News, August 10th

‘Hell’s kitchen’ in West Asia

IAF pilots flying the first batch of Rafales from the Dassault Aviation Facility in France had barely settled down to relax at the UAE’s Al Dhafra air base, where they were breaking journey, when they found themselves exposed to what they feared might be a fatal danger.

They scrambled for cover because an Iranian missile had landed nearby. They must have heaved a sigh of relief when it was established, without the shadow of a doubt, that neither they nor the UAE were in the Iranian firing line. Iranians, inventive as the Achaemenids have always been, were shooting missiles at a prototype of a US aircraft carrier Nimitz they had floated in the Strait of Hormuz.

The choreography of the exercises clearly caused alarm in UAE, Kuwait, and Bahrain where the US 5th Fleet is docked. The spokeswoman for the US 5th fleet, Commander Rebecca Rebarich was furious. “The US Navy conducts defensive exercises with our partners promoting maritime security in support of freedom of navigation,” she said, adding: “Whereas Iran conducts offensive exercises attempting to intimidate and coerce.” From the Iranian side, Commander of the National Guards, Maj. General Hossein Salami was brazened: “What was shown today in these exercises, at the level of aerospace and Naval Forces, was all offensive.”

This exchange is representative of the mood in the entire region. There has not been a day free of tension in the region for decades but for this narrative let us consider July 20 as the cut-off when Israeli aircraft fatally targeted a Hezbollah Commander, Ali Kamel Mohsen. Promptly came the Hezbollah response: Zionists should be ready for a suitable retaliation.

Just as the cauldron was simmering, came the startling disclosure by Hamas political leader, Ismail Haniyah. He told, Qatari newspaper Al Lusail that major powers had offered $15 billion in aid for Gaza “provided Hamas gave up armed struggle and laid down arms”. The offer was rejected.

Facing convulsions within Israel and a possible change of heart on the issue in Washington, the project of inundating the West Bank with settlements has gone into limbo. Occasionally Benjamin Netanyahu shows his oats in neighboring Syria because of Israeli paranoia about the Iraqi-Syrian road having been opened.

This gives Tehran a direct land route to Lebanon via Iraq and Syria, creating deep anxieties in Israel about sophisticated Iranian weapons being ferried to Syria and archenemy, Hezbollah. Every now and again Israel panics into aerial bombardment of some such transaction.

Not only is the Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon road link a menace, the Hezbollah, Hashd al Shaabi in Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen, the pro- Iranian arc, are persistently menacing the Saudis and Israel.

In these choppy waters, Jordanian Prime Minister, Omar Razzaz tosses a boulder: he made the startling suggestion that a single Israeli-Palestinian state would be acceptable to Jordan provided “equal rights were given to both people”.

This was novel beyond recognition in an area where a two-state solution has been the mantra for three decades. Not only is the thought absurd in itself, it blissfully overlooks the “Jewish nation state law” passed by the Knesset.

The law states that all occupied Palestinian territories belong exclusively to the Jewish people. It is politically impolite to say so in Amman, but the only Palestinian state which the Right-wing Israelis will ever concede happens to be Jordan. Against this varied and disturbed mosaic, the impending Egypt-Turkey confrontation in Libya portends a regional catastrophe.

Before I share this catastrophe with you, let me seek your indulgence just for one paragraph to share my bewilderment, naively maybe, on an issue I acquainted myself with during my first visit to Libya in 1986 when President Reagan ordered the bombing of Benghazi and Tripoli in which Qaddafi’s baby daughter was killed.

In my conversation with him in those tense conditions, he never forgot to mention his pet project — Great Man-Made River, the world’s largest network of pipes, covering a distance of 2,820 kilometers, pumping water from the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System. Qaddafi called it the Eighth Wonder of the world. During recent operations, NATO bombed a key segment of the pipelines.

It is universally accepted that this miraculous source of pure, underground water, its cost barely 10 per cent of desalination projects, which will last anywhere between a 1,000 to 100 years, in a region where water security is projected to be a serious problem in the future — why is there no mention of this project in a nation being looted by major powers? Is it happening so stealthily?

