With COVID-19 continuing to sweep the world, many people have assumed the virus came from China.
But a new study in the UK implies otherwise.
The COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium (COG-UK), an organization offering coronavirus genome sequencing for NHS and the UK government, published their analysis of the virus’ spread in the UK on virological.com, claiming that only 0.08 percent of infections came from China.
On the contrary, Spain, France and Italy were the main sources.
The study has not been peer-reviewed and should not be treated as conclusive.
It also said the virus didn’t come to the UK through a single path. Instead it invaded the country from at least 1,356 paths from late February to late March.
The study analyzed more than 20,000 virus genome samples from the confirmed COVID-19 patients in the UK.
Three young female opposition activists in Zimbabwe, who charge they were tortured and sexually assaulted by state agents, were sent back to prison when a court denied them bail on new charges that they lied about their ordeal.
The three women were returned to Chikurubi maximum security prison, notorious for housing hardcore criminals in poor conditions, after Magistrate Bianca Makwande rejected their bail application Monday.
The magistrate agreed with the prosecution that the women could commit more crimes or flee the country before their case is concluded if they are released on bail. The ruling will be appealed, according to their lawyer, Alex Muchadehama who is with the organization Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.
The three women, all members of the opposition party the Movement for Democratic Change, face up to 20 years in prison or a fine. Their case has been highlighted by human rights groups in Zimbabwe and internationally. A group of United Nations experts last week criticized President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government for a “reported pattern of disappearances and torture” by government agents in the southern African nation.
The women already faced charges of contravening Zimbabwe’s coronavirus lockdown because they organized an anti-government rally. Last week new charges accused them of making false statements to police “alleging that they had been unlawfully detained or kidnapped by some unknown people who claimed to be police officers.” The women are also accused of intending to incite violence with their statements.
The women allege that after they were arrested in May for organizing the rally, police allowed them to be taken away from the police station by unidentified men who beat them and raped them. The women were missing for nearly 48 hours before being dropped by a roadside near Bindura, about 90 kilometers (56 miles) northeast of Harare.
While they were treated in a hospital for their injuries, the three were charged with contravening lockdown regulations by participating in the protest.
On Monday, their lawyer accused prison authorities of starving them while they were locked up by refusing relatives or friends to bring them food to a jail known for food shortages.
Political tensions are high in Zimbabwe, where inflation above 700% is stoking anti-government sentiment. A Cabinet minister has accused unnamed foreign embassies, Christian preachers and political rivals of supporting “regime change.”
President Mnangagwa and the minister in charge of police Kazembe Kazembe last week claimed that the three women had fabricated the story of their abductions as part of a wider plot to destabilize the government.
Kazembe, flanked by military and police commanders, dismissed “rumors” of an impending coup, saying the government “is stable and peaceful internally.”
Amnesty International condemned the denial of bail for the women.
“The continued arbitrary detention of Joana Mamombe, Cecilia Chinembiri and Netsai Marova amounts to persecution through prosecution and is designed to send a chilling message to anyone daring to challenge the Zimbabwean authorities,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa. “These women are victims of an escalating crackdown on the right to freedom of expression and criminalization of dissent. Instead of persecuting them, the Zimbabwean authorities should focus their efforts on holding those suspected to be responsible for their horrifying abduction, torture and sexual assault to account.”
A Black Lives Matter protester photographed carrying a white man – assumed to be a far-right counterprotester – to safety when demonstrations descended into violence in London Saturday said he chose to step up, rather than let the man be pummeled by the crowd, “to stop someone from being killed.”
Patrick Hutchinson, who is black, and four other Black Lives Matter protesters said they witnessed an altercation break out at the top of the stairs by the Southbank Centre, near the Waterloo Station.
The five men then surrounded the white man who had fallen to the ground, forming a barrier in the crowd to prevent him from being trampled. Hutchinson said he then “scooped him up into a fireman’s carry and marched him out with the guys around me, protecting me and shielding me and protecting this guy from getting any further punishment.”
