News, July 20th

Covid-19: New virus cases in Russia lowest since late April

Russia, the world’s fourth hardest-hit country in terms of coronavirus infections, on Monday reported fewer than 6,000 new cases for the first time since the end of April.

Health authorities also said 85 people died over the past 24 hours – the lowest daily fatality figure since May 4.

The country’s COVID-19 death toll is now 12,427 while the number of infections stands at 777,486.

Russia’s fatality rate has remained low compared to other badly hit countries, raising speculation that Moscow could be underreporting figures.

Russian authorities began easing anti-virus measures in June ahead of a massive World War II military parade in Moscow and a nationwide vote on constitutional reforms that now allow President Vladimir Putin to stay in power until 2036.

Both events were initially postponed due the epidemic.

Moscow plans to open cinemas and theatres on August 1. In the capital, masks are mandatory in stores and on public transport but not in the streets.

The country reported 5,940 new infections on Monday. The last time Russia reported fewer than 6,000 cases was on April 29.

The highest number of new cases were in Moscow, the western Siberian region of Khanty-Mansiysk and Sverdlovsk in the Urals.

Several institutes in Russia are working on a coronavirus vaccine.

Last week the Russian defense ministry said it had developed a “safe” vaccine following clinical trials on a group of volunteers.

The trials are ongoing, and the defense ministry expects clinical trials to be fully completed in the coming weeks.

OST President Bear Runner suspended for 30 days

Julian Bear Runner, president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, was suspended for 30 days and put on a 14-day quarantine during an emergency council meeting July 8.

Robin Tapio, a representative from the Pine Ridge District, made the motion to suspend Bear Runner and the vote passed 13-7. Bear Runner is suspended with pay. Tom Poor Bear, vice president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, has taken over presidential duties.

The emergency council meeting was called by Bear Runner to discuss a now-cancelled 72-hour lockdown previously issued by Bear Runner on July 6.

The lockdown forced many tribal members to stay home and blocked any non-essential travel through the reservation. But, when put in place, Bear Runner was unable to be reached by council members who did not know that the lockdown was even being considered by Bear Runner.

Several council members have expressed frustration about not being able to answer their constituent’s questions while being put in the impromptu lockdown. “We were all in the dark,” one council member said while speaking with the Native Sun News Today. “We were getting so many phone calls from people who didn’t know what was going on, and we didn’t know what was going on. People were in stores and the cops were telling the stores to close. Everyone was scared like there was something serious going on they hadn’t heard about.”

Speculation of a plethora of reasons why Bear Runner was suspended have been brought forth through social media, but a council person confirmed that “the only main reason he was suspended was because he called for a lockdown and didn’t notify the council.”

Many council members expressed their concern for not being able to contact Bear Runner while being caught off guard by the lockdown order and said that the suspension was to give the president time to reassess his governing strategies. The 14-day quarantine was placed on bear Runner as his whereabouts during the time of the lockdown were brought into question.

A council member said that Bear Runner and his vehicle were located at a bar in Rapid City during the time of the lockdown. When contacted, a worker at the rumored bar said that many people called and walked through the establishment trying to locate Bear Runner. The worker also said that they had not seen Bear Runner throughout the time.

Oglala Lakota County has exceeded 100 COVID-19 cases and is now the seventh most impacted county in the state. Native Americans are now the second most impacted demographic in the state.

Border monitoring, shelter in place, and a curfew remain in effect for Pine Ridge despite the cancelled lockdown.

Bear Runner did not respond to the Native Sun News Today for comment.

Bear Runner remained vocal on the reservation this past weekend while several storms tore through and destroyed homes and businesses. The Oglala Sioux Tribe shared a Facebook post written by Bear Runner which said “my staff will be out delivering ice if you need ice to keep the food cold in your freezers or milk cold for the babies, or insulin cold for our insulin dependent relatives” and also had the hashtags #WishICouldBeThere and #WishICouldDoMore attached.

Over 3,000 people infected with dengue in Laos

A total of 3,390 cases of dengue fever have been recorded across the country since January, according to a report from the Lao Ministry of Health.

The dengue fever has caused eight deaths, the ministry said in a press release on Monday.

The highest number of dengue patients is reported in the Lao capital Vientiane with 721, while 407 cases were recorded in Vientiane province, and 391 in Bolikhamxay province.