Now to the Turkish-Egyptian confrontation building up in Libya: it will be like the clashing of the Cymbals, the crescendo in a Wagner symphony. When Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, was toppled by US-Israeli machinations in 2013 and the then Saudi Crown Prince turned up in Cairo with an offer of $eight billion to help Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi ascend the Egyptian throne, what was the Saudi motivation?

Remember Juhayman al Otaybi and his 400-500 supporters had occupied the Mecca mosque in 1979, virtually the same month as when the Ayatollahs ousted the Shah of Iran. This internal rebellion by an extreme variety of the Brothers is what Saudis fear more than Iranian Shiaism. Sisi is Hosni Mubarak II reincarnated to keep the Brothers under his heel. To Israel’s chagrin, the Brothers are a powerful influence on Hamas, whose links with Qatar are secure. Qatar, meanwhile, relies on the Turkish army. Notice the linkages?

Tayyip Erdogan who restarted “Namaz” at Hagia Sophia, has come out, all guns blazing as an unabashed Brother. His clash with Sisi, the oppressor or Brothers in Egypt, will cut the ground from under Sisi’s feet. That clash has to be avoided by forces which, alas, are these days preoccupied with issues of their own survival.

Alarm as ship in Mauritius oil spill disaster begins to break apart

Salvage crews raced against time on Monday to prevent a second disastrous oil spill off the picture-perfect coastline of Mauritius, with a damaged tanker carrying thousands of tons of fuel at risk of splitting apart.

The bulk carrier MV Wakashio ran aground on July 25 with 4,000 tons of fuel aboard and began seeping oil last week, staining coral reefs, mangrove forests and tranquil lagoons in an unprecedented environmental catastrophe for the archipelago nation.

More than 1,000 tons has already oozed from the ship, its Japanese operator says, causing untold ecological damage to protected marine parks and fishing grounds that form the backbone of Mauritius’ economy.

Fuel was being slowly airlifted from the ship on Monday by helicopter to the shore, but efforts to pump more from the hold were being thwarted by rough seas and strong winds.

The weather, which is also fanning the oil slick further up the coast, is not forecast to improve until evening.

Some fuel has been removed but 2,500 tons remains aboard, said Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth, who warned cracks in the hull were worsening, and there was a very real chance the boat could split.

“We are in an advanced fracturing process. The bulk carrier does not have much time ahead of it,” said one scientist working on the emergency effort, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Divers have reported fresh cracks in the hull, while creaking sounds from the vessel could be heard from the southeast shore, where a major clean-up operation is underway to remove treacly sludge coating miles of Mauritius’ unspoiled coastline.

This photograph shows workers (left) as they look from a ship towards the vessel MV Wakashio that ran aground near Blue Bay Marine Park off the coast of south-east Mauritius. France dispatched aircraft and technical advisers from Reunion to Mauritius after the prime minister appealed for urgent assistance to contain a worsening oil spill polluting the island nation’s famed reefs, lagoons, and oceans. Rough seas have hampered efforts to stop fuel leaking from the bulk carrier MV Wakashio, which ran aground two weeks ago, and is staining pristine waters in an ecologically protected marine area off the south-east coast. AFP photo

This photograph shows workers (left) as they look from a ship towards the vessel MV Wakashio that ran aground near Blue Bay Marine Park off the coast of south-east Mauritius. France dispatched aircraft and technical advisers from Reunion to Mauritius after the prime minister appealed for urgent assistance to contain a worsening oil spill polluting the island nation’s famed reefs, lagoons, and oceans. Rough seas have hampered efforts to stop fuel leaking from the bulk carrier MV Wakashio, which ran aground two weeks ago, and is staining pristine waters in an ecologically protected marine area off the south-east coast. AFP photo

Japan on Monday dispatched a six-member team, including members of its coast guard, to assist.