“I wasn’t thinking, I was just thinking of a human being on the floor. It wasn’t going to end well had we not intervened,” Hutchinson told the BBC. “I had no other thoughts in my mind apart from getting to safety. We did what we had to do. We stopped somebody from being killed.”
Hutchinson, a personal trainer from Wimbledon, said he chose to step up rather than resemble the three police officers in Minneapolis who failed to intervene while a fourth white officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes before he died in police custody on May 25.
“It’s not black versus white, it’s everyone versus the racists,” Hutchinson said in a separate interview with Channel 4. “It was scary. But you don’t think about it at the time, you do what you’ve got to do.”
“If the other three police officers that were standing around when George Floyd was murdered had thought about intervening, and stopping their colleague from doing what he was doing, like we did, George Floyd would be alive today,” he said.
“I just want equality, equality for all of us. At the moment, the scales are unfairly balanced and I just want things to be fair for my children and my grandchildren.”
After protests descended into violence Saturday, Claudia Webbe, the Labour MP for Leicester East, applauded Hutchinson as a “national hero,” writing “this is what humanity looks like.”
David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, also tweeted out Hutchinson’s photo and wrote: “It’s easy to focus on the worst instincts of human behaviour. But it is vital we also celebrate the best.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the “racist thuggery” seen in London on Saturday when hundreds of mostly white men participated in a counterprotest in Parliament Square organized by right-wing groups, including Britain First.
The group claimed they were there to protect historic statues, including that of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, which was vandalized a week before by someone who described him as “a racist.”
But the counterprotesters clashed with both Black Lives Matter demonstrators and police in riot gear, pelting officers with bottles and cans and throwing a smoke canister, The Guardian reported.
Police said 113 people were arrested, including a 28-year-old man taken into custody after allegedly being photographed urinating on a memorial dedicated to Keith Palmer – a police officer killed by a terrorist trying to enter the Palace of Westminster in 2017.
On Sunday, the Stars were led by lead-off hitter Gavyn Dansby, who had three hits and two RBI, including solo home run in the seventh inning. Post 320 had 11 hits, with eight other players with one hit each. Logan Ammerman added two RBI, while Tate Walker, Logan Miller.
J.T. Kostenbauer got the win with five innings on the mound, giving up six hits and five runs (two earned), walking three and striking out three. Carson George added two scoreless innings.
Post 320, 3-6, will return to action today in Pierre with a doubleheader against Post 8, while competing in the Omaha Tournament this weekend.
The Sturgis Post 33 Titans outscored Rapid City Post 320 Shooters 26-17 in a wild championship game Sunday in the Jim Scull Tournament at Pete Lien Memorial Field.
The title game saw the two teams combine for 43 runs and 29 hits, along with 14 bases on balls and eight errors.
The Shooters scored six times in the bottom of the first inning and led 7-6 after two innings before the Titans scored 10 times in the third and five runs each in the fourth and fifth innings.
Post 320 kept up the pressure with five runs in the third and fifth innings.
Sturgis first baseman John Fischer had a huge day, going 5-for-5 from the plate, scoring four times, and knocking in five runs. He blasted a solo home run in the second inning.
Ridge Inhofer had three hits and four RBI, including a three-run inside-the-park home run in the third inning for Sturgis, while Dylan Gillespie added two hits and five RBI. RJ Andrezejewski had three hits and one RBI and David Anderson also contributed two hits and three runs batted in.
Sturgis, which was 5-0 in the tournament, finished with 17 hits and 19 RBI against three Shooters pitchers.
The Shooters, meanwhile, put up 12 hits against five Sturgis pitchers, led by Isaac Dike with two hits and four RBI and Jace Wetzler with two hits and three runners batted in.
Bryan Roselles and Brady Fallon both had two hits and one RBI for the Post 320 Shooters, who were 2-2 in the tournament.
Sturgis, 12-2, faces Sioux Falls West Tuesday for two games in Winner before hosting the Sturgis Rally Thursday through Sunday at Titan Stadium.
