthony Almojera's career. In just one shift in early April, the veteran New York City paramedic had to tell a dozen families that a loved one had died from suspected coronavirus. But in the days that followed, this became his grim routine. When we first spoke to Anthony nine weeks ago, New York was at the forefront of the global Covid-19 pandemic, with the state reporting more diagnosed cases than any single country. Anthony, a lieutenant paramedic and vice-president of the Fire Department of New York's Emergency Medical Services (EMS) officers' union, talked us through the realities of a shift at a time when calls were at a similar volume to the day of the 9/11 terror attacks. Since then, five of his colleagues have died. Four contracted coronavirus and one took his own life after telling co-workers he was struggling to cope with all the death he was seeing. More than two million people in the US have been infected with coronavirus, and more than 30,000 in New York have died. This death toll is more than in Spain or France, two of the worst-affected countries. The number of coronavirus-related deaths in New York is decreasing, with 36 reported in the state on Wednesday - one of the lowest daily totals since the pandemic began. While paramedics in New York City are continuing to respond to patients showing symptoms of coronavirus, the volume of calls they are receiving is back to normal levels, and restrictions put in place to stop the spread of the virus are beginning to be eased. But Anthony, 43, is still coming to terms with what happened. At the height of the health crisis in New York, he says he was responding to between nine and 13 coronavirus-related cardiac arrests a day, on top of "normal" call-outs. "As a medic you see death, it's one of the things you have to navigate and deal with, but I went to more cardiac arrests in the past two months than I have in the past five years," he says. "The overwhelming majority of them were from Covid-19." In one case, he went to a house in the Bronx where he was told a woman was lying unwell on a couch. When he walked into the room, he knew instantly there was nothing he could do - she had been dead for a long time.

6-13-20 The power of moral revulsion
How photos of Emmett Till's brutalized body helped launch the civil rights movement. In 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till of Chicago was visiting family in Mississippi when he was kidnapped by a group of white men who accused him of flirting with a white woman. They beat him bloody, gouged out his eye, shot him in the head, mutilated his body, and dumped it in the Tallahatchie River. (The men were later acquitted.) His mother chose to have an open-casket viewing, and to let Jet, an ­African-­American magazine, photograph her son's brutalized remains. "It forced America to see — for the first time — what American racism actually looked like," said Benjamin Saulsberry, director of the Emmett Till Interpretive Center in Mississippi. That image, and the shame and disgust it evoked, launched the civil rights era. Years of sit-ins, protests, and confrontations with police finally toppled Jim Crow segregation, and culminated in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And now, after Americans watched a kneeling white police officer nonchalantly crush the life out of George Floyd, we've come to another Emmett Till moment — a reckoning.

6-13-20 Why Nascar is banning the Confederate flag from its races
Nascar driver Bubba Wallace, the only full-time African-American in the top-flight US motor-racing series, has got the organisation to ban the Confederate flag from events. He said: "No one should feel uncomfortable coming to a Nascar race." The Confederate flag has been a common sight at Nascar circuits, particularly in the sport's southern US heartland, but for many it remains a symbol of slavery and racism. Wallace, 26, became in 2013 the first black driver to win a Nascar event since Wendell Scott in 1963.

6-13-20 Black Lives Matter: 'How can we win?' Monopoly analogy explained
One American woman has come up with a simple way to explain how centuries of economic hardship have impacted black Americans. Kimberly Jones was cleaning up the streets during the George Floyd protests when her Monopoly analogy was filmed by a friend, shared and went viral. The author, who can count Oprah Winfrey, Lebron James, Trevor Noah and Madonna among her celebrity fans, spoke to the BBC about the success of her video.

6-13-20 George Floyd: Trump 'generally' supports ending chokeholds for police
US President Donald Trump has said the controversial chokehold method for restraining some suspects should "generally speaking" be ended. Some US police forces have moved to ban chokeholds since the outbreak of anti-racism protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, an African American. Mr Floyd died after a white officer knelt on his neck for nine minutes. Mr Trump said it would be a "very good thing" to ban chokeholds but they may still be needed in some situations. The president's comments come with Democrats and Republicans in the US Congress trying to hammer out the details of a police reform bill - the proposed Justice in Policing Act of 2020. Mr Trump told Fox News that chokeholds sounded "so innocent, so perfect" but that if you get two-on-one, "it's a different story". But he continued: "If a police officer is in a bad scuffle and he's got somebody... you have to be careful. "With that being said, it would be, I think, a very good thing that generally speaking it should be ended," he said, adding that he might make "very strong recommendations" to local authorities. The police officer who knelt on Mr Floyd's neck has been sacked and charged with second-degree murder. Mr Trump - who has faced criticism for his responses to the outbreak of the protests against racism and police brutality - said he wanted to "see really compassionate but strong law enforcement", adding "toughness is sometimes the most compassionate". (Webmaster's comment: Bullshit!) Challenged by interviewer Harris Faulkner to explain his tweet last month that "when the looting starts, the shooting starts", which was censored by Twitter for glorifying violence, the president said: "When the looting starts, it oftentimes means there's going to be... sure, there's going to be death, there's going to be killing. And, it's a bad thing." The Justice in Policing Act was proposed by the opposition Democrats who control the House of Representatives but in order to pass it must win the support of Mr Trump's Republicans who control the Senate. (Webmaster's comment: That will never happen! The Republicans support violent supression of all non-whites!) There is potential for the two parties to reach agreement on banning chokeholds and no-knock warrants, like the one in the Breonna Taylor shooting.

6-13-20 Juneteenth: Trump changes Tulsa Oklahoma rally date 'out of respect'
US President Donald Trump is postponing his first post-coronavirus lockdown election rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma so it does not fall on a holiday commemorating the end of US slavery. He tweeted that the 19 June rally would be held a day later out of respect for the occasion, known as Juneteenth. The choice of date had drawn criticism amid nationwide anti-racism protests. The location was also controversial, as Tulsa saw one of the worst massacres of black people in US history in 1921. Up to 300 people died when a white mob attacked the prosperous black neighbourhood of Greenwood, known as the "Black Wall Street", with guns and explosives. About 1,000 businesses and homes were also destroyed. Juneteenth is not a federal holiday, but is widely celebrated by African Americans. It celebrates the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation to enslaved African Americans in Texas. Texas was the last state of the Confederacy - the slaveholding southern states that seceded, triggering the Civil War - to receive the proclamation, on 19 June 1865, months after the end of the war. President Trump initially defended the timing of his rally, telling Fox News: "Think about it as a celebration. My rally is a celebration. In the history of politics, I think I can say there's never been any group or any person that's had rallies like I do." But critics accused him of disrespecting the date and the significance of Tulsa to US history. "This isn't just a wink to white supremacists - he's throwing them a welcome home party," said Democratic Senator Kamala Harris. Explaining the decision to move his rally, Mr Trump tweeted: "Many of my African American friends and supporters have reached out to suggest that we consider changing the date out of respect for this Holiday, and in observance of this important occasion and all that it represents. I have therefore decided to move our rally to Saturday, June 20th, in order to honor their requests..." The "Make America Great Again" rally in Tulsa will be the president's first campaign event since 2 March, when the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to mass gatherings. Mr Trump is seeking re-election in November 2020, but polls show him lagging behind his Democratic rival, Joe Biden. Campaign rallies are seen as a key method of energising his base, and Oklahoma is traditionally a Republican-voting state.

6-13-20 Canada indigenous chief Allan Adam battered during arrest
Video of an indigenous chief's violent arrest has shocked Canada, turning a spotlight on systemic racism in the country's police force. The footage shows Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam being floored and repeatedly punched by a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer. The confrontation took place in Fort McMurray, Alberta, on 10 March. Protests demanding police reform have spread across Canada recently after spilling over from the US. Although RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki initially said she "can't say for sure" whether systemic racism is a problem with the police, on Friday afternoon she released a statement saying "systemic racism is part of every institution, the RCMP included". "Throughout our history and today, we have not always treated racialised and Indigenous people fairly," she wrote. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for an independent investigation. Before the public release of the footage on Thursday night, the local RCMP division said they had reviewed it and found the officer's actions "reasonable". The incident begins when an RCMP officer approaches Mr Adam and his wife over an expired licence plate. The nearly 12-minute-long video, recorded by a dashcam from the RCMP officer's vehicle parked behind Mr Adam's lorry in a casino car park, begins with Mr Adam having a tense and profanity-laden discussion with the officer. "I'm tired of being harassed by the RCMP," he says. Mr Adam and the officer continue to have a heated argument. At about the 4:45 mark, the officer tries to arrest his wife, twisting her arm behind her back until she says: "Ow!" That is when Mr Adam gets out again, shouting: "Leave my wife alone!" He pushes the officer away. Everyone gets back in the vehicle. Backup is called, and Mr Adam gets out of the lorry. The officer begins to arrest him, and Mr Adam says "don't touch me", using an expletive. That is when a second officer runs at him full speed, knocks him down, and repeatedly punches him while shouting: "Don't resist." The incident is being investigated by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, which oversees incidents involving police where someone is hurt. (Webmaster's comment: The police have become the violence arm of the white supremacist movement. If you want to harm or kill non-whites the police is the organization you join!)

6-13-20 Leopold II: Belgium 'wakes up' to its bloody colonial past
Inside the palatial walls of Belgium's Africa Museum stand statues of Leopold II - each one a monument to the king whose rule killed as many as 10 million Africans. Standing close by, one visitor said, "I didn't know anything about Leopold II until I heard about the statues defaced down town". The museum is largely protected by heritage law but, in the streets outside, monuments to a monarch who seized a huge swathe of Central Africa in 1885 have no such security. Last week a statue of Leopold II in the city of Antwerp was set on fire, before authorities took it down. Statues have been daubed with red paint in Ghent and Ostend and pulled down in Brussels. Leopold II's rule in what is now Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was so bloody it was eventually condemned by other European colonialists in 1908 - but it has taken far longer to come under scrutiny at home. Last week thousands in the country of 11 million joined solidarity protests about the killing of US black man George Floyd in police custody. A renewed global focus on racism is highlighting a violent colonial history that generated riches for Belgians but death and misery for Congolese. "Everyone is waking up from a sleep, it's a reckoning with the past," explains Debora Kayembe, a Congolese human rights lawyer who has lived in Belgium. Like statues of racist historical figures vandalised or removed in Britain and the US, Leopold II's days on Belgian streets could now be numbered. On Monday the University of Mons removed a bust of the late king, following the circulation of a student-led petition saying it represented the "rape, mutilation and genocide of millions of Congolese". Joëlle Sambi Nzeba, a Belgian-Congolese poet and spokesperson for the Belgian Network for Black Lives, says the statues tell her she is "less than a regular Belgian". "When I walk in a city that in every corner glorifies racism and colonialism, it tells me that me and my history are not valid," she explains from the capital.

6-12-20 Covid-19 death rates twice as high in England's most deprived areas
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. The most deprived areas in England and Wales have been hit twice as hard by the coronavirus outbreak compared to the wealthiest areas, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests. After adjusting for differences in age, there were 128 deaths involving covid-19 per 100,000 people in the most deprived areas of England in March, April and May, compared to 60 deaths per 100,000 in the nation’s least deprived areas. In Wales, during the same time period, the death rate in the most deprived areas was 110 per 100,000 people compared to 58 per 100,000 people in the least deprived parts of the nation. Three major airlines, British Airways, Ryanair and easyJet, have launched a legal challenge against the UK government’s coronavirus quarantine rules, which they claim will devastate tourism and the economy. The new rules, which came into effect on 8 June, require passengers arriving in the UK to self-isolate for 14 days. Hospital morgues in India have reached capacity, with some bodies now being kept on thick ice slabs as summer temperatures reach 40 degrees Celsius. There have been more than 8400 deaths from covid-19 recorded in India so far. To date, over 290,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the country. India has now overtaken the UK to become the nation with the fourth-highest number of confirmed cases worldwide, after the US, Brazil and Russia. Millions more children are at risk of being pushed into child labour due to the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis, the United Nations children’s agency Unicef warned in a report released today. The crisis could also force children who are already working to put in longer hours under worsening conditions, says the report.

6-12-20 George Floyd death: Is Trump in trouble for stance on US race relations?
It's been a rough few weeks for Donald Trump. A spate of polls indicate he is trailing Democrat Joe Biden in November's presidential contest by a growing margin. There are reports of turmoil in his campaign. And his presidency has been beset by a seemingly interminable series of crises. Are his struggles a temporary swoon, or is his re-election bid in serious peril?. Donald Trump is an instinctual politician. Four years ago, he jumped into the deep end of the electoral pool and - defying all expectations and predictions - won his party's presidential nomination and, subsequently, the White House. Such a feat, needless to say, would give a person a high regard for his own judgement. In hindsight, it would be easy for Trump to see a clear line from his descent on that golden escalator in July 2015 through all the controversies, name-calling, feuding, intemperate tweeting and associated drama, to his come-from-behind victory in November.Trump was certainly right about the big things. He ran as an outsider during an election where the national mood was tilted against the political establishment. He sensed this and capitalised on it, but his success may have glossed over any mistakes or missteps made along the way. Fast forward four years, and the president's instincts this time around may be betraying him. He appears to want a replay of his 2016 victory - painting himself as the anti-establishment candidate doing battle with a "Washington swamp" opponent. His moves cater to his political base, which worked to his advantage last time because it drove up his side's turnout in key states, while on-the-fence voters and traditional conservatives gave him the benefit of the doubt. Now, however, Trump is a known quantity. His loyal base - which appears to be between 30% and 40% of the electorate, according to polls - will not be enough if he continues to haemorrhage support from the elderly, educated suburban residents and religious voters. The moves the president has made, however, have been out of the 2016 playbook - stoking controversy, instigating fights over social issues, advancing conspiracy theories and "counter-punching" to any and all criticism.

6-12-20 George Floyd: Seattle protesters declare a police-free zone
Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan has called the protesters patriotic for demanding better for "communities of colour". However President Donald Trump has called the protesters anarchists, and threatened to send in the National Guard.

6-12-20 George Floyd: Trump told to back off Seattle's Chaz police-free zone
State authorities in the north-western US state of Washington have hit back after President Donald Trump threatened to "take back" a police-free district controlled by protesters in Seattle. Governor Jay Inslee said Mr Trump should stay out of the state's business, and Seattle's mayor said any invasion of the city would be illegal. Police abandoned a precinct there on Monday after days of clashes. Mr Trump said the area had been overtaken by "domestic terrorists". Since police withdrew, demonstrations in the area have been largely peaceful. It has been called Chaz, an abbreviation of Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. Hundreds of people have been gathering there to demonstrate, hear speeches and attend events. The protests in Seattle, Washington began in response to last month's death in police custody of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. President Trump, who has pushed states to take firm action against protesters, has meanwhile outlined proposals for reforming police, including greater funding for training and national guidelines on the use of force. However, he dismissed calls for defunding the police as an "extreme agenda". Such a measure involves budgets being allocated directly to communities rather than law enforcement. The area around East Precinct in Seattle became a battleground between protesters and police in the past two weeks, leading the governor to send in the National Guard and for the mayor to impose a curfew. During the violence, demonstrators threw missiles at police, cars were torched and looting broke out, according to local media. At the weekend, Seattle police used tear gas and flash bangs to disperse protesters. Members of the city council rebuked the police department, accusing them of heavy-handed tactics. Then on Monday, the mayor ordered barricades to be removed near the precinct and the police building was boarded up. Since then protesters have taken over a zone spanning about six blocks of Capitol Hill, a hub of the city's trendy arts scene that has been gentrified in recent years as tech workers drive up property prices.

6-12-20 Breonna Taylor: Louisville to ban no-knock warrants after police shooting
A city council in the US state of Kentucky has voted to ban no-knock warrants, passing a law named in honour of a woman who was shot dead by police. Breonna Taylor, 26, was shot eight times when officers entered her apartment in Louisville on 13 March. They were executing a no-knock search warrant as part of a drugs investigation. A no-knock warrant is a search warrant approved by a judge that permits police to enter a home without permission. Inside, the officers exchanged fire with Ms Taylor's partner, but no drugs were found. The exact events are disputed, as police say that despite the warrant, they did knock before raiding her address using a battering ram. Ms Taylor's family and a neighbour have disputed this. On Thursday, Louisville's city council voted unanimously, 26-0, in favour of banning the controversial warrants. The ordinance, symbolically named "Breonna's Law", was put to a vote after calls for police reform at recent protests in the city and nationwide. "I'm just going to say, Breonna, that's all she wanted to do was save lives, so with this law she will continue to get to do that," Ms Taylor's mother, Tamika Palmer, said of her daughter, who was an emergency medical technician. "She would be so happy." The legislation also requires Louisville Metro Police Department officers to wear body cameras while carrying out search warrants. The cameras must be activated at least five minutes before the warrant is executed, the law says. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said he would sign the ban into law "as soon as it hits my desk". "I suspended use of these warrants indefinitely last month, and wholeheartedly agree with [the] council that the risk to residents and officers with this kind of search outweigh any benefit," Mr Fischer tweeted. Similar legislation that would ban the use of no-knock warrants nationwide was tabled by Republican Senator for Kentucky, Rand Paul, on Thursday. No-knock warrants are usually used for drugs raids by US police forces. Taylor's killing has been propelled into the spotlight again since the death of unarmed African-American man George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota in May. (Webmaster's comment: Rand Paul is supposed to be some kind of Libertarian. But like most Libertarians he has desire to kill people!)

6-12-20 French police dump handcuffs in protest to rebuff critics
Angry police across France have thrown their handcuffs on the ground as they feel "insulted" by claims that they tolerate brutality and racism. Protesting police also drove in convoy down the Champs-Élysées in central Paris on Friday, sounding their horns. They rejected any parallels with the Minneapolis police officers whose fatal arrest of George Floyd sparked a wave of anti-racism protests worldwide. And they are furious with a government ban on the police "chokehold". Interior Minister Christophe Castaner announced the ban on Monday, after French protesters took to the streets alleging that police in France exhibited racism towards ethnic minorities, in the same way that US police have been accused of using brutality towards black suspects. Mr Castaner held talks with police unions on Thursday and they are continuing, as the government seeks to cool an intense racism debate that has re-ignited tensions in some communities. There was trouble earlier this month when protesters, inspired by the US anti-racism marches, commemorated Adama Traoré, a 24-year-old black Frenchman who died in a 2016 police operation. Police have also been accused of seriously wounding a 14-year-old boy called Gabriel, when he was detained on suspicion of trying to steal a scooter in Bondy near Paris late last month. Anti-racism activists plan to march from République to Opéra in central Paris on Saturday. The Paris police department has warned that shops and other businesses in the area should close and board up their windows, as trouble could flare up again. (Webmaster's comment: Worldwide police forces have become a culture outside of society that has the power to use lethel force against anyone they choose. Police forces attract those with a desire to do violence and to kill others because in the police force they can get away with it.)

6-12-20 Pride celebrations go virtual during the coronavirus pandemic
Nearly 500 Pride events have been canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now, activists are hosting a virtual Global Pride event. Since the first brick was thrown at Stonewall in the summer of 1969, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) communities around the world have celebrated queerness each June, with protests, parties, and day-long parades. Celebrations this year will look different. According to an open list maintained by the European Pride Organizers Association, nearly 500 Pride events have been canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. "Oh, my God. The loss is indescribable," said Steve Taylor, a board member of the European Pride Organizers Association (EPOA). "Every Pride organizer will tell you that, at every Pride they've ever organized, they can remember somebody who said to them, 'This is my first time at Pride. This is the first time I've felt part of a community. I've felt loved. I've felt included. I haven't felt like an outsider.' And the fact that so many people won't have that in-person experience this year is really the worst thing about it." To rectify that loss, Taylor — along with the EPOA and InterPride, an international cohort of Pride organizers — are putting together "Global Pride." The virtual, 24-hour event will begin on Saturday, June 27, and run through Sunday, June 28. Viewers will see performances by Pabllo Vittar, Olivia Newton-John, the Dixie Chicks, and more, according to a May press release. No login or payment will be required, according to Taylor; the event is free and available to anyone with Wi-Fi. "Wherever you are in the world, you'll be able to see content from Prides in India, in Taiwan, in Australia … right the way across to the West Coast, USA," Taylor said, adding that the online format could also bring Pride events to people who wouldn't otherwise have access. "Like [the ones] in Central Africa, which are frequently attacked by police. Or the Prides in India, that cause controversy."

6-11-20 Confederate base names stir tensions over America's dark past
This week, if there had been no pandemic, I would have been on leave, heading for Gettysburg in Pennsylvania - the site of the famous battle in the American Civil War of 1861-65. For some reason this conflict captured my interest as a child. I've always wanted to attend the Gettysburg College Civil War Institute's annual summer school. Sadly, that has been cancelled this year because of Covid-19. On frequent trips to the States, I used to buy a historical magazine about the war whose masthead slogan proclaimed: "For those who still hear the sound of the guns." This reference to the echoes of the conflict through the ages is, I think, why the war still fascinates me today. As the Black Lives Matter movement demonstrates, for many Americans there is still unfinished business from the Civil War years. The benefits of black emancipation were partial and never fully realised. Oppression, disproportionate poverty and racism continue to this day, more than 150 years after the conflict ended. Other Americans who still hold to the myths about "the old South" take a very different view. And then there are the hardcore right-wing and racist militias, who freely use the symbols of the Confederacy to symbolise their own cause. Indeed, the Civil War is rarely out of the news, be it for controversy over statues commemorating Confederate leaders or famous generals or, most recently, for the long-standing naming of a small number of US military bases after rebel commanders. In the wake of George Floyd's killing and the wave of protests that have followed, the questioning of the visibility of the Confederate's public heritage has reached a new intensity. Some long-contested statues are finally being removed and the Pentagon has appeared ready to take a fresh look at the dozen or so establishments named after Confederate generals. Senior officials, a spokesman said on Monday, were "open to a bipartisan discussion on the topic of removing Confederate names from the bases". Yes, it was a long time ago, but these were officers who rose up against their own government. It is hard to imagine many countries where such figures would be commemorated by the very military that they fought against. of training at bases named for those who took up arms against the United States, and for the right to enslave others, is inescapable to anyone paying attention…". (Webmaster's comment: The Libertarians would love to have states secede from the union. Then those states could bring back slavery! Their idea of survival of the fittest!)

6-11-20 Covid-19 news: NHS England reveals extent of disruption to services
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. The National Health Service in England has revealed how much the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted its services. The number of people in England being assessed by a cancer specialist fell 60 per cent in April to 79,500, compared to nearly 200,000 in the same month last year. The number of people treated for cancer dropped to 10,800 in April, 20 per cent fewer than 2019. NHS England said the falls are partly due to people not seeking medical treatment due to concern over covid-19, but hospitals also had to delay or stop some treatments following a surge of coronavirus cases. To make up for this, NHS England has set up “covid-free” wings in some hospitals and “chemo-buses” which can travel to patients to provide chemotherapy. The number of routine operations, which includes hip and knee replacements, cataracts and hernia surgeries, fell to 41,000 in April, down from 280,000 in the same month last year. Data from accident and emergency services show 1.26 million people sought treatment in May, well below the 2 million in May 2019. England’s coronavirus contact tracing scheme was unable to reach a third of the people who tested positive for the virus in its first week of operation, new figures have revealed. The first statistics for the NHS Test and Trace system, released today, show it was able to contact 5407 of 8117 people who tested positive between 28 May and 3 June, and was unable to contact the remaining 33 per cent. The people who did respond disclosed an average of around six close contacts, or 31,794 in total, and the contact tracers managed to reach around 85 per cent of these. Ashish Jha, the head of Harvard’s Global Health Institute, said that the total death toll in the US could pass 200,000 by September even if the number of new daily deaths remains flat. “And that’s just through September. The pandemic won’t be over in September,” he told CNN. More than 113,000 people have died from coronavirus in the US so far. The coronavirus pandemic is “accelerating” in African countries, World Health Organization Africa regional director Matshidiso Moeti has said. Community transmission is occurring in more than half of Africa’s 54 countries, and cases have doubled from 100,000 to 200,000 in the last 18 days, compared to the 98 days it took to reach 100,000 cases. African countries have reported a total of 5000 deaths to date, with 10 countries, including South Africa, Egypt and Nigeria, accounting for three quarters of the total cases.

6-11-20 George Floyd death: Gen Mark Milley sorry for joining Trump walk to church
The top US military officer has said he was wrong to have joined President Donald Trump during his controversial walk to a church near the White House. The 1 June event created "a perception of the military involved in domestic politics", Gen Mark Milley said. Mr Trump walked to the damaged church and held up a Bible, after people protesting at the death of African American George Floyd were cleared. The use of troops to tackle the protests has provoked fierce US debate. Mr Trump has regularly referred to "law and order", calling in the National Guard to the US capital and condemning violent protests. A peaceful demonstration was cleared in Lafayette Square next to the White House with pepper spray and flash-bang grenades so that the president could have a photo opportunity. The basement of the St John's Episcopal Church had been burned the previous day. Gen Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, was speaking in a video for a National Defense University commencement ceremony. He says: "I should not have been there. My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics. "As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from, and I sincerely hope we all can learn from it." Defence Secretary Mark Esper was also on the walk and, although he has not said he was wrong to be there, has suggested he thought the walk was for a different purpose of mingling with troops and inspecting damage. A number of religious leaders criticised the president for his walk, although he insisted most were fine with it.