France has sent more than 20 tons of technical equipment – including 1.3 kilometers (0.8 miles) of oil containment booms, pumping equipment and protective gear – along with technical advisers from nearby Reunion, a French Indian Ocean island.

A spokesman at Mitsui OSK Lines, which operates the Wakashio, owned by another Japanese company, Nagashiki Shipping, told AFP it would send a team of experts as soon as Tuesday if they tested negative for coronavirus.

“Nagashiki Shipping deeply apologize to the people of Mauritius and will do their utmost to protect the environment and mitigate the effects of the pollution,” the Wakashio’s owner said in a statement on Monday.

The bulker struck a reef at Pointe d’Esny, an ecological jewel fringed by idyllic beaches, colorful reefs, sanctuaries for rare and endemic wildlife, and protected wetlands.

Aerial images show the enormity of the disaster, with huge stretches of crystal-clear seas around the marooned cargo ship stained a deep inky black.

Thousands of volunteers, many smeared head-to-toe in black sludge, have turned out along the coast since Friday, stringing together miles of improvised floating barriers made of straw in a desperate attempt to hold back the oily tide.

“My friends and I came here today to lend a hand because of the degradation of our environment. The entire marine ecology has been affected by the heavy oil spilled from the ship. We are very affected by this problem,” said Eldridge Larhubarbe, a student.

Police are expected to take statements from the captain and crew of the Wakashio after launching an investigation. Detectives boarded the ship on Sunday and seized the logbook and black box.

Pressure is mounting on the government to explain why more was not done in the two weeks since the vessel ran aground.

Mauritius and its 1.3 million inhabitants depend crucially on the sea for food and ecotourism, having fostered a reputation as a conservation success story and a world-class destination for nature lovers.

The spill is a double blow for tourist operators who had hoped foreign tourists could soon return.

The Indian Ocean nation has no active cases of coronavirus and had declared a wary victory after a long stretch without any new infections, but its borders remain closed.

“It’s very sad for us. Our work, the fishermen, the boatmen, there’s no work at the moment. It’s finished for us now,” said Vendanand Dabedeen, a taxi driver in Blue Bay, a protected coastal wetland popular with tourists.

Arrests increase as Sturgis Motorcycle Rally moves into full throttle

A man associated with graffiti at the Capitol Hill Organized Protest in Seattle was among those arrested during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

Sturgis Police Chief Geody VanDewater said a man likely in his 20s was arrested Friday night for graffiti in downtown Sturgis. He said the man was probably charged with intent to damage, although he has not seen the report.

He said the suspect was intoxicated and his vandalism caused an estimated $10,000 in damage, including the Domino’s Mount Rushmore mural.

“I don’t really want to promote this guy because that’s what he’s there for, promoting different stuff,” VanDewater said. “He’s been out in Seattle…he does a lot of this press stuff, but he was here and made some poor choices.”

VanDewater said he thinks the man was caught in the act and is the main actor in the graffiti, although he was traveling with a group of friends.

The graffiti includes Black Lives Matter letters, F— 12 and more.

As far as other crime during the rally goes, VanDeWater said his department is down 50 calls this year, but non-traffic arrests have increased, specifically misdemeanor drug paraphernalia.

According to Saturday to Sunday’s numbers, there were 18 arrests or citations, totaling 21 over the past few days. At the same time last year, there were nine, according to city police data.

Meade County Sheriff Ron Merwin said 62 people went through the jail last night.

“I think we still had most of them this morning,” he said. “Not many bonding, the bonding isn’t going like we thought it would.”

Merwin said if there is overflow, they may send some to Rapid City or other locations. He said his department is also seeing a lot of drugs.

According to the state Highway Patrol Sturgis Rally Daily information, which also shows data from 6 a.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Sunday, shows there were 19 DUI arrests in Sturgis and seven in Rapid City. There was a total of 41 misdemeanor drug arrests in the district and 17 felony drug arrests. Three vehicles were also seized for drug possession.

There were also 12 injury crashes and six non-injury crashes, according to the data.