The special UN Investigative Team probing ISIL atrocities in Iraq is making “real progress,” its chief said on Monday, as it begins to pinpoint the perpetrators of some of the worst crimes committed by the terrorist group during its years-long occupation of large swathes of the country.
Karim Asad Ahmad Khan told the Security Council that the Team has already identified 344 alleged Da’esh perpetrators, the Arabic name for the extremist group, involved in the 2014 massacre of Yazidis in the Sinjar district of northern Iraq.
The team has also identified at least seven categories of crimes for which Da’esh suspects could potentially be prosecuted in connection with the mass killing of unarmed cadets and military personnel at the Tikrit Air Academy six years ago.
Meanwhile, in Mosul, two mass grave excavations that got underway in March, in cooperation with Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional Government authorities, are set to form a key pillar for investigations in the months to come, he added.
“In the 20 months since our arrival in Iraq, real progress has been made”, said Mr. Khan as he presented the Council with the fourth report from the team which serves officially to “Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (UNITAD)”.
Breakthroughs in identifying and using new sources of evidence have opened the way to fulfilling international pledges of justice for the victims and survivors of the terrorist group, he said, which imposed a self-styled Islamist Caliphate on both Iraq and parts of Syria, before being militarily defeated.
If fully harnessed, these new sources will have the potential to mark a paradigm shift in the prosecution of ISIL members for the crimes they committed in Iraq, he stated.
“But we must not allow our focus to shift”, he added. “It is essential that we continue to demonstrate the same urgency of action that is being demanded by survivors in Mosul, Baghdad, Sinjar, the Nineveh Plains and elsewhere in Iraq.”
The Council, through resolution 2379 (2017), established UNITAD to support domestic efforts to hold Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) accountable by collecting, preserving, and storing evidence in Iraq of acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
The pandemic is expected to have a much broader impact on the German economy than the global financial crisis. The global financial crisis mainly affected the manufacturing sector via collapsing import demand from trade partners. In contrast, the confinement measures taken to fight the pandemic have forced temporary business closures in many sectors. Therefore, several changes to Kurzarbeit’s features have been implemented or announced, with a view to making the scheme temporarily more attractive to employers and employees alike.
For workers, Kurzarbeit will now provide greater income protection if there is a prolonged reduction in work hours. The replacement rate, starting at 60 percent for the first three months, will increase to 70 percent during the 4th to 6th months, and further to 80 percent from the 7th month. The maximum duration of the program has been extended to 21 months. Moreover, the coverage will be expanded to temporary workers (about two percent of total employment).
For employers, the most important change is that their social security contributions have been waived. The requirement to exhaust working-time account balances before claiming Kurzarbeit has also been suspended.
Finally, firms no longer need to reduce working hours for at least 30 percent of their workers in order to be eligible for Kurzarbeit; the threshold has been lowered to 10 percent. Together, these changes make the scheme much more attractive to employers.
Kurzarbeit already seems to be playing an important role in preserving jobs during the current pandemic. From the beginning of March to the end of April, the number of workers who applied for Kurzarbeit exceeded 10 million, or about 20 percent of the labor force—a much greater number than peak applications during the global financial crisis—while unemployment has increased by less than 0.4 million.
Overall, the German government is doing precisely what should be done during deep recessions: making Kurzarbeit more flexible, more attractive to employers, and more generous to employees, while expanding coverage across sectors and across different types of jobs. This will come at an increased fiscal cost, but one that is well worth paying.
However, the profound impact of this crisis on the labor market cannot be overcome by Kurzarbeit alone. The pandemic is affecting far more sectors than the global financial crisis which, for Germany, was mainly a manufacturing story. In particular, marginal employees—who disproportionately work in the services sectors—do not make social security contributions and are therefore not covered by Kurzarbeit.
They are among those likely to suffer the most from the sharp recession. To avoid potentially large social costs, the government should consider alternative ways to provide income support for this vulnerable segment of the population.
The OECD will host the Secretariat of the new Global Partnership on AI (GPAI), a coalition launched today that aims at ensuring that Artificial Intelligence is used responsibly, respecting human rights and democratic values. Arrangements for the OECD’s role as host will be finalized in the coming days.
