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Coronavirus Has Turned Hawaii Paradise Into a Privacy Nightmare

When Tara Trunfio stepped off her flight from Boulder to Maui, she didn’t see the leis and grass skirts that so many visitors expect. Instead, the 23-year-old saw masked officials warning that visitors who don’t comply with the islands’ 14-day quarantine requirement would be arrested. 

A Hawaiian get-away sounds magical to the millions of cooped-up Americans who want to trade in their virtual beach background for the real thing. But a trip to the beach can quickly turn into a stay in jail. That’s just what happened to Trunfio, who drew national attention this month after being arrested for allegedly violating quarantine.

For years, Americans have debated the shape their national borders should take, but the newest border controls have increasingly been built on state lines. We’re a long way off from Berlin Wall-style barricades along your local interstate, but in the COVID-19 era governors have issued quarantine orders for out-of-state residents and returning visitors. Rhode Island, Florida, and Texas have stopped out-of-state drivers (sometimes using the National Guard) to remind them of quarantine requirements and obtain a signed compliance agreement

But the most alarming restrictions come from a state that doesn’t have to worry about people driving into town.

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Russia’s Pushing a Quack COVID-19 Cure All Over Africa

ABUJA, Nigeria—U.S. President Donald Trump is not the only figure threatening the World Health Organization while endorsing dubious coronavirus treatments. In Africa, news outlets and social media posts notorious for spreading Russian-created disinformation and conspiracy theories are leveling all sorts of allegations against the WHO, ranging from incompetence to fraud.

The herbal remedy’s biggest booster is Malagasy President Andry Rajoelina, a 45-year-old media entrepreneur elected in 2018 with help from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

At the center of the attacks is what appears to be a coordinated campaign promoting an herbal concoction the Moscow-backed government of Madagascar claims will cure COVID-19. 

The attacks on the WHO intensified when the agency released a statement on May 4 warning Africans against using untested remedies for treatment of the coronavirus after the Malagasy government began to extoll—and export in large quantities—an untested herbal infusion sometimes bottled like soda that’s called Covid-Organics. The main component for the tonic is artemisia annua, known as sweet wormwood, which has been shown to have some therapeutic value against malaria (PDF).

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These Churches Answered Trump’s Call and Defied COVID-19 Lockdowns

On Sunday, just days after Donald Trump encouraged houses of worship to reopen even in states under coronavirus lockdowns, churches from Maine to California defied the law and welcomed worshippers at live services.

In Washington State—the early ground zero of COVID-19 in America—Covenant Christian Church in Spokane welcomed a sizeable, mask-less crowd for morning prayers, according to the local Spokesman-Review. The Reverend Ken Peters, who claims he’d been holding in-person services since May 3, blasted the “satanic” agenda of Governor Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order and vowed to start offering a second in-person service each Sunday evening.

And in California, where in-person services also remain banned and where officials say more than 180 people were exposed to the virus at an illicit church gathering on Mother’s Day, News Channel 3 reported that Church Unlimited in Indio flouted state rules by reopening its doors this weekend. On Saturday, a Pentecostal church in Chula Vista also filed an emergency motion with the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of forcing Governor Gavin Newsom to allow churches to open.

Meanwhile, an independent Baptist church in southern New Jersey defied that state’s lockdown to hold Sunday services in a challenge to Governor Phil Murphy—whose executive order has kept churches closed since March, and who on Friday announced he’d allow gatherings of up to 25 people, but only outdoors. The Solid Rock Baptist Church in Berlin, along with the nearby Bible Baptist Church in Clementon, invited their members to the first in-person services since March, when those initial stay-at-home orders went into effect.

Both of the Solid Rock pastors, Charles Clark Jr. and Charles Clark III, couched their reopening as a First Amendment right. They insisted that it was a patriotic act, and during their Sunday sermons, they repeatedly invoked Memorial Day, reminding congregants that men and women died to give Americans their freedom. And that freedom, they said, included the right to assemble and practice religion inside their church. 

Out of precaution, coronavirus restrictions in New Jersey have kept church members worshipping via livestreams or limited to drive-in services. But many seemed eager to return, like the Clarks, who downplayed the risks of transmission by arguing that people were allowed in all sorts of places not protected by the Constitution, like Walmart and Starbucks. 