The eight deaths included three in Lao capital Vientiane, two in Bolikhamxay, and one each in Khammuan, Xayaboury and Xieng Khuang provinces.

Lao health authorities have urged people to clear potential mosquito breeding sites around their homes and workplaces to help control the spread of the disease.

Philippines, World Bank sign US$370 mln loan agreement to support Filipino farmers

The Philippines and the World Bank have signed a US$370-million loan agreement for a project to support Filipino farmers, the country’s Department of Finance (DOF) said on July 20.

The project aims to speed up the process of splitting about 1.4 million hectares of land covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and then providing individual titles to these parceled lots to some 750,000 farmer-beneficiaries.

In a statement, the DOF said Philippine Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Achim Fock who was then the World Bank’s acting country director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand, signed the loan agreement on July 14 for the Support to Parcellation of Lands for Individual Titling (SPLIT) project of the Philippines’ Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

“The SPLIT project will improve the bankability of farmers and enable them to access credit and government assistance,” Dominguez said.

Dominguez added the loan will support the Philippines’ economic recovery program by intensifying assistance to farmers and making agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) more resilient to the economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fock, for his part, said the World Bank expects the project to encourage ARBs “to invest in their property and adopt better technologies for greater productivity and higher incomes.”

Under the project, the collective certificate of land ownership awards (CCLOAs) will be parceled into individual titles for some 750,000 ARBs to help fulfill the completion of the decades-old CARP.

The government has redistributed about 4.8 million hectares of land to some 2.8 million ARBs under the agrarian reform program, but only 53 percent were in the form of individual land titles.

The remaining 47 percent or about 2.5 million hectares are CCLOA titles that were issued to groups of ARBs in the 1990s as a temporary measure to fast-track the distribution of land to farmer-beneficiaries, according to the DOF.

The parcellation of the CCLOAs into individual titles has been very slow, which is why about 1.4 million hectares remain to be subdivided among farmers under the SPLIT project.

“Through the project, ARBs will be provided security of tenure by way of issuance of individual titles. If ARBs or members of their family fall ill, clear, and valid documentation of their property will allow them to mortgage their land, sell, or pass it on to their family members through inheritance,” the DOF statement read.

The total cost of the SPLIT Project is US$473.56 million, of which US$370 million will be funded by the World Bank, while the government will provide the counterpart financing for the balance of US$103.56 million.

The DOF said the loan agreement for the project carries a 29-year maturity period, inclusive of a grace period of 10-and-a-half years.

Slovenia: keep supporting the economy until growth is fully restored, says OECD

After five years of robust growth that lifted employment, wages and well-being, Slovenia’s economy has been hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis. Further support to businesses and households may be needed to reinforce the recovery and avoid lasting scars, particularly given the underlying pressures of an ageing population, according to a new OECD report.

The latest OECD Economic Survey of Slovenia coincides with the country’s 10th anniversary of becoming an OECD member, a decade that has seen Slovenia carry out labor and pension reforms and further integrate into global value chains. Slovenia has also defied the rise in income inequality seen in many other OECD countries. Slovenia now needs to support the recovery from the coronavirus crisis until it is self-sustaining, including providing training and job search support to low-skilled workers, then return its focus to raising productivity, strengthening public finances and adapting the labor market and social system for a smaller and older workforce.

“Slovenia has made remarkable economic and social progress since joining the OECD, and the government has acted admirably to manage the health and economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “It is vital now to stay on track, to stand ready to provide further support where needed to restore growth and then continue with measures to tackle the long-term economic challenges of an ageing population.”

Slovenia acted quickly to halt the spread of Covid-19 and its healthcare system managed the outbreak well. Financial measures to support jobs, income and businesses softened the shock to the economy. As these measures are withdrawn, the economy may need a fiscal stimulus in the form of some rapid and easy-to-implement temporary measures, the Survey says. The main risks to the economy now are a spike in bankruptcies and a further rise in unemployment.

Assuming no significant second wave of Covid-19 infections later this year, the Survey projects Slovenia’s GDP to grow by 4.5% in 2021 after declining by 7.8% in 2020. However, in the event of a second wave, GDP is projected to grow only 1.5% in 2021 after a contraction of 9.1% in 2020.

Once the recovery is well on track, stimulus can be wound down and the focus revert to tackling the challenges arising from population ageing, which by 2055 will have doubled the ratio of over-65s to working-age people to 60%, creating the double challenge of addressing ageing-related spending pressures as the revenue base contracts. If these pressures are not contained or offset, the sustainability of public finances will be at risk, the Survey says.