Consequences of sanctions

A group of UN independent human rights experts have called on countries to lift or at least ease sanctions to allow affected nations and communities access to vital supplies to fight against the global coronavirus pandemic. The above appeal was made in the recent context of the “punishment stick” seeming to be overused by major countries, causing unpredictable consequences.

People in countries under sanctions cannot protect themselves against the disease or get life-saving treatments if they fall ill because humanitarian exemptions to the sanctions are not working, experts said in a recent press release.

Meanwhile, water, soap, and electricity needed by hospitals, fuel for delivering vital goods, and food, are all in short supply because of the sanctions.

“Sanctions are bringing suffering and death in countries like Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen”, said Alena Douhan, special rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights and one of the experts highlighting the issue.

People in Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen are facing humanitarian disasters, hardship, and deprivation due to wars, disease, and sanctions imposed by Western countries. According to a UN report, two million children in Yemen are suffering from acute malnutrition. Nearly four million people in the country have had to leave their homes. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 epidemic has continued to rage in the country with thousands of people infected since the beginning of the year.

In another country exhausted by war and sanctions, Syria, the risk of a humanitarian crisis is also increasing. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has warned that a terrible humanitarian crisis could occur in the northeastern region of Syria due to a lack of food and water. Medical supplies are also running out. Meanwhile, there are currently over 11 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria.

Other countries such as Cuba, Venezuela, and Iran have also become “victims of sanctions”. Sanctions imposed by the US and Western countries have stifled the economies of these countries, resulting in a lack of essential goods. The US has enacted many sanctions on economic sectors to block income from the oil of Iran. Sanctions have been re-established in the past few years, since US President D. Trump unilaterally withdrew from a nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) signed by the P5+1 and Iran.

The international community has repeatedly called for the US to lift sanctions, especially those aimed at Syria. In a statement released over the weekend, the UN group of experts strongly criticized how sanctions imposed supposedly in the name of delivering human rights are in fact killing people and depriving them of their fundamental rights, including the rights to health, to food and to life itself.

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the world for more than half a year, at the same time exposing more the gloomy picture of the global humanitarian crisis. All countries, businesses and people had to adjust their policies and behaviors to suit the “new normal”. And it is time major countries adjusted their punishment sticks.

Entire Lebanese Cabinet resigns as Beirut explosion death toll surpasses 200

Lebanon’s entire Cabinet resigned on Monday, a day after the death toll in last week’s devastating explosion at Beirut’s port climbed to more than 200 people, according to the country’s health minister.

Lebanese health minister, Hamad Hassan, told reporters at the end of a Cabinet meeting Monday that Prime Minister Hassan Diab will head to the presidential palace to “hand over the resignation in the name of all the ministers.”

“The whole government resigned,” Hamad said. Diab was expected to address the nation later Monday. His Cabinet now assumes a caretaker role until a new government is formed.

After large, violent demonstrations were seen in Beirut over the weekend involving security forces firing tear gas at protesters, another protest was planned outside the Baabda Palace on Monday, as the Lebanese people call for President Michel Aoun to step down, Reuters reported. It was not immediately clear if Aoun will step down, however, on Saturday he offered to push for early elections.

Protesters blame the country’s ruling class for corruption and negligence that led to the blast. Meanwhile, Iran, which backs the Shiite Muslim militant group Hezbollah that’s infiltrated Lebanon’s government, warned world leaders not to politicize the devastation seen after the Beirut blast.

“It won’t work, it’s just the same people. It’s a mafia,” Antoinette Baaklini, an employee at an electrical company destroyed by the explosion said, referencing proposed government reforms.

Lebanon’s information minister, Manal Abdel Samad, was the first to quit on Sunday in the aftermath of the explosion that left some 6,000 people wounded and another 300,000 people homeless. She was followed by Lebanon’s environmental minister, Demianos Kattar, who also stepped down Sunday.

Lebanon’s justice minister, Marie-Claude Najm, became the third Cabinet member to resign within 24 hours on Monday, the state news agency reported. While trying to visit a damaged neighborhood over the weekend, she was met with shouted insults, sprayed by water hoses, and forced to leave.

