Things to Note, May 15th

Lebanon central bank official detained over currency probe

In recent days, authorities have cracked down on currency exchange bureaus as the Lebanese pound, pegged to the dollar for more than 20 years, lost 60% of its value in weeks. A number of money dealers and the head of their union were arrested, and officials closed down some bureaus for operating without licenses. They accused others of violating orders from the central bank to trade at a new controlled rate.

The measures to contain the currency’s free fall, including a cap on external transfers and adjusted exchange rates for dollar withdrawals from banks and money transfer bureaus, have created chaos on the black market and sowed panic among the public.

The central bank said it will provide dollars to importers at the rate of 3,200 pounds to the dollar — more than double the official pegged rate — to control the price of food. The black-market rate has reached over 4,200 pounds to the pound in recent days.

The interrogation of Hamdan comes amid an unprecedented public spat between the head of the government and the governor of the central bank. Prime Minister Hassan Diab has held the governor, Riad Salameh, responsible for the pound’s downward spiral. Salameh says he has been taking all necessary measures to contain the crisis and blames politicians for misspending bank finances to pay down massive state debt.

Slovenia claims it is first European country to have beaten coronavirus

Slovenia says EU residents are free to cross into Slovenia from Austria, Italy and Hungary at predetermined checkpoints, while most non-EU nationals will have to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine in what is a major step for the small Alpine country as it accelerates the easing of restrictions.

Financial aid to citizens and businesses impacted by the coronavirus is set to expire at the end of the month, Reuters reports.

The first coronavirus case in Slovenia was recorded on March 4, a resident returning from neighboring Italy. The nationwide epidemic was proclaimed on March 12.

By May 13, there were 1,467 confirmed cases and 103 deaths in Slovenia.

72 years after ‘al-Nakba’ in Palestine

May 15 marks the 72nd anniversary of what is billed in the U.S. and Israeli mainstream media as Israel’s “independence,” and what the Palestinian and Arab peoples as a whole know as al-Nakba—the Catastrophe. To make way for the creation of the Israeli settler state, more than 80 percent of the Palestinian population was driven out of their homeland by means of terror.

Washington played an irreplaceable role in the formation of Israel. The U.S. government continues to provide billions of dollars annually and vast supplies of modern weaponry to perpetuate Israel’s continued role as a key instrument in U.S. domination of the strategic Middle East region.

Second Dutch flight transports additional medical aid to Montenegro in response to COVID-19

Today (15 May 2020), the Netherlands delivered another set of protective equipment and medical supplies from Beijing (China) to Podgorica (Montenegro), in support to Allied efforts against the COVID-19 global pandemic, following Montenegro’s request for assistance, through NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre, NATO’s principal disaster response mechanism.

The delivery was made with a cargo plane. It consisted of 55 m3 of personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, goggles, protective clothes, test kits and ventilators). It also included 5m3 of personal protective equipment for Bosnia and Herzegovina and 1m3 for Albania. The Netherlands had already transported 7,000 kilo / 70m³ of personal protective equipment and medical supplies from Beijing to Podgorica in the second half of April, including masks, gloves, test kits, protective clothes, goggles, thermometers, and face shields. That delivery was also carried out following Montenegro’s request for assistance through NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre.

Child dies in France from Kawasaki-like disease linked to Covid-19

In the last three weeks, several countries have reported cases of children affected by an inflammatory disease with symptoms similar to those of a rare condition, Kawasaki’s disease. Scientists believe it is linked to COVID-19.

A London children’s hospital said on Wednesday that a 14-year-old boy with no underlying health conditions had died from the disease and had tested positive for the new coronavirus.

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday that three children in the state had died and more than 100 cases were being investigated.

There have been 125 reported cases in France between March 1 and May 12, according to the country’s public health agency. The patients’ ages ranged from one to 14.

Symptoms include a high fever, rashes, abdominal pain, conjunctivitis and a red or swollen tongue.

Inflammation of blood vessels and cardiac damage are “much more pronounced” in cases suspected of being linked to COVID-19 compared with classic Kawasaki disease, France’s public health agency said Thursday.

NYC expands COVID-19 testing capacity as reopening date still unknown

Any person with COVID-19 symptoms in New York City (NYC) is now eligible for a test, as the city is trying to reach its daily goal of testing 20,000 people, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.

In addition, contacts of COVID-19 patients and workers in such gathering places as homeless shelters and detention centers can receive the test, the mayor said at his daily briefing.

“Lack of widespread testing was our Achilles’ heel from day one,” de Blasio said, adding that “We’re still playing catch-up, and unfortunately that’s because the help we needed from the federal government never was there in the beginning, still isn’t here, but we do not let that stop us.”

More medical workers and personal protective equipment can be spared from hospitals to testing sites, said the mayor, expressing his confidence in achieving the daily goal of testing 20,000 people by May 25, when 12 additional testing sites will be added across all five boroughs.

From a Formal to an Informal US-empire in Afghanistan

AFGHANISTAN’s seven-day “reduction in violence” plan negotiated by the US and the Taliban commenced on February 21. Subsequently, the two erstwhile warring parties signed a deal on February 28, to bring peace to Afghanistan. America promised phased withdrawal of its military forces from Afghanistan. It is hoped that this will mark the beginning of end of the American involvement in nearly two-decade-old Afghan war which began after the September 11 attacks.

The ambiguous US-Taliban agreement signed in Doha, Qatar, was negotiated for more than a year. It excluded the American-backed Afghanistan government and was a direct deal between the US empire and a non-government organization, ‘the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ or the Taliban.

This so-called peace deal is rather ambitious. It aims to achieve reduction in current level of US troops from 12-13,000 to 8,600 and is “conditions-based.” Secondly, the deal expects the Taliban to abandon the insurgency movement and snap its network with terrorist groups like Al Qaeda.

New Report Finds Better Management of Public Finance at All Levels Will Boost Public Services for Ukrainians

While Ukraine’s National PEFA Assessments were conducted in 2006, 2011, 2015, and 2019, with the latter presented last month, no such assessments were carried out at the local level in previous years. For the first time in Ukraine, PEFA Assessments were conducted at all levels of the administrative structure of the country (national and subnational levels), with the aim of measuring how well local governments manage public money, as they spend 45 percent of Ukraine’s consolidated budget. Findings from PEFA assessments will assist both national and local governments in enhancing public service delivery and meeting the evolving needs of citizens.

Published by jim

Curator of things...

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