6-11-20 George Floyd: US Soccer overturns ban on players kneeling
US Soccer has overturned a ban on football players kneeling during the national anthem. The rule was introduced in 2016 after women's star Megan Rapinoe kneeled in solidarity with ex-NFL player Colin Kaepernick, who began kneeling during the anthem in protest against racial injustice. The US Soccer board described its previous stance as "wrong". The move comes amid worldwide protests over the death of George Floyd. Floyd, an unarmed black man, died in police custody in Minneapolis last month. His death has brought a renewed focus to the issue of racism and police brutality. In a statement, the US Soccer Federation said taking a knee was a form of protest against "police brutality and the systematic oppression of Black people and people of colour in America". The decision to ban the gesture, it went on to say, "was wrong and detracted from the important message of Black Lives Matter." On Saturday, the National Football League (NFL) overturned its own ban on players kneeling. Taking a knee has been used in many protests since Floyd's death. NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling at the start of matches in 2016, saying at the time: "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour." He was later joined by a number of other players, before the NFL introduced a rule - later repealed - that teams would be fined if players refused to stand for the anthem. Kaepernick became a free agent after the 2016 season but remains unsigned. Kaepernick filed a grievance against NFL owners in October 2017, believing they were conspiring not to hire him because of his kneeling protests. The two sides resolved the grievance in February under a confidentiality agreement. US President Donald Trump has repeatedly called for players who kneel to be fired.

6-11-20 George Floyd: The personal cost of filming police brutality
When videos of controversial police encounters generate headlines, there's an important figure in the story that we rarely hear about - the person filming. By the time 17-year-old Darnella Frazier started recording, George Floyd was already gasping for air, begging, repeatedly, "please, please, please". The camera had been rolling for 20 seconds when Mr Floyd, 46, uttered three more words that have now become a rallying cry for protesters. "I can't breathe," Mr Floyd said. The words were slightly muffled. He strained to speak as he laid face down in handcuffs, pinned to the floor by three police officers. One of those officers, 44-year-old Derek Chauvin, pressed a knee against Mr Floyd's neck. Ms Frazier was taking her nine-year-old cousin to Cup Foods, a shop near her home in Minneapolis, Minnesota, when she saw Mr Floyd grappling with police. She stopped, pulled out her phone and pressed record. For 10 minutes and nine seconds she filmed until the officers and Mr Floyd left the scene; the former on foot, the latter on a stretcher. At that point, Ms Frazier could never have imagined the chain of events that her video would set in motion. At the click of a button, the teen spurred wave after wave of protests, not only in the US but across the world. "She felt she had to document it," Ms Frazier's lawyer Seth Cobin told the BBC. "It's like the civil rights movement was reborn in a whole new way, because of that video." Ms Frazier, a high school junior, was not available for interview. Her lawyer said she was traumatised by what she saw outside Cup Foods on 25 May. It was "the most awful thing she's ever seen". Since then, she has seen a therapist and "is doing pretty well", Mr Cobin said. Coping with the response to her video has not been easy either. On Facebook, where she posted the video, the reaction was a mix of shock, outrage, praise and criticism.

6-11-20 Trump rejects calls to drop Confederate base names
US President Donald Trump says he will "not even consider" renaming military bases named for Confederate generals. He tweeted that the facilities were part of "a Great American heritage". Mr Trump's remarks follow reports that top military officials were open to changes amid nationwide soul-searching after the death of George Floyd. For many, symbols of the Confederacy - the slaveholding southern states that seceded, prompting the 1861-65 American Civil War - evoke a racist past. Confederate monuments have been a frequent target for protesters following Floyd's death. On Wednesday night a statue of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, was brought down by protesters in Richmond, Virginia. Meanwhile, demonstrators in the nearby city of Portsmouth attacked a Confederate monument, tearing down four statues, according to local media reports. Mr Trump tweeted on Wednesday that bases named for Confederate generals "have become part of a Great American heritage, a history of Winning, Victory and Freedom". He added: "The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars. Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations. "Our history as the Greatest Nation in the World will not be tampered with. Respect our Military!" White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told a news briefing afterwards that the possibility of renaming those bases was "an absolute non-starter" for Mr Trump. She said he would not sign any legislation that Congress might ever pass requiring such name changes. On Monday a Pentagon official said Defence Secretary Mark Esper and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy were "open to a bipartisan discussion on the topic" of removing Confederate names from the bases. Earlier this week, the US Marine Corps issued an order for commanders to "identify and remove the display of the Confederate battle flag or its depiction within workplaces, common-access areas and public areas on their installations".

6-11-20 Donald Trump to restart election rallies on key slavery date
US President Donald Trump is to hold his first re-election campaign rally for several months in Tulsa, Oklahoma on the date that African Americans celebrate the end of slavery. The rally will take place on 19 June, known as "Juneteenth". The Trump campaign said his Republican Party was proud of its role in winning the Civil War and ending slavery. The news follows weeks of anti-racism protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black man, in police custody. In 1921 the city of Tulsa was the site of one of the worst massacres of black people in US history. Mr Trump's rallies, seen as vital for energising his base, were suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak in March. He faces re-election in November but is lagging behind his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, in the polls. Correspondents say that while the virus remains a threat, Mr Trump's campaign considers that large crowds at the recent protests will make it harder for his opponents to criticise his rallies. Announcing the venue, Mr Trump alluded to the low rate of coronavirus infections in Oklahoma - at 7,500 cases one of the lowest in the country. "We're going to be starting our rallies," he said. "The first one... will be in Oklahoma, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Beautiful new venue, brand new and they're looking forward to it. They've done a great job with Covid, as you know, in the state of Oklahoma. He said further rallies would take place in Florida, Texas and Arizona, but he made no mention of what safety precautions would be taken and whether social distancing would be applied. Also on Wednesday, Mr Trump rejected calls to rename military bases named after Confederate generals. (Webmaster's comment: And not word on what he is going to do to help end police butality!) Juneteenth is an annual commemoration of the end of slavery. While not a federal holiday, it is celebrated widely by African Americans. It celebrates the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation to enslaved African Americans in Texas. Texas was the last state of the Confederacy - the slaveholding southern states that seceded, triggering the Civil War - to receive the proclamation, on 19 June 1865, months after the end of the war.

6-11-20 Confederate and Columbus statues toppled by US protesters
Statues of Confederate leaders and the explorer Christopher Columbus have been torn down in the US, as pressure grows on authorities to remove monuments connected to slavery and colonialism. A statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis was toppled in Richmond, Virginia, on Wednesday night. Statues of Columbus in Boston, Miami and Virginia have been vandalised. (Webmaster's comment: Columbus crucified Indians for not giving him their gold!) The movement has been sparked by the death in police custody of African American George Floyd. His death in Minneapolis has led to protests in the US and internationally against police brutality and racial inequality. Memorials to the Confederacy, a group of southern states that fought to keep black people as slaves in the American Civil War of 1861-65, have been among those targeted. A number of Confederate statues on Monument Avenue in Richmond have been marked with graffiti during the protests. Richmond also saw a statue of Italian explorer Columbus pulled down, set alight and thrown into a lake earlier this week. A three-metre tall (10ft) bronze statue of Columbus was toppled in Saint Paul, Minnesota, on Wednesday. The Columbus statue in Boston, which stands on a plinth at the heart of town, was beheaded. Many people in the US celebrate the memory of Columbus, who in school textbooks is credited with discovering "the New World", the Americas, in the 15th Century. But Native American activists have long objected to honouring Columbus, saying that his expeditions to the Americas led to the colonisation and genocide of their ancestors. The death of Mr Floyd, whose neck was kneeled on by a police officer for nearly nine minutes, has spurred global protests led by the Black Lives Matter movement. Many cities and organisations have taken steps to remove Confederate symbols, which have long stirred controversy because of their association with racism.

6-11-20 Indigenous Australian deaths in custody: 'Why I’m fighting for my uncle'
Aboriginal Australian man Eddie Murray was 21 when he died in police custody, following his arrest for being intoxicated. His death in 1981 was ruled a suicide – but his family is hoping that growing anger over disproportionate Indigenous deaths in custody will help force a fresh investigation. His niece, Kyah Patten, spoke to the BBC about her family’s years of activism.

6-11-20 Coronavirus in Africa: Outbreak 'accelerating' across continent
The coronavirus pandemic is accelerating in Africa, the World Health Organization (WHO) says. The WHO's Africa regional director Matshidiso Moeti said it was spreading beyond capital cities and that a lack of tests and other supplies was hampering responses. But she said that it did not seem as if severe cases and deaths were being missed by authorities. So far Africa has been the continent least affected by Covid-19. South Africa had more than a quarter of the reported cases and was seeing high numbers of confirmed cases and deaths in Eastern Cape and Western Cape provinces, Dr Moeti told a briefing at WHO headquarters in Geneva. She added that Western Cape was looking similar to recent outbreaks in Europe and the US. The country has one of the most advanced healthcare systems in Africa, but there are fears that a steep rise in cases could overwhelm it. South Africa's government has been praised for its early and decisive imposition of a lockdown, but the easing of restrictions in June has been accompanied by a rise in infections. Overall, there have been more than 7.3 million infections globally and more than 416,000 deaths. Dr Moeti said that Africa had had some 200,000 cases and 5,000 deaths, with 10 countries accounting for 75% of the cases. "Even though these cases in Africa account for less than 3% of the global total, it's clear that the pandemic is accelerating," she said. She warned that cases were likely to continue increasing for the foreseeable future. "Until such time as we have access to an effective vaccine, I'm afraid we'll probably have to live with a steady increase in the region, with some hotspots having to be managed in a number of countries, as is happening now in South Africa, Algeria, Cameroon for example, which require very strong public health measures, social distancing measures to take place," Dr Moeti said.

6-10-20 Trump never saw a Christian protester coming
Shocking videos of police misconduct at protests over the death of George Floyd are a dime a dozen, but the graphic clip of 75-year-old Martin Gugino being shoved to the ground by cops in Buffalo, New York, drew unusual attention. In a sickening fall, Gugino's head is seen striking the concrete and blood pools from his ear. The Buffalo Police Department's initial handling of the case layered injustice on injustice, and dozens of officers objected to even meager accountability measures for the officers who assaulted the elderly man who posed them no threat. Then President Trump tweeted. Gugino could be "an Antifa provocateur," he erroneously suggested. "Could be a set up?" As baseless conspiracy theories often do, this one reveals more about its wielder than about reality. The assumption undergirding Trump's post is that Gugino could not possibly be protesting at such great cost to himself, and, if he were, he must be under the sway of some strange radicalism. The truth is Gugino was protesting despite the risks. And he isn't Antifa, but he is a different sort of radical — albeit a kind we may have to forgive Trump for failing to recognize, as he likely has not personally encountered many examples, if any at all. Gugino is a Christian who takes seriously Jesus' command to peacemaking. Specifically, he is a devout Catholic peace activist, Religion News Service reports. For Gugino, this has meant spending his retirement years protesting police brutality, torture, and drone warfare. He prepares and serves meals for the poor and supports organizations working on health care and affordable housing. Asked why he donates to a community health clinic, Gugino said he is merely following the direction Jesus gave "to clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, and give drink to the thirsty." Gugino isn't alone in this commitment to radical peacemaking. As a Catholic involved in the Catholic Worker Movement, he's working in the tradition of Dorothy Day. A Catholic writer and activist who died in 1980, Day's advocacy for the "least of these" included direct aid, journalism, and civil disobedience.

6-10-20 George Floyd: The Minneapolis’ community at the heart of the protests
The East Lake Street community in Minneapolis has been at the heart of the protests that came after the death of George Floyd. Some demonstrating left businesses in the area damaged, but now the community has come together to help those affected. People are working to help get the food and supplies needed by those who have been left struggling in the wake of the riots. Many shops are immigrant-owned and, despite the damage caused by protesters, business owners support the movement.

6-10-20 George Floyd protests: Protester blinded in one eye has 'no regrets'
Shantania Love attended a Black Lives Matter rally in California where she was allegedly shot by police in the eye with a rubber bullet. Surgeons have told the 29-year-old medical assistant and mother of two that it's 99.9% certain she will lose her sight in that eye. This was the first protest Love has ever attended and she told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire that doesn't regret attending. She now plans to sue the Sacramento Police Department. The department says it has not confirmed that her injuries were due to use of force by Sacramento Police Department officers, but if this is confirmed, that use of force will be reviewed. It notes that "multiple outside agencies assisted with the protests".

6-10-20 Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd, spoke at a House Judiciary Committee hearing about police brutality and racial profiling.
. He said his brother "didn’t deserve to die over $20" and urged lawmakers to ensure he did not die "in vain". Mr Floyd died in Minneapolis last month as a white police officer held a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes. The police had been called after a report that Mr Floyd had used a counterfeit $20 (£16.20) bill.

6-10-20 America was not ready to reopen
Welcome to the great American comeback — of COVID-19. Coronavirus containment lockdowns have been in the process of being eased up across the country for weeks now. This caused a great deal of fretting at first, but for a while, it seemed as though things were going to proceed back to normal. Now we can say with reasonable confidence that America was not actually ready to ease the lockdowns. Daily new infections are at their highest level ever in many places, including California, Florida, and Texas — the three most populous states in the country, where over a quarter of Americans live. Others are still trending downward, but insofar as people return to their pre-crisis behaviors, we can confidently predict the epidemic will continue to spread. It's bad. Aside from the three big states, daily cases are also surging in North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, Arkansas, Puerto Rico, Oregon, and Alaska, and are up more modestly in other states. It's also not simply increased testing — in almost all of those states, the rate of tests coming back positive is increasing (or flat) along with confirmed cases. If more testing was producing an illusion of increased cases, we should see a declining positive test rate. It's important to realize also that there is a considerable time lag between infection and showing symptoms, typically between a few days and two weeks. That means these surges in infection are so far mostly due to things that happened before the recent explosion of protests against police brutality. There might be considerably sharper spikes over the next week or so. Now, going out for a mass protest during a once-in-a-century pandemic is risky, and some of the protesters have not been careful about keeping their distance or wearing masks. That is irresponsible — people should be careful when they are outside in groups, no matter what the reason. On the other hand, it is a lot more justifiable to take to the streets to stop an ongoing plague of appalling police violence than it is to demand Pottery Barn be reopened. But more importantly, the state response to the protests has showed the same negligence about containment that most parts of the American government have evinced for the last several months. From the very start of the pandemic the Trump administration has done almost nothing to actually contain its spread. We do not have a national test, trace, and isolate system, and we are not going to get one so long as Trump remains president. A few states have set up test-and-trace systems, but so far they are in their initial stages of deployment, and with the possible exception of Vermont, none so far has proved to be able to contain the virus for a prolonged period. Trump won't even try to reinforce simple behavioral norms. German Chancellor Angela Merkel at least urged protesters in her country to wear masks and keep distant during protests, but Trump has never once mentioned such a thing. On the contrary, he and many of his senior staff refuse to model wearing masks in public at all, and he has repeatedly fueled a broader right-wing grievance complex attacking lockdowns as some kind of liberal conspiracy. Urban police departments, meanwhile, have all but ignored containment. Instead they have violently herded protesters into groups, blasted them with chemical weapons that make people cough their lungs out, and stuffed them in jail without masks for hours or days — including in New York, where the gross incompetence of Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio contributed to the worst outbreak in the country. In many cities, police are not even wearing masks themselves despite orders to do so. Containing the pandemic simply isn't something the American state is capable of doing, at any level.

6-10-20 Lockdowns may have averted 531 million coronavirus infections
In the United States alone, an estimated 60 million infections were avoided, researchers say. Lockdowns implemented in some countries to reduce transmission of the coronavirus were extremely effective at controlling its rapid spread and saved millions of lives, two new studies suggest. Shutdowns prevented or delayed an estimated 531 million coronavirus infections across six countries — China, South Korea, Iran, Italy, France and the United States — researchers from the University of California, Berkeley report June 8 in Nature. And shutdowns saved about 3.1 million lives across 11 European countries, scientists at Imperial College London estimate in a separate study. In Europe, interventions to reduce the coronavirus’ spread brought infection rates down from pre-intervention levels by an average of 81 percent, the team reports also in Nature June 8. In all countries, R naught — an estimate for how many people an infected person might transmit the virus to — was less than one, meaning that each infected person passed the virus on to less than one person on average. With that level of viral transmission, the pandemic would eventually die out in lockdown scenarios. As the number of COVID-19 cases in some regions first began to spike in January, February and March, governments in places like China, the United States and Italy enforced measures such as social distancing, closing schools and restaurants as well as restricting nonessential travel (SN: 4/1/20). The shutdowns disrupted economies around the globe and resulted in massive job losses, but, until now, it was unclear how effective the measures were at curbing the virus’ spread. The new findings suggest that “these control measures have worked,” says Alun Lloyd, a mathematical epidemiologist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, who was not involved in either study. Lockdowns “have saved or delayed many infections and deaths.” But as countries reopen, residents may face a new surge of infections.

6-10-20 How South America became the new centre of the coronavirus pandemic
Coronavirus cases are rising sharply in South America, made worse by inequality, reports Luke Taylor from Bogota´, Colombia. CONFIRMED cases of covid-19 have surged in South America in recent weeks. As daily infections surpassed those in Europe and the US, the World Health Organization declared the region the pandemic’s “new epicentre” on 22 May. More than a million cases of coronavirus and 60,000 deaths had been registered as of 7 June in Latin America, which includes countries in Central and South America and Mexico. Many are struggling with poor healthcare systems and vast economic inequalities. While countries across Europe are slowly lifting lockdown restrictions and reopening borders, coronavirus cases are still surging in South America despite lockdowns across most of the region. “Just in the past week, there were 732,000 new cases globally, and of these, more than 250,000 new cases were in Latin American countries, a serious concern that should serve as a clarion call to redouble our efforts,” said Carissa Etienne, the director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), at a press briefing on 2 June. The worst is still yet to come, say epidemiologists and public health experts. If South America is the new centre of the virus, Brazil is its key battlefield. The country’s patient zero, a man returning to São Paulo from Italy, tested positive on 25 February. By 7 June, Brazil accounted for 672,846 of the region’s reported 1,119,575 cases of covid-19, and nearly 74 per cent of the region’s deaths. On 6 June, Brazil’s Health Ministry confirmed another 904 covid-19-related deaths had occurred in the previous 24 hours. The same day, the Brazilian government stopped publishing its cumulative number of coronavirus cases and deaths, and an official website has had data removed. The move has prompted accusations of censorship.

6-10-20 The misdirected ire at WHO
The organization's reversals are frustrating. But they show science is working. On Monday, the World Health Organization dropped what was seemingly a bombshell on our understanding of the novel coronavirus: that it is "very rare" for asymptomatic patients, long believed to be the super-spreaders of the disease, to transmit COVID-19. But within 24 hours, WHO walked that information back. The news was a "premature conclusion" drawn from a "very small subset of studies" and the use of the phrase "very rare" was a "misunderstanding," the organization clarified Tuesday. In fact, by some of their estimates, "around 40 percent of transmission may be due to asymptomatic." WHO's mistake was not a small one. Already headlines that reported the "very rare" transmission from asymptomatic patients had spread across the internet, potentially instilling confidence, erroneously, in anyone who doesn't feel sick that they therefore can't spread the disease and can stop social distancing. Worse still, the snafu seemed to be only the latest in a long line of such missteps made by the United Nation's international public health body during the pandemic, which has, in part, led President Trump to announce his intention to defund the organization. But while WHO has not been perfect during the outbreak, science is a hit-or-miss process that's playing out before our eyes in real time, and it'd be a mistake to stop putting our faith in the experts because of their inconsistent and incorrect messaging, which is being adjusted as new information comes along. WHO is not above criticism by any means, though. The confusion over the messaging on asymptomatic transmission was entirely preventable, and contributes to the erosion of public trust in the institution. "Communicating preliminary data about key aspects of the coronavirus without much context can have tremendous negative impact on how the public and policymakers respond to the pandemic," scientists at the Harvard Global Health Institute slammed in a statement Tuesday. The organization has much it needs to do better. For many, this week's gaffe was also the straw that broke the camel's back. WHO, for example, has already been criticized for saying at the start of the outbreak that masks were not needed by the general public and that "cloth masks are not recommended under any circumstance"; WHO now says everyone should wear cloth masks in public. WHO additionally began the outbreak by recommending people with symptoms of COVID-19 refrain from taking ibuprofen because the anti-inflammatory medication could worsen the effects; now WHO says it "does not recommend against" taking ibuprofen to relieve symptoms. You understand why people are beginning to get whiplash. But it bears repeating: there has been nothing like the COVID-19 outbreak before. That means we're not only starting at square one for how to treat it, but we're also receiving information about it almost as soon as scientists learn about it themselves. In ideal circumstances, we hear about medical breakthroughs after they've been studied for years and been obsessively peer-reviewed. But with over 400,000 dead around the world from the disease, and climbing, people are desperate for any insight into COVID-19. That's led to a clamor by the public for any and all information, though any research being released at this point is, by nature of the outbreak, only a few months old. "What [the pandemic] has done is just made everyone rush to publication and rush to judgment, frankly," Dr. Ivan Oransky, who co-founded the scientific retraction blog Retraction Watch, told Mother Jones. "You're seeing papers published in the world's leading medical journals that probably shouldn't have even been accepted in the world's worst medical journals."

6-10-20 Mumbai overtakes Wuhan peak as India Covid cases spike
India's financial capital, Mumbai, has recorded 51,000 cases of Covid, taking it past the peak in Wuhan, where the virus first emerged. The news comes amid a surge of infections in India, which has 266,598 confirmed cases. Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital, has 90,000 of them. Infections are also spiking in the capital Delhi, where authorities have said they expect to see more than half a million cases by the end of July. The surge coincides with India's decision to relax restrictions after three months of a stringent lockdown that was intended to curb the spread of the virus. On 8 June, shopping malls, places of worship and offices were allowed to reopen. Before that, shops, market places and transport services had all been allowed to operate as well. But experts say that there was no other option but to lift the lockdown, which exacted a massive economic toll on the country. Millions have already lost their jobs and livelihoods, businesses are shutting down, and the fear of hunger drove masses of daily-wage migrant workers to flee cities -mostly on foot because public transport was halted overnight. Many of them died of exhaustion and starvation, in what has been called a human tragedy. For weeks, India's relatively low Covid-19 numbers had baffled experts. Despite the dense population, disease and underfunded public hospitals, there was no deluge of infections or fatalities. Low testing rates explained the former, but not the latter. The hope - which also encouraged the government to lift the lockdown - was that most of India's undetected infections would not be severe enough to require hospitalisation. But the number of rising cases shows that the country could simply be witnessing a late peak in cases, experts say. What is concerning them however, is that even though states were using the lockdown period to ramp up health facilities, hospitals in major cities are being overwhelmed. There are allegations that many patients with Covid-like symptoms are being turned away. (Webmaster's comment: There have been over 208,000 cases in New York City and over 2,047,000 in the United States)

6-10-20 Coronavirus came to UK 'on at least 1,300 separate occasions'
Coronavirus was brought into the UK on at least 1,300 separate occasions, a major analysis of the genetics of the virus shows. The study, by the Covid-19 Genomics UK consortium (Cog-UK), completely quashes the idea that a single "patient zero" started the whole UK outbreak. The analysis also finds China, where the pandemic started, had a negligible impact on cases in the UK. Instead those initial cases came mostly from European countries. The researchers analysed the genetic code of viral samples taken from more than 20,000 people infected with coronavirus in the UK. Then, like a gigantic version of a paternity test, the geneticists attempted to piece together the virus's massive family tree. This was combined with data on international travel to get to the origins of the UK epidemic. They found the UK's coronavirus epidemic did not have one origin - but at least 1,356 origins. On each of those occasions somebody brought the infection into the UK from abroad and the virus began to spread as a result. "The surprising and exciting conclusion is that we found the UK epidemic has resulted from a very large number of separate importations," said Prof Nick Loman, from Cog-UK and the University of Birmingham. "It wasn't a patient zero," he added. The study showed that less than 0.1% of those imported cases came directly from China. Instead the UK's coronavirus epidemic was largely initiated by travel from Italy in late February, Spain in early-to-mid-March and then France in mid-to-late-March. "The big surprise for us was how fluid the process was, the rate of and source of virus introduction shifted rapidly over the course of only a few weeks," said Prof Oliver Pybus, from the University of Oxford. "This happened later than perhaps we would have expected," added Prof Loman. The study estimates 80% of those initial cases arrived in the country between 28 Feb and 29 March - the time the UK was debating whether to lockdown. After this point, the number of new imported cases diminished rapidly.