“I was just in town, it was hopping,” Pastor Andrew Reese of the Clementon Bible Baptist Church told The Daily Beast on Saturday night. He had reopened last Sunday, and already has a court date in June for breaking Murphy’s executive order. That won’t stop him though, he said, even if he isn’t certain what the legal consequences might be. 

Nor did it seem to be stopping Solid Rock members. The scene at the church Sunday morning looked less like the start of prayer and more like the beginning of a professional sporting event, as hundreds of congregants—many dressed in their church finest—flooded in to attend the 10 AM service.

During a fiery press conference before the service, the elder Pastor Clark delivered a sermon of sorts to the news cameras, calling Governor Murphy a “tyrant” and going so far as to read out the Merriam-Webster definition of the word in full. At one point, he even compared New Jersey to Nazi Germany, emphasizing that the U.S. Constitution was at stake. “This is not North Korea,” he said. “This is not China.”  

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Alabama Is Packing Graduation Ceremonies and Overloading ICUs

Alex Kelley would have liked to go to prom. Or senior field day. Or at least a graduation ceremony.

But the senior at the Montgomery Academy, a private K-12 school in Alabama’s capital city, began remote learning on Zoom in mid-March along with millions of other students throughout the country. Over the next several weeks of isolation, he and his classmates were stripped of the pomp and circumstance that usually accompany their rite of passage.

What’s frustrating, Kelley told The Daily Beast, is watching other seniors in his own state get to walk the stage.

Several high schools in Alabama—where coronavirus cases have been steadily increasing since lockdown restrictions were first loosened last month—went ahead with ceremonies this week, provoking the ire of protesters and dismay among some public health officials. Even as local Montgomery officials warned this week that major hospitals had completely run out of available intensive care unit beds due to an outbreak in the area, Gov. Kay Ivey announced Thursday that statewide bans on large entertainment venues, athletic activities, and childcare facilities would end on Friday at 5 p.m.

In other words, one of the states with the most alarming COVID-19 dynamics in the country was plowing ahead with a uniquely brazen reopening. 

In a testament to the absurdity of the situation in the state, graduates and family members flocked to an 11,000-seat stadium on Wednesday and Thursday nights in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover, where masks and social distancing guidelines were set out. In other cities, more than 500 graduates and attendees hugged one another and socialized sans protection, according to the Associated Press.

In an interview, Dr. Jodie Dionne-Odom, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at the University of Alabama and chief of Women’s Health Services at 1917 Clinic in Birmingham, emphasized the warning Americans have been hearing for months: “The virus is very easily transmitted, and we know that it spreads even more easily when a lot of people are packed close together indoors.” 

That makes a large graduation ceremony risky at best.

“We really have to think about it all together—not just the students and teachers but their parents and grandparents,” said Dionne-Odom. “If some people aren’t safe, nobody is safe.”

“That’s hard to hear as an 18-year-old student,” she acknowledged. 

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India’s Central Bank Cuts Policy Rate in Emergency Meeting, Warns of Muted Growth Due to COVID-19

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New Delhi (Sputnik): India has announced a $266 billion stimulus package to help the economy as part of its endeavour to enable the country sail through the COVID-19 crisis. The package was announced by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week.

India’s banking regulator, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), cut the key lending rate, the repo rate, on Friday to 4 percent from 4.40 percent. 

The decision is aimed at providing liquidity to businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Announcing the policy rate decision, the central bank also addressed the pandemic’s grave impact on India’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth and warned that it may even turn negative. 

The macroeconomic impact of the pandemic is turning out to be more severe than earlier estimated and Indian growth may turn negative this year, said RBI chief Shaktikanta Das. 

“For the year as a whole, there is still heightened uncertainty about the duration of the pandemic and how long social distancing measures are likely to remain in place and consequently, downside risks to domestic growth remain significant,” said Das.

The inflation outlook is highly uncertain, the RBI warned. 

Apart from policy rates, the Indian banking regulator also extended the moratorium on term loans for a period of three months.

As a part of its COVID-19 relief to businesses, the RBI had announced a three month moratorium on term loans until May. This has now been extended through 31 August. 

