News, June 22nd

American among UK terror victims, US ambassador confirms

An American man was among the three victims stabbed to death in a park in the English town of Reading that is being treated as a terror attack, the U.S. ambassador to Britain confirmed Monday.

Ambassador Woody Johnson offered his “deepest condolences” to the families of those killed in the attack on June 20. A 25-year-old man who is believed to be the lone attacker is in custody, but officials said the motive for the carnage was unclear.

“Our thoughts are with all those affected,” Johnson said. “We condemn the attack absolutely and have offered our assistance to British law enforcement.”

Three people were killed, and three others seriously wounded in the stabbing attack Saturday evening in Forbury Gardens park in Reading, a town of 200,000 people 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of London.

The Philadelphia Inquirer named the American victim as Joe Ritchie-Bennett, a friend of James Furlong, a history teacher named by his school as one of the victims.

Ritchie-Bennett was 39 and had moved to England from the U.S. around 15 years ago. His father, Robert Ritchie, said his son worked for a law firm in London before taking a job about 10 years ago at a Dutch pharmaceutical company that had its British headquarters in Reading.

Britain’s official terrorism threat level remains at “substantial” after the attack.

As virus spikes, Pakistan says there is no choice but to open

The coronavirus is spreading in Pakistan at one of the fastest rates in the world, and overwhelmed hospitals are turning away patients. But the government is pushing ahead with opening up the country, trying to salvage a near-collapsed economy where millions have already slid into poverty from pandemic restrictions.

Further complicating the dilemma, as the government pins its main hope for stemming the virus’ rampage on social distancing and masks, many in the public ignore calls to use them.

Millions crowd markets and mosques. Hard-line clerics tell followers to trust that faith will protect them. Many call the virus a hoax. Even some government officials dismiss warnings, saying traffic accidents kill more people.

“I am nervous when I go out because I see our people are still not taking it seriously,” said Diya Rahman, a broadcaster at Radio Pakistan in the capital, Islamabad. Two of her colleagues have died of the virus and more than 20 others have tested positive.

She fears that “until they see their families are dying, they won’t understand that we can save ourselves if we adhere to the guidelines, to wear masks.”

Pakistan is a prime example of fragile developing countries that say they will just have to live with rising infections and deaths because their economies cannot withstand an open-ended strict lockdown.

But the rapid acceleration in infections in Pakistan this month could be an indicator of what faces other countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

The rate of new cases in Pakistan leaped from around 2,000-3,000 a day in late May to as high as 6,800 a day in mid-June. Deaths are nearing 150 a day. So far, more than 180,000 people have been infected in this country of 220 million, and the government on Sunday said that the number could total 1.2 million people in August. Authorities have reported 3,590 deaths.

Pakistan butted heads with the World Health Organization over the spike. Earlier in June, the WHO warned the government in a letter that Pakistan was in the top 10 countries in the speed of the virus’ spread and faced devastating effects from opening prematurely. It urged the government to alternate between two weeks of lockdown and two weeks of opening. The Associated Press acquired a copy of the letter, which was partially reported in the press.

The government rejected the proposal. One lawmaker this week even accused the WHO of “imperialism” in dictating to Pakistan.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said the refusal to impose a complete lockdown saved the country from economic collapse. In televised speeches, he has taken to pleading with Pakistanis to wear masks, ignore countless conspiracy theories and take the virus seriously.

As cases spiraled, the government last week shut down some districts in Islamabad and other cities where fresh outbreaks have been identified. But otherwise it has largely continued with lifting coronavirus restrictions.

The restrictions were initially imposed in mid-March, but within weeks, they were lifted bit by bit. Now, most businesses are reopened, including markets and malls, as is public transportation. Schools, restaurants, and wedding halls remain closed, gyms had to be shut down again, but mosques never closed because of clerics’ refusal. Last week, the border with Iran — blamed as the source of the first infections here — was reopened for trade only.

At the same time, hospital beds are filling up.

Zeeshan Hassan, a local businessman, said his uncle was turned away from three hospitals in the southern city of Multan, an area heavily affected by COVID-19 cases. Administrators said they had neither a bed nor the medicines to treat him, Hassan said. His uncle was finally admitted to a government hospital, where he died within 15 hours.

A few family members dressed in protective equipment were allowed to bury him.

“Now we are all afraid we will get this COVID-19,” said Hassan.

Health professionals are being infected at an alarming rate — more than 3,000 testing positive so far with more reported each day, said Dr. Qaiser Sajjad, secretary-general of the Pakistan Medical Association.

Even before the pandemic, Pakistan lacked enough trained health personnel to administer equipment like ventilators. With fewer than 3,000 acute care beds for a population of 220 million people, Sajjad warned the system was teetering on collapse.

“People are now starting to get scared and the government is now taking it seriously, but I think we are too late because COVID-19 has already spread massively everywhere in the country,” he told the AP.

He said misinformation is rampant, and many Pakistanis believe doctors made up the coronavirus to explain deaths caused by an inept and failing health care system. It also does not help that some government officials have gone on TV to downplay the impact of the new virus, said Sajjad.

“The poor people and ignorant people, they absolutely don’t believe the virus exists. They think it is some conspiracy, all between the government and doctors,” he said.

Pakistan is dealing with serious economic issues. Economic growth has been slowing since 2018 but the pandemic sent it for the first time ever into contraction: this month, the country recorded negative growth of minus 0.38.

“Pakistan is officially in a recession,” said Haroon Sharif, a former economic adviser who still counsels the prime minister on economic issues.

The number of people living in poverty has risen to 40% from 30% since the pandemic began. Massive job losses could spark unrest, Sharif warned.