6-10-20 A short history of abolishing the police
The Minneapolis Police Department isn't going to be dissolved overnight, despite suggestions to the contrary, but in Minneapolis and nationwide, public pressure to overhaul American policing has hit a new zenith.. Some protesters have jettisoned reform demands in favor of polarizing calls to "defund," "dismantle," or "abolish" the police entirely. A look at American history near and far can shed a little light on a conversation that is, so far, all heat. The meaning of "defunding" and similar anti-reformist talk varies from mouth to mouth. Some plans sound like Campaign Zero's reform agenda, with action items like demilitarizing police, ending qualified immunity and civil asset forfeiture, and revising use of force codes. Others are more like #8toAbolition, which calls Campaign Zero's current emphases "dangerous and irresponsible" and offers instead a broader agenda for remaking housing policy, health-care, and more. #8toAbolition wants a "world without police." That seems unlikely, even in Minneapolis. Lisa Bender, president of the Minneapolis City Council, said Monday on CNN she can "imagine a future without police." And yet, she added: "To me, that future is a long way away." Bender pointed to Camden, New Jersey, as an emulation-worthy example of a city "that completely restructured their [police] department." Indeed, Camden has been widely cited as an impressive success story in the defunding conversation. In 2013, the city dissolved its police department and created a new department from scratch. Since then, complaints against Camden police have dropped by an incredible 95 percent; homicides are down by more than half, and other crime rates have fallen too, albeit not nearly so dramatically. Crucially, the new force is not bound by old police union contracts, which again and again have brazenly sided with abusive cops against the communities they victimize. But Camden's police dismantlement did not create a "world without police." On the contrary, the new department has more officers, not fewer, and most of the officers from the old department were rehired at the new. And though Camden is the best modern case study for the contemporary debate, there are older examples worth our notice, too. The first police departments in the United States were founded in the mid-1800s in large cities like New York, Boston, and Chicago. (Other law enforcement organizations of varying structure and purpose already existed, like slave patrols, sheriff's offices, constabularies, night watches, and for-hire guards and detectives like the Pinkertons.) These early departments focused on crime prevention and preservation of public order rather than investigating crimes already committed. In present-day parlance, we might say they did much more "broken windows" policing than detection. When investigation was added to police responsibilities, many investigators were deeply corrupt, so much so that Chicago abolished its criminal investigation unit a mere three years after it was introduced in 1861. Boston did the same in 1870, and New York City had its own corruption scandal in 1877. In each case, just as with Camden's entire department, the disbanded divisions were soon reconstituted. (Webmaster's comment: We need police, but the police must rid themselves of all racists and violence loving members!)

6-10-20 Scientists around the world are striking against racism in academia
Scientists around the world are striking to raise awareness of institutional and systemic racism against Black academics. This event comes in conjunction with widespread protests against police violence after the killing of George Floyd, who died on 25 May after a Minneapolis police officer pinned him to the ground by his neck. The strike was organised by a group of academics, many of them physicists and astronomers based in the US, and promoted on social media with the hashtags #ShutDownAcademia, #ShutDownSTEM and #Strike4BlackLives. The organisers are encouraging academics across STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields to take the day away from their normal research and instead spend it educating themselves on racial disparities in their field and taking action against racial violence and discrimination. At least 5000 academics based at universities from around the world have joined the course. “As academics, we do not exist in a vacuum and it is important to recognise the current events: Black members of our communities are being harassed and lynched with little to no consequence, as well as being disproportionately affected by the current pandemic,” says Tien-Tien Yu, a particle physicist at the University of Oregon who has helped organise the event through the Particles for Justice group. “We need to acknowledge that this takes a toll on the well-being of Black academics and that Black Lives Matter.” The organisers are also hoping that this event will inspire academics to hold their institutions to a higher standard. “We hope everyone comes out of this with concrete steps they can take and ask for from their academic institutions,” says Seyda Ipek at the University of California, Irvine, another particle physicist and member of Particles for Justice. Those steps could include hiring more Black faculty members, deeply interrogating how researchers’ academic work is used in broader society and making university campuses safer and more welcoming for non-white students.

6-10-20 Science News will observe #ShutDownSTEM on June 10
On Wednesday, June 10, Science News will suspend publication for the day to join in #ShutDownSTEM and #StrikeforBlackLives. This movement — sparked by recent police killings of black people in the United States and the subsequent protests worldwide — is asking for those in the scientific community to acknowledge the role they play in perpetuating racism, and to engage directly in eliminating it. To that end, we will use this day away from the daily news cycle to start working to improve our coverage of race and inequity. That includes how we use language to describe people and their lives, who we call upon as sources, and the choices we make about news coverage. It also includes efforts to increase diversity in our staff, which is predominantly white. Science News has a long history covering race in America, including research on stereotypes and stigma, racial bias in research funding, and how the lack of diverse representation in clinical trials risks lives. This year, we covered challenges scientists face in accurately defining race for the U.S. census and how long-standing health disparities have made African-Americans more vulnerable to COVID-19. But this magazine’s past also includes a shameful embrace of racism under the guise of eugenics. We must do better. We must be better. Our mission is to explain the workings of science and scientists, and to use science to better understand human behavior, societies and the world around us. But to do that right, we have to make sure we’re not limited by our own biases and presumptions, and accurately report where science works and when it falls short in encompassing the breadth of human experience. So we are ceasing our daily journalism to devote the day to a series of meetings and conversations around these topics. We know that this won’t be the work of a day, or a year. We are committed to working for lasting change.

6-10-20 George Floyd's funeral hears calls for racial justice
The funeral of George Floyd, an African American whose death in police custody spawned global outrage, has heard impassioned pleas for racial justice. Speakers in the church in Houston, Texas, lined up to remember a man whose "crime was that he was born black". Mr Floyd died in Minneapolis last month as a white police officer held a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes, his final moments filmed on phones. Four police officers involved have been sacked and charged over his death. His coffin was taken from the church driven in a motorcade to the Houston Memorial Gardens where he was to be buried beside his mother. One of Mr Floyd's nieces, Brooke Williams, called for a change in laws which, she argued, were designed to disadvantage black people. "Why must this system be corrupt and broken?" she asked. "Laws were already put in place for the African-American system to fail. And these laws need to be changed. No more hate crimes, please! Someone said 'Make America Great Again', but when has America ever been great?" Republican President Donald Trump's Democratic opponent in the November presidential election, Joe Biden, addressed the service in a video message, saying: "When there is justice for George Floyd, we will truly be on our way to racial justice in America." Mr Biden has sharply criticised Mr Trump, accusing him at the weekend of making "despicable" speculative remarks about Mr Floyd. But the Democratic politician was himself recently accused of taking black American votes for granted when he said African Americans "ain't black" if they even considered voting for Mr Trump. The service was held at the Fountain of Praise church, attended by some 500 guests including politicians and celebrities. "George Floyd was not expendable - this is why we're here," said Al Green, the local Democratic congressman. "His crime was that he was born black."

6-10-20 CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman quits after George Floyd remarks
The chief executive of CrossFit has quit after causing offence with remarks about the death of George Floyd and the resulting protests. Greg Glassman stepped down after athletes, gyms and sportswear firms cut ties with his $4bn (£3.1bn) brand. Mr Glassman acknowledged having caused a "rift" in the CrossFit community. His exit came on the day of Floyd's funeral in Texas. The unarmed black man died last month after a policeman in Minneapolis knelt on his neck. CrossFit is a branded exercise regimen that involves high-intensity group workouts with a focus on strength and conditioning. Gyms around the world offer classes. In reply to a public health body saying racism was a public health issue, Greg Glassman tweeted on Saturday night: "It's FLOYD-19", an apparent reference to Covid-19. He followed it up with a second tweet saying: "Your failed model quarantined us and now you're going to model a solution to racism? George Floyd's brutal murder sparked riots nationally." He also called an affiliate "delusional" for questioning why CrossFit had been silent on the killing in Minneapolis. According to Buzzfeed, hours before posting the fateful tweets, Mr Glassman had told gym owners on a private Zoom call: "We're not mourning for George Floyd - I don't think me or any of my staff are. "Can you tell me why I should mourn for him? Other than that it's the white thing to do." In a statement on Tuesday, Mr Glassman said: "I'm stepping down as CEO of CrossFit, Inc, and I have decided to retire. "On Saturday I created a rift in the CrossFit community and unintentionally hurt many of its members." He added: "I cannot let my behaviour stand in the way of HQ's or affiliates' missions. They are too important to jeopardise." (Webmaster's comment: Boycott Crossfit. It's still provding a fortune to a racist!)

6-10-20 Racism definition: Merriam-Webster to make update after request
The American dictionary Merriam-Webster is to change its definition of the word racism after receiving an email from a young black woman. Kennedy Mitchum, a recent graduate of Drake University in Iowa, suggested that the definition should include a reference to systematic oppression. An editor then responded, later agreeing to update their definition. The decision comes amid international anti-racism protests after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd died after a white police officer held a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Ms Mitchum had encountered people pointing to the dictionary to prove that they were not racist because of the way they felt towards people of colour. She felt the definition needed to reflect broader issues of racial inequality in society. "I kept having to tell them that definition is not representative of what is actually happening in the world," she told CNN. "The way that racism occurs in real life is not just prejudice - it's the systemic racism that is happening for a lot of black Americans." Merriam-Webster's editorial manager Peter Sokolowski told the AFP news agency that the second definition will be updated to reflect the request. "We will make that even more clear in our next release," he said. "This is the kind of continuous revision that is part of the work of keeping the dictionary up to date, based on rigorous criteria and research we employ in order to describe the language as it is actually used," he added.

6-10-20 Gone with the Wind removed from HBO Max
Gone with the Wind has been taken off HBO Max following calls for it to be removed from the US streaming service. HBO Max said the 1939 film was "a product of its time" and depicted "ethnic and racial prejudices" that "were wrong then and are wrong today". It said the film would return to the platform at an unspecified date with a "discussion of its historical context". Set during and after the American Civil War, Gone with the Wind has long been attacked for its depiction of slavery. Based on the novel by Margaret Mitchell, it features slave characters who seem contented with their lot and who remain loyal to their former owners after slavery's abolition. Gone with the Wind received 10 Oscars and remains the highest-grossing movie of all time when its takings are adjusted for inflation. Hattie McDaniel became the first black actress to be nominated for, and win, an Academy Award for her role as domestic servant Mammy. Writing in the Los Angeles Times this week, screenwriter John Ridley said the film "glorifies the antebellum south" and perpetuated "painful stereotypes of people of colour". "The movie had the very best talents in Hollywood at that time working together to sentimentalise a history that never was," continued the Oscar-winning screenwriter of 12 Years A Slave. In a statement, HBO Max said it would be "irresponsible" to keep the film on its platform without "an explanation and a denouncement" of its "racist depictions". It said the film itself would return "as it was originally created", saying "to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed". The wording of the statement is similar to advisories that accompany Tom and Jerry cartoons and other vintage animations on various streaming services. (Webmaster's comment: Hattie McDaniel broke the racist barrier in Hollywood. We must not let that be lost in the anti-racist movement.)

6-10-20 Remains found in Idaho missing children case
Police investigating the disappearance of two children in Idaho last year have found what they believe to be human remains. Joshua "JJ" Vallow, who was then seven, and his sister Tylee Ryan, 17, have not been seen since September 2019. Their mother, Lori Daybell, was arrested in Hawaii in February. The remains were discovered at the home of Mrs Daybell's current husband, Chad Daybell, but have not yet been identified. Mr Daybell was taken into custody on Tuesday in Rexburg, Idaho, police said. He is an author who has written several apocalyptic novels loosely based on Mormon religious teachings, and the couple have been involved in a group that promotes preparing for the apocalypse. The organisation, Preparing A People, has denied being a "cult". Three suspicious deaths have also been linked to the case. The children's mother Lori moved to Idaho from Arizona in late August 2019 after her then-husband, Charles Vallow, was shot dead by her brother, Alex Cox. Cox claimed the shooting had been in self-defence. He died of unknown causes in December. Lori then married Chad Daybell in October, just two weeks after the death of Chad Daybell's wife Tammy. According to her obituary, Tammy Daybell died of natural causes, but police ordered that her body be exhumed after Mr Daybell's quick remarriage. In November, police were called by the grandparents of one of the children to check on the family at their home in Rexburg. Officials say they later learned that Joshua "JJ" Vallow and Tylee Ryan had not been seen for months. Authorities say Mrs Daybell gave misleading answers to investigators' questions and outright lied about their whereabouts and even their existence. She left town the following day. Authorities searched a nearby storage unit, and found clothes and toys that appeared to belong to her children. She was arrested in Hawaii on charges including child abandonment and contempt of court in February, after missing a January deadline to deliver her children to authorities. Police at the time warned that the children were in danger. (Webmaster's comment: Religious cults kill in the name of God all the time. Many religious leaders have sex with children all the time. That's what religions do!)

6-9-20 George Floyd death: Seven solutions to US police problems
Protesters across the US have taken to the streets in the wake of George Floyd's death to demand an end to police brutality and what they see as systemic racism. In response, Democrats have proposed legislation to address inequities and reduce deaths in custody, including measures that would require police to wear body cameras, ban chokeholds and make it easier to prosecute officers. Here's a look at some of these proposed solutions, and other potential ways to reform policing.

  1. Rewrite "use of force" policies: Most police departments have a "use of force" policy which dictates how and when officers can use force. These policies vary substantially from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, the type of "neck restraint" or chokehold that Officer Derek Chauvin used on George Floyd has been banned in New York City since 1993.
  2. Defund the police: Protesters believe that cities and states spend far too much money on their police departments without sufficiently funding education, mental health, housing and other community-based social services. A growing demand is for political leaders to "defund" the police - that usually means reducing funding not cutting it altogether.
  3. Dismantle the police: On Sunday, a veto-proof majority of the Minneapolis City Council signed a pledge in front of a crowd of demonstrators promising to "begin the process of ending the Minneapolis Police Department". They vowed to create a "new, transformative model for cultivating safety". Earlier in the week, two council members used the word "dismantle" to describe their plans for the department, as did Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar.
  4. Demilitarise: Since the 1990s, the military has transferred over $5bn-worth of equipment, ranging from sleeping bags to ammunition and armoured vehicles, to local police departments through a special acquisitions programme with the US Department of Defense.
  5. Sue the police: Citizens who try to sue the police in civil court for excessive force frequently see their cases thrown out because of a legal doctrine known as "qualified immunity". It was designed by the Supreme Court to protect government employees from frivolous lawsuits and give police legal breathing room surrounding their split-second decisions.
  6. Police the police: Sometimes, police violence against black people is attributed to a "bad apple" - an angry and racist cop who overreacts in the line of duty. In an effort to keep them out, some forces have fired police officers who publicly admit to racist ideas. Last July, the Philadelphia Police Department fired 13 officers who posted racist, violent messages on social media - but only after an advocacy group brought the messages to light. But the reality is a bit more complicated than just one bad apple ruining the bunch.
  7. Start counting: There is no doubt that Black Americans are more likely to be killed by police and subjected to other forms of police violence. But what's still unclear is exactly how many victims there are, or which departments are the worst offenders.

6-9-20 George Floyd's niece: 'This is not just murder, but a hate crime'
Brooke Williams, the niece of George Floyd, spoke at her uncle's funeral in Houston, Texas. She remembered Mr Floyd as spiritually grounded and an activist and said that 'justice would be served' for him as long as she is breathing. Ms Williams added that the laws were designed to disadvantage black people. Mr Floyd died in Minneapolis in May as a white police officer held a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Derek Chauvin has made his first court appearance, where he faces charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter. Three other arresting officers are charged with aiding and abetting murder. They have all since been fired.

6-9-20 Covid-19 news: Highest daily jump in worldwide coronavirus cases
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. The highest daily increase in worldwide coronavirus cases yet was recorded on Sunday, with 136,000 new cases confirmed, World Health Organization (WHO) director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists yesterday. “Although the situation in Europe is improving, globally it is worsening,” he said. Almost 75 per cent of the cases confirmed on 7 June were from only 10 countries, mostly in the Americas and South Asia, The Guardian reports. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, was today criticised by doctors and infectious disease researchers for saying on Monday that it is “very rare” for people to have the coronavirus without symptoms. Van Kerkhove clarified her statement today, during a live Q&A on social media, saying that “anywhere between 6 and 41 per cent of the population may be infected but not have symptoms.” Primary school pupils in England will no longer be expected to return to school before the end of the summer term, the UK government has said. Primary schools in England reopened on 1 June to reception, year 1 and year 6 pupils and the government’s original plan was for all remaining pupils to return for the last month of term before the summer holidays start on 22 July. Head teachers previously warned that it wouldn’t be possible for school pupils to practice social distancing in classrooms. A Public Health England coronavirus testing survey is to track the prevalence of coronavirus among those who do return to school and investigate how much children spread the virus. Teachers and pupils in up to 100 schools will soon receive coronavirus swab and antibody tests.

6-9-20 What about police violence against white people?
Conservatives want to deny racism exists. But their arguments only further support the need for change. The ongoing national protests against police brutality have focused for the most part on black victims, for the obvious reason that black Americans are disproportionately abused by police. The horrifying video of George Floyd being slowly strangled to death hit a raw nerve in the black community, which has endured decades of these kinds of atrocities, as well as an exponentially greater amount of less-lethal abuses. This has led some conservatives to claim that the protesters are deliberately ignoring white victims. Commentator Matt Walsh pointed to videos of two white men, Tony Timpa and Daniel Shaver, being brutally killed by police as evidence that only black killings get attention and that police brutality is not a reflection of systemic racism. At Townhall, Mike Adams wrote an article entitled "White Man Can't Breathe," noting that there had not been "George Soros-funded protests" or "Antifa riots" in response to the Timpa killing, and implied a lack of them would show "political opportunism." These are disingenuous arguments. However, it is true that white people are not at all immune to police violence. Instead of crying hypocrisy, there is every reason for white Americans to join the movement to overhaul policing in this country, and to attack the inequality at the root of so much police abuse. In the first instance, it isn't actually true that white victims of police violence get no attention. One of the biggest explosions of outrage over the last week was over video of Buffalo police shoving Martin Gugino — an unarmed 75-year-old white man — to the ground, where he cracked his head on the sidewalk. The cops let him lie there unattended for minutes, bleeding from the ears. (Eventually he did get taken to the hospital, where he is reportedly recovering.) Similarly, the Shaver killing got a ton of attention when it happened in 2016. The shocking video of the Timpa killing only came out last year after a multi-year lawsuit from local news organizations. Somehow conservatives are only now raising a fuss about it almost a year later. Still, there may be a tiny grain of truth in what Walsh and Adams are saying. White Americans genuinely are abused and killed by police at grotesque rates compared to other rich countries, and they probably do get relatively less media attention on net than black victims. The Prison Policy Initiative has collected international data for the following chart comparing overall rates of police killings across countries: Do the police in other countries kill civilians as often as they do in the U.S.? We look at the data. (Short answer: No. Not even close.) Three times greater rate than in any other country!

6-9-20 KKK 'leader' charged for attack on Black Lives Matter protesters
A self-described Ku Klux Klan leader has been arrested for allegedly driving his car into a group of Black Lives Matters protesters gathered on Sunday in the US state of Virginia. Prosecutors say that Harry Rogers, 36, drove "recklessly" towards a protest in Henrico County, and "revved the engine" before driving into protesters. Mr Rogers appeared in Henrico court on the outskirts of Richmond on Monday, facing charges of assault and battery. A hate crime investigation is underway. One protester was injured and treated at the scene, authorities said, but was not seriously hurt. In a separate incident on Sunday night, a man drove at a crowd of protesters in Seattle, and brandished a gun at them. The suspect is now in custody, while a 27-year-old man who was shot at the scene was taken to hospital, local authorities said. Anti-racism protests sparked by the death of George Floyd are entering their third week. Mr Floyd died while being restrained by a Minnesota police officer last month. Large rallies and protests have been held in several US cities, including Richmond, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Though some protests have involved rioting or looting, and violent clashes between participants and police, an overwhelming majority have been peaceful. "An attack on peaceful protesters is heinous and despicable and we will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law," Henrico Country Commonwealth's Attorney Shannon Taylor said in a statement. Mr Rogers told officers he was president of the Virginia KKK, the highest-ranking member of the white supremacist group not in prison, US media report. "The accused, by his own admission and by a cursory glance at social media, is an admitted leader of the Ku Klux Klan and a propagandist for Confederate ideology," Ms Taylor said. "This egregious criminal act will not go unpunished. Hate has no place here under my watch."

6-9-20 US Democrats introduce sweeping legislation to reform police
US Democrats in Congress have proposed sweeping legislation to reform American police, following weeks of protests against police brutality and racism. The bill would make it easier to prosecute police for misconduct, ban chokeholds, and addresses racism. It comes as Minneapolis lawmakers vowed to disband the city's police force. The death of George Floyd at the hands of a white officer there sparked national pressure for change. However, it was unclear whether Republicans, who control the US Senate, would support the proposed Justice in Policing Act of 2020. US President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter that "the Radical Left Democrats want to Defund and Abandon our Police. Sorry, I want LAW & ORDER!" Mr Floyd's brother is expected to testify to the House of Representatives later this week in a hearing on police reform. The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 was introduced on Monday by top Democratic lawmakers House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, black senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker and members of the Congressional Black Caucus. As she unveiled the bill, Mrs Pelosi read the names of black men and women who have died at the hands of police in recent years. The bill forces federal police to use body and dashboard cameras, ban chokeholds, eliminate unannounced police raids known as "no-knock warrants", make it easier to hold police liable for civil rights violations and calls for federal funds to be withheld from local police forces who do not make similar reforms. "The martyrdom of George Floyd gave the American experience a moment of national anguish, as we grieve for the black Americans killed by police brutality," Mrs Pelosi said. (Webmaster's comment: The Republicans wiil do everything they can to block this bill. They want the police to have the right to kill anyone who doesn't obey their every violent whim.)

6-9-20 Joe Biden: I think George Floyd will change the world
Democratic US presidential candidate Joe Biden has said the late George Floyd will "change the world." Following a private meeting with Mr Floyd's family in Houston, Texas, to offer his sympathies, Mr Biden told CBS news his death was "one of the great inflection points in American history". The killing of African American George Floyd at the hands of a white officer has fuelled global protests. A private funeral service will be held in Houston later on Tuesday. Mr Biden has sharply criticised President Donald Trump, who is standing for re-election as the Republican candidate on 3 November, accusing him at the weekend of making "despicable" speculative remarks about Mr Floyd. The Democratic politician was himself recently accused of taking black American votes for granted when he said African Americans "ain't black" if they even considered voting for Mr Trump. "They're an incredible family, his little daughter was there, the one who said 'daddy's going to change the world', and I think her daddy is going to change the world," Mr Biden told CBS anchor Norah O'Donnell. "I think what happened here is one of the great inflection points in American history, for real, in terms of civil liberties, civil rights and just treating people with dignity." loyd family spokesman Benjamin Crump, who tweeted a photo of the meeting said Mr Floyd's relatives welcomed Mr Biden's comments. "That compassion meant the world to this grieving family," he added. Aides to the former vice-president said he would also record a video message for Tuesday's service. Mourners in Houston, Texas, where Mr Floyd lived before moving to Minneapolis, formed long lines to view his body, publicly on display for six hours at The Fountain of Praise church. Memorial services have already been held in Minneapolis and North Carolina, where Mr Floyd was born.

6-9-20 George Floyd: How protesters are keeping up the momentum in Washington DC
After nearly two weeks of continuous anti-racism demonstrations, the US capital saw one of the largest turnouts this weekend. The BBC spoke to people from different backgrounds, who cite energy and allyship as key factors behind why these protests feel different from those past.

6-9-20 Coronavirus: Satellite traffic images may suggest virus hit Wuhan earlier
An apparent surge in traffic outside Wuhan hospitals from August 2019 may suggest the coronavirus hit the area earlier than reported, a study says. Harvard researchers say satellite images show an increase in traffic outside five hospitals in the Chinese city from late August to December. The traffic spike coincided with a rise in online searches for information on symptoms like "cough" and "diarrhoea". China said the study was "ridiculous" and based on "superficial" information. It is believed that the virus first appeared in China some time in November. Authorities reported a cluster of pneumonia cases with an unknown cause to the World Health Organization (WHO) on 31 December 2019. "Clearly, there was some level of social disruption taking place well before what was previously identified as the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic," Dr John Brownstein, who led the research, told ABC news. The study has not been peer-reviewed. The researchers examined commercial satellite data from outside five Wuhan hospitals, comparing data from late summer and autumn 2018 to the same time period in 2019. In one case, researchers counted 171 cars parked at one of Wuhan's largest hospitals, Tianyou Hospital in October 2018. Satellite data from the same time in 2019 showed 285 vehicles in the same place, an increase of 67%. A surge in online searches for words associated with the symptoms of coronavirus on the Chinese search engine Baidu seemed to emerge at the same time. "This is all about a growing body of information pointing to something taking place in Wuhan at the time," Dr Brownstein told ABC. "Many studies are still needed to fully uncover what took place and for people to really learn about how these disease outbreaks unfold and emerge in populations. So this is just another point of evidence." Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying dismissed the findings at a press briefing on Tuesday. "I think it is ridiculous, incredibly ridiculous, to come up with this conclusion based on superficial observations such as traffic volume," she said.

6-8-20 George Floyd death: Why US protests are so powerful this time
Thousands of Americans are taking to the streets to protest about racism - many for the first time in their lives. Why has this particular tragedy struck such a chord? George Floyd is not the first African American whose death in police custody sparked protests. There were also rallies and calls for change after Tamir Rice, Michael Brown and Eric Garner were killed by police. But this time seems different, with the response more sustained and widespread. There have been demonstrations across the US - in all 50 states and DC - including in cities and rural communities that are predominantly white. Local governments, sports and businesses appear readier to take a stand this time - most notably with the Minneapolis city council pledging to dismantle the police department. And the Black Lives Matter protests this time seem more racially diverse - with larger numbers of white protesters, and protesters from other ethnicities, standing with black activists. A number of different factors combined to create "the perfect storm for rebellion" over George Floyd's death, Frank Leon Roberts, an activist who teaches a course on the Black Lives Matter movement at New York University, told the BBC. A police officer, Derek Chauvin, kept his knee on Mr Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes - even as Mr Floyd repeatedly said "I can't breathe" and eventually became unresponsive. The incident was clearly recorded on video. "In many previous instances of police violence, there's a possibility of an ambiguous narrative - there's a partial view of what happened, or the police officer says they made a split-second decision because they feared for their life," Mr Roberts said. "In this case, it was a completely unambiguous act of injustice - where people could see this man [Floyd] was completely unarmed and incapacitated." Many who joined the recent protests were first-time protesters, who said seeing George Floyd's death made them feel that they simply couldn't stay at home anymore.