The GPAI will bring together experts from industry, government, civil society, and academia to conduct research and pilot projects on AI. Its objective, as set out by founding members Australia, Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Slovenia, the United Kingdom and the United States, is to bridge the gap between theory and practice on AI policy. An example would be looking at how AI could help societies respond to and recover from the Covid-19 crisis. (Read the Joint statement)
Basing its Secretariat at the OECD will allow the GPAI to create a strong link between international policy development and technical discourse on AI, taking advantage of the OECD’s expertise on AI policy and its leadership in setting out the first international standard for trustworthy AI – the OECD Principles on Artificial Intelligence. The OECD Principles formed the basis of the G20 Principles on AI endorsed at the Osaka Summit in June 2019.
“AI is a truly transformational technology that could play a catalyzing role in our response to Covid-19 and other global challenges provided it is developed and used with trust, transparency and accountability,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “The launch of GPAI, an initiative grounded in the OECD AI Principles, marks an important step toward this goal. The OECD is looking forward to building powerful synergies between cutting-edge scientific work envisioned by GPAI and the OECD’s AI policy leadership.”
Born out of the Canadian and French G7 Presidencies in 2018 and 2019, GPAI was officially proposed by France and Canada at the Biarritz Summit in August 2019. G7 Leaders then officially welcomed the OECD’s willingness to support their work to advance AI, in line with its Recommendation on AI. The GPAI will initially be comprised of four working groups focused on responsible AI, data governance, the future of work, and innovation and commercialization.
Under the hosting arrangement being finalized, GPAI’s governance bodies, consisting of a Council and a Steering Committee, would be supported by a Secretariat housed at the OECD. The OECD would also be a Permanent Observer to GPAI’s governing bodies, and its experts participate in the working groups and plenary meetings. Inaugural meetings of these groups are expected in late 2020. The GPAI Secretariat would also liaise with Centers of Expertise in Montréal and Paris.
The complementarity of GPAI activities to OECD work should strengthen the evidence base on which the OECD’s policy analysis is developed, and the OECD’s substantive policy work will equally inform discussions in the GPAI’s bodies and working groups. Hosting the GPAI Secretariat will strengthen the OECD’s potential to disseminate and implement its standards and its policy analysis in areas such as data governance, future of work, and diffusion and productivity.
The OECD’s AI Principles, adopted in May 2019 and now supported by more than 40 countries, comprise five values-based principles for the responsible deployment of AI and five recommendations for international co-operation and policy. They offer a guide for designing and running AI systems in a way that puts people’s best interests first and ensuring that AI system designers and operators are held accountable for their proper functioning.
The OECD also operates an online platform – the OECD AI Policy Observatory, or OECD.AI – where all players in the AI sphere can share insights and collaborate on shaping AI-related policy. The platform contains data and information on AI trends and policies in around 60 countries and material from partners in academia and the private sector. The Observatory brings together work from across the OECD on AI-related measurement and policy issues and will provide a robust basis for analysis and further use by the GPAI.
Today, Vice President Mike Pence led a discussion with the chief executives of approximately 50 States, territories, and the city of Washington, DC, and the White House Coronavirus Task Force to update our Nation’s governors on local, State, and Federal COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, and America’s reopening, with a focus on supporting America’s small businesses and workforce development.
Vice President Pence led a discussion of best practices from our Nation’s governors on reopening their States and communities in a phased-approach including efforts to support small businesses and workforce development, expanding testing, supporting long-term care residents and healthcare workers, and increasing healthcare capacity. As some states last week acknowledged case increases and indicated their containment, Vice President Pence encouraged governors to provide updates on those situations. Secretary of Health and Human Resources Alex Azar provided an update on CDC support in those states. Small Business Administration Administrator Jovita Carranza and Senior Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump provided an update to governors on the Administration’s efforts to support America’s small businesses and workers. Unprecedented Federal support for small businesses across the country saved tens of millions of jobs through the Paycheck Protection Program and other CARES Act support. White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Dr. Debbie Birx provided an overall data and trends update and Rear Admiral John Polowczyk provided an key resources logistics update for governors, followed by a report from U.S. International Development Finance Corporation’s (DCF) CEO Adam Boehler on the DCF’s efforts to bolster investment in the United States. Participants discussed the significant surge in testing capacity across the Nation. Governors discussed best practices to support small businesses and workers – for example Governor Brad Little of Idaho discussed his back-to-work bonuses program for Idahoans returning to work.