Sharif said the Pakistani prime minister’s focus is on helping the poorest, while his Cabinet ministers — many of whom are wealthy industrialists and landowners — focus on the elite. Ignored in government help schemes are middle-income earners and small businesses that employ 15 people or less, said Sharif.

They have little savings, and much of their business is in cash and so they have little to no support from the banking system. So now they have been hit hard.

“I know examples of teachers who are selling fruit,” said Sharif.

DPRK reinstalling loudspeakers near border with S. Korea: media

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has been reinstalling loudspeakers in areas near the border with South Korea, multiple local media reported Monday.

An unnamed South Korean military source was quoted as saying that the DPRK has been setting up loudspeakers along the inter-Korean frontline areas since Sunday afternoon.

The propaganda loudspeakers had been dismantled after South Korean President Moon Jae-in and top DPRK leader Kim Jong Un agreed upon the dismantlement in their first summit in April 2018 at the border village of Panmunjom.

The DPRK’s official Korean Central News Agency reported earlier in the day that the country will soon distribute 12 million leaflets to South Korea to “make them pay dearly for their crime.”

“As of June 22, various equipment and means of distributing leaflets, including over 3,000 balloons of various types capable of scattering leaflets deep inside South Korea, have been prepared,” the report said.

Pyongyang has recently cut off all communication lines with Seoul and blown up the inter-Korean joint liaison office building near the border with South Korea in protest against the dispersion of anti-DPRK leaflets across the border by defectors in the South.

The South Korean unification ministry said in a statement that it is very sorry for the DPRK to announce its plan to send large-scale anti-South Korea leaflets, calling on Pyongyang to immediately drop the plan.

The ministry said such acts are in a clear violation of inter-Korean agreements that worsens wrong practices rather than resolve them, noting that such acts will be of no help to settle peace on the Korean Peninsula and develop inter-Korean relations.

It noted that the South Korean government has thoroughly clamped down on the scattering of anti-DPRK leaflets in border areas, calling for the DPRK to stop any act that aggravates the situation.

Four arrested in Indonesia tiger poaching case

Four suspected poachers have been arrested for killing a critically endangered Sumatran tiger, Indonesian police said Monday, highlighting the Southeast Asian nation’s battle with illegal wildlife trafficking.

Authorities in Aceh, at the northern tip of Sumatra island, said they were also searching for a fifth suspect, all allegedly part of a crime syndicate.

At a press briefing Monday, police displayed a confiscated tiger skin along with teeth and bones taken from the suspected traffickers.

The men — who had been under police surveillance — also had the teeth and bones of a sun bear, authorities added.

“The four ensnared this protected animal in a trap and it was left to die,” said Aceh police spokesman Margiyanta, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

We think “the perpetrators are part of a syndicate given the professional way they caught the animals”.

The animal parts may have been destined for buyers outside the region, he added.

In January, Aceh police arrested a man trying to sell a tiger skin for some 90 million rupiah ($6,400), and dozens of wildlife crime cases have been recorded in recent years, according to the region’s conservation officials.

Poaching accounts for almost 80 percent of Sumatran tiger deaths, according to TRAFFIC, a global wildlife trade monitoring network.

Sumatran tigers are considered critically endangered by protection group the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with fewer than 400 believed to remain in the wild.

Launch of Ehsaas Rashan And Langar & Panah Gah App.

Donors who have committed to donating cumulatively ~12 million meals to deserving beneficiaries that did not apply to the 8171 or the PM portal will be recognized under Ehsaas Rashan Program.

The Rashan portal will be connecting the donors to the needy people. Big companies have also joined through partnerships to help the cause, for e.g. PepsiCo, Lucky Cement, Bank Alfalah, Saylani Welfare Trust etc.

The Ehsaas Rashan program is a means to link private sector organizations willing to donate food rations, to government-verified beneficiaries. The role of government is primarily that of onboarding credible donor organizations, verifying beneficiaries, and providing donor organizations list of verified beneficiaries to conduct targeted disbursement of ration.

The Ehsaas Langar and Panah Gah app will be launched. This enables geographic locations to be picked up when photographed and mapped, so that there is better coordination of relief efforts and no duplication/underserved areas. It also provides public information about Langars and Panah Gahs.

This app will provide information/location of all the Langars and Panah Gahs to the public

This will enable better distributions and will prevent duplications and in addition to this, undeserved areas will also be identified

This app enables geographic locations of welfare organizations to be mapped when they are photographed through the app, so that there is better coordination of relief efforts

This provides a range of donation options, including overseas donations. The prime minister has committed that for every rupee donated, the government will match additional four Rupees and that all donations will be earmarked for Ehsaas Emergency Cash.

Pennington County adds 11 new coronavirus cases Sunday

Pennington County was responsible for 11 of the 72 new cases of coronavirus reported Sunday in South Dakota. Oglala Lakota and Custer counties each reported one new case.

Pennington County has had 457 positive COVID-19 tests and has 159 active cases. Oglala Lakota has 55 positives with 19 active cases and six of Custer County’s seven cases are still active.

Pennington County tested 113 people while Oglala Lakota tested 15 and Custer tested only five people.

Meade (17 tests), Lawrence (seven tests) and Fall River County (two tests) did not report any new cases Sunday.

The state now has 6,297 positive tests and 827 active cases – up 18 from Saturday’s report. The number of people in the hospital is now 89 – down two from Saturday. Monument Health reports that 43 of those hospitalizations are in their system. No new deaths were reported Sunday.

Other positive cases Sunday included 20 in Minnehaha County, seven in Beadle and six in Lincoln. Brookings, Tripp, and Yankton counties each reported three new cases. Brown, Charles Mix, Davison, Edmunds, Faulk, Hanson, Hughes, Kingsbury, Lyman, McPherson, Spink, and Union counties each had one new positive test Sunday.

Published by jim

Curator of things...

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