6-8-20 Covid-19 news: Lockdowns prevented 3.1 million deaths in Europe
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. An estimated 3.1 million deaths due to covid-19 were prevented by lockdowns and other coronavirus social distancing measures across 11 countries in Europe including the UK, according to a modelling study published in Nature. 470,000 deaths were averted in the UK alone, the researchers who did the study told the Guardian. The team analysed data on reported coronavirus deaths from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK, up until 4 May. They concluded that for all 11 countries, interventions were effective enough to drive the R number – a measure of how quickly the virus is spreading – to below 1. The researchers also estimate that the lockdown introduced in the UK on 23 March reduced the country’s R number from 3.8 to 0.63 between the end of March and the start of May. Overall, the study estimates that between 12 and 15 million people across all 11 countries had the coronavirus by 4 May, about 3 to 4 per cent of their combined populations. In the US, an estimated 60 million coronavirus infections were prevented by stay-at-home orders and other coronavirus restrictions, according to a seperate modelling study. It estimated that 530 million infections were prevented across the US, China, South Korea, Italy, Iran and France, with 285 million estimated to have been prevented in China alone. New Zealand has no active coronavirus cases as of today and almost all coronavirus restrictions in the country will be lifted from Tuesday. Contact tracing will continue to be important as new cases may still emerge, New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern told journalists today. 400,000 people are expected to return to work in New York City today in construction, manufacturing and retail. About 500 new confirmed coronavirus cases are reported daily in the city, down from a peak of almost 19,000 daily cases in the first two weeks of April. State and city officials say the number is low enough for contact tracers to be able to track every person who has been in contact with people confirmed to have coronavirus. People should wear face coverings in public settings including supermarkets, offices, schools, on public transport and at any social or mass gatherings, according to an update of World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on 5 June. The WHO also recommends that people wear face coverings if they are living in cramped conditions, particularly in refugee camps and slums.

6-8-20 Coronavirus: The tourists swapping lockdown for Sweden
Sweden has kept pubs, restaurants and shops open throughout the Covid 19 pandemic. The more open approach is attracting growing numbers of British and European tourists, who’ve broken national guidelines advising against non-essential global travel in search of a beer or even a haircut. The BBC spoke to Oana Marcu, 34, from London, who’s been in Stockholm since March, British actor Lewis Sycamore, 25, who’s just arrived to visit his Swedish girlfriend, and Peter Clark, 32, a British barber in the Swedish capital who’s found it uncomfortable serving tourists escaping lockdowns in their own countries.

6-8-20 George Floyd: Minneapolis council pledges to dismantle police department
A majority of Minneapolis City Council has pledged to dismantle the local police department, a significant move amid nationwide protests sparked by George Floyd's death last month. Nine of the 13 councillors said a "new model of public safety" would be created in a city where law enforcement has been accused of racism. Mayor Jacob Frey earlier opposed the move, drawing boos from the crowds. Activists, who for years have demanded such a step, called it a turning point. But commentators say Minneapolis can now expect a long and complex debate over policing, and it remains unclear what form structural reform will take. Mr Floyd's death in police custody triggered mass protests against racism and police brutality. Officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Mr Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes, has been dismissed and charged with second-degree murder. He will make his first court appearance later on Monday. Three other officers who were at the scene have also been sacked and charged with aiding and abetting. The nine councillors read a statement to hundreds of protesters on Sunday. "We are here because here in Minneapolis and in cities across the United States it is clear that our existing system of policing and public safety is not keeping our communities safe," City Council President Lisa Bender was quoted as saying. "Our efforts at incremental reform have failed. Period." Ms Bender said details of the overhaul plan needed to be discussed further, adding that she would try to shift police funding towards community based strategies. Meanwhile, councillor Alondra Cano tweeted that "a veto-proof majority" in the council had agreed that the city police department was "not reformable and that we're going to end the current policing system". Last week, Minnesota launched a civil rights investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department, with Governor Tim Walz saying he wanted to root out "systemic racism that is generations deep". The city council later voted for a number of policing changes, including the ban on chokeholds and neck restraints by police officers.(Webmaster's comment: Fire all of them and start over!)

6-8-20 3 ways to reform America's police
Protests against police brutality continued across the nation through the weekend, sparked by George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody two weeks ago. Too many police departments and individual officers have responded to the protests by doubling down on the abuse — demonstrating to the world just why the protests were needed in the first place.. In Buffalo, two officers were charged with assault after knocking a 75-year-old man to the pavement, injuring him. In Philadelphia, a 30-year veteran of the force is being charged with clubbing a Temple University student. An Erie, Pennsylvania, officer was put on desk duty after he kicked a protester. In Atlanta, two officers were fired for using excessive force against a pair of black college students. In Virginia, a Fairfax County police officer has been charged with misdemeanor after repeatedly using a stun gun on a black man "without obvious provocation." The internet is flooded with videos of police in cities across the country unleashing tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and beatings on journalists and peaceful demonstrators. The brutality has sparked new calls from the left to "defund the police." Some who use that phrase want massive reforms; others really do want to abolish police departments entirely. In Minneapolis, where the protests started, members of the City Council are ready to disband the police department and start fresh. Certainly, events of recent weeks prove it is far past time to remake American policing. We can start by dispensing with the "few bad apples" myth. In Buffalo, 57 officers quit the department's emergency response team to protest the charges against their colleagues involved in shoving the elderly man to the ground — and gathered to applaud the men when they emerged from the city's courthouse. In Philadelphia, the officer charged with assault was on the job despite having a notorious history of transgressive acts. In New York and Washington, D.C., police have beaten and teargassed protesters after "kettling" them, leaving them with no place to go. There are of course fine officers in every department, but these examples suggest the problems are widespread and deeply rooted in the culture, and solving them will require more than an extra few hours of diversity training every now and again. The challenge is huge. What can be done? Change how police do their jobs. This includes taking a close look at things like tactics, training, and equipment. Law enforcement budgets must be revamped, so that resources can be directed toward better, earlier methods of dealing with homelessness, drug addiction, and mental illness — methods that don't rely on men and women armed with guns. Hold police accountable. As my colleague Bonnie Kristian noted last week, the Supreme Court is in a position to end "qualified immunity," a legal doctrine that protects police from liability for civil rights violations committed on the job. Ending this immunity is a start. Reform-minded police chiefs should also be empowered to root out bad cops from their departments. Right now they're all too often hampered by arbitration processes that return offending officers back to their jobs. When officers are fired, they should stay fired. They shouldn't be able to hop over to the next town or state for a new law enforcement job. Curtail law enforcement's political influence. By now it is well established that police unions are a prime obstacle to reform: They negotiated the arbitration processes that keep bad officers on the job, and often veto other efforts toward accountability. Police unions "defend the narrow interests of police at the expense of public safety," Reason's Peter Suderman astutely observed last week. The argument for busting police unions is growing stronger by the day.

6-8-20 Greg Glassman: Brands cut ties over CrossFit CEO's George Floyd tweet
Fitness brands including Reebok have cut ties with CrossFit after the company's CEO posted a tweet making light of George Floyd's death. In reply to a public health body saying racism was a public health issue, Greg Glassman tweeted: "FLOYD-19." He also called an affiliate "delusional" for questioning why CrossFit had been silent on the killing of Floyd by police in Minneapolis. Mr Glassman has now apologised, saying CrossFit "will not stand for racism". He said he had been trying to make a point about lockdowns that have been put in place to try to contain the spread of the coronavirus. CrossFit is a company based on a fitness regimen developed by Mr Glassman, and is incorporated into gyms across the world. These gyms are run on an affiliate model, paying the main CrossFit company for permission to use the name and regimen. It began when the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington tweeted that "racism is a public health issue". In response, Mr Glassman tweeted "FLOYD-19" - a play on Covid-19, the name of the disease caused by the coronavirus. Mr Glassman also came under fire for an email he reportedly sent to an affiliate who asked for a response from the company on anti-racist protests across the US. "I sincerely believe the quarantine has adversely impacted your mental health," he reportedly wrote to the woman, before calling her "delusional". "You think you're more virtuous than we are. It's disgusting." What has the response been? Since Mr Glassman's tweet about George Floyd, hundreds of affiliate gyms have removed CrossFit from their branding. A spreadsheet tracking all of the gyms that are rebranding currently lists 227 fitness centres distancing themselves from CrossFit. One of these gyms, Petworth Fitness in Washington DC - formerly CrossFit Petworth - wrote on Instagram: "For a brand that has preached about being 'for all', the deafening silence on current and past issues of racism tells us all we need to know." It added that it would donate its annual affiliate fee - $3,000 (£2,364) - to the Black Lives Matter DC and Know Your Rights anti-racist campaign groups.

6-8-20 George Floyd protests: New York Times opinion editor resigns amid article row
The New York Times' opinion editor has resigned amid outrage over a piece by a Republican senator calling for military forces to be sent to cities where anti-racism protests had turned violent. James Bennet stepped down after Senator Tom Cotton's article "Send in the Troops" caused revolt in the newsroom. It backed Donald Trump's threat to use troops to quell unrest. The newspaper had initially stood by the publication but then said the article "did not meet" its standards. The change in position came after an outcry from both the public and staff over the piece, published on the newspaper's website last Wednesday. Some journalists did not come into work on Thursday in protest. Mr Bennet, who has been the opinion editor since 2016, later admitted that he had not read the piece before its publication. The Arkansas senator's article called for "an overwhelming show of force" against groups he described as "rioters". Its publication happened as hundreds of thousands of people have been marching across the US in recent weeks against racism and police brutality. There have been violent incidents in some cities. The demonstrations were sparked by the death of African-American George Floyd in police custody last month. Video showed him pinned to the floor, with a white police officer kneeling on his neck for almost nine minutes. More than 800 employees signed a letter denouncing the article's publication, saying it contained misinformation. "As a black woman, as a journalist, I am deeply ashamed that we ran this," Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote on Twitter. In a note to staff on Sunday, New York Times publisher AG Sulzberger said: "Last week we saw a significant breakdown in our editing processes, not the first we've experienced in recent years." The note said Mr Bennet had resigned after he agreed that "it would take a new team to lead the department through a time of considerable change". There was no mention of Mr Cotton's piece.

6-8-20 Trump 'drifted away' from constitution, says ex-military chief Colin Powell
Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell has strongly criticised President Donald Trump's handling of anti-racism protests, saying he has "drifted away" from the constitution. The Republican, a former top military officer, is the latest to condemn Mr Trump's response, including his threats to use the army to quell unrest. He said he would vote for Democratic candidate Joe Biden in November's poll. President Trump responded by calling Mr Powell "highly overrated". Mr Powell, the only African American so far to have served as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has joined a growing list of former top military officials to have launched scathing attacks on President Trump. It comes amid days of nationwide protests against racism and police brutality sparked by the death of African-American George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis on 25 May. On Sunday, nine of 13 Minneapolis City Council members pledged in front of hundreds of protesters to dismantle the local police department and instead create "a new model of public safety that actually keeps our community safe". Meanwhile, security measures across the US were lifted as unrest started to ease. New York ended its nearly week-long curfew, and Mr Trump said he was ordering the National Guard to start withdrawing from Washington DC. Speaking on CNN's State of the Union on Sunday, Mr Powell said: "We have a constitution. And we have to follow that constitution. And the president has drifted away from it." Referring to President Trump, the retired four-star general said: "He lies about things, and he gets away with it because people will not hold him accountable." Mr Powell also said the president's rhetoric is a danger to American democracy and said, referring to this year's presidential election: "I certainly cannot in any way support President Trump this year."

6-8-20 Early American policing - runaway slave patrols
Young black men are twice as likely to die at the hands of police than white men. Will George Floyd’s death be a catalyst for change? From slave patrols to enabling lynchings, we look at the history of police violence in black America.

6-8-20 George Floyd unrest : What Trump states make of unrest
President Donald Trump talks about imposing law and order, and his hardline approach towards the protesters this week is helping to shore up his base of supporters. But what do the parts of the US that propelled him to victory in 2016 think of his aggressive strategy? Shirley Hartman, an artist who works in watercolour and acrylics, moved to Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, years ago because she wanted to feel safe. She had been robbed in Philadelphia, a city about 60 miles away, and she was looking for a place where she did not have to worry about violence. With protests unfolding across the US, she says that she is again concerned about her safety and is glad that the president acted forcefully, threatening to deploy the military. The demonstrators went too far, she says, and he responded appropriately. "It's gotten out of hand," says Ms Hartman. "They've gone to extremes, and sometimes it's necessary to go to extremes, too, to respond." The protests have continued for more than a week, with tens of thousands taking to the streets across the US. The demonstrations were largely peaceful, however, and a Reuters/Ipsos poll suggests most people in the US disapprove of the president's hardline approach. Still a significant number of people, one-third of those who were surveyed, support the president and his actions. Many of them are like Ms Hartman - they live in suburban areas of the country and are concerned about security. Their views will play a significant role in the November election. Ms Hartman lives in a swing district in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, which Mr Trump won in 2016 and is widely viewed as crucial to his chances again this time around. For that reason, political operatives, scholars and others are watching closely to see how the president's law-and-order message plays in key states across the country. In a week of more than 20 interviews in Pennsylvania, Missouri and North Carolina - three states Trump won in 2016 - most people echoed the views of Ms Hartman and agreed that the president's tough rhetoric was necessary and say they will support him in November. Some said they supported the protesters and their goals, but were concerned about those who had become violent. "I understand how people feel about George Floyd and I agree that something needs to change. But burning a church, looting, turning over cars - I don't agree with that. I don't agree with burning a town to the ground," says Brian Bufka, 47, who lives in Warrenton, Missouri, and runs a printing company. "I support our president - I think his heart is in the right place, and I will vote for him again." (Webmaster's comment: These Americans want a dictator! And that's what Trump wants to be!)

6-8-20 New Zealand lifts all Covid restrictions, declaring the nation virus-free
New Zealand has lifted almost all of its coronavirus restrictions after reporting no active cases in the country. At midnight local time (12:00 GMT), all of New Zealand moved to level one, the lowest of a four-tier alert system. Under new rules, social distancing is not required and there are no limits on public gatherings, but borders remain closed to foreigners. New Zealand has reported no new Covid-19 cases for more than two weeks. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters she did "a little dance" when she was told the country no longer had any active virus cases. "While we're in a safer, stronger position, there's still no easy path back to pre-Covid life, but the determination and focus we have had on our health response will now be vested in our economic rebuild," Ms Ardern said. "While the job is not done, there is no denying this is a milestone. So can I finish with a very simple, 'Thank you, New Zealand'. New Zealand first went into lockdown on 25 March, setting up a new four-stage alert system and going in at level four, where most businesses were shut, schools closed and people told to stay at home. After more than five weeks, it moved to level three in April, allowing takeaway food shops and some non-essential businesses to re-open. As the number of community cases continued to decline, the country moved into level two in mid-May. The move to level one comes ahead of time - the government had originally planned to make the move on 22 June, but it was brought forward after no new cases were reported for 17 days. Under the new rules, all schools and workplaces can open. Weddings, funerals and public transport can resume without any restrictions. Social distancing is no longer required but will be encouraged. The country's borders remain closed to foreign travellers, and rules remain in place requiring New Zealanders arriving from abroad to go through a 14-day period of isolation or quarantine. Ms Ardern warned that the country would "certainly see cases again", adding that "elimination is not a point in time, it is a sustained effort". New Zealand has recorded 1,154 confirmed cases and 22 deaths from Covid-19 since the virus arrived in late February, but has been widely praised for its handling of the crisis. (Webmaster's comment: This little country has defeated the virus. The United States with all its billions of dollars and millions of arrogant and ignorant people hasn't a clue!)

6-8-20 America's strange new religious rites
America's religious practices were already shifting. What happens after pandemic?. Humans are not made to live isolated and unmoored, as the last three months of social distancing have reiterated to any inclined to deny it. We require a sense of meaning and purpose for our lives to function rightly, and those guiding beliefs and aims are best cultivated in good company. Without these three — meaning, purpose, and community — we feel empty, adrift, and lonely. For the great bulk of human history, this trio of needs has been primarily satisfied by religion, which used ritual to formalize such patterns of faith and relationship. Here in the United States, that has mainly meant Christianity: its creeds, ethics, and congregations who gather for shared services, sacraments, and holy days. But traditional religiosity is steadily declining in the U.S., as it did in Europe before us. Only 65 percent of Americans now say they're Christians, down from 78 percent as recently as 2007, and the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated (the "nones") have swelled from 16 to 26 percent over the same period. Yet the nones' move away from religion is not a move away from inborn religiosity. It's not that humans' needs have changed, argues Tara Isabella Burton in her forthcoming Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World. "Rather," she writes, "we live in a profoundly anti-institutional [world], where the proliferation of internet creative culture and consumer capitalism have rendered us all simultaneously parishioner, high priest, and deity." To be religiously unaffiliated today often means, paradoxically, the choice to make your own religion — even if you'd never call it that. It's a trend, Burton told me in an email interview, the coronavirus pandemic may well accelerate. Strange Rites takes a broad (and broadly disputed) view of religiosity. Building on the work of thinkers like Émile Durkheim, the founder of modern sociology, Burton argues that religion need not entail belief in a deity or self-identification as religious faith. Instead, she selects provision of meaning, purpose, community, and ritual as the defining attributes of religion. With that definition adopted, Strange Rites delves into "new religions" as diverse as witchcraft and Star Wars fandom, Gwyneth Paltrow's aesthetic lifestyle brand Goop and "black pill" forums populated by despairing incels who lionize mass shooters. The "religion" designation for these groups is compelling in that they're demonstrably filling human needs religion historically filled, as I've written before here at The Week. I would stop short, however, of calling many of them religions, because they do not make transcendent truth claims. There's a spectrum here, with a few of the movements Burton examines (e.g. Wiccan groups) more clearly interested in transcendence than others (e.g. BDSM networks). Burton is convincing, however, in her contention that the groups she examines fill a religious need in their participants' lives. For example, in a recent column I explored the possibility of QAnon becoming a new religion, because a small group of its adherents are holding self-described "church" services, syncretically mixing Q conspiracy theories with the Bible. But outside that congregation, I'd say the QAnon movement writ large is filling religious needs without being a religion itself.

6-7-20 George Floyd: Huge protests against racism held across US
Huge peaceful rallies have taken place across the US against racism and police brutality on the 12th day of protests sparked by the death of George Floyd. Huge peaceful rallies have taken place across the US against racism and police brutality on the 12th day of protests sparked by the death of George Floyd. Tens of thousands of people marched in Washington DC, in the city's largest protest so far. Security forces blocked any approach to the White House. Crowds also demonstrated in New York, Chicago, LA and San Francisco. Meanwhile, people paid their respects to Mr Floyd in North Carolina, where he was born, before a memorial service. Mr Floyd, an unarmed black man, died in police custody in Minneapolis on 25 May. Video showed a white police officer kneeling on his neck for almost nine minutes while he is pinned to the floor. Officer Derek Chauvin has been dismissed and charged with murder. Three other officers who were at the scene have also been sacked and charged with aiding and abetting. Large anti-racism protests also took place in a number of other countries. In the UK, Parliament Square in central London was filled with people despite calls by the government to avoid mass gatherings for fear of spreading the coronavirus. In Australia, there were major protests in the cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane that focused on the treatment of indigenous Australians. There were also demonstrations in France, Germany and Spain. The largest appeared to be in Washington DC, where protesters - many of them carrying placards saying "Black Lives Matter" - gathered peacefully near the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial and outside Lafayette Park, next to the White House, at the newly renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza. Mayor Muriel Bowser welcomed people, saying the crowds had sent a message to President Donald Trump. On Monday, federal law enforcement officers fired tear gas to clear a protest in the area ahead of a visit to a church by the president.

6-7-20 George Floyd: How protesters are keeping up the momentum in Washington DC
After nearly two weeks of continuous anti-racism demonstrations, the US capital saw one of the largest turnouts this weekend. The BBC spoke to people from different backgrounds, who cite energy and allyship as key factors behind why these protests feel different from those past.

6-7-20 Two Buffalo policemen charged for shoving 75-year-old protester
Two US policemen have been charged with second-degree assault after they were filmed pushing a 75-year old protester to the ground, seriously injuring him. Aaron Torgalski, 39, and Robert McCabe, 32, pleaded not guilty in Buffalo, New York. They were released without bail, and face up to seven years in prison. On Thursday, they were seen shoving Martin Gugino, who fell backwards on the pavement and started bleeding. He remains in a local hospital in a serious but stable condition. The two officers were enforcing a curfew in the city as a result of protests since the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis last month. Aaron Torgalski and Robert McCabe, members of the Emergency Response Team, were suspended without pay after footage of the incident outside the City Hall went viral. Fifty-seven of their colleagues - the entire unit - later resigned from the team in response to the officers' suspension. (Webmaster's comment: Good! Do not hire them back!) On Saturday, a crowd of more than 100 supporters - including police officers and firefighters - protested outside the courthouse in Buffalo against the assault charges filed. In a statement, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said: "The two defendants, who are Buffalo Police officers, pushed a protestor outside of City Hall, causing him to fall and hit his head on the sidewalk." He stressed that he was not taking sides in the high-profile case. "We're on the same team here. We're all working each and every day to do justice, to keep our streets safe, to keep our communities safe. "I'm partnered with law enforcement every day to do that. And when I have to prosecute one of my teammates it doesn't help the situation," Mr Flynn said. John Evans, president of the local police union, told the Buffalo News newspaper: "Our position is these officers were simply following orders from Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia to clear the square. "It doesn't specify clear the square of men, 50 and under or 15 to 40. They were simply doing their job. I don't know how much contact was made. He did slip in my estimation. He fell backwards." New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Friday the two officers should be fired, and called for the incident to be investigated for "possible criminal charges".

6-7-20 George Floyd: Why are companies speaking up this time?
For years, black deaths in the hands of police have gone unremarked in corporate America. But this time, as protesters pour into streets across the country set off by the killing of George Floyd, businesses are speaking out. Sportswear giant Nike was one of the first to leap into the fray with a social media post that twisted its "Just Do It" slogan to say: "For once, don't do it. Don't pretend there's not a problem in America". "We stand in solidarity against racism and violence," YouTube posted a few hours later. By 31 May, the internet was flooded. "We see you and are with you" cosmetic brand Glossier posted to Twitter. "I am appalled," the head of investment giant BlackRock shared on LinkedIn. The chief of carmaker General Motors said she was "impatient and disgusted". Even businesses hit by the looting that has occurred in the chaos of the demonstrations have stood firm. "Property can be replaced, human lives cannot", fashion designer Marc Jacobs posted on Instagram. Activists say the corporate outpouring is a welcome change from earlier eras. "It is quite momentous," says Jade Magnus Ogunnaike, a deputy senior campaign director at Color of Change, a racial justice organisation founded in 2005. "There was a time five years ago when corporations... wouldn't say black lives matter for a billion dollars." The show of support has raised plenty of eyebrows - especially when the company in question has a chequered record when it comes to its own treatment of black employees. L'Oreal's post saying "speaking out is worth it" drew a scathing response from British model Munroe Bergdorf, whom the beauty giant dropped from a campaign in 2017 after she wrote about white supremacy on social media. "I am SO angry" the transgender activist wrote on Instagram. "Where was my support when I spoke out? I'm disgusted and writing this in floods of tears". After the National Football League called for "action", filmmaker Ava DuVernay hit back that the statement was "beyond hollow + disingenuous", noting that the league just two years ago barred kneeling during the national anthem at games, after athlete Colin Kaepernick did so to protest against police brutality. It later backed away from the policy. And on Friday, Commissioner Roger Goodell commented again. "We, the NFL, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest," he said.

6-7-20 Coronavirus 'a devastating blow for world economy'
The coronavirus pandemic is a "devastating blow" for the world economy, according to World Bank President David Malpass. Mr Malpass warned that billions of people would have their livelihoods affected by the pandemic. He said that the economic fallout could last for a decade. In May, Mr Malpass warned that 60 million people could be pushed into "extreme poverty" by the effects of coronavirus. The World Bank defines "extreme poverty" as living on less than $1.90 (£1.55) per person per day. However, in an interview on Friday Mr Malpass said that more than 60 million people could find themselves with less than £1 per day to live on. Mr Malpass told BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend: "It [coronavirus] has been a devastating blow for the economy. "The combination of the pandemic itself, and the shutdowns, has meant billions of people whose livelihoods have been disrupted. That's concerning. "Both the direct consequences, meaning lost income, but also then the health consequences, the social consequences, are really harsh." Mr Malpass warned it's been those who can least afford it who've suffered the most. "We can see that with the stock market in the US being relatively high, and yet people in the poor countries being not only unemployed, but unable to get any work even in the informal sector. And that's going to have consequences for a decade." The World Bank, along with its counterparts, has been providing support to the worst affected countries, but says much more is needed. It is calling on commercial lenders such as banks and pension funds to offer debt relief to poor countries. He would also like them to make the terms of their loans clearer, so other investors are more confident about putting money into those economies. Targeted government support and measures to shore up the private sector are also vital to rebuild economies, the World Bank argues. Investment and support would create jobs in areas like manufacturing, to replace those in the worst affected sectors, such as tourism, which may have been permanently lost.