Beirut Gov. Marwan Abboud said the death toll from the explosion had risen to at least 220 people as of Sunday, while another 110 people remain missing, the BBC reported.

President Trump joined an international donor call on Sunday hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. World leaders and international organizations pledged nearly $300 million in emergency humanitarian aid to Beirut in the wake of the explosion but warned that no money for rebuilding the capital would be made available until Lebanese authorities commit themselves to the political and economic reforms demanded by the people.

The massive blast on Aug. 4 has brought a new wave of public outrage at the government and Lebanon’s long-entrenched ruling class. The explosion, centered at Beirut port, is believed to have been caused by a fire that ignited a 2,750-ton stockpile of explosive ammonium nitrate. The material had been stored at the port since 2013 with few safeguards despite numerous warnings of the danger.

The result was a disaster Lebanese blame squarely on their leadership’s corruption and neglect. Losses from the blast are estimated to be between $10 billion to $15 billion.

Public Prosecutor Ghassan El Khoury began questioning Maj. Gen. Tony Saliba, the head of Lebanon’s State Security, according to state-run National News Agency. The outlet gave no further details, but other generals are scheduled to be questioned.

About 20 people have been detained over the blast, including the head of Lebanon’s customs department and his predecessor, as well as the head of the port. Dozens of people have been questioned, including two former Cabinet ministers, according to government officials.

Iran meanwhile expressed concern that Western countries and their allies might exploit anger over the explosion to pursue their political interests. Iran supports the Hezbollah militant group, which along with its allies dominates Lebanon’s government and parliament.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said, “it is natural for people to be frustrated.” But he said it would be “unacceptable if some individuals, groups and foreign countries use the incident as a pretext for their purposes and intentions.”

Israel’s defense minister drew a line Monday between the blast and claims that Hezbollah stores its rockets and weapons deep inside civilian areas. While he did not accuse Hezbollah and its arms of being linked to the blast, Benny Gantz said villages and towns across Lebanon were packed with Hezbollah arms that if set off — whether by Israeli operations or by accident — would destroy homes. He said Hezbollah was Lebanon’s biggest problem.

Northern Cheyenne request Congressional investigation into B.I.A. Law Enforcement

Last week Native Sun News Today printed a story “Lawlessness and Violence at Northern Cheyenne Blamed on Inadequate B.I.A. Law Enforcement” which quickly made its way through cyberspace. Just one day later, July 20, 2020, the Northern Cheyenne Tribe formally, by letter contacted members of the Montana Congressional delegation, requesting a Congressional investigation into the “crises in B.I.A. Law Enforcement at Northern Cheyenne and throughout Indian Country.”

The letter has also been posted on the Tribal website and forwarded by email to many tribal members, this reporter included. Based on email comments, many tribal and community members are favorable about the Tribe’s action.  “I’m extremely glad they are following up,” said Jason Small, Northern Cheyenne, Montana State Senator, Chair of the State Tribal Relations Committee and a life-long reservation resident.”

The four-page missive begins with a heartfelt plea from the Tribal President: “In strongest possible terms, I plead for your help to address a public safety crises on our reservation which is the direct result of years of inexcusable neglect by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. B.I.A is solely responsible for law enforcement at Northern Cheyenne…Our community is suffering the tragic consequences of B.I.A.’s reckless disregard for our safety, including facilities, sexual and physical violence and widespread drug and alcohol abuse. These problems exist on other reservations where BIA is in charge of law enforcement.”

After citing the statutory basis for BIA Law Enforcement, the letter makes several critical allegations:

BIA’s absence has led to heightened crime and vigilantism, including four recent deaths, foul play suspected;

20% of necessary law enforcement staff has been provided (a current staff of 2-5 while Northern Cheyenne is budgeted for 19);

No local jails, Hardin Jail not the answer;

No information sharing with Tribe or victims.