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Seth Meyers Exposes Laura Ingraham’s Wild Claim That Mask-Wearing Is a Liberal-Media Conspiracy

On Thursday night, Seth Meyers dedicated the latest edition of his “A Closer Look” segment to President Trump’s and the conservative media’s war on mask-wearing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Conservatives have decided to turn [wearing masks] into yet another dumb culture-war issue. Some have even theorized that it’s a media conspiracy to keep people permanently afraid,” explained the Late Night comic.

Cut to Laura Ingraham, a Fox News host whose college newspaper advisor once said harbored “the most extreme antihomosexual views imaginable” and whose own brother has called “a monster,” who indeed appeared to call wearing masks a liberal and media conspiracy.

“Rush Limbaugh made a great point, as he always does, on the radio the other day, and he said that the virus itself, as it weakens and states start reopening, the media that have been selling this panic, panic, panic for weeks and weeks and weeks, they have fewer images to sell their hysteria to justify continued lockdowns. But the masks, well, they’re kind of a constant reminder. You see the masks, and you think, you’re not safe, you’re not back to normal—not even close,” said Ingraham.

“OK, first of all, anytime someone says ‘Rush Limbaugh made a great point the other day,’ that’s your cue to exit the conversation. That’s usually the point on Thanksgiving where you excuse yourself, go to the bathroom, and take a hit off your vape pen…or frantically search the medicine cabinet for something that will get you high,” Meyers joked.

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Joe Biden Shows Trump How to Grieve the Coronavirus Dead in Emotional ‘Colbert’ Interview

It’s been close to five years since Joe Biden bared his soul on the very first week of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, revealing that he was not emotionally ready to run for president in 2016 after the death of his son.

Now, Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee for 2020 and both men are stuck broadcasting from home during the coronavirus pandemic. And unlike President Trump, Biden wasn’t too proud to let people see him in a mask.

“I wear the mask all the time,” Biden told Colbert, removing his black face covering at the top of the interview. “Well, not all the time. When anybody’s around, other than Jill. Although sometimes she wants me to put the mask on so she can’t hear me speak.” 

Colbert began with the one burning question on his mind: “Are you gonna beat this guy?” 

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As Indian Capital Opens Up, People Seek Clarity, Survival in COVID-19 Times

New Delhi (Sputnik): India is currently undergoing its ‘fourth phase’ of a nationwide lockdown imposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Several states have offered multiple exemptions to citizens as a means of reviving the economy.

Days after Delhi’s state chief announced several caveats while partially opening up the city of nearly 20 million amid the national lockdown, the implementation of the anti-Covid-19 measures appears to be going for a toss at the outset.

A lot of people, if not all, found at public places, appear clueless about proscribed precautionary measures. A reality check on the ground in the city throws light upon a probable scenario in the near future amid the pandemic.

The Delhi government has emphasised the revival of economic activities, issuing guidelines which state that markets can open but shops will open on an odd-even basis. Taxis and cabs will be allowed to function but only two passengers can travel during a ride, and drivers will be responsible for disinfecting the vehicle before every ride. Buses will be allowed to accept just 20 passengers only, among other guidelines. 

Sputnik spoke to people from different walks of life to get to the heart of challenges and opportunities during the lockdown and its aftermath. People appear to require additional clarity and assistance in complying with rules and regulations, especially as the local trading community wants to understand how the odd-even reopening rule is to be followed.

According to Praveen Khandelwal, Secretary General of the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), representing the country’s business community, in the last 55 days of lockdown, shops have remained closed.

“Though the traders of Delhi have opened their shops under the odd-even system, the majority of them are not appreciating this system. It is posing several difficulties in compliance. Most of the whole markets are in crowded areas of the walled city and a majority of the buildings have many shops. There is huge confusion among traders about which building number is considered odd or even, or are the shops inside the building with private numbers to be considered,” Khandelwal said.

He added there are an estimated one million shops in the national capital alone, and declared that the odd-even rule poses difficulties for customers, as well.

Naveen Shukla, the president of the Market Association in Rohini, claimed that during the lockdown only shops with essential services were open, but asserted that now all shops have been allowed to function. 

“All the section of the market have suffered a huge loss as per their business. The only problem we face now is that in a few days the markets will be filled again and there are chances of the infection to spread.” 

Volunteers or officials should be deployed so that social distancing is followed, or we will have to hire someone on our own to keep a watch on the behaviours, he added.

According to CAIT, since the lockdown was announced, the city’s retail sector has suffered losses totaling some $6.6