6-7-20 Coronavirus: Hard-hit Brazil removes data amid rising death toll
Brazil has removed months of data on Covid-19 from a government website amid criticism of President Jair Bolsonaro's handling of the outbreak. (Webmaster's comment: A blatant coverup!) The health ministry said it would now only be reporting cases and deaths in the past 24 hours, no longer giving a total figure as most countries do. Mr Bolsonaro said the cumulative data did not reflect the current picture. Brazil has the world's second-highest number of cases, and has recently had more new deaths than any other nation. The Latin American country has more than 640,000 confirmed infections, but the number is believed to be much higher because of insufficient testing. More than 35,000 people have died, the third-highest toll in the world. The far-right leader has been criticised for rejecting lockdown measures recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and, on Friday, threatened to pull out of the body, accusing it of being a "partisan political organisation". The president has repeatedly joined supporters in protests in recent months, ignoring social-distancing advice. On Saturday, the health ministry removed from its official website the Covid-19 data it had been documenting over time and by state and municipality. Instead, the ministry only stated that there were 27,075 new cases and 904 deaths in the past 24 hours. It also said that 10,209 patients had recovered. On Twitter, Mr Bolsonaro said "the cumulative data... does not reflect the moment the country is in" but did not explain why the information had to be removed or could not be released. He said additional measures were being taken to "improve the reporting of cases". The decision has been widely criticised by journalists and members of Congress. The removal of the data happened after Brazil reported more than 1,000 deaths for four consecutive days.

6-7-20 Coronavirus: US-China virus row flares with senator's comments
The row between the US and China over the coronavirus outbreak has flared again with a US senator accusing Beijing of trying to block the development of a vaccine in the West. Rick Scott said evidence had come via "our intelligence community" but provided no details to back it up. (Webmaster's comment: They never do!) China meanwhile issued a document defending its virus actions, saying it briefed the US as early as 4 January. Deaths caused by the virus passed 400,000 worldwide on Sunday. The figure is provided in a count by Johns Hopkins University, which also shows confirmed global infections close to the 7 million mark. The Republican senator for Florida, who serves on the armed services and homeland security committees among others, was speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show. He said: "We have got to get this vaccine done. Unfortunately we have evidence that communist China is trying to sabotage us or slow it down." (Webmaster's comment: LIAR!) Mr Scott was pressed on the issue twice. He said: "China does not want us, and England and Europe to do it first. They've decided to be an adversary to America and democracies around the world." Mr Scott, who has been a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, was questioned again, saying the "evidence" had come through the intelligence community and armed services, adding: "There are things I can't discuss... I get provided information." He said if "England or the US does it first, we're going to share. Communist China, they are not going to share." The Trump administration has consistently attacked China over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Mr Trump has referred to coronavirus regularly as the "China virus". He also said he has proof Covid-19 originated in a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there was "enormous evidence" to back the theory, (Webmaster's comment: More Lies!) which Beijing has dismissed. The Five Eyes intelligence alliance, which includes the UK and the US, said there was no such evidence, as did the World Health Organization (WHO).

6-6-20 Coronavirus: WHO advises to wear masks in public areas
The World Health Organization (WHO) has changed its advice on face masks, saying they should be worn in public where social distancing is not possible to help stop the spread of coronavirus. The global body said new information showed they could provide "a barrier for potentially infectious droplets". Some countries already recommend or mandate face coverings in public. The WHO had previously argued there was not enough evidence to say that healthy people should wear masks. However, WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday that "in light of evolving evidence, the WHO advises that governments should encourage the general public to wear masks where there is widespread transmission and physical distancing is difficult, such as on public transport, in shops or in other confined or crowded environments". The organisation had always advised that medical face masks should be worn by people who are sick and by those caring for them. Globally, there have been 6.7 million confirmed coronavirus cases and nearly 400,000 deaths since the outbreak began late last year, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The organisation said its new guidance had been prompted by studies over recent weeks. Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's technical lead expert on Covid-19, told Reuters news agency the recommendation was for people to wear a "fabric mask - that is, a non-medical mask". Fabric masks should consist of "at least three layers of different material" in order to be effective, the WHO says. However, those aged over-60 and with underlying health risks should wear medical masks in areas where there is community transmission. At the same time, the WHO stressed that face masks were just one of a range of tools that could be used to reduce the risk of transmission - and that they should not give people a false sense of protection. "Masks on their own will not protect you from Covid-19," Dr Tedros said.

6-6-20 Biden: Trump 'despicable' for invoking George Floyd
US President Donald Trump has been condemned by his Democratic challenger Joe Biden for invoking George Floyd's name as he touted US jobs figures. Mr Trump said Mr Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, is "looking down" and "saying this is a great day". Mr Biden, who has now formally clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, said the remark was "despicable". Mr Trump spoke while celebrating a surprise US jobs rebound. In his speech, the president called for "equal justice under the law". Mr Floyd, who was unarmed and in handcuffs, died on 25 May after a policeman knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. The officer involved was charged with murder and three colleagues stand accused of aiding and abetting. The death triggered protests against racial discrimination across the US and world. On Friday, Minneapolis banned the police neck restraint seen in the video of Mr Floyd's death, and California pledged to follow suit. Speaking in the White House Rose Garden on Friday, Mr Trump said: "Equal justice under the law must mean that every American receives equal treatment in every encounter with law enforcement regardless of race, colour, gender or creed. "They have to receive fair treatment from law enforcement. They have to receive it. "We all saw what happened last week. We can't let that happen. "Hopefully George is looking down and saying this is a great thing that's happening for our country. A great day for him. It's a great day for everybody." Mr Trump, a Republican, added: "This is a great, great day in terms of equality." The president's critics said he was crassly suggesting Mr Floyd would be posthumously celebrating positive jobs figures. Mr Trump's defenders said the context of his comments make clear he was referring to his call for equal treatment of all Americans by police. The Democratic presidential candidate hit back during a campaign speech in Dover, Delaware. He said: "George Floyd's last words, 'I can't breathe, I can't breathe' echoed all across this nation and quite frankly around the world. "For the president to try to put any other words in the mouth of George Floyd I frankly think is despicable."

6-6-20 NFL says players' protests during national anthem should be allowed
The National Football League has said players should be allowed to protest during the national anthem as rallies against racial discrimination continue. "We were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. The NFL had previously banned players from dropping to one knee, a practice started by Colin Kaepernick in 2016. Meanwhile, a large protest is expected in Washington DC on Saturday. The demonstration is the latest in a series against police brutality and racism that have been held across the US following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on 25 May. Mr Floyd, an unarmed black man in handcuffs, died after a white policeman knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. The officer has been charged with murder while three colleagues stand accused of aiding and abetting. On Friday, Minneapolis officials said police would be banned from using neck restraints and California pledged to follow suit. In a video, Mr Goodell denounced racism in the US in comments that came shortly after a number of players urged the NFL to take a stronger stance on racism and police brutality in the country. "We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter. Protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff," he said. "I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve." President Donald Trump has stridently opposed kneeling during the national anthem, and on Friday again voiced his opposition to such protests, saying on Twitter: "We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart. There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag - NO KNEELING!" He criticised New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees for dropping his opposition to NFL kneeling protests. Brees responded on Saturday by saying: "We must stop talking about the flag and shift our attention to the real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police brutality, and judicial & prison reform." (Webmaster's comment: Why should anyone honor a flag of a nation where police murder blacks with impunity!)

6-6-20 What the 1960s civil rights protests can teach us about fighting racism today
Political scientist Omar Wasow explains how his research may apply to current events. Day after day, protests have arisen in cities across America. The outrage was sparked by video of a white police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, even as the 46-year-old black man begged for breath. Floyd was arrested May 25 for allegedly trying to buy cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill and died after being pinned to the ground for eight minutes and 46 seconds by the Minneapolis officer’s knee. That spark easily found both fresh and long-simmering fuel. Among recent events, white men killed a black jogger, a white woman called the police on a black birder in New York’s Central Park (SN: 6/4/20) and the pandemic has taken a disproportionate toll on black people (SN: 4/10/20). Those events underscore centuries of racism that has limited black people’s access to housing, health services, education and jobs. The anger, anguish and calls for racial justice that first boiled over in Minneapolis quickly spread coast to coast. While many protests have been peaceful, some have turned violent — instigated sometimes by looters, sometimes by individuals among the protesters and sometimes by law enforcement using force to disperse crowds. Whether these protests will help dismantle systemic racial inequities in the United States remains to be seen. But some lessons and parallels can be drawn from the civil rights protests in the 1960s, says Princeton University political scientist Omar Wasow. His research shows that the media covered civil rights protests in the ’60s in different ways depending on whether protestors were peaceful or violent. And that coverage shaped public opinion and behavior at the ballot box. When protestors remained peaceful, particularly in the face of aggression and violence, the resulting images shocked a complacent nation into action. But when the protestors themselves turned violent, even in self-defense, the media message shifted from a framing around civil rights to one around the need for control, Wasow finds. For example, Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination on April 4, 1968, triggered a week of violent protests around the country. Those protests helped Republican candidate Richard Nixon, campaigning on law and order, prevail over Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey, lead author of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, in the November presidential election, Wasow reports May 21 in the American Political Science Review.

6-6-20 Trump 'approves plan' to cut US troops in Germany
US President Donald Trump has approved a plan to withdraw 9,500 American troops from bases in Germany by September, US media say. Mr Trump, who has long complained that European members of Nato should spend more on their own defence, reportedly wants US troop levels capped at 25,000. Troops would either be redeployed elsewhere or return home, US media report, citing a government official. Tensions between the US and its Nato allies have increased under Mr Trump. The president has said that Europe's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) members should no longer be relying so heavily on the US to shoulder the costs of maintaining the alliance. The German foreign ministry has not commented, but two senior members of the ruling Christian Democratic Union party expressed concern at the news. MP Andreas Nick said the fact that the Pentagon had made no public comment, instead directing inquiries to the White House, indicated "that the decision is purely politically motivated". Johann Wadephul said the plan showed "once again that the Trump administration is disregarding an elementary task of leadership: the involvement of allies in the decision-making process". Meanwhile, Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki said he hoped some of the troops moved out of Germany would be reassigned to his country. On Friday, Mr Trump directed the Pentagon to permanently remove what would amount to 27.5% of the country's troops currently based in Germany, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing an unnamed administration official. It added that the defence department would need to approve the plan before it could be implemented. The White House did not immediately confirm the reports, but spokesman John Ullyot said in a statement that the US remained "committed to working with our strong ally Germany" on defence and other issues. Mr Trump has previously raised at Nato summits the issue of so-called burden-sharing. (Webmaster's comment: He probably wants to bring the troops home so he has them for use against the American people!)

6-6-20 Coronavirus: Is China bolder in the wake of the pandemic?
While much of the world grapples with the medical, social and economic fallout from Covid-19, China - the country where the global pandemic began - says it now has the virus well under control. From Hong Kong to the South China Sea, China is once again pushing ahead with what it sees as the pursuit of its national interest as it emerges from the crisis.

6-6-20 'Years later, we're still dealing with the same thing'
As widespread protests continue to sweep across the United States, people describe what they hope will make them more significant. George Floyd, 46, was killed in police custody on May 25 and since then protesters have been marching to demand an end to police brutality and better race relations. A memorial for Mr Floyd was held in Minneapolis on Thursday and in his eulogy, Reverend Al Sharpton said this had been "the story of black folks".

6-6-20 George Floyd death: Australians defy virus in mass anti-racism rallies
Tens of thousands of people have protested across Australia in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Rallies were held despite warnings from officials over the coronavirus. A ban in Sydney was lifted only at the last minute and some organisers have been fined for breaking health rules. The marches were inspired by the death of African American George Floyd in police custody but also highlighted the mistreatment and marginalisation of Australia's Aboriginal people. Rallies were organised in Brisbane, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide and elsewhere. They were held in high spirits with no reports of major unrest. There were a few tense scenes later in the evening at Sydney's Central Station, with police using pepper spray, but there were only three arrests in the city overall, among a total of 20,000 protesters, police said. Although the rallies were sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, many in Australia were also protesting against the treatment of its indigenous population by police. Banners reading "I can't breathe" remembered the words of Floyd before his death, while another said: "Same story, different soil." The Sydney protest had been ruled unlawful on Friday by the New South Wales Supreme Court under coronavirus social distancing rules. NSW Police Minister David Elliott had said: "Freedom of speech isn't as free as we would like it to be at the moment. Rules at the moment are clear." But organisers took the case to the state court of appeal and it overturned the ban on Saturday afternoon, just 15 minutes before the scheduled start. The protest was authorised for 5,000 people. Health ministry directions would normally prohibit public gatherings of more than 10 people. I've covered so many protests in my home city in the past decade. Outside of climate change rallies at the start of the year, I can't recall a larger turnout, particularly for a rally about race. They turned up even when it was initially illegal and despite the health fears. They were angry, they were passionate, they knew there were risks but they donned masks and carried signs anyway. This is a resounding success for indigenous Australia.

6-5-20 Buffalo police riot squad quit to back officers who shoved man
An entire tactical unit of a US police department has quit after two officers accused of brutality were placed on unpaid leave, reports local media. (Webmaster's comment: So fire the whole lot of of them! We don't need brutes in our police forces!) In a video that went viral on Thursday, officers in the city of Buffalo, New York, were seen shoving an elderly man to the ground. The 75-year-old was seriously injured, and taken to hospital. All 57 officers in the riot squad have now reportedly resigned in protest at their two colleagues' suspension. According to the Buffalo News, the members have stepped down from the Emergency Response Team, but not the police department itself. John Evans, president of the local police union, told the newspaper: "Our position is these officers were simply following orders from Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia to clear the square. "It doesn't specify clear the square of men, 50 and under or 15 to 40. They were simply doing their job. I don't know how much contact was made. He did slip in my estimation. He fell backwards." New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Friday the two officers should be fired, and called for the incident to be investigated for "possible criminal charges". In a statement, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said: "We can confirm that contingency plans are in place to maintain police services and ensure public safety within our community." He added that Buffalo police are continuing to work with other law enforcement agencies. The officers were enforcing a curfew as a result of protests that have spread nationwide since the death in Minneapolis last month of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, after a policeman knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. The man is seen approaching a group of riot police as they advance. Two of the officers appear to push the 75-year-old, causing him to fall backwards and hit his head. An initial statement from Buffalo Police Department said the man had "tripped" and fallen during a "skirmish involving protesters". Police spokesman Jeff Rinaldo later attributed the statement to officers not directly involved in the incident. (Webmaster's comment: Nothing but lies and an attempt to cover up police brutality!)

6-5-20 Michael Jordan: NBA legend to donate $100m to racial equality fight
Michael Jordan says he will donate $100m (£78m) to groups fighting for racial equality and social justice. The NBA legend said in a statement that he and his Jordan Brand would distribute the money over 10 years. The money will go to a number of organisations in a bid to tackle "ingrained racism". It comes in the wake of protests breaking out across the US and around the world following the death of George Floyd as he was restrained by police. Floyd, an unarmed black man, died on 25 May after a white police officer, since charged with murder, knelt on his neck for over eight minutes. "We are announcing a joint commitment from Michael Jordan and Jordan Brand to donate $100m over the next 10 years. We must join forces with the community, government and civic leaders to create a lasting impact together," said Craig Williams, president of Jordan Brand. "There is still more work for us to do to drive real impact for the black community. We embrace the responsibility." Speaking last week Jordan said he was "deeply saddened, truly pained and plain angry". "I see and feel everyone's pain, outrage and frustration," he added. "I stand with those calling out the ingrained racism and violence toward people of colour in our country. "We have had enough."

6-5-20 George Floyd: US children explain why they are protesting
Following the death of black man George Floyd in police custody on 25 May, protests have swept across the US. He had been arrested for allegedly using counterfeit money to buy a pack of cigarettes. A memorial for Mr Floyd was held in Minneapolis on Thursday and, in his eulogy, Reverend Al Sharpton said this had been "the story of black folks". People of all ages have been protesting, including children who say "you can't judge a book by its colour".

6-5-20 Indigenous deaths in custody: Why Australians are seizing on US protests
Anger over the death of George Floyd has spread to Australia, with Black Lives Matter protests being held across the country. But Australian demonstrators are not just expressing solidarity. Many are using the moment to vent fury about indigenous deaths in custody in Australia. So what is the situation? Almost three decades on from a major inquiry into this issue, there is no easily accessible record. In 1987, the Committee to Defend Black Rights found that one indigenous person was dying in custody every 11 days. It spurred a royal commission, completed in 1991, which investigated the incarceration of Aboriginal people and the circumstances of 99 deaths. The inquiry made more than 300 recommendations, but most were not implemented, and recent reviews have been criticised as inadequate or misleading. Analysis by The Guardian found that at least 432 indigenous Australians have died in custody since the inquiry. Massively. Indigenous people comprise almost 30% of Australian inmates but less than 3% of the national population, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This is about four times higher than the proportion of African-Americans jailed in the US. There have been other stark reminders. A committee heard last year that every child in detention in the Northern Territory was indigenous. According to one recent analysis, indigenous Australians are the most incarcerated people in the world - though its authors cautioned that much global data was not available. In 2004, there were riots in the Sydney suburb of Redfern after a 17-year-old boy, TJ Hickey, was killed in a police pursuit. That same year, riots also broke out on Palm Island in Queensland after a man, Cameron Doomadgee, died in a cell from severe injuries, allegedly inflicted by a police officer.

6-4-20 'We felt like we were going to die in that car'
Two black students, Taniyah Pilgrim and Messiah Young, were dragged from their car in Atlanta, Georgia, last weekend by police officers. Two officers have been fired and all six are facing charges.

6-4-20 Covid-19 news: Estimated coronavirus infections have fallen in England
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. The estimated number of people who have had covid-19 in England has fallen in May, according to provisional results from a random swab testing survey by the Office for National Statistics. In the last two weeks of May, only 1 in 1000, or 0.1 per cent of people in England, were estimated to have had covid-19 – between 26 April and 8 May that number was almost 2.5 times higher. The survey, which didn’t include people in hospitals or care homes and was conducted before additional restrictions were eased in England on 1 June, also found that people who worked outside the home had 3.5 times higher estimated covid-19 rates than those who worked from home. A British Heart Foundation survey of people in the UK with heart and circulatory diseases found that half of them say they have found it harder to get medical treatment since the coronavirus pandemic began. 48 per cent of those people cited a lack of available in-person appointments and 41 per cent said they’d had to postpone or cancel a planned test, surgery or procedure. Individuals’ concerns about covid-19’s impact on the health service also played a role – 42 per cent of those surveyed said they didn’t want to put extra pressure on the NHS, and 27 per cent said they were concerned about the risk of getting covid-19 by going to a hospital or clinic. The poll surveyed 11,300 adults between 5 and 13 May, 1484 of whom have or have previously had a heart or circulatory condition. The Lancet retracted a study that found the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine may be harmful in covid-19 patients, after three of the authors said they “can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources.” The data originated from US-based health analytics company Surgisphere and came under scrutiny earlier this week. The British Medical Association (BMA) has called for face coverings to be worn in all areas where social distancing isn’t possible. This follows the government’s announcement yesterday that face coverings will be mandatory on public transport in England from 15 June. THE BMA also suggested that the public should adopt face coverings now, rather than wait until the measures become compulsory.

6-5-20 George Floyd: Videos of police brutality during protests shock US
Several videos of police brutality have emerged during protests over the death of African American George Floyd. In Buffalo, New York State, two officers were suspended after they were seen shoving an elderly white man to the ground. And in New York City, police were captured on video roughly handling demonstrators as they ran away. The reports come hours after a memorial for Floyd in Minneapolis, the city where he died at the hands of police. His killing, also captured on video, has caused outrage and sparked a wave of protests against racial discrimination and police treatment of African Americans in cities across the US and the world. The vast majority of demonstrations over the past eight days have been peaceful but some have descended into violence and rioting, with curfews imposed in a number of cities. At one protest, security forces in Washington DC fired pepper balls and smoke bombs to disperse demonstrators outside the White House, allowing President Donald Trump to walk to a nearby church for a photo opportunity. In response to this on Thursday, civil rights group the America Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit, accusing the president, the attorney general and others of violating the constitutional rights of protesters. "When the nation's top law enforcement officer becomes complicit in the tactics of an autocrat, it chills protected speech for all of us," said ACLU official Scott Michelman, quoted by Reuters. In a separate development, police in Arizona released details of the killing of another African American, Dion Johnson, in Phoenix on 25 May, the same day as Floyd. Johnson was shot dead by state troopers after being found "passed out in the driver's seat" of a car which was partially blocking traffic, a police statement said. "During the trooper's contact with the suspect, there was a struggle and the trooper fired his service weapon striking the suspect," police said. The statement was only released after Johnson's family was offered audio of the police dispatch and transportation department video of the incident. (Webmaster's comment: Many police are a clear and present danger to all citizens of the united States!)

6-5-20 George Floyd protests: Ex-top general rebukes Trump over troops threat
Another senior former military officer has denounced President Donald Trump's threat to use troops to suppress ongoing protests in the US. The ex-Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Gen Martin Dempsey, told National Public Radio that Mr Trump's remarks were "very troubling" and "dangerous". Mr Trump's current and former defence secretaries have also spoken out. On Monday, the president threatened to deploy the military to "quickly solve" the unrest if states failed to act. Mainly peaceful protests have spread across the US since the death of African-American George Floyd in police custody last month. While demonstrations over Mr Floyd's death appear to be simmering down in the nation's capital, the White House's security perimeter has expanded in recent days. Police used batons and tear gas to clear protesters from nearby Lafayette Park on Monday, and have since erected high fences around the White House. "The idea that the president would take charge of the situation using the military was troubling to me," Gen Dempsey said in rare public remarks on Thursday. "The idea that the military would be called in to dominate and to suppress what, for the most part, were peaceful protests - admittedly, where some had opportunistically turned them violent - and that the military would somehow come in and calm that situation was very dangerous to me," he added. Gen Dempsey served as America's most senior military officer under former US President Barack Obama from 2011-15. His criticism comes a day after former Marine Gen Jim Mattis, Mr Trump's former defence secretary, denounced the president, saying he deliberately stoked division. "Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people - does not even pretend to try," Mr Mattis wrote in the Atlantic magazine. "Instead, he tries to divide us." Mr Trump hit back via Twitter at the "overrated general". Earlier that day, Mr Trump's current Defence Secretary Mark Esper had also spoken up.

6-5-20 What America can learn from Nordic police
You don't have to beat protesters senseless to prevent murders. hat is to be done about American police? As reporters document continual law enforcement atrocities in response to peaceful protests against police brutality, suddenly the question of how to reform these institutions has gotten close attention. Longstanding calls to at least partly defund the police are being taken more and more seriously, even as some liberals denounce the idea as unrealistic or too radical. The Nordic countries, as usual, have an instructive example for America. These nations have both enormously smaller police departments and prison systems than the United States, and much less violent crime, especially murders. Emulating their basic approach could allow American cities to cleanse themselves of police abuse and still enjoy lower crime. A recent study from the University of Helsinki examined the Nordic record on homicide. On the one hand, these countries have some of the lowest murder rates in the world, ranging from about 0.5 per 100,000 people in Norway to about 1.6 in Finland. On the other, Nordic clearance rates (the number of murders that result in an arrest) were as follows: In Iceland, 100 percent; in Finland, 99 percent; in Norway and Denmark, 97 percent; and in Sweden, 83 percent. In the U.S., by contrast, the murder rate is about 5.0 per 100,000, and the most recent clearance rate data in 2018 was a meager 62 percent — which is actually an increase from the prior couple years. These countries also have many fewer police relative to their population than the U.S., and vastly fewer people in prison. What gives? Undoubtedly one major factor is the generous Nordic welfare state, which both provides material security to almost everyone in Nordic society, and keeps down inequality. Both material deprivation and especially inequality have long been known as contributing factors in crime — it should not be surprising that there is a strong relationship between inequality and violent crime across countries. On the other hand, the extraordinary Nordic success at solving crime must also play a part. Since Nordic police are not busy hassling desperate poor people or suppressing protests of their own abuse, they can focus all their effort on catching offenders, which they do very well. Because virtually all serious crime is in fact punished, there is much less of it — in keeping with research (and common sense) suggesting that criminal impunity is another driver of crime. More important still, most Nordic prisons are incomprehensibly luxurious by American standards — more akin to a decently-appointed hotel, with all manner of education, worker training, and entertainment facilities, rather than the Stalinist concrete cage of the typical American prison. Rather than brutally vindictive punishment, the main point is rehabilitation — trying the utmost to make sure convicts are not turned into hardened criminals in prisons, and that they get every chance to land on their feet when they are let out. Sure enough, the rate of released Nordic prisoners arrested for another crime within two years in 2005 ranged from 20 percent in Norway to 43 percent in Sweden, as compared to about 60 percent of American parolees over the same period. In other words, in terms of controlling crime, America's gigantic mass incarceration complex stuffed full of people serving decades-long sentences is completely pointless.