“Enough is enough,” the letter concludes. “With your assistance we have tried to address BIA’s reckless disregard, but that has not worked…top officials at the BIA have ignored our concerns and nothing has been done.”

The Tribal request asks that the immediate needs at Northern Cheyenne (full law enforcement staffing, re-opening the Lame Deer Jail, fully supporting federal and tribal criminal investigations, and freely sharing criminal law enforcement with the Tribe) be addressed.

In conclusion, the letter requests that the Senate Indian Affairs Committee conduct a field hearing in Lame Deer to investigate the major crimes problem across Indian Country and where the BIA is planning infrastructure changes without tribal consultation. Finally, the Tribe recommends a referral to the Office of the Inspector General.

Talks remain stalled after Trump’s moves on coronavirus relief

As talks between the White House and Democratic leaders on a coronavirus package remain stalled, the Senate will remain in session but with no scheduled votes, according to GOP aides.

The vast majority of senators are out of town with a 24-hour notice to return if a vote is scheduled, much like House members.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said last week he would keep the Senate in session while Democrats and the White House negotiated on a new coronavirus relief package. But those talks collapsed on Friday following two weeks of unsuccessful closed-door negotiations between Democratic leaders and top White House officials.

President Donald Trump issued a series of executive actions on Saturday that he said would address the ongoing economic crisis from the coronavirus pandemic, including a moratorium on evictions, deferring student loan payments and interest, extending federal unemployment benefits at a lower rate, and cutting payroll taxes.

Democrats lambasted the moves as ineffectual and legally dubious.

Both sides blamed the other for the failure of the talks in weekend appearances on the Sunday talk shows, but there seems to be little movement to actually get back to the negotiating table.

Trump claimed again Monday morning that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) “want to meet to make a deal.” But Democrats say there’s been no contact with the White House since Friday.

“Well, he just makes things up. Donald Trump is the fables president. He just makes things up as they go,” Schumer said Monday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “And he has not called us. I haven’t spoken to him — I spoke to him during the last bill when [Treasury Secretary Steven] Mnuchin was there. [White House chief of staff Mark] Meadows wasn’t. And we got more done. But I haven’t spoken to him since.”

Schumer added that he hoped “saner voices in the Republican Party will prevail and say, ‘sit down with Pelosi, sit down with Schumer, and meet them in the middle for God’s sake.’”

The impasse over a new coronavirus relief package comes as the United States now has seen 5 million cases and more than 160,000 deaths from the disease. The economy is also showing little sign of improvement. The Labor Department reported Friday that the economy added 1.8 million jobs in July, but job growth also slowed down, and the unemployment rate remains at 10.2 percent.

On top of the high unemployment rate, a federal moratorium on evictions and a federal $600 weekly unemployment benefit expired last month, leaving millions of Americans in a state of economic uncertainty.

The White House last week offered a $400 weekly unemployment benefit through mid-December, which Democrats, who are seeking the full $600 in boosted weekly assistance, rejected. Democrats have also pushed back on any type of short-term deal, arguing they don’t want to negotiate in a “piecemeal” fashion.

The biggest sticking point remains the price tag. Democrats are pushing the nearly $3.5 trillion HEROES Act the House passed in May, but the White House and Senate Republicans want to keep the number closer to $1 trillion. Schumer and Pelosi said last week they offered to go down $1 trillion if the White House went up $1 trillion, but Meadows and Mnuchin refused.

Mnuchin said Monday on CNBC that “there is a compromise if the Democrats are willing to be reasonable.”

“If we can get a fair deal, we’ll do it this week,” Mnuchin said. “But the president needed to take action. He’s not going to sit around. We left the meeting on Friday, Mark Meadows and I reported back to him that we were nowhere and that’s why he moved forward.”

U.S. Fed official say fiscal support package “incredibly important” as Congress fails to reach deal

A senior U.S. Federal Reserve official said on Sunday that another fiscal support package is “incredibly important” for the economy to recover from the pandemic as Congress failed to reach a deal on the new relief bill.

