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COVID-19: Bolsonaro is Losing Ground & Becoming Isolated in Brazil’s Political Arena, Journo Says

Brazil’s COVID-19 outbreak is threatening to get out of control, while President Jair Bolsonaro is urging state governors to lift coronavirus restrictions, says Brazilian journalist Alan Dantas. According to the journalist, the walls are closing in on the president as his former allies are turning their backs on him.

Brazil is now ranking third in terms of the number of infected, with a fatality rate floating at around 6.4%. Earlier, Bruno Covas, the mayor of Sao Paulo, warned that Brazil’s biggest city’s public hospitals are “near collapse”, as over 90% of their beds are occupied by patients and urged President Jair Bolsonaro to shut down the country. Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump signalled that he was considering restricting travel from Brazil as the country’s pandemic is seemingly spiralling out of control.

‘Lack of Management’ Exacerbating the Problem

“The situation in Brazil becomes more critical every day and the number of contagions and deaths continues to break new records every 24 hours”, says Alan Dantas, a Brazilian journalist and editor of Dossier Sul, an online political magazine. “The lack of capacity of the central government to work to avoid these numbers is becoming more and more evident. Jair Bolsonaro’s government, together with [Brazilian] businessmen, is campaigning for the country to reopen its economic activities and expose people to risk. In many states, health systems have collapsed and in the poorest regions, people remain without health care and die inside their homes”. 

The journalist refers to neighbouring Argentina and Venezuela, which have largely managed to get the pandemic under control due to strict quarantine measures and have so far reported 10,649 and 944 confirmed coronavirus cases respectively.

“Brazil lost control of COVID-19 and now the disease already kills more than other health problems”, Dantas opines. “The big problem is still the lack of management by Jair Bolsonaro’s government, which besides not taking care of the disease, makes fun of the death of its citizens”.

From the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak Bolsonaro dismissed it as a “media trick” and a “little flu” and publicly subjected quarantine restrictions to ridicule. “We will all die one day”, the president said as quoted by Último Segundo in late March. A month later, he shrugged off news about a spike in coronavirus-related deaths: “So what? I’m sorry. What do you want me to do?” he responded to journalists, as cited by The Guardian.

Behind Bolsonaro’s calls for opening the country up is a strong lobby from the Brazilian corporate sector, as well as the financial lobby, according to the journalist.

Previously, the president insisted on the necessity to prioritise the economy: “Are people dying? Oh, yeah. But there will be more people dying, many, many more, if the economy is destroyed by these lockdown measures imposed by governors”, Bolsonaro stated earlier this month, as cited by Euronews.

According to the journalist, Bolsonaro’s “economic crisis” narrative is aimed at persuading Brazilians that the country’s economy will collapse unless its state governors lift the lockdown.

Bolsonaro is on Thin Ice

“The Bolsonaro situation tends to become increasingly unsustainable“, the journalist continues. “His lack of management in the face of the pandemic and the crisis that Brazil is going through are causing his popularity rates to be lower and lower among the population”.

Bolsonaro’s approval rating has fallen to 39.2% from 47.8% in January, according to a CNT/MDA survey, while disapproval of the president has mounted from 47.0% to 55.4%.

The resignations of two health ministers and Justice Minister Sergio Moro’s decision to step down in late April “indicate that Bolsonaro is losing more and more space and has become isolated in the national political scenario”, the journalist suggests.

Moro resigned after Bolsonaro fired Mauricio Valeixo, the federal police chief, in an alleged attempt to shield one of his sons from criminal prosecution. “I didn’t enter the government to serve a master. I entered it to serve the country, the law”, the former justice minister told Time Magazine, commenting on the matter. The president resolutely denounced the assumptions and even called Moro “Judas”.

“The [unfolding] scenario triggers many questions about the continuity of [the Bolsonaro] government in the medium term and whether there would already be a propitious scenario for an impeachment process against him, a letter that is already being put on the table”, highlights Alan Dantas. “It remains to be seen whether Bolsonaro will passively accept this process or risk a coup d’état in the midst of the pandemic”.

On Friday, Brazil’s Supreme Court released a video of a cabinet meeting showing Bolsonaro bemoaning his inability to get information from the country’s law enforcement officials and vowing to protect his family members. The two-hour video with some portions redacted was made public as part of the ongoing inquiry concerning the president’s alleged meddling in a criminal investigation into his son. Although the recent exposure has further escalated tensions in the Brazilian government, Bolsonaro is still strongly denying any wrongdoing.

The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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Demonstrators Protest Against Lockdown in Stuttgart, Germany – Video

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Germany has been easing its coronavirus lockdown restrictions since late April, but some people argue that the process is not happening quickly enough.