6-5-20 How the Supreme Court could change policing in an instant
If a genie of criminal justice reform, in a stingy variation on the standard package, offered a single wish for reforming policing in America, ending the doctrine of qualified immunity would be a very strong pick. Established by the Supreme Court in 1967, qualified immunity protects police from liability for civil rights violations committed in their official capacity. The rule says prosecutable offenses must concern rights guarded by "clearly established law." In theory, this sounds straightforward — aren't all our constitutional rights enshrined in clearly established law? — but in practice, the standard is extremely difficult to satisfy because of the specificity required. As I wrote on the subject last year, any violation deemed novel cannot be sued over, and that lack of accountability is self-perpetuating, as barring the initial suit will in turn fail to set the precedent needed for future instances of the same type of violation. As a result, it's almost impossible for victims of police misconduct (or families of the deceased) to successfully sue for damages. Now, in a timely coincidence with the protests of George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis officers, the Supreme Court has been asked to review a slate of qualified immunity cases, including several questioning the doctrine in its entirety. A SCOTUS decision ending this shield for abusive policing would be an enormous win, but the court has repeatedly put off deciding whether to accept the petitions. While justices deliberated on the matter yet again on Thursday, I spoke with Cato Institute lawyer and criminal justice policy analyst Jay Schweikert about the Supreme Court's likely next move as well as other options for eliminating qualified immunity if the court delays again. "Given the way the court has been repeatedly rescheduling the major qualified immunity cert petitions, it seems clear at least that the justices are looking closely at this question, and I'm sure the national turmoil following the death of George Floyd is weighing heavily on their minds," Schweikert told me over email. "We know that Justice Clarence Thomas has explicitly called for the court to reconsider qualified immunity, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in a recent dissent joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, called the doctrine an 'absolute shield for law enforcement officers' that has 'gutt[ed] the deterrent effect of the Fourth Amendment.'" (See Thomas on the subject here, and the Sotomayor dissent here.) Trump administration addition Justice Neil Gorsuch has also shown willingness to reconsider longstanding precedent, Schweikert added, but he cautioned that the court might prefer to move slowly here, first curtailing the doctrine instead of outright reversing it. Legislative solutions are a possibility, too. Though the text of the bill has yet to be released as of this writing, so the exact provisions remain unknown, Rep. Justin Amash (L-Mich.) is partnering with Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) to introduce the "End Qualified Immunity Act." "Qualified immunity was created by the Supreme Court in contravention of the text of the [Civil Rights Act of 1871] and the intent of Congress," Amash argued in a letter urging colleagues to support his bill. "It is time for us to correct their mistake [ ... and] ensure that those whose rights are violated by the police aren't forced to suffer the added injustice of being denied their day in court." So far, the legislation's growing list of cosponsors appears to be entirely Democratic, aside from Amash, a former Republican who is now the only congressional Libertarian. In the Senate, Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) introduced a similar resolution several days after Amash's announcement, also with initial cosponsors exclusively from the Democratic caucus.

6-5-20 George Floyd: How the USA's history has shaped today's police brutality
George Floyd's name is the latest in a long list of African Americans to die as a result of racism and police brutality throughout the history of the United States. The BBC's Clive Myrie, who has reported from the US for nearly 25 years, looks at how a toxic mix of racism and bad policing has led to the most serious racial unrest in the US for many years.

6-5-20 George Floyd death: China takes a victory lap over US protests
The US mass protests are raising eyebrows around the world, but China is watching with particular interest. As anti-racism protests sweep across the US, Beijing has seized upon them to hit back at Washington for supporting last year's Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrations. Chinese state media have given extensive coverage to the protests, highlighting the chaotic scenes and alleged police brutality in America to claim that China enjoys greater social stability. Speaking to an international audience, Chinese diplomats are attempting to portray Beijing as a responsible global leader, standing in solidarity with other countries in condemning the racial disparity and injustice in the US. China's state news agency Xinhua described the US civil unrest as "Pelosi's beautiful landscape" - a reference to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's comment last summer that the Hong Kong protests were "a beautiful sight to behold". State media Global Times' chief editor Hu Xijin wrote that American politicians now can "enjoy this sight from their own windows". Beijing has long condemned American politicians, including Ms Pelosi, for "glorifying violence" coming from the Hong Kong demonstrators, who are categorised by China as "rioters showing signs of terrorism". Protests paralysed Hong Kong for most of last year, prompting Beijing to impose a new national security law in the territory in May, only two weeks ahead of the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. Aynne Kokas, senior faculty fellow with the University of Virginia's Miller Center for Public Affairs, says that both the US and China are contending with a high level of domestic instability triggered by the global coronavirus pandemic and political events. "Now is a key moment through which China is able to leverage the lack of stability in the US, in order to more efficiently promote its own national security goals," she says. (Webmaster's comment: Asian countries have long attacked America for its brutal racism and they have been correct! America is a really nasty nation!) Allegations of excessive use of police force during the US protests have been put under the spotlight by Chinese state media, to delegitimise Washington's position on upholding freedom and democracy. In one example, state broadcaster China Central Television reported on American journalists being pepper sprayed and a freelance photographer partially blinded by a rubber bullet while covering the protests.

6-5-20 Coronavirus: AstraZeneca to begin making potential vaccine
Drug company AstraZeneca is to start producing a potential vaccine for coronavirus, its boss has told the BBC. Trials of the drug are under way but Pascal Soriot said the firm must start making doses now so that it can meet demand if the vaccine proves effective. "We are starting to manufacture this vaccine right now - and we have to have it ready to be used by the time we have the results," he said. AstraZeneca says it will be able supply two billion doses of the vaccine. Speaking to the BBC's Today programme, Mr Soriot said manufacturing was beginning already because, "we want to be as fast as possible". "Of course, with this decision comes a risk but it's a financial risk and that financial risk is the vaccine doesn't work," he added. "Then all the materials, all the vaccines, we've manufactured will be wasted." He said AstraZeneca would not seek to make a profit from producing the drug during the pandemic. If it works, the company will be able to produce two billion doses after signing two new contracts on Thursday, one of which was with billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates. AstraZeneca, which is developing the vaccine with scientists at Oxford University, has agreed to supply half of the doses to low and middle-income countries. One of the new partnerships is with the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world's largest manufacturer of vaccines by volume. The other is a $750m (£595m) deal with two health organisations backed by Bill and Melinda Gates. The two charities, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and GAVI vaccines alliance, will help find production facilities to produce and distribute 300 million doses of the vaccine. Delivery is expected to start by the end of the year. Mr Soriot has said he expects to know by August if the AZD1222 vaccine is effective, while CEPI chief executive Richard Hatchett said there is still a possibility the vaccine may not work. AstraZeneca's licensing agreement with India's SII is to supply one billion doses for low and middle-income countries, with a commitment to provide 400 million before the end of 2020. Mr Soirot said the company was building a number of supply chains across the world "to support global access at no profit during the pandemic and has so far secured manufacturing capacity for two billion doses of the vaccine". "Having a vaccine is one thing but you need to produce it at scale and I can tell you that It is not an easy thing to do," the pharmaceutical boss told Today.

6-5-20 US unemployment sees surprise improvement in May
The US labour market improved unexpectedly in May raising hopes that economic damage tied to the pandemic will be less harmful than feared. The unemployment rate fell to 13.3%, down from 14.7% in April, as businesses started hiring again. Firms in the hospitality, construction and health care sectors took on staff. In total, employers added 2.5 million jobs, with the education and retail sectors also recruiting. It came as most US states started rolling back some of the tough measures put in place to control the spread of the coronavirus. As businesses start reopening, firms are beginning to rehire their employees. The job gains surprised economists, many of whom had warned the country could see the unemployment rate rise past 20% to a post-World War II high. Economist Justin Wolfers, a professor at the University of Michigan, tweeted: "It's hard to escape the conclusion that the economy bottomed in early/mid May," he said. "We're in a massive and deep hole, and it'll take a while to climb out, but at least the hole isn't getting any deeper." President Donald Trump, who has maintained the economic rebound will be swift, immediately took to Twitter to celebrate the numbers and claim credit. "Really Big Jobs Report. Great going President Trump (kidding but true)!" he wrote. The gains go only a small way towards making up for the more than 21 million jobs US employers cut in March and April, as lockdowns forced many businesses to shut their doors. In April, the unemployment rate hit 14.7%. The Labor Department has warned that the headline figures may underestimate the true jobless rate.

6-4-20 Robert E Lee statue: Virginia governor announces removal of monument
Virginia's Governor Ralph Northam has announced that a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee will be removed from the state capital. The controversial statue will be put into storage "as soon as possible", the governor said. The monument has been vandalised during recent protests over the killing of African American George Floyd. Memorials to the Confederacy, which fought to keep black people as slaves, have long stirred controversy. At a news conference, a round of applause erupted when Governor Northam said the 12-ton statue would be removed. "In Virginia, we no longer preach a false version of history," the governor said. "In 2020, we can no longer honour a system that was based on enslaving people. That statue has been there a long time. But it was wrong then, and it's wrong now. So we're taking it down." Referencing Gen Lee's own words, Governor Northam said "I think it wise not to keep open the sores of war". The Robert E Lee statue is the largest of five Confederate statues along Richmond's Monument Avenue. They have been rallying points during protests in Virginia in recent days, and have been tagged with graffiti, including messages that say "end police brutality" and "stop white supremacy". "They are extremely heavy and would crush anyone standing too close. Please be aware of the danger. Stand down!" the Richmond Police Department tweeted on Monday. Hundreds of statues of Lee, General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson and other famous figures of the Confederacy - the southern states that revolted against the federal government - exist in the US. Some see the memorials, as well as Confederate flags, as markers of US history and southern culture. But to others they serve as an offensive reminder of the country's history of slavery and racial oppression. Rev Robert W Lee IV, great-great-grandson of the Confederate general, gave his blessing for the monument to be removed at Thursday's news conference. He said the world was watching Virginia and the US as protests over the death of Mr Floyd convulsed the country, asking: "If today is not the right time, when will it be the right time [to remove the statue]?" The debate around Confederate symbols received renewed attention after the protests in Charlottesville in 2017, triggered by the city council's decision to remove a statue of Lee. (Webmaster's comment: Its clear that many whites would love to bring back slavery!)

6-4-20 White House likens Trump to Churchill in WW2
The White House press secretary has likened President Donald Trump's "resilience and determination" during the #GeorgeFloyd protests to Winston Churchill inspecting bomb damage during World War Two.

6-4-20 Twitter accuses President Trump of making 'false claims'
Twitter has accused the US president of making false claims, in one of the app's own articles covering the news. The move - which effectively accuses the leader of lying - refers to a tweet by Donald Trump about his first defence secretary. Mr Trump had tweeted that he had given James Mattis the nickname "Mad Dog" and later fired him. But Twitter's article says that the former general resigned, and his nickname preceded Trump's presidency. It follows last week's explosive confrontation, which saw Twitter fact-check two of President Trump's tweets and label another as glorifying violence. The latest confrontation was prompted by a strongly-worded statement issued by General Mattis last night, in which he criticised the president's handling of the protests that followed the killing of George Floyd. Gen Mattis described Donald Trump as "the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people - does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us." The president fired back quickly in a tweet saying that the one thing he and predecessor Barack Obama had in common was "we both had the honour of firing Jim Mattis, the world's most overrated general. I asked for his letter of resignation and felt good about it". "His nickname was 'Chaos', which I didn't like, and changed it to 'Mad Dog'," he added. Twitter later published what it calls a Moment, a summary of a news story that you can see when you press the platform's search button. It has also been promoted within the What's Happening box that appears on Twitter's website. The article says that "Mattis resigned from the position... after the administration decided to withdraw US troops from Syria", and attributes the fact to a report by the Associated Press news agency. It then refers to journalists at CNN, the National Review, the Washington Post and The Dispatch as having written that the nickname 'Mad Dog' had been used before Trump's presidency, with published references dating back to 2004.

6-4-20 Philippines drugs war: UN report criticises 'permission to kill'
Thousands of people have been killed amid "near impunity" for offenders in the war the Philippines has waged on illegal drugs since 2016, the UN says. Its report levelled heavy criticism at President Rodrigo Duterte's government. His drugs crackdown has been marked by high-level rhetoric that can be seen as "permission to kill", the report said, urging an independent investigation. The administration has in the past rejected all criticism of its policies and denies the killings are illegal. Official figures show more than 8,000 people were killed in the war on drugs since Mr Duterte took office in 2016. Other estimates put the figure three times as high. The report found that most victims are young poor urban males and that police, who do not need search or arrest warrants to conduct house raids, systematically force suspects to make self-incriminating statements or risk facing lethal force. The 26-page report, prepared by Michelle Bachelet, the United Nation's High Commissioner for Human Rights, examined nearly 900 written submissions from human rights defenders, journalists, trade unionists and the Duterte administration. In one section, the report said the police's key policy note contained "ominous" and "ill-defined language" such as "neutralising" suspects, and that coupled with "rhetoric at high levels calling for the killings of drug offenders", it was taken as a permission by the police to kill. "In the context of the campaign against illegal drugs, there has been near impunity for such violations." According to the UN, statements from the highest levels of government had "risen to the level of incitement to violence" and "vilification of dissent is being increasingly institutionalised." The report suggests that "the human rights situation in the Philippines is marked by an overarching focus on public order and national security, including countering terrorism and illegal drugs" and that this was "often at the expense of human rights, due process rights, the rule of law and accountability".

6-4-20 Coronavirus spread threatens Amazonian Indigenous communities
Along the Amazon River, people have long moved freely among the small towns that sit where the borders of Brazil, Colombia, and Peru converge — walking and driving between countries, or rafting from one shore to another. Recently, the Colombian government ordered the free flow to stop. President Iván Duque announced in mid-May he will send uniformed soldiers to guard the border between the two countries to prevent coronavirus from spreading from neighboring Brazil, which quickly emerged as a global epicenter of the pandemic. But Duque's efforts came too late. Coronavirus has spread across Colombia's Amazon rainforest, threatening the Indigenous communities that make up a majority of the region's population. More than 1,500 people there were reported to be infected by Tuesday, according to Sinergias, an independent public health organization. "The situation is very serious because there's a lack of medical personnel and infrastructure," said Julio César López Jamioy, president of the Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the Colombian Amazon. The town of Leticia, the capital of Colombia's Amazon region, has just two small hospitals that were quickly overwhelmed with patients. López Jamioy said he believes the virus has spread to communities in the rainforest. An estimated 1 million people comprising some 400 communities live in the Amazon rainforest. And if coronavirus spreads, it has the potential to wipe out entire ethnic groups. Indigenous communities have been devastated by infectious diseases as recently as the 1990s, when measles, meningitis, and the cold killed almost half the members of the Nukak community in the northern Amazon. "Disease has almost wiped out all Indigenous communities and almost erased all Indigenous knowledge," said William Yucuna, who practices traditional medicine and is from the Yucuna community. The second-biggest threat after the loss of life is the loss of knowledge, Yucuna said. Coronavirus represents a threat especially to elders, who are stewards of oral knowledge about the rainforest and about community history. "We don't have our wisdom, our knowledge, our science in writing the way you do," Yucuna said. "Every grandfather, every knower is a steward of that oral knowledge." That's why entire communities in the rainforest have gone into isolation, said Antonio Loboguerrero, director of Fundación Etnollano, a nongovernmental organization working alongside Indigenous peoples. They are not allowing anyone in or out. Some communities are using traditional medicine to strengthen their people's immune systems. And Loboguerrero has spoken with at least one leader who's been designated as the only person to leave the community to travel once a month to the nearest town, he said. Communities in the rainforest have become dependent on commerce with others and buy provisions such as coffee, fishing hooks, and batteries for flashlights, Loboguerrero said. They also want to know how the pandemic is evolving. "They need to communicate with other people," Loboguerrero said. "They're people who want to know what's happening in their region and what's happening in the whole world."

6-4-20 George Floyd death: Trump ex-defence chief Mattis attacks president
Ex-US Defence Secretary James Mattis has denounced President Donald Trump, saying he deliberately stokes division. He said he was "angry and appalled" by Mr Trump's handling of ongoing protests over the death of African American George Floyd at the hands of police. Mr Mattis berated Mr Trump's "abuse of authority" - and backed protesters seeking to uphold American values, as did ex-President Barack Obama. Mr Trump has described Mr Mattis repeatedly as an "overrated general". Mr Mattis quit in 2018 after Mr Trump decided to pull US troops out of Syria. He has remained mostly silent since then, until his rebuke of the Trump administration was published in The Atlantic magazine on Wednesday. In response to the fresh criticism, Mr Trump posted a series of tweets in which he claimed to have fired Mr Mattis. "I didn't like his "leadership" style or much else about him, and many others agree," he wrote. "Glad he is gone!" The row comes as new charges were brought against all of the sacked police officers present at Mr Floyd's death in the city of Minneapolis. The charge against Derek Chauvin has been elevated to second-degree murder while the other three officers, previously uncharged, face counts of aiding and abetting murder. The death has sparked huge protests across the US in recent days. The vast majority of demonstrations over the past nine days have been peaceful, but some have turned violent and curfews have been imposed in a number of cities. "Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people - does not even pretend to try," Mr Mattis wrote in The Atlantic. "Instead, he tries to divide us." He continued: "We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership." Mr Mattis also addressed the recent wave of anti-racism protests.

6-4-20 Barack Obama: I want you to know that you matter
Former US President Barack Obama has said he wants his fellow African Americans to know that their lives matter. In his first video address since unrest over the death of George Floyd in police custody, Mr Obama said that when he looked at his daughters, nephews and nieces he saw "limitless potential". Mr Floyd's death in Minneapolis on 25 May sparked protests throughout the country and the world, the vast majority of which have been peaceful.

6-4-20 New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees apologises for kneeling protest comments
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees says "it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused" following his opposition to NFL kneeling protests. Brees was criticised, including by team-mate Malcolm Jenkins, for saying such protests would be "disrespecting the flag" of the United States. Former NFL star Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the US national anthem in 2016 to highlight racial injustice. Brees said his comments lacked "awareness, compassion or empathy". It comes in the wake of global protests held following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, while being restrained by a white police officer in Minneapolis on 25 May. Many athletes have also supported Kaepernick, who was frozen out of the league after his protest and has been unemployed since being released by the San Francisco 49ers in 2017. "I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country," said Brees in an apology on Instagram. "Instead, those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy. This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character." Brees said he wanted to apologise to his "friends, team-mates, the City of New Orleans, the black community, NFL community and anyone I hurt". "I am sick about the way my comments were perceived yesterday, but I take full responsibility and accountability," he added. "I recognise that I should do less talking and more listening... and when the black community is talking about their pain, we all need to listen. For that, I am very sorry and I ask your forgiveness." In response to comments made by Brees on Wednesday in an interview with Yahoo, Saints safety Jenkins said his team-mate was "part of the problem". "Drew, unfortunately you're somebody that doesn't understand their privilege," said 32-year-old Jenkins in an emotional video on social meda. "You don't understand the potential you have to actually be an advocate for the people that you call brothers.

6-4-20 Curtis Hayes: Man behind the protest plea that moved America
In a viral video from Charlotte, North Carolina, Curtis Hayes implored two generations of protester to "find a better way" to express their pain over police killings of African Americans. Hayes spoke to the BBC about why he believes the next generation will have to rethink how they inspire change in the wake of George Floyd's death. Hayes also said it's the job of white Americans to challenge each other to help society grow.

6-4-20 Ahmaud Arbery: White man 'used racial slur' after black jogger shot
One of the men accused of murdering unarmed black man Ahmaud Arbery in the US state of Georgia used a racial slur after shooting him, a court has heard. A Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent said Travis McMichael used the slur while Mr Arbery was on the ground. Mr Arbery was jogging when he was chased down by Travis McMichael and his father Gregory in Brunswick on 23 February. The case caused widespread outrage after footage was leaked online. The McMichaels are facing murder charges. Another man, William Bryan, faces charges of murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. A rally has been taking place outside the Glynn County courthouse, where the preliminary hearing was being held, and further protests are expected. Huge protests have been taking place across the US following the death of another unarmed black man, George Floyd, in police custody last month. Special Agent Richard Dial of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation told the court that co-defendant William Bryan heard Travis McMichael use the slur after shooting Mr Arbery. "Mr Bryan said that after the shooting took place before police arrival, while Mr Arbery was on the ground, that he heard Travis McMichael make the statement," Agent Dial said. He described how the McMichaels and Mr Bryan chased Mr Arbery in pick-up trucks as he jogged in their neighbourhood. Mr Arbery "just enjoyed running", Agent Dial said. In the moments before the fatal confrontation, the McMichaels, who are white, armed themselves with a pistol and shotgun and pursued Mr Arbery in a pickup truck in the Satilla Shores neighbourhood. Gregory McMichael told police he believed that Mr Arbery resembled the suspect in a series of local break-ins. Mr Bryan's 36-second video leaked online on 5 May, generating a nationwide outcry that was swiftly followed by murder charges. It was filmed by Mr Bryan from his vehicle while he was driving behind Mr Arbery. The clip appears to show Mr Arbery running down a tree-lined street as the McMichaels wait ahead for him in their vehicle. A tussle follows between the younger McMichael and Mr Arbery, who falls to the ground.

6-4-20 Viewpoint: What it's like to be an African in the US
As protests rock the US following the death of African-American George Floyd in police custody, Kenyan journalist Larry Madowo writes about the racism he has experienced in the country. n my first week in New York City last summer, I was invited to dinner at a friend's penthouse on the wealthy Upper West Side. I picked up some fruit for her and arrived at her building carrying a plastic bag. The front desk sent me through an open courtyard to the back of the building, past residents' garbage bags and into a surprisingly dirty lift. When I got off upstairs, my host opened the door mortified, all the colour drained from her face. "My racist doorman thought you're a delivery guy and made you use the service elevator," she explained as she apologised. I have worked in the complicated racial hierarchies of South Africa and the UK and have travelled around the world, but it still stung that an American butler did not think accomplished white people like my friend and her husband could have a black dinner guest. That early micro-aggression forewarned me that America may be the land of opportunity for many, but it would still reduce me to the colour of my skin and find me unworthy. It did not matter that I am from a black majority African nation, people who look like me here have to negotiate for their humanity with a system that constantly alienates, erases and punishes them. In Kenya, I may disappear into the crowd, but in America I always have a target on my back for being black. A day after investment banker Amy Cooper called the police after a Harvard-educated black man asked her to follow park rules and leash her dog, a white policeman knelt on George Floyd's neck for so long it eventually killed him. I was heartbroken. As protests broke out nationwide to demand justice for Floyd and the countless other black people who have been killed by police, I held my breath.

6-4-20 Viewpoint: US must confront its Original Sin to move forward
Following the death of George Floyd while under arrest, protests have consumed America and onlookers have wondered how one of the most powerful countries in the world could descend into such chaos. Despite being defined by race, American society does not spend much time analysing the history of our racial divisions, and America prefers to believe in the inevitable progression towards racial equality. The election of Barack Obama in 2008 fed into this narrative of progress, but Donald Trump's presidential victory in 2016 was seen as a step backwards, coming after a campaign with a slogan that championed America's divisive past as a form of progress. Floyd's death now appears to be the tipping point for an exhausted, racially divided nation still in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic and the economic cost that followed. Floyd's cries of "I can't breathe" echoed the cries of Eric Garner, who was choked by police on a New York City sidewalk in 2014. Floyd's words reminded Americans of the oppressive past we work to forget regardless of whether it is six years ago, 60 years ago, the 1860s, or 1619 when some of the first slaves arrived in America. To a large extent, America's neglect of the past and belief in progress has left many Americans unaware of the severity and scope of our racial tensions, and as a result many Americans lack the words to articulate our current turmoil. Recently, I have used the word ethnocide meaning "the destruction of culture while keeping the people" to describe America's past and present racial tensions, and this language also helps articulate the uniqueness of America's race problem. In 1941, Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jew and distinguished lawyer, immigrated to the United States as he fled the Nazis. While in America he implored the American government to stop the Nazis from killing his people, and as his words fell on deaf ears, he realized he needed to create a new word to describe the unique horror befalling his people. In 1944, Lemkin coined the words genocide and ethnocide. Lemkin intended for the words to be interchangeable but over time they diverged. Genocide became the destruction of a people and their culture, and this word radically changed the world for the better. Ethnocide became the destruction of culture while keeping the people, and has been ignored for decades. Recently, ethnocide has been used to describe the plight of indigenous people against colonization, but regarding America, ethnocide also pertains to the transatlantic slave trade and the founding of the nation.