Since January 2020, the Trump Administration has led over 309 briefings – including 25 governors’ briefings – with over 129,000 State, local, and Tribal participants.
San Diego’s participation in the nationwide rebellion against racist police terror continued for the third consecutive weekend. The largest action took place in Downtown San Diego, but other actions were held across the county, including a biker rally at the La Mesa Police HQ on Sunday.
It was on Saturday, June 13, where nearly 2,000 people gathered at Waterfront Park for a march and rally entitled: “Defund the police. Fund the people!” This action was primarily organized by the Party for Socialism and Liberation. Many other organizations joined this effort, including United Against Police Terror, Migrante San Diego, San Diego Kia’i, Anakbayan San Diego, the African People’s Socialist Party, and more.
This event followed the egregious decision made by the San Diego City Council to increase the San Diego Police Department’s budget by $27 million, bringing the department’s total funding to $566 million.
Many San Diego residents struggle with food insecurity, homelessness, lack of access to quality health care, and underfunded public education. Despite this, Chris Ward was the only City Council member to vote against the budget increase.
As a result, organizers outlined four demands for this rally and march: the arrest and conviction of all killer cops; the defunding and disarming of all San Diego County police departments; the reversal of Mayor Falcouner’s police budget by all eight City Council members or their immediate resignation; and reparations for Black America.
During the first rally at Waterfront Park, Jose Cortes of the Party for Socialism and Liberation introduced the demands. Then, Jose spoke about how the current rebellion relates to the uprising in El Cajon following Alfred Olango being shot by El Cajon PD.
That was followed by speeches given by members of various community organizations. Gabby, an organizer with Colectivo Zapatista, talked about the history of state violence against Black people and its connection to capitalism. She stated: “We charge genocide! For almost 400 years we have been brutalized for the sake of capital.”
After the speeches, the march began. Protesters filled the streets while chanting together. The march passed the City Hall and County Jail.
Onlookers watched from nearby restaurants and cafés, cheering on protesters as they continued the march. Some demonstrators donned trumpets and drums, adding to the energy and excitement of the event.
Throughout the march, police threatened medics with arrest, but the conflicts were de-escalated by protesters. There were no physical confrontations and no known arrests.
The march circled back, ending with another rally at Waterfront Park. Danny Colmenarez, a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, concluded the rally. During Colmenarez’s speech, he pointed out the international solidarity in the now global anti-racist movement. He said: “The whole world is with us right now. … That’s because we have the power of the people—the only power that matters.”
Thailand on Monday (June 15) lifted a nationwide curfew after more than two months and allowed restaurants to resume selling alcohol as the coronavirus crisis eased, with 21 days since a recorded case of local transmission.
The Southeast Asian nation of about 70 million people was the first country outside China to report a case of coronavirus, on Jan. 13, and has been a relative success story in containing it, with just 3,135 confirmed cases and 58 fatalities. Some 2,987 patients have recovered.
Officials have credited Thais’ early adoption of wearing masks – ubiquitous in public since January – as well as its border closure, shuttering of many business and the curfew for the retreat of the new virus that has infected 7.9 million worldwide and killed more than 430,000.
Other establishments allowed to reopen on Monday were schools with less than 120 students, exhibition halls, music concerts, film productions, playgrounds, amusement parks and sports competitions without spectators.
Pubs, bars, and karaoke outlets will remain closed, but restaurants that reopened two weeks ago with social distancing will now be able to serve alcohol.
Monday was the second time in five days that Thailand reported no new cases.