A live broadcast shows activists taking to the Wasen festival grounds in Stuttgart to protest against the lockdown measures. According to the organisers of the event, they expect about 500,000 people to take part in the protests. 

Germany has confirmed 620 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, with the total count reaching 173,772, the Robert Koch Institute said on Saturday.

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Trudeau Announces $319Mln in Funding for Canadian Researchers Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

TORONTO (Sputnik) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Friday $318.59 million in new funding for the nation’s research community that has faced funding shortages amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Today, we are announcing $450 million [US$318.59 million] to help researchers and research institutions bridge to better times”, Trudeau said during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The prime minister said the money will go toward wage support in academia and will be distributed through federal granting agencies.

As part Canada’s Economic Response Plan, the Trudeau government has earmarked $107.50 billion in direct stimulus measures as the economy will likely remain beset by the measures implemented to fight the pandemic in the coming months.

The number of Canadians who have contracted the novel coronavirus increased by 1,050 to 73,829, Public Health Agency data revealed on Friday.

Canada’s Wage Subsidy in Response to COVID-19 Extended Until End of August

Trudeau also announced that the government’s wage subsidy programme will be extended until the end of August.

“This morning, I can confirm that we will extend the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy by another three months to the end of August”, Trudeau said during the daily novel coronavirus pandemic briefing.

The prime minister sidestepped questions about the extension of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit – a $354 weekly benefit for workers who have had their income streams affected by the COVID-19 pandemic – which some have suggested demotivates workers from returning to work. So far only $2.38 billion out of the allotted $51.78 billion programme have been distributed to businesses.

The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy is also being extended to registered Canadian amateur athletic associations and journalism organizations, as well as private colleges, schools, and other entities.

Under the government’s Emergency Wage Subsidy programme, businesses that have seen revenues drop by at least 15 percent in March and 30 percent onward can apply to receive 75 percent in wage subsidies to keep employees on payroll while much of the economy remains paralyzed.

According to government data, employers have filed 132,481 applications for the programme. The programme is expected to provide compensation to nearly 1.7 million workers.

In total, the Trudeau government has committed $107.50 billion in direct stimulus measures as the economy will likely remain beset by the virus in the coming months. It is estimated that the programmes will push the budget deficit to $181 billion in 2020-2021 fiscal year – 12.7 percent of the GDP and the largest on record.

The World Health Organisation declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a pandemic on 11 March. To date, 4.48 million people have been infected with the virus worldwide, of which more than 303,000 have died, according to data compiled by the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Centre.

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Restaurants in Berlin Start to Reopen as COVID-19 Lockdown Comes to an End – Video


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Germany has confirmed 913 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, with the total count reaching 173,152, the Robert Koch Institute said earlier today. The death toll grew by 101 to 7,824 people within the same time period.

A live broadcast shows Berlin’s neighbourhoods on 15 May, as restaurants are starting to reopen after being closed since March due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Germany went into a COVID-19 lockdown in mid-March and has been easing restrictions since late April. At the same time, the country has extended social distancing until 5 June to preserve the progress made during the first phase of lockdown easing.

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How Iranians’ Taste Preferences and Buying Habits Changed Over 80 Days of COVID-19 Quarantine

Iran’s first case of COVID-19 was recorded on 19 February. Over a month and a half of quarantine, Iranians’ lives have changed a lot. Of course, self-isolation has affected Iranian consumers’ food preferences and habits.

Sputnik has spoken to residents of Tehran and found out that Iranians have stopped buying gold and started investing their savings not in jewelry, but in stocks and securities on the stock market. However, we can’t say that the jewelry market in Tehran has completely “died” out during quarantine because many Iranians have sold their jewelry due to a lack of livelihoods.

“The jewelry market hasn’t stopped functioning amid the coronavirus outbreak. The market situation differed depending on the area. For example, in the north, jewelry shops didn’t really work. But in the south, where the working class mainly lives, there was active trade, since the workers have lost their jobs and wages, they were forced to sell jewelry to get at least some money. In general, of course, the coronavirus has hit the jewelry market, causing a decline in sales, but we can’t say that we don’t have any buyers of gold products”, Ahmad, a Tehran jewelry store owner, said.

Tehran’s housing market has also been affected. Today, instead of buying real estate, Iranians prefer to transfer their capital to the stock market. However, one real estate agency owner noted that the 2.1% decline in purchasing power and housing prices in April is not only due to the coronavirus.

“This is also due to the sales season. There were holidays, the month of Ramadan started; there’s always less demand for real estate at this time. At the same time, because of the epidemic, construction was suspended, so there were fewer housing transactions. For example, if you take 10 small 50-square-metre apartments, they will be sold in 1-2 days. In the capital, there’s strong demand for oversized housing; there are simply fewer offers due to the suspension of construction projects; that’s why sales decreased”, Jahangir explained.