6-4-20 Police violence is creating a terrible coronavirus risk
For the moment, the coronavirus pandemic has been driven off America's front pages by the nationwide outbreak of protests against police brutality. But the virus is still not under control. Overall, daily new cases in the country are falling, but very slowly. Infections are clearly on the rise in several states, like Texas, Florida, Arizona, and Georgia. Daily deaths are falling faster, but only in the last week did the 7-day average dip below 1,000. or the moment, the coronavirus pandemic has been driven off America's front pages by the nationwide outbreak of protests against police brutality. But the virus is still not under control. Overall, daily new cases in the country are falling, but very slowly. Infections are clearly on the rise in several states, like Texas, Florida, Arizona, and Georgia. Daily deaths are falling faster, but only in the last week did the 7-day average dip below 1,000. Now, conducting big demonstrations is itself a risk. Although protesters have seemed to generally be careful about wearing masks in groups and keeping at least some space between themselves, that doesn't completely eliminate the possibility of transmission, and others have not shown all that much scrupulousness about staying apart and masked. From all we've learned about the virus though, it seems that outdoor spaces pose relatively little risk for infection. However, it is definitely not impossible to catch the disease outside, and the violent tactics the police have used against protesters are all but designed to raise the risk as high as possible. Unprovoked attacks on demonstrations — seen in New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and elsewhere — often herd them together into panicked masses. Often police directly touch people in the process of clubbing them, or shove them into one another. Meanwhile, police tear gas, pepper spray, and mace (on many occasions blasted directly into people's faces) hugely stimulate mucus, tear, and saliva production, and make people cough violently. A big mass of protesters crammed together, breathing in a soup of poisonous chemical weapons, will create a veritable fog of possibly-infectious droplets. Research also suggests that tear gas exposure can make people more susceptible to future respiratory illness. Likely worse is what happens after the protests: mass arrests. The classic American police tactic in these situation is to trap groups of protesters into a "kettle" so they can be arrested and booked. BuzzFeed News contacted 30 big urban police departments on Tuesday, and counted over 11,000 arrests. At time of writing, Los Angeles and neighboring cities had arrested nearly 3,000 people alone. A great many of these people have been at least temporarily jailed as a result, mostly for misdemeanors. We know for a fact that jails are coronavirus hotspots — some of the worst in the country. People crowded into confined spaces with poor ventilation for a long time is where most transmission happens. The danger will be heightened when people are still dealing with the aftereffects of being tear-gassed or pepper-sprayed, which can take hours. In New York and Cincinnati, arestees described being held in cramped spaces for over 24 hours while waiting to be processed by the cities' dysfunctional criminal justice systems. Even in other cities where processing happened faster, people were still held for hours.

6-3-20 George Floyd death: New charges for all four sacked officers
New charges have been announced against all of the sacked police officers present at the death of African American George Floyd in Minneapolis. The charge against Derek Chauvin has been elevated to second-degree murder, court documents show. The other three officers, previously uncharged, face counts of aiding and abetting murder. Floyd's death has sparked huge protests across the US against racism and the police killings of black Americans. The vast majority of demonstrations over the past eight days have been peaceful, but some have turned violent and curfews have been imposed in a number of cities. Announcing the new charges, Minnesota's Attorney General Keith Ellison said that they were in the interests of justice. Derek Chauvin had initially faced charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. These will stay on his charge sheet. The other three sacked officers are Thomas Lane, J Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao. They all face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder, and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar said on Twitter that the latest charges were "another important step for justice". Floyd family lawyer Benjamin Crump said in a statement: "This is a significant step forward on the road to justice and we are gratified that this important action was brought before George Floyd's body was laid to rest." But he later told CNN that the family believed the charge against Derek Chauvin should be first-degree murder and that they had been told that the investigation was ongoing and the charges could change further. At a press briefing, rights activist Rev Al Sharpton said that the Floyd case must lead to a national federal act. He said: "If we come out of all this and do not have federal legislation where we can protect citizens from local policing... then all of this is drama to no end. Drama in the street must be geared to fundamental legal change." Mr Ellison said he was under no illusion that bringing a successful prosecution against the former police officers would be difficult. "Winning a conviction will be hard. History does show there are clear challenges," he said. Only one officer in Minnesota has been convicted of killing a civilian while serving in the role.

6-3-20 Covid-19 news: NHS Test and Trace not tracing enough to be effective
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. The NHS Test and Trace system, which is designed to identify people who might have been exposed to people who have tested positive for coronavirus, only reached 38 per cent of known contacts of people diagnosed with coronavirus, according to leaked data obtained by Channel 4 News. The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), the government’s official advisory group for the pandemic, say the system needs to reach 80 per cent to be effective. Out of 4634 contacts provided to NHS Test and Trace by people who were confirmed to have coronavirus between 28 and 31 May, only 1749 were contacted. The World Health Organization and several countries changed their policies on covid-19 treatments on the basis of data from a study in the Lancet which is now being questioned, a Guardian investigation has revealed. The data used in the study were provided by US-based health analytics company Surgisphere, and suggested that the anti-malarials hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine could increase the risk of death in covid-19 patients, which led to the suspension of clinical trials investigating whether these drugs could be used to treat covid-19. But the Lancet has released an “expression of concern” about the validity of the data, a step sometimes made before a study is retracted. There are also concerns about a separate New England Journal of Medicine study that also used data provided by Surgisphere. Removing coronavirus restrictions too quickly and having to reintroduce lockdowns will be worse for the global economy than gradually easing restrictions, according to a modelling study published in Nature Human Behaviour today. The study modelled three different scenarios for lifting lockdowns, including one in which restrictions are relaxed gradually over 12 months and two where all restrictions are lifted immediately but then reintroduced within one year. The researchers found that the impact of supply-chain losses on global GDP in the scenario with gradual easing was projected to be about 10 to 20 per cent lower than in the scenarios with recurrent lockdowns.

6-3-20 Coronavirus: Trump says Republicans 'forced' to move convention
US President Donald Trump says Republicans have been "forced" to find another state to host their conference after North Carolina refused to budge on possible coronavirus restrictions. The president tweeted North Carolina's governor would not guarantee Republicans could use the venue "as originally anticipated and promised". Roy Cooper tweeted that Republicans had resisted "changes to keep people safe". Several other states have volunteered to host the event instead. Mr Trump tweeted that Mr Cooper, a Democrat, was "still in Shelter-In-Place Mode". "We are now forced to seek another State to host the 2020 Republican National Convention," the president added. The party conference, which was scheduled for Charlotte's NBA arena in August, will formally nominate Mr Trump to seek a second term in the 3 November election. The Republican president had set a deadline of this week for North Carolina to confirm that social-distancing restrictions would not be imposed on the convention. But Mr Cooper wrote in a letter on Tuesday to Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel that he could offer no such promise. He said "planning for a scaled-down convention with fewer people, social distancing and face coverings is a necessity." By Tuesday, North Carolina had reported 29,900 total coronavirus cases and 900 deaths. Ms McDaniel tweeted that the party would "begin visiting the multiple cities and states who have reached out to us" to scout alternative venues. Georgia, Florida and Tennessee, which have Republican governors, have all expressed interest in hosting the convention if North Carolina fell through. North Carolina Republicans called Mr Cooper - who is up for re-election this year - a "hypocrite" and accused him of applying a different standard to those gathering to protest last week's killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

6-3-20 George Floyd death: Archbishop attacks Trump as US protests continue
Washington's Catholic archbishop has strongly criticised President Donald Trump's visit to a shrine as civil unrest continues in the US over the death of a black man in police custody. Tuesday's visit "manipulated" the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, Archbishop Wilton D Gregory said. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people joined largely peaceful demonstrations in cities across the country. In New York City, protesters defied an earlier curfew. Traffic police were deployed to stop a repeat of the previous night's looting in Manhattan, and there were no reports of major incidents. At least 40 cities have imposed strict curfew measures after days of violent protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd, 46, in Minneapolis on 25 May. In Atlanta, police fired tear gas to disperse a demonstration near Centennial Olympic Park, reports said. Earlier, Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden criticised President Donald Trump for using the crisis to appeal to his supporters, saying he was "serving the passions of his base". On Monday, Mr Trump said he would deploy the army if cities and states failed to control the protests. In a statement ahead of the president's visit to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine on Tuesday, Archbishop Wilton D Gregory said it violated the church's religious principles, adding that Catholics should defend the rights of all people. "I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people even those with whom we might disagree," the statement said. The archbishop also condemned the forceful clearing of protesters outside the White House on Monday to allow Mr Trump to visit a church where he held a Bible in front of gathered media.

6-3-20 Philando Castile death: 'I lost my best friend in a police shooting'
After a police officer shot and killed Greg Crockett's best friend, he left Minnesota for good. Then in the aftermath of George Floyd's killing, he decided he couldn't stay away. How everything and nothing changed after the death of Philando Castile. Greg Crockett was sitting in the passenger seat of his grandfather's van when he saw that - in the midst of rapidly escalating protests over the death of an unarmed black man named George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer - an auto parts store near his old neighbourhood was on fire. Although he moved away from Minnesota almost two years ago, Crockett told his grandfather he needed to go. In response, his grandfather, a retired Marine, quoted Che Guevara. "The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall." As Crockett's flight descended over the Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport, an older white woman peered out the window, wondering if she'd be able to see the fires from the plane. That night, from nearly the moment his feet hit the pavement, Crockett - a thin, acerbic 37-year-old who works at the Phoenix international airport - witnessed a rolling carnival of chaos. For over two hours, until his phone died, he captured scene after scene of casual destruction, at turns horrifying and darkly comedic. A boy who looked no older than 15 or 16 lobbed a Molotov cocktail into a grocery store, only to have the lit rag fall out and singe his legs. A group of 30 people worked furiously to break open a drive-through ATM, until an older man sauntered up at a theatrically slow pace with an enormous sledgehammer over one shoulder. A young woman wilted in the street. Her friends tried to carry her into a car that offered a ride to the hospital, but then drove off at the last second without them.

6-3-20 George Floyd death: Peaceful protesters defy curfew in Washington
Demonstrators have broken curfew to protest in a Washington park, 24 hours after "utter chaos" ensued when security forces cleared the area for President Trump to visit a nearby church.

6-3-20 George Floyd death: More large protests in US but violence falls
Tens of thousands of people have demonstrated, mainly peacefully, across the United States for an eighth night following the death of African-American George Floyd in police custody. One of the biggest protests, joined by Floyd's relatives, took place in his hometown of Houston, Texas. Many defied curfews in several cities, imposed after violence and looting in some districts on Monday night. The Pope has issued a call for racism not to be ignored. "We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism," he said. But he also condemned the violence: "Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost." The Floyd case has reignited deep-seated anger over police killings of black Americans and racism. Demonstrators have taken to the streets - not only to express their outrage at the treatment of Mr Floyd - but to condemn police brutality against black Americans more widely. There have been calls, and a proposal from a US lawmaker, to end the qualified immunity of police which prevents civil legal action against them. More generally protesters have called for an end to racism and discrimination. In central Washington DC police fired tear gas after darkness. The military were again on the streets of the capital and helicopters hovered above protesters marching towards the White House. Traffic was blocked in New York's Manhattan district as protesters ignored a night-time curfew, which had been extended for a week. Video footage showed them surrounding a police van. In Houston, where Floyd is due to be buried, Mayor Sylvester Turner, told the crowds people should know that he "did not die in vain". Big rallies were also held in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Seattle. Minneapolis, where 46-year-old Floyd died, was reported to be relatively calm. But in Seattle, Portland and Atlanta there were reports of tear gas being fired.

6-3-20 George Floyd death: The man who sheltered 80 US protesters
It was past curfew and protesters in Washington DC were trapped as police closed both ends of a street and moved in. That's when one resident flung open his doors. Police said they made nearly 200 arrests in the area and will review how they conducted themselves. (Webmaster's comment: Having those responsible for murder and violence against blacks review themselves is a joke!)

6-3-20 Call them the coronavirus riots
Months after the novel coronavirus first appeared, a typically sterile and idiotic debate erupted over what to call the thing, with President Trump and various other right-wing figures demanding it be called the "Wuhan virus" and various left-wing figures objecting that using this nomenclature was fueling anti-Asian racism. I call the debate idiotic because it was, on both sides, an attempt to man familiar ramparts rather than directly confront the reality of the crisis. I fear something similar is happening with the violence and vandalism now convulsing so many American cities. We're on the brink of having a largely spurious debate about whether the violence is a necessary or at least understandable response to the continuing scandal of brutality and racial bias in American policing, or whether, on the contrary, it is the kind of overreaction that will discredit and set back the causes of anti-racism and policing reform. I say that debate aborning is spurious because I don't believe the violence we've seen is very closely related to the protests at all. If I had to come up with a name for what's happening, I'd follow my colleague Matthew Walther and call them the lockdown riots. To start with, there's precious little evidence that the people leading the protests, or the overwhelming bulk of those protesting, are engaging in acts of violence. Anecdotally, we're hearing a lot more stories about protesters pleading with vandals and looters to stop. In many cases, the protests and the looting aren't even happening in the same places or at the same time — and at least in some instances the police have focused more on policing legal protests than on preventing criminal activity. There have been enormous protests before in the wake of killings by police, and some of them weren't handled well by the police either, but we haven't seen this kind of anarchy. Why now? The virus cries out as an explanation. Because of the virus, our city centers and retail districts sit largely empty, but the vitality of city life is a huge deterrent to theft and vandalism, while emptiness and abandonment are provocative temptations. The lockdowns have massively disrupted the economy, and beyond the acute need and deprivation that have resulted, they have also disrupted the normal sense of give-and-take of economic life that undergirds the social agreement on the right to property in the first place. People have been cooped up, bored, and anxious, with few traditional sources of pleasure or relief — no churches to worship in, no sports to cheer, no basketball courts to play on, no bars or clubs to socialize at — for weeks and months. It would be shocking if we didn't see an explosion once the match was lit. I suspect the lockdowns have played a role in the over-the-top police response as well, which in far too many cases has managed to combine brutality with ineffectiveness. There are deeper causes of course — which is precisely what the protests are about — but the lockdowns have badly exacerbated things. They put the police on edge, since they do a job that puts them at significantly elevated risk of infection, but they have also empowered the police to regulate and control the normal life of the citizenry to an extraordinary and largely unprecedented degree. After a period in which the police have been basically instructed to keep everyone in their homes, it's not terribly surprising that some have forgotten how to handle people exercising their fundamental rights to free assembly and speech. Finally, the virus has profoundly discredited the authority of American government at every level. Starting at the top, with a president who did virtually nothing for months to mobilize and organize the vast resources at his disposal in response to the crisis, down to state and local officials who have far too often appeared reactive to pressure rather than having and communicating a clear plan, Americans have been given very little reason to believe that the authorities know what they are doing — though they are palpably desperate to believe that they do. That can't help but hollow out any reassurance that might be offered that this time a bad cop will truly be held to account, this time promises of reform will be followed up, this time we should believe that the system will work. And no authority so comprehensively distrusted can effectively maintain order.

6-3-20 Don't willfully ignore the complexity of what's happening in America right now
Over the past three months, I've repeatedly taken aim at the irresponsible reaction of some on the right to the pandemic. But now it's the left (including some journalists and academics) that's doing the country (and the world) a disservice — by abandoning even the pretense of perspective about what's happening in the United States. Understandably upset by the president's photo-op stunt and incendiary speech in Washington, D.C.'s Lafayette Park on Monday evening, journalists ran for the barricades, declaring the imminent end of American democracy and the advent of fascism in America. The truth is more complex, and possibly even more disturbing, than that. Americans are prone to the Christian heresy of Manichaeism, dividing the world into children of light and children of darkness. Now, thanks to intense partisan polarization that's encouraged by monomaniacal activists, a president who sees political advantage in fostering division, and the siloing effects of social media, this tendency has intensified. Journalists and other commentators aren't immune to the trend. They also contribute to it when they abandon any effort at capturing the complicated reality of what's happening in a fluid nationwide event and instead advance a story of righteous protesters engaged in a running battle with a malevolent president and police officers. Trump and other sinners on one side, civic saints championing the cause of justice on the other. American reality isn't contained in either of those polarized, idealized or demonized, positions. It is found in the complicated interplay between thousands of variations on those mostly imagined pure forms. American reality is George Floyd's life being viciously snuffed out by the knee of a Minneapolis cop. But it's also just nine unarmed African Americans being shot and killed by police last year in a country of 330 million people. That's nine too many, but not quite the evidence of systematic race-based police killings that one might expect given the rhetoric of the past week. (Nineteen unarmed whites were gunned down by police last year.) American reality is the president of the United States ordering Lafayette Park forcibly cleared of peaceful protesters and threatening to invoke the Insurrection Act (as other presidents have done, for a range of reasons) to quell widespread looting and violence. But it's also widespread looting and violence targeting everything from high-end shops and national chains in midtown Manhattan to minority-owned businesses in communities across the country. American reality is police (and baseball-bat wielding vigilantes and freelance maniacs) attacking journalists and protesters. But it's also cops being shot and deliberately run over in the street. It's possible to try and freeze time around any of these events and affix blame for the unjust act. If you do this enough times around enough similar events, it's quite easy to construct a simple and satisfying narrative that will confirm your worst nightmares about evildoers on the other side. And sometimes that story will even be true, since there's always more than enough evil at large in the world. But the truth about the country as a whole can never be captured in such an artificially frozen and morally tidy tableau. On the contrary, it's far more likely to feed the agitated frenzy unfolding in the true reality in which we all now find ourselves.

6-3-20 The Somali atheist activists who get death threats
Somali atheists in the diaspora are running a Facebook group to challenge their community's Islamic beliefs, but they often receive death threats, writes journalist Layla Mahmood. "I am going to kill you. I am going to find you. I am going to cut your head off," was one of the threats that Ayaanle, a Canada-based Somali atheist, received. "[But] that's kind of normal," the founder of the True Somali Freedom Page (TSFP) says sardonically as he talks about the death threats that clog his inbox. The popular Facebook group, which has more than 80,000 members, is predominantly led by atheists, or "ex-Muslims", as they refer to themselves. It was initially inspired to create a safe space for religious discussion and now promotes all forms of freedom for Somalis who feel marginalised by mainstream Somali culture. Ayaanle did not want to give his full name. He told me how the movement began. Around 2016, he stumbled across a Somali Facebook group that purported to be a space for free speech and debate. "I got into a discussion about religion and everybody just erupted. They went ballistic. They made me feel like I killed someone." He was swiftly removed from the group, a common experience for those who express contrary views in this kind of Somali forum. Ayaanle then felt the only way forward was to create a new platform, with new rules. "I wanted [the TSFP] to be a place where... people could be free to say whatever they liked." A driving force for Ayaanle stemmed from his belief that contemporary Somali discussions about religion had become increasingly restrictive in the aftermath of Somalia's decades-long civil war. "Islam is untouchable. You cannot criticise or say anything about Islam. "Right now the young people are changing, they are a little more tolerant to debates and criticism. "[But] many of those who grew up in Somalia and came to the West during and after the civil war accept the idea that if someone criticises Islam they should be killed. They really think it's something valid." Hence the death threats that he has received. "That's one of the things I want to put out there and what I have the page for - to show that Islam is not untouchable. It can be criticised, it can be debated and it can be talked about openly."

6-3-20 Coronavirus: Sweden's Tegnell admits too many died
Sweden's controversial decision not to impose a strict lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic led to too many deaths, the man behind the policy, Anders Tegnell, has acknowledged. Sweden has seen a far higher mortality rate than its nearest neighbours and its nationals are being barred from crossing their borders. Dr Tegnell told Swedish radio more should have been done early on. "There is quite obviously a potential for improvement in what we have done." Sweden has counted 4,468 deaths and 38,589 infections in a population of 10 million, while Denmark, Norway and Finland have imposed lockdowns and seen far lower rates. Denmark has seen 580 deaths, Norway has had 237 deaths and Finland 320. Now he has told Swedish public radio: "If we were to encounter the same disease again, knowing exactly what we know about it today, I think we would settle on doing something in between what Sweden did and what the rest of the world has done." When asked if too many people had died too soon, Dr Tegnell said, "Yes, absolutely." However, he was unclear what Sweden should have done differently. As other countries had imposed immediate lockdowns, it was unknown which measures had the best effect in halting the spread, he explained. Sweden's approach had been to increase its response step by step, he said, so maybe they would find out what was best as measures were gradually lifted. Although there was no lockdown, Sweden relied on voluntary social distancing, banning gatherings of more than 50 people and halting visits to elderly care homes. Non-essential travel is still not recommended under national guidelines, but journeys of up to two hours are allowed to see relatives or close friends as long as they do not involve visits to local shops and mixing with other residents. As Denmark and Norway have begun opening up again, there has been growing criticism of Sweden's response, both inside the country and among its neighbours. Norway's public health chief Frode Forland said Sweden had focused too much on historical models of viruses, while its neighbours preferred lockdown measures.

6-2-20 Trump inadvertently reveals the truth about the police response to the protests
Monday afternoon in Washington, D.C., a peaceful demonstration against police brutality had gathered in Lafayette Park near the White House. It was covered from multiple angles by journalists, including several live TV feeds. At about 6:30 p.m. — before the city's 7 p.m. curfew had taken effect — a huge mass of law enforcement, including federal and military police, suddenly attacked the demonstrators with tear gas, rubber bullets, concussions grenades, and clubs. Cops bludgeoned two Australian reporters directly in front of live cameras, which prompted an official investigation from the Australian state. Axios headlined their article about the event as "Trump goes full law-and-order." We see that this phrase means more-or-less the opposite of what it seems to mean. In this case, it was the police who were violently disrupting order and violating the law — in particular, the First Amendment. The intent, coming from the very top of the American government, is to brutally suppress Americans' constitutional rights. If President Trump and more than a few police departments have their way, freedom of assembly will be null and void in this country insofar as it is invoked to protest police brutality. In absolutely classic Trump style, it turns out that the park had been violently purged so that he could conduct a photo-op in front of the nearby St. John's Episcopal Church. Administration sources told reporters that he did this because he was embarrassed about the coverage of how he had fled to a bunker during the protests over the weekend. A strongman must always appear strong — especially if he happens to be a coward. After walking through the trashed park and past a wall of obscene anti-Trump graffiti, he stood before the church and held aloft a bible, bizarrely turning it back and forth like some auctioneer of rare books. One reporter asked Trump if the bible was his own. "It's a bible," he responded. Later it was discovered several of the church's clergy had been gassed out of the patio of their own place of worship. The local Episcopal leader, Marian Budde, told The Washington Post: "I am the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and was not given even a courtesy call, that they would be clearing [the area] with tear gas so they could use one of our churches as a prop." As protesters dispersed, police chased them all over D.C. Various helicopters flew low over the streets to blast people with the backwash. Police also trapped a group of them on Swann Street to be arrested, but some homeowners allowed people to take refuge inside when the cops started blasting pepper spray everywhere. One kindly man, Rahul Dubey, let over 100 people into his home to protect them from arrest and probable violence. Dozens stayed overnight until the curfew lifted. Other cities saw similar unprovoked attacks, but one in Philadelphia deserves special attention. Again well before the city's 6 p.m. curfew had taken effect, police suddenly ambushed a group of peaceful protesters that had shut down the I-676 freeway. They forced the demonstrators up against the fence bordering the highway, and pelted the packed crowd with tear gas as they desperately tried to climb to safety, coughing and choking.

6-2-20 George Floyd: Can President Trump deploy the military?
As protests spread across the US, President Trump has threatened to send in the army to end the unrest. Mr Trump said he would send in the military if cities and states failed to solve the problem. But some state governors have said the government does not have the power to send in federal troops without the permission of the state authorities. In short, yes under certain circumstances. There are already thousands of troops deployed from the National Guard, which is a reserve force for the US Army. They're in more than 20 states across the US trying to quell protests, but these forces have been requested by the cities or states themselves. However, a US law passed in the 19th Century lays out circumstances when the government in Washington DC can intervene without state authorisation. The Insurrection Act says the approval of governors isn't required when the president determines the situation in a state makes it impossible to enforce US laws, or when citizens' rights are threatened. The law was passed in 1807 to allow the president to call out a militia to protect against "hostile incursions of the Indians" - and it was subsequently extended to allow for the use of the US military in domestic disturbances and to protect civil rights. Another law passed in 1878 requires congressional authorisation for domestic military use, but a legal expert told the BBC that the Insurrection Act was sufficient legal authority on its own for the president to deploy the army. It is widely accepted that the president would have legal grounds to employ the military without asking for approval from the states in the current circumstances. "The key point", says Robert Chesney, a University of Texas law professor, "is that it is the president's determination to make; the governors do not have to request his help." According to the Congressional Research Service, the Insurrection Act has been used dozens of times in the past, although not for almost three decades. It was last invoked in 1992 by former US President George HW Bush during race riots in Los Angeles. The law was used throughout the 1950s and 60s during the civil rights era by three different presidents, including when there were objections from state governors. President Dwight Eisenhower faced objections when he used the law in 1957 to send US troops to Arkansas to control a protest at a school, where black and white children were being taught together.

6-2-20  George Floyd death: Trump threatens to send in army to end unrest
President Donald Trump has threatened to send in the military to quell growing civil unrest in the US over the death of a black man in police custody. (Webmaster's comment: Soon the tanks will roll on the streets of America!) He said if cities and states failed to control the protests and "defend their residents" he would deploy the army and "quickly solve the problem for them". Protests over the death of George Floyd have escalated over the past week. On Tuesday the Las Vegas sheriff said an officer died in a shooting after police attempted to disperse a crowd. Dozens of people have been injured as authorities used tear gas and force to disperse protests which have swept more than 75 cities. Four officers meanwhile were shot and injured on Monday night during unrest in St Louis, Missouri. Dozens of major cities have imposed overnight curfews. In New York on Monday night, the iconic department store Macy's was broken into, as shops were looted and windows smashed. Curfew in the city will resume at 20:00 (midnight GMT) on Tuesday. In Chicago, two people were reported killed amid unrest, although the circumstances are unclear. The chief of police in Louisville, Kentucky has been sacked after law enforcement officers fired into a crowd on Sunday night, killing the owner of a nearby business. Australian PM Scott Morrison has demanded an investigation into the alleged assault by police of two Australian journalists covering protests in Washington DC. Music channels and celebrities have pledged to mark Blackout Tuesday, pausing for eight minutes - the length of time a police officer knelt on Mr Floyd's neck. The protests began after a video showed Mr Floyd, 46, being arrested in Minneapolis on 25 May and a white police officer continuing to kneel on his neck even after he pleaded that he could not breathe. The officer, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with third-degree murder and will appear in court next week. Three other police officers have been fired. (Webmaster's comment: They stood by watching a man being murdered and all they get is being fired!) The Floyd case has reignited deep-seated anger over police killings of black Americans and racism. It follows the high-profile cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Eric Garner in New York; and others that have driven the Black Lives Matter movement. For many, the outrage also reflects years of frustration over socio-economic inequality and discrimination, not least in Minneapolis itself.