Future growth will depend on employing workers in the most efficient way possible, for example by keeping older, experienced workers in jobs for longer, doing more to help low-skilled workers and improving labor allocation so workers can achieve their full productivity and wage potential. To ease the pressure from a projected tripling in the public pension deficit, the Survey recommends raising the retirement age to 67 and, if needed, linking future rises to life expectancy.

The Survey recommends further reforms to lower barriers to competition and foreign investment, to strengthen governance of state-owned enterprises and to make the tax mix more growth-friendly and inclusive by shifting the burden from labor to property taxes.

United Arab Emirates launches first mission to Mars

The United Arab Emirates’ historic first mission to Mars is under way, after a successful lift-off in Japan. The Hope probe launched on an H2-A rocket from Tanegashima spaceport and is now on a 500-million-km journey to study the planet’s weather and climate.

Two previous attempts to launch the probe in the past week had to be called off because of adverse weather. Hope’s arrival in February 2021 is set to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the UAE’s formation, the BBC reported on Sunday.

Her Excellency Sarah Al Amiri, the science lead on Hope, spoke of her excitement and relief in seeing the rocket climb successfully into the sky. And she stated the impact on her country would be the same as that on America when its people watched the Apollo 11 Moon landing 51 years ago, also on July 20.

“It was an anchor for an entire generation that stimulated everyone that watched it to push further and to dream bigger,” she told BBC News.

“Today I am really glad that the children in the Emirates will wake up on the morning of the 20th of July having an anchor project of their own, having a new reality, having new possibilities, allowing them to further contribute and to create a larger impact on the world.”

The UAE craft is one of three missions heading to Mars this month.

The US and China both have surface rovers in the late stages of preparation. The American mission, Perseverance, sent its congratulations to Hope. “I cannot wait to join you on the journey!” its Twitter account said.

The UAE has limited experience of designing and manufacturing spacecraft – and yet here it is attempting something only the US, Russia, Europe, and India have succeeded in doing. But it speaks to the Emiratis’ ambition that they should dare to take on this challenge.

Their engineers, mentored by American experts, have produced a sophisticated probe in just six years – and when this satellite gets to Mars, it’s expected to deliver novel science, revealing fresh insights on the workings of the planet’s atmosphere.

UN’s Antonio Guterres: As coronavirus rages, developed countries have ‘failed’ to help nations in need

Saying “we are at the breaking point,” the United Nations secretary-general has made a sweeping call to end the global inequalities that have been further exposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who delivered the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture Saturday, said about the virus: “It is exposing fallacies and falsehoods everywhere: The lie that free markets can deliver health care for all, the fiction that unpaid care work is not work, the delusion that we live in a post-racist world, the myth that we are all in the same boat.”

He said, “COVID-19 has been likened to an X-ray, revealing fractures in the fragile skeleton of the societies we have built,” adding that developed countries have “failed to deliver the support needed to help the developing world through these dangerous times.”

The speech by the U.N. chief, known as the world’s top diplomat, took aim at the vast inequality of wealth — “The 26 richest people in the world hold as much wealth as half the global population,” Guterres said — and other inequalities involving race, gender, class and place of birth.

These identity politics, he said, are seen in the world’s fragmented response to the pandemic as governments, businesses and even individuals are accused of hoarding badly needed testing, medical and other supplies for themselves.

The legacy of colonialism still reverberates, Guterres added, and it shows in global power relations.

Developing countries, and especially African nations, are under-represented at the levels of power, including at financial institutions like the World Bank and political ones like the U.N. Security Council, whose five most powerful members — the U.S., Britain, France, Russia and China — date from the 1940s when the world body was created.

“Inequality starts at the top: in global institutions. Addressing inequality must start by reforming them,” Guterres said, offering some solutions.

A new generation of social protection is needed, including universal health coverage and perhaps maybe even a universal basic income, he said, adding “individuals and corporations must pay their fair share.”

Education spending in low- and middle-income countries should more than double by 2030 to $3 trillion a year, he said. And in the face of enormous shifts due to climate change, governments should tax carbon instead of people.

“Let’s face facts,” Guterres said in his address. “The global political and economic system is not delivering on critical global public goods: public health, climate action, sustainable development, peace.”