“I would say that fiscal policy has been unbelievably important in supporting the economy during the downturn that we’ve been experiencing,” Charles Evans, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, said in an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“That continues to be important because we’ve not got control over the virus spread. I think that public confidence is really important, and another support package is really incredibly important,” he said.

Evans also said that there would be increases in job losses if Congress doesn’t provide further fiscal support to state and local governments.

“States have to balance their budgets. They are experiencing reduced tax revenues. And so there will be employment reductions,” he said, noting state and local governments account for about 10 percent of employment in the United States.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday signed a series of executive orders to extend certain COVID-19 economic relief, but they’re unlikely to provide meaningful boost to the overall economy.

“President Trump still does not comprehend the seriousness or the urgency of the health and economic crises facing working families,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Saturday in a joint statement.

“The only solution to crush the virus and protect working families is to pass a comprehensive bill that is equal to the historic health and economic catastrophe facing our country,” they said.

Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, has recently warned that the U.S. economy is at serious risk of sliding back into recession unless Congress and the Trump administration come up with another fiscal rescue package before Congress goes on its August recess.

WHO chief points to ‘green shoots of hope’ in COVID-19 pandemic

Although COVID-19 cases are on track to hit 20 million worldwide this week, and 750,000 deaths, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has pointed to “green shoots of hope” amidst the global crisis, while urging both governments and people everywhere to work to suppress the new coronavirus.

“I know many of you are grieving and that this is a difficult moment for the world”, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday, in his latest briefing to journalists.

“But I want to be clear, there are green shoots of hope and no matter where a country, a region, a city or a town is – it’s never too late to turn the outbreak around.”

Tedros underlined two elements for addressing the pandemic effectively, namely that “leaders must step up to take action and citizens need to embrace new measures.”

He praised New Zealand as a “global exemplar” in the pandemic. This weekend the country celebrated 100 days with no community transmission of the virus, while Prime Minister Jacinda Adern has also stressed the need to remain cautious.

“Rwanda’s progress is due to a similar combination of strong leadership, universal health coverage, well-supported health workers and clear public health communications”, he added.

The UN’s top official also commended nations in Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and the Pacific, which took early action to suppress the virus.

Countries such as France, Germany, the Republic of Korea, Spain, Italy, and the United Kingdom, which faced major outbreaks, also were able to suppress the virus to a significant extent, after acting.

Throughout the pandemic, WHO has been recommending measures such as rapid case identification, contact tracing, physical distancing, mask wearing, and frequent hand washing.

Tedros said countries facing new spikes of the disease “are now using all the tools at their disposal”.

He cited recent stay-at-home measures implemented in the UK, as well France’s decision on the compulsory use of masks in busy outdoor spaces in Paris.

“Strong and precise measures like these, in combination with utilizing every tool at our disposal are key to preventing any resurgence in disease and allowing societies to be reopened safely”, he said. “And even in countries where transmission is intense, it can be brought under control by applying an all of government, all of society response.”

The WHO chief stressed that virus suppression is crucial for societies to re-open safely, including for students to return to school.

“My message is crystal clear: suppress, suppress, suppress the virus. If we suppress the virus effectively, we can safely open up societies,” he said.

WHO has underlined its support to Lebanon following the devastating explosion last week that destroyed large parts of the capital, Beirut, leaving more than 200 dead according to news reports on Monday, more than 6,000 injured, and hundreds of thousands homeless.

WHO has issued a $76 million appeal for Lebanon, while staff are on the ground working alongside Lebanese and other UN partners to assess the impact on the health sector.

The agency is shipping $1.7 million-worth of personal protective equipment (PPE) items to supplement COVID-19 and humanitarian supplies destroyed by the blast.

“We are also working closely with national health authorities to enhance trauma care, including through the deployment and coordination of qualified emergency medical teams,” Tedros told journalists.

“We’re also mitigating the COVID-19 impact, addressing psychosocial needs and facilitating the rapid restoration of damaged health facilities.”

Published by jim

Curator of things...

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