6-2-20  George Floyd death: Trump's church visit shocks religious leaders
Last night he held a Bible in front of St John's Episcopal Church, just across the road from the White House. Today, he'll visit the Shrine to St John Paul II, also in Washington DC. But US President Donald Trump's signalling of religious affiliation has not been welcomed by a range of clerics as the nation struggles to manage the twin challenges of a pandemic and widespread political protest. The Episcopal Bishop of Washington, the Right Reverend Mariann Budde, said: "The president just used a Bible, the most sacred text of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and one of the churches of my diocese, without permission, as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus." James Martin, a Jesuit priest and consultant to the Vatican's communications department, tweeted: "Let me be clear. This is revolting. The Bible is not a prop. A church is not a photo op. Religion is not a political tool. God is not your plaything." Rabbi Jack Moline, President of the Interfaith Alliance, said: "Seeing President Trump standing in front of St John's Episcopal Church while holding a Bible in response to calls for racial justice - right after using military force to clear peaceful protesters - is one of the most flagrant misuses of religion that I have ever seen." President Trump does not belong to a particular congregation, only occasionally attends a service and has said many times that he does not like to ask God for forgiveness. But while he may not consider church essential to his personal life, it may yet hold the keys to his political future. In 2016, Mr Trump won 81% of white evangelical votes and exit polls found that white Catholics supported him over Hillary Clinton by 60% to 37%. Mr Trump's status, as the champion of evangelical and conservative voters, can seem peculiar given his use of divisive rhetoric, his three marriages, accusations of sexual assault by dozens of women, the hush-money paid to a pornographic film actress, and the record of false statements made during his presidency - more than 18,000 according to the Poynter Institute's Politifact website. This may explain why - though an irregular congregant himself - the president has repeatedly demanded the reopening of churches, saying, on 22 May, "If they don't do it, I will override the governors." (Webmaster's comment: Our version of Hitler commands us!)

6-2-20  George Floyd death homicide, official post-mortem declares
The death of George Floyd, which triggered widespread protests across the US, has been declared a homicide in an official post-mortem examination. The 46-year-old suffered a cardiac arrest while being restrained by Minneapolis police, the report found. It listed Mr Floyd's cause of death as "cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression". Meanwhile, President Donald Trump vowed to use the military to end the unrest. A video showing a white police officer continuing to kneel on Mr Floyd's neck even after he pleaded he could not breathe has reignited deep-seated anger over police killings of black Americans. It has led to six consecutive days of protests around the United States and a level of civil unrest not seen in decades. he officer, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter and will appear in court next week. Three other police officers have been fired. The official post-mortem examination of Mr Floyd by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's office also recorded evidence of heart disease and recent drug use. It said he suffered the cardiac arrest "while being restrained by a law enforcement officer" on 25 May. The findings were released shortly after those of a private examination that was carried out by medical examiners hired by the Floyd family. This report said Mr Floyd died from asphyxia (lack of oxygen) due to a compression on his neck and also on his back. It also found the death was a homicide, a statement from the family's legal team said. "The cause of death in my opinion is asphyxia, due to compression to the neck - which can interfere with oxygen going to the brain - and compression to the back, which interferes with breathing," Dr Michael Baden, a former New York City medical examiner, said at a news conference on Monday. Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for the Floyd family, said: "Beyond doubt he would be alive today if not for the pressure applied to his neck by officer Derek Chauvin and the strain on his body by two other officers." He added: "The ambulance was his hearse." (Webmaster's comment: Sets the stage for the officer's acquittal because the victim had a bad heart!)

6-2-20  Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar on George Floyd protests
Congresswoman Ilhan Omar spoke to Newsnight's Emily Maitlis following widespread protests that have erupted around the US following the death of an unarmed black man in police custody in Minneapolis. George Floyd, 46, died while in police custody on 25 May. His death has been declared a homicide in an official post-mortem examination.

6-2-20  The fabric of America is coming apart
Mass unrest engulfed cities across the United States over the weekend, as thousands of people protested the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd and police typically responded with violence. In some relatively isolated cases, riots and looting broke out — including in Washington, D.C., where President Trump turned off the lights at the White House and hid in a bunker. It seems the United States was a powder keg just waiting for a spark. Police incompetence and brutality — carried out at enormous expense to the American taxpayer — have only added to the intolerable daily burden of poverty and misery experienced by the American working class, particularly its black and brown members. The fabric of America is coming apart. Early Monday morning I went to help clean up some streets in my neighborhood of West Philadelphia, where many windows had been broken and a couple businesses sacked. Many people expressed anger at the torching of businesses that serve a majority-black community and are often locally-owned, but there was also recognition of the wretched behavior of police around the country. One local restaurant owner told the Philadelphia Inquirer that "People are tired of the way things are, of black folks getting killed … That's what happens when people get frustrated. They start doing crazy things." Indeed, many held the police partly responsible for the situation, because they did no small part to inflame the violence on Sunday and failed to control the actual crime. The Inquirer reports: "Police initially fired tear gas as the Foot Locker was looted. But by early evening they were shooting tear gas canisters down 52nd Street at people simply standing on the street." Two local doctors treated residents, including young children, for exposure to tear gas — incidentally, a chemical weapon banned in wartime by the Geneva Conventions. One family had to evacuate their home when a tear gas canister landed on their porch. But that is relatively mild compared to the conduct of other law enforcement departments last weekend. In Brooklyn, NYPD officers deliberately rammed their SUV into a group of unarmed protesters. Boston cops did the same thing. In Minneapolis, city police and national guard fired paint pellets at people standing on their porches. In Salt Lake, riot cops shoved an elderly man with a cane to the ground. In Louisville, city and state police fatally shot the owner of a popular local barbecue restaurant. Journalists seem to be a particular target for many cops. Among many, many others, Andrea Sahouri of the Des Moines Register reported that Des Moines police pepper-sprayed and arrested her after she identified herself as a media member. Molly Hennessy-Fisk of the Los Angeles Times said that Minnesota State Patrol fired tear gas at a group of reporters "at point-blank range" after they identified themselves as journalists. Michael Anthony Adams of Vice News reported that Minneapolis police held him down and blasted pepper spray into his face. Police shot photographer Linda Tirado in the head with a "non-lethal" round in Minneapolis, and permanently blinded her left eye.

6-2-20  The troubling trend toward collectivized punishment
The notion that anyone would be punished for someone else's crime is repulsive. But in the turmoil of police violence against peaceful protesters and rioters' destruction of homes and businesses, it's gaining new life. mong the horrors of North Korea's prison camps is the regime's "three generations rule," which dictates that prisoners, their children, and their grandchildren — even if yet unborn — will live out their days within camp confines. Whole families are brutalized for one member's alleged crime. We recoil from this, and rightly so. It is evil. It is also an exceptionally miserable example of collective punishment, a practice not eliminated but certainly dramatically curtailed in the modern West by Christian anthropology and Enlightenment individualism. Our ancestors could make sense of punishing entire families or towns or peoples for one member's wrongdoing, whether real or imagined. Now the notion that I would be punished for someone else's crime is repulsive. But perhaps it is not repulsive enough. In the last week's turmoil of police violence against peaceful protesters and rioters' destruction of homes and businesses, this mode of retribution seems to have gained new life. It is a terrible regression. Our country is no stranger to collective punishment, for all the stubborn individualism of our culture and Constitution. The Boston Tea Party, which has been much invoked of late in sympathy for rioting, was followed by the "Intolerable Acts," laws intended to punish the entire colony of Massachusetts for that initial rebellion. During the Civil War, Union General William Sherman was notorious for ordering his men to "enforce a devastation more or less relentless" in proportion to the harassment Union troops received in each locale. World War II internment of Japanese Americans was a type of collective punishment, as were the U.S. nuclear strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Black Americans especially have known collective punishment all too well, from the state, enslavement, and the lynch mob alike. After abolition, many states passed "black code" laws and adopted policing practices to replicate slavery's control and exploitation of the black population insofar as the new legal environment permitted. Police brutality against nonviolent protesters during the Civil Rights era and up through this very week continues this disgraceful tradition. Collective punishment is far from the only wrong here, but collective punishment it is. Whole crowds are being punished for the violence of a few. And about that few: They're engaging in collective punishment, too, and those defending random destruction are endorsing it. (Some people rioting and looting are merely opportunists or looking to blow off steam; others are there to cause chaos in pursuit of goals unconnected to policing reform. I am speaking of those rioting because they are angry at the police.) It is one thing to burn, say, a Minneapolis police precinct. It was a Minneapolis police officer, after all, who choked the life out of George Floyd. Set aside, for the sake of discussion, your views on the ethics, strategy, and consequences of burning the precinct. Whatever we make of all that, burning it is a punishment targeted to the party directly responsible for Floyd's death.

6-2-20  Coronavirus: Mexico deaths pass 10,000 as restrictions eased
More than 10,000 people have died with coronavirus in Mexico, the country's health minister has announced. The announcement came on the same day that many restrictions brought in to curb the spread of the virus were lifted. The number of confirmed cases was more than 93,000 as of Monday, according to official figures. That figure means Mexico is the fourth worst affected country in Latin America after Brazil, Peru and Chile. (Webmaster's comment: United states has 10 times the number of deaths and 20 times the number of cases!) The number of cases continues to rise steeply. On Monday, the country recorded 2,771 new cases and 237 deaths with coronavirus. The worst affected states are Mexico City, the state surrounding it and Baja California in the north. The states of Puebla in central Mexico and Sinaloa in the north have also experienced a steep increase in cases. The number of tests carried out in Mexico is low and experts warn the number of people infected could be much higher than that reported by the government. The first confirmed case of coronavirus was registered in Mexico at the end of February but social distancing measures were not introduced until mid-March. Schools were officially closed from 20 March, although some states had already suspended classes some days earlier. While most of the economy was stopped from 23 March, some industries were declared key to the functioning of the nation and were exempt from the restrictions, triggering protests by workers who said they did not feel safe. From 18 May, areas where there have been few infections started easing restrictions. On 1 June, the construction sector and automobile manufacturers resumed operations and parks in Mexico City re-opened to a third of their capacity. Critics of the government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador say he was slow to impose restriction and has been too quick to lift them.

6-1-20  Covid-19 news: Health experts say UK contact tracing not robust enough
The latest coronavirus news updated every day including coronavirus cases, the latest news, features and interviews from New Scientist and essential information about the covid-19 pandemic. The NHS Test and Trace programme is not robust enough to support the UK government’s easing of coronavirus restrictions and prevent a resurgence of virus cases, according to an article published yesterday by the Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH), a body that represents public health directors, specialists who oversee public health activities in UK local authorities. The ADPH says restrictions should not be eased because the daily death toll is not consistently falling, particularly in care homes. They also say that easing restrictions too quickly will make it hard to calculate the R number for the disease, a measure of how fast coronavirus infections are spreading. The easing of restrictions in England from today includes people being allowed to meet outdoors in groups of up to six, while maintaining a two metre distance between people from different households, as well as the reopening of car showrooms and outdoor markets. Pupils in reception, Year 1 and Year 6 in England were allowed to return to school today, but 46 per cent of parents and carers may have kept their children at home, a survey of primary school leaders by the National Foundation for Educational Research suggests.The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases around the world has passed 6.2 million, and more than 373,000 people are confirmed to have died from the disease. The UK government has not released data about how many people are tested for coronavirus since 22 May. The official numbers, which say there were 115,275 tests performed on 30 May with a capacity for 205,634 tests, also “double count” by including nasal swabs and saliva tests on the same person. Only 197 cases of influenza virus were confirmed in Australia this May, compared to 30,567 in the same month last year, according to Australia’s Department of Health. This huge decrease in flu cases may be due to social distancing measures introduced to limit the spread of coronavirus. Australia’s flu season usually peaks during its winter months, from June to August. There is only one person with active covid-19 in New Zealand, according to the latest figures from New Zealand’s health ministry.

6-1-20  George Floyd death: 'This is why we are protesting'
The death of George Floyd in police custody has sparked six days of protests in the US, many of which have turned violent and led to further accusations of excessive use of force by officers. "I'm tired of being afraid," one protester said. These are some of the other reasons demonstrators across the country said they'd taken to the streets to protest.

6-1-20  George Floyd protesters tear-gassed so Trump can walk to church
Law enforcement dispersed a peaceful protest with tear gas and rubber bullets at a park next to the White House, as the president vowed to deploy troops, if necessary, to "dominate the streets". Moments later Donald Trump walked out of the executive mansion to a nearby historic church, where he held up a Bible.

6-1-20  George Floyd death: Violence in Washington DC as protests continue
Protests have taken a violent turn in Washington DC as demonstrators continue to march against the death of African-American George Floyd. Riot police clashed with crowds gathered near the White House, firing tear gas and other projectiles. Vehicles were set on fire by some demonstrators on Sunday night, the sixth night of protests that have spread across several cities in the US.

6-1-20 George Floyd: How are African-Americans treated under the law?
Violence has erupted in cities across the US over the death of African-American George Floyd, after he was physically restrained by police in Minneapolis. We've looked at some of the data around crime and justice in the US, and what it shows about the experience of African-Americans when it comes to law and order.

  1. African-Americans are more likely to get fatally shot: The figures that are available for incidents in which the police shoot and kill people show that for African-Americans, there's a much higher chance of being fatally shot relative to their overall numbers in the US population.
  2. African-Americans are arrested at a higher rate for drug abuse: African-Americans are arrested for drug abuse at a much higher rate than white Americans, although surveys show drug use at similar levels.
  3. More African-Americans are imprisoned: African-Americans are imprisoned at five times the rate of white Americans and at almost twice the rate of Hispanic-Americans, according to the latest data.

12 6-1-20 When rioting feels like the only option
There have been a million peaceful protests — and still African Americans keep getting killed. Watching violence erupt across America in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis has been terrible. But the unrest should come as no surprise. The haunting video of Floyd crying out for his mother as he died beneath the knee of a white police officer shows just the latest in a very long list of senseless, oppressive acts of aggression against African Americans. Floyd's death may have been the breaking point, but it was not the beginning. Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, Stephon Clark, Laquan McDonald, and Breonna Taylor were all killed at the hands of police. Ahmaud Arbery was killed by white vigilantes — one of which was a former law enforcement official — while he was out for a jog. Sandra Bland died in jail after a traffic stop for failing to signal a lane change. These deaths were splashed across the news and played on repeat in social media feeds and met, largely, with inaction or injustice. For every violent, racist confrontation between a white law enforcement official and an African-American caught on video, there are no doubt dozens that go undocumented. How many times can the black community be expected to watch their loved ones be targeted by a system rife with systemic racism? How long can they be expected to endure stop-and-frisk, racial profiling, and a million other non-lethal indignities before the dam ultimately breaks? There have been a million peaceful protests — and still the deaths continue. There has been much discussion about the "discussion" we need to have about race — and still the deaths continue. There have been any number of efforts to reform police departments, yet bad cops still get their jobs back all too often, or move on to the next town when they have run out of chances. What's more, those reforms haven't rooted out a culture of policing that allows so many officers to look the other way while their "bad apple" colleagues mete out brutality. Meanwhile, President Trump moved into office and ended federal efforts to fix policing practices. And so the deaths continue. I cannot and will not endorse rioting or mob violence, and it's worth noting that the vast majority of protesters taking the streets are doing so peacefully. But the injustices being rebuked are so large that it is not enough to say "don't riot" or to promise justice if only those living with injustice in their daily lives go through the proper channels. It is downright obscene to put the burden of right behavior on black Americans while accepting or encouraging a status quo of police violence and lawlessness. There have been cries for black Americans to redirect their frustrations into voting, even as the Supreme Court and so many state legislatures have worked to make voting that much more difficult. The court in 2013 struck down portions of the Voting Rights Act that kept states with a history of discrimination from changing voting rules without federal approval. That decision has had expected results. Florida legislators created a virtual poll tax to prevent convicted felons — disproportionately black — from regaining their voting rights. (A federal judge just ruled that scheme unconstitutional, but the state is appealing.) Texas closed voting sites heavily used by black and Latino residents. And these are just a few examples of the efforts to curtail minority votes. America has told black citizens there is a right way and a wrong way to fight back against the terrible wrongs they have endured, and then watched in silence as judges and elected officials assured the "right" way was neutered or largely rendered ineffective. How can anyone be surprised that frustrations are boiling over?

6-1-20 George Floyd death: Violence erupts on sixth day of protests
Violence has erupted in cities across the US on the sixth night of protests sparked by the death in police custody of African-American George Floyd. Curfews have been imposed in nearly 40 cities, but people have largely ignored them, leading to tense stand-offs. Riot police clashed with protesters in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, firing tear gas and pepper bullets to try to disperse the crowds. Police vehicles were set on fire and shops were looted in several cities. The National Guard - the US reserve military force for domestic emergencies - said on Sunday that 5,000 of its personnel had been activated in 15 states and Washington, DC, where crowds once again gathered near the White House, this time lighting fires and throwing stones at riot officers. "State and local law enforcement agencies remain responsible for security," the National Guard added. Police in Washington DC have fired tear gas at demonstrators who set fire to properties near the White House. They include a historic church, St John's Episcopal Church, known as the church of the presidents, near the White House. It has emerged that in Friday night's unrest, President Donald Trump was briefly taken by the secret service into an underground bunker at the White House, for his safety. The US is witnessing the most widespread racial turbulence and civil unrest since the violent backlash to the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968, says the BBC's Nick Bryant. More than 75 cities have seen protests, with streets only days ago deserted because of coronavirus, thronged with demonstrators marching shoulder to shoulder. The Floyd case has reignited anger over police killings of black Americans. For many, the outrage also reflects years of frustration over socio-economic inequality and segregation, not least in Minneapolis itself, where George Floyd died. There were many instances of police vehicles being vandalised and set alight on Sunday. Riot officers continued to respond with tear gas and flash grenades.

6-1-20  George Floyd death: Washington DC hit by violent protests
Washington DC has seen some of the worst violence overnight, as protests continued in the US capital and cities around the country over the death of an unarmed black man at the hands of police in the state on Minnesota. George Floyd, 46, died in police custody shortly after a white officer was seen kneeling on his neck to pin him down.

6-1-20 George Floyd death: Michael Jordan 'truly pained and plain angry'
Basketball legend Michael Jordan says he is "deeply saddened, truly pained and plain angry" after the death in police custody of African-American George Floyd in Minneapolis. Jordan is one of a number of sports stars adding their voice to worldwide protests against racism. "I see and feel everyone's pain, outrage and frustration," he added. "I stand with those calling out the ingrained racism and violence toward people of colour in our country." Jordan added: "We have had enough." Protests have been held after Floyd, an unarmed black man, died on 25 May after being restrained by white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on his neck for almost nine minutes to pin him down. Chauvin has since been charged with his murder and sacked. Vanessa Bryant, widow of basketball legend Kobe, shared an image of her late husband wearing an "I Can't Breathe" T-shirt. "My husband wore this shirt years ago and yet here we are again," she wrote. "Life is so fragile. Life is so unpredictable. Life is too short." Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford said he had been "trying to process what is going on in the world". He added: "At a time I've been asking people to come together, work together and be united, we appear to be more divided than ever. "People are hurting and people need answers. Black lives matter. Black culture matters. Black communities matter. We matter." British 200m world champion sprinter Dina Asher-Smith had tweeted on Thursday: "Racism, police brutality... all of this is something we all have to be vocal about. Irrespective of our race or nationality. "RIP George Floyd. Heartbreaking and sickening to have to be saying RIP to another black person in these circumstances." On Sunday, England footballer Jadon Sancho unveiled a "Justice for George Floyd" T-shirt after scoring for Borussia Dortmund against Paderborn and Marcus Thuram took a knee after scoring for Borussia Monchengladbach. Liverpool striker Rhian Brewster and tennis stars Serena Williams, Coco Gauff and Naomi Osaka also spoke out about Floyd's death.

6-1-20 There will be no justice until the riots stop
In America's polarized politics, pointing to the errors made on both sides of the conflicts that divide us gets a bad rap. This is understandable; oftentimes one side is clearly more at fault than the other. But when it comes to the wrenching events of this past weekend, this is not the case. It didn't start out that way. When Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was caught on video kneeling on the neck of George Floyd for several minutes as he gasped for air and pleaded for mercy, apportioning blame seemed easy. Nearly every person in our public life, from left to right, expressed outrage at the apparent injustice — including prosecutors in Minneapolis, who charged Chauvin with third-degree murder. Protests against Floyd's wrongful death and the long, bloody history of police brutality against African Americans were called for and would have been cheered on by just about everyone. Then came the accelerants that turned a focused flame of justified outrage into the raging inferno that's currently consuming cities across the country: an angry, militant faction of the far left along with freelance troublemakers out to break things for the sheer thrill of it; a population tired of feeling cooped up after more than two months of quarantine swelling the numbers on the streets; people put out of work by public-health measures hoping to grab a handful of goods in the looting; three-and-a-half years of race-baiting and partisan provocation by the president; and Democratic politicians hesitant to speak out against the destruction when it began to unfold in Minnesota and spread to other states late last week. The result is a disaster that will only become worse if the mayhem doesn't come swiftly to a halt. That's because what began as a broad-based protest calling for justice has now become a dispute over two competing notions of justice, each of which is essential to the functioning of a free society. There are two equally valid fundamental principles that undergird government, each of which is a response to one kind of fear. Let's call them a Hobbesian principle and a Lockean principle, after the two philosophers (Thomas Hobbes and John Locke) who first elaborated them. Hobbes claimed that politics is founded to protect each individual from having to live in a constant state of fear of dying a violent death at the hands of another individual (or group of individuals). In order to eliminate this fear of violent death, the individuals band together to empower an absolute ruler to keep the peace. But this solution to the problem of anarchic violence creates a new problem and fear — the problem and fear of tyranny. That's what Locke addressed in his writings, which provided arguments for the creation of a government of limited powers that would protect a list of individual rights — not just Hobbes' right to life, but also rights to liberty, property, and (in the Jeffersonian version of Lockean liberalism) the pursuit of happiness and the other rights elaborated in the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Fear of private individuals and groups, and fear of tyrannical government — those are the two principles any free society must balance. Move too far in the direction of chaos and violence on the part of individuals and groups, and there will arise a justified call for law and order to keep the peace. Move too far in the direction of law and order to keep the peace and there will arise a justified call to restrain government power in order to protect individual rights. Each society will draw these lines in somewhat different places and the lines will shift over time. But a special problem arises when the lines are drawn in different places within the same society due to systemic discrimination on the basis of race, class, and other distinctions.

6-1-20 Coronavirus: Lockdown eased in Moscow after nine weeks
Authorities in Moscow have eased lockdown restrictions, even as case numbers continue to rise. Parks and shopping centres in the Russian capital reopened and people were allowed out for walks and limited exercise for the first time in nine weeks. President Vladimir Putin announced last week the country had passed the peak of its outbreak. But infections are still rising, and some question lifting restrictions. Russia reported another 9,035 confirmed cases and 162 deaths on Monday. In total the country has recorded 414,878 infections - the third highest number in the world after the US and Brazil - and a death toll of 4,855. (Webmaster's comment: United States death toll is 106,220!) Officials say the low numbers of dead is due to high testing numbers. Critics however fear the true number is far higher. A number of other European nations are also easing restrictions on Monday. Moscow has been the epicentre of Russia's outbreak. In May Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said he feared the capital's case number could be three times higher than reported. Now, Mr Sobyanin has ordered a swathe of businesses to reopen in the city from Monday - including car dealerships, book shops, launderettes and shopping malls. Parks too are allowing visitors, with new exercise rules announced. Mr Sobyanin said people would be allowed out for walks three times a week between 09:00 and 21:00 local time, using a rota system determined by their home address. The city's residents can also go outside for exercise, but only between 05:00 and 09:00, and only if they wear a face mask. However, authorities said a ban on public gatherings would remain in place until at least 14 June. Some have mocked the tight rules on exercise. Comedian Maxim Galkin published a video on Instagram in which he impersonates the mayor and President Putin discussing a "breathing schedule" for Muscovites, which has been viewed more than six million times.

6-1-20 U.S. Support for Same-Sex Marriage Matches Record High
Two in three Americans (67%) say marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized by the law as valid, matching the previous high Gallup measured in 2018. The latest figure comes just before the five-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that all states must recognize same-sex marriages. Since Gallup's initial measure on support for gay marriage in 1996, when 27% backed it, the percentage of U.S. adults saying it should be legally recognized has climbed by 40 percentage points. Gallup first recorded majority-level support in May 2011, and support has exceeded 60% each year since 2016. In its Obergefell v. Hodges decision on June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that all U.S. states must grant same-sex marriages and recognize those marriages granted in other states. U.S. Democrats (83%) have consistently been one of the most likely groups to favor same-sex marriage, and their support has grown the most (by 50 points) among political party groups since 1996. Support has also grown considerably among independents -- now at 71%, up 39 points since Gallup's initial measure. Republicans have consistently been the least likely to favor same-sex marriage, though they have warmed to the idea over the course of Gallup's trend, growing in support by 33 points. Since 2017, however, their views have remained stable, ranging from 44% to 49%.

  • 67% say marriages between same-sex couples should be legally valid
  • Current figure matches all-time high recorded in 2018

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