The U.N. chief called for a new model of global governance with inclusive and equal participation.

“We see the beginnings of a new movement,” he said, adding it’s time to right the wrongs of the past.

Breathtaking new infection numbers of the coronavirus around the world were a reminder that a return to normal life is still far from sight.

Johns Hopkins University says the global death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed 600,000.

The university’s tally as of Saturday night says the United States, fueled by the haphazard lifting of coronavirus lockdowns and the resistance of some Americans to wearing masks, tops the list with 140,103 deaths. It is followed by 78,772 fatalities in Brazil and 45,358 in the United Kingdom.

The number of confirmed infections worldwide has passed 14.2 million, out of which 3.7 million are in the United States. There are over 2 million in Brazil and more than 1 million in India.

The World Health Organization again reported a single-day record of new infections with 259,848.

A world where people can “go to work normally, travel on the buses and trains, go on holiday without restrictions, meet friends, shake hands, hug each other and so on — that’s a long way off, unfortunately,” without a vaccine, said epidemiologist John Edmunds, a member of the U.K. government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.

Why are federal agents kidnapping Portland protesters?

For more than 50 days, as part of the national uprising against racism, people have been gathering across Portland to protest police violence. At the beginning of July, Trump and the Department of Homeland Security sent in the Border Patrol Tactical Unit and a U.S. Marshals Special Operations unit to Portland to quell the nightly protests. The DHS established BORTAC after 9/11 to fight terrorism; it typically deals with drug smuggling at the U.S.-Mexico border. Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf came into town on July 16, calling for a more aggressive response.

National outrage was sparked this week because of video footage showing militarized federal agents, with no identifiable badges, in camouflage grabbing protesters off the street in the middle of the night and taking the protesters into unmarked rental cars.

Several protesters shared the experience of being kidnapped by unidentified officers, blindfolded, and driven around the city just to unknowingly end up inside the courthouse within a few hours. It was not until then that their Miranda rights were finally read to them. They were terrorized into waiving their rights and released without any citations or documentation of the event.

With numerous groups gathering in a variety of locations, police have primarily focused on the nightly demonstrations in the three park blocks across the street from the Justice Center and the Federal courthouse. The Justice Center serves as the Multnomah County’s Sheriff’s office and the Multnomah County Detention Center.

The center also has four courtrooms, and on the backside of the building is the central precinct for the Portland Police Bureau. Here, police have declared riots at largely peaceful protests and indiscriminately deployed tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets into crowds of hundreds of protesters.

On July 11, these federal officers set up right outside the courthouse doors and shot tear gas and rubber bullets against peaceful protesters. Donavan Labella, a 26-year-old protester, was standing across the street holding a speaker over his head with both hands when the officers threw a tear gas canister at him. Labella lightly tossed the gas canister into the empty street between him and the officers. As he continued holding the speaker above his head, the police shot him in the face. Other protesters immediately came to Labella’s aid and got him away from the scene. As of July 16, he has had to have facial reconstruction surgery and his GoFundMe said he was recovering from brain damage and loss of vision. The long-term damage was still unclear.

The same night a person was having a seizure on the sidewalk when the feds pinned him down and detained him while other officers kept protesters and street medics away before deploying tear gas.

Local officials have publicly condemned the grotesque brutality from federal officers despite the fact that the mayor, with the support of the local officials, had ordered the Portland Police to carry out shocking violence against peaceful protesters as well.

Even mutual aid groups have come under attack by the police. A group of protesters called Riot Ribs set up a tent and a grill at one of the parks blocks and were cooking free food for anyone in the area. With many of the volunteers being houseless themselves, this mutual aid group was making thousands of dollars in donations nightly and serving mainly protesters and houseless people. On the morning of July 16, the Portland Police raided the park and cleared the area of protesters and people who were camping there. Most if not all were sleeping when the police gave everyone less than ten minutes to leave. They stole all of Riot Ribs’ supplies and cash donations and arrested three of the volunteers. All three were released later that day and with quick donations they were able to set up again across the street from the park.

That same morning, a protester was following police orders to leave the area and was biking away when police knocked him off his bike and arrested him.

While a rhetorical feud ensues between local and federal politicians for “control,” at night both local and federal officers commit indiscriminate violence against hundreds of protesters.

Yet Portlanders continue to take to the streets. No justice, no peace!

Published by jim

Curator of things...

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