All new cases in the past three weeks have been found in quarantine among Thais returning from abroad, said Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for the government’s COVID-19 task force.
The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved $1 billion from the International Development Association (IDA)* to build human capital in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This financing includes $800 million for the Emergency Equity and System Strengthening in Education Project (EESSE) and $200 million in additional financing for the Health System Strengthening for Better Maternal and Child Health Results Project (PDSS).
“By supporting free primary education and improving maternal and child health in the country’s poorest provinces, the two projects will help protect the most vulnerable population access basic services,” notes Jean-Christophe Carret, World Bank Country Director for the Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Burundi. “This funding is all the more important because it will help alleviate the economic and social consequences of the coronavirus affecting the poorest.”
The financing will support two projects:
The Emergency Equity and System Strengthening in Education Project (EESSE) will improve access to primary education in 10 provinces and strengthen core education systems. The targeted provinces are Nord-Kivu, Sud-Kivu, Ituri, Lomami, Kasai, Kasai Central, Kasai Oriental, Kwilu, Kongo Central and Kinshasa.
“The EESSE will help the government roll out the reform on free primary education by strengthening governance systems and the quality of instruction,” says Scherezad Joya Monami Latif, World Bank Lead Education Specialist. “It will enable over nine million children to re-enroll and stay in school when schools reopen after the lockdown and will provide access to school for more than a million poor children currently excluded from the education system.”
Additional financing for the Health System Strengthening for Better Maternal and Child Health Results Project (PDSS) will improve the use and quality of maternal and child health care services and provide an immediate, effective response to any eligible crisis or emergency. The project provinces are Mai-Ndombe, Kwilu, Kwango, Sud Ubangi, Mongala, Equateur, Tshuapa, Haut Katanga, Lualaba, Haut Lomami, Maniema, Nord-Kivu, Sud-Kivu, and Kinshasa.
“This will continue and scale up our current efforts,” explains Hadia Samaha, World Bank Senior Health Specialist. “This performance-based financing approach has already been used to upgrade service quality while improving the public health system, disease surveillance, and response capacities to step up the DRC’s ability to handle epidemic outbreaks.”
The Emergency Equity and System Strengthening in Education Project is financed by a credit of $444 million and a grant of $356 million, while the fourth additional financing for the Health System Strengthening Project includes a credit of $121 million and a grant of $79 million.
Scientists at Imperial College London will start immunizing people in Britain this week with their experimental coronavirus shot, becoming the latest entry into the race to find an effective vaccine to stop the pandemic.
In a statement on Monday, the British government said 300 healthy people will be immunized with two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed at Imperial, which has been backed by 41 million pounds (USD51 million) in government funding.
So far, the vaccine candidate developed by Imperial College London has only been tested in animals and in the laboratory, where it produced much higher levels of antibodies than would normally be seen in infected people.
Many scientists have warned that the pandemic might only be stopped with an effective vaccine, which typically takes years to develop.
In the long term, a viable vaccine could be vital for protecting the most vulnerable, enabling restrictions to be eased and helping people get back to normal life, said Robin Shattock, who is leading the vaccine research.
The vaccine uses synthetic strands of genetic code based on the virus. Once injected into the muscle, the body’s own cells are instructed to make copies of a spiky protein on the coronavirus. That should in turn trigger an immune response so that the body can fight off any future COVID-19 infection.
About a dozen vaccine candidates are currently in early stages of testing in thousands of people. There are no guarantees any will work but there’s increasing hope that at least some could be ready by the end of the year.
Oxford University recently began an advanced study involving 10,000 volunteers, and the US is preparing for even larger studies in July that involve 30,000 people each testing different candidates, including Oxford’s and one made by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc.
Scientists have never created vaccines from scratch this fast and it is far from clear that any will ultimately prove safe and effective. Still, numerous countries, including Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the US, have already placed advance orders for millions of vaccines that could be available by the end of the year if they prove to be effective.
The World Health Organization noted on Monday that there have been about 100,000 new cases reported every day for the past two weeks and that relaxed restrictions in many countries have led to a new surge of cases.