As for grocery stores, they didn’t stop working even at the peak of the epidemic. Certain products, however, have become scarce. Having been to several grocery stores, Sputnik could hardly find any lasagna, pasta was also not sold everywhere. Vendors put this down to pasta plants having stopped production during the coronavirus, so this product has become scarce.

During the epidemic, Iranians have changed their preferences in fruits and vegetables. Tehran vegetable stall owners noted that demand for sour lemons, garlic, and ginger has risen sharply:

“Iranians started buying fruits that have the most vitamin C. Since there have been many recommendations that sour lemons, ginger, and garlic help strengthen the immune system and help the body fight coronavirus, Iranians were buying up these goods. But the delivery of the same sour lemons from the country’s hot regions was intermittent, because there were problems with freight transport. Due to rush demand, prices for these products have risen sharply, the price of sour lemons has risen from 9,900 tomans ($0.6) to 38,000 ($2.4) tomans per kilo, dried garlic has risen from 13,500 tomans ($0.8) to 32,000 ($2) tomans per kilo, ginger has risen from 45,000 tomans ($2.8) to 65,000 ($4) tomans per kilo”, Ahmad Khodudi, a vegetable stall owner from eastern Tehran, said.

Snacks rate second in sales after disinfectants and detergents. At the same time, Iranians have refused street food. Today, homemade pizzas, sandwiches, and burgers have become a new Instagram trend in Iran, as well as homemade bread, muffins, cakes, and sweets.

“I used to buy a lot of pastries, sweets, and bread. With the quarantine regime, I don’t go out and make my own bread at home. It does take a lot of time, but to some extent it brings us back to the old traditions – homemade bread tastes better”, Fatima, a housewife, noted.

The total disinfection of groceries is among the innovations now being witnessed in Iranian homes.

Somaye complained that she gets very tired because of the thorough washing of all vegetables and fruits: “I have to thoroughly disinfect all my groceries before putting them in the fridge; it takes a lot of time. I used to wash only greens, and now we have to disinfect, wipe, and dry everything”.

Cars are also being disinfected in Tehran. Amid the coronavirus, lanes with disinfecting tunnels have been an unusual innovation for drivers. Disinfection is free there. Sputnik’s correspondent has also tested this disinfection method; everyone in the car had their temperature measured as a bonus.

Due to the lack of imports, electronics in Iran, especially smartphones, which are gradually becoming a deficit, have become very expensive, as warehouses are now empty.

The coronavirus has also affected cinemas, Iranians’ usual leisure time activity. For the first time in the history of Iranian cinema, online home cinema service has been launched. The number of various online courses has also increased: sports, sewing, IT disciplines, cooking, foreign languages, etc.

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US Unemployment Rises to 33.3 Million Since Pandemic Began


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In March, the official unemployment rate in the US was 4.4%, close to a 50-year low, but economists predict it could now be as high as 20%, a level unseen since the 1930s Great Depression.

A further 3.2 million Americans sought unemployment benefits last week as the coronavirus pandemic continues to take its toll on the US economy. This brings the total number of jobs lost to 33.3 million since lockdown measures began mid-March. 

The number of new claims reported each week by the Department of Labour has subsided since hitting a peak of 6.9 million in March. 

The amount of people collecting benefits has continued to rise, despite recent moves to start re-opening in some parts of the country.

As reported in CNBC, the jump in continuing claims “is a little disappointing since it suggests few people are being recalled to work,” said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics.

Companies like Uber, Airbnb and Lyft are among the firms that have laid off staff in recent weeks, as lockdown has had a huge impact on travel.

Other sectors that have been hit hard include the service industry, administrative services and certain medical practices.

According to CNN, in response to the crisis, the government broadened the definition of who is covered by unemployment benefits to include contractors, the self-employed and workers in the gig economy.

The Department of Labour said that as of last week, all 50 states were paying out those extra benefits — but the agency has yet to release detailed breakdowns of how many claims have come in through that program in each state.

Economists are hoping as businesses gradually reopen the situation will improve.

Moody’s Investors Service has predicted that the unemployment rate could fall back to 7% by the end of the year, but that forecast depends on the virus. The longer the shutdown persists, the harder it will be for the economy to rebound.

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Argentinian Entrepreneur: Closing Borders Early Was a Good Decision of Our Government

Argentina remains one of the South American nations that managed to avoid a massive spread of COVID-19, with Johns Hopkins University data from 7 May revealing 5,208 confirmed coronavirus cases and 273 deaths.

According to Igor Baratoff, the co-founder of a small food processing firm in the country’s western Mendoza province, the government’s decision to impose a strict quarantine on 20 March this year was one of the factors that helped prevent the disease from spreading.

Sputnik: Only 85 people have been tested positive for COVID-19 in your province so far and only 10 have died from coronavirus-related illnesses since the start of the pandemic. Other provinces have had even less than that – just two or four cases and zero deaths. What is happening in your community right now?

Igor Baratoff: My province is one of the less-affected provinces. We don’t have a large number of cases, so we’re trying to get back to normal work. Of course, schools are closed, I think schools and universities will re-open in September, and the government doesn’t want to open the schools. The production area, like us, we continue working normally because now it’s time to produce wine and jams. We have six people working in the factory.

Two weeks ago we had to do a rotation of employees, but we never stopped working. Some of my staff members were not allowed to work because of their age, so they had to stay at home for a week or two because of the risks. But being understaffed was the only problem for my company at that time. We are producing food, so the authorities did not prohibit us and other food companies from functioning. In little towns in Mendoza province the government has allowed people to go back to normal work. Small stores are open, and restrictions have been lifted.

Argentina has been on a nationwide COVID-19 lockdown (one of the strictest in Latin America) since 20 March. At the end of April, restrictive measures were extended until 10 May. They affect metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.

Sputnik: Before the pandemic your company, which processes, packages, and sells local fruit and vegetable products, was largely export-oriented. How did the lockdown affect your exports?

Igor Baratoff: The borders are closed, but for other companies exports are going as usual. Of course, there are fewer orders and less quantity, but if I have to export, I can do it. The government closed the borders for tourists and for people who wanted to go outside the country. But in my company, the employees are working normally, complying with the sanitary protocols that are required of us. Right now we are making jams from apples and pears. We don’t export anything because my clients in the US and Brazil asked us to wait until they see what’s happening. It might take some time, maybe until after the winter. Nevertheless, we have growth in domestic sales, in other provinces of Argentina.

Sputnik: What are the numbers when it comes to your current domestic sales?

Igor Baratoff: It’s crazy: compared to the pre-pandemic period, the sales inside the country grew by 200% and in April it was 300%. But we think that the selling trend will change in May – there will be less than that, and in June it will be back to usual numbers. We are selling more because people are at home, they cook and eat more – having breakfast, lunch and dinner at home, they drink more wine because they don’t have to drive anywhere, and stay inside – and that was the reason for the growth in sales.

Sputnik: Your province is known for being the home of Malbec wines and it’s a popular destination for visitors from outside the country. What has been the impact of the pandemic on tourism?

Igor Baratoff: Usually we have tourists from all over the world because of the wine, because of the mountains – the Aconcagua. Buenos Aires, Mendoza, and Iguaçu Falls in Misiones Province or Patagonia are now closed for tourists and hotels are closing, restaurants are not working and nor are the winery tours. The airport in our province is closed. We can’t get out of the province, and nobody can enter. These industries have serious problems and the government is trying to help the tourism industry.

Sputnik: There are various approaches all over the world when it comes to government COVID-19 aid – from giving checks to companies and private individuals, to cutting taxes. What did your government do?

Igor Baratoff: The government started helping by providing loans and tax relief because everything is paralysed. Right now, our small province is starting to open up, but big cities – Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Rosario – the government doesn’t want to open them because of the coronavirus, and they are continuing the restrictions: people have to stay home and only food stores and pharmacies are allowed to function. One of the problems for the government in big cities is transportation – trains, buses, which bring people to work.

They don’t want to resume all that. But here in Mendoza or in other provinces, such as Patagonia, Jujuy, or San Juan, where cities are small and distances are big, it became possible for provincial governments to resume activities. They make such decisions also because we don’t have many cases [of the coronavirus]. In northern provinces there haven’t been any deaths, so all they do is close the provincial border and they let people work as usual.

The government package of COVID-19 tax relief measures for companies in Argentina includes a 95% reduction in employer social security contributions, a 59% reduction in bank credit tax, and a 17% reduction in bank debt tax. 

Sputnik: There is a significant difference between Argentina and countries like Brazil, Chile, and Peru, which were hit very hard by the pandemic. While you have over 5,000 cases nationwide, Chile has more than 23,000 and Peru has more than 54,000 coronavirus cases. Does this have anything to do with the type of lockdown in each of them, or with the timing?

Igor Baratoff: That was what made the difference. When the government in Argentina heard what happened in Spain and Italy – the government here said “Ok, close the country”. They did same thing as 10 years ago, during the swine flu outbreak. The government closed the country, we started the quarantine in March, and, as scientists say – it was a good decision. Other countries, such as Brazil and Chile – they don’t do it. Right now in Brazil they have many cases and [President Jair] Bolsonaro said that he didn’t want to close the country and didn’t want the economic situation to become worse. So, now there is this difference in death toll, which is much smaller in Argentina than in Brazil. So I think that closing down the border early was a good decision by our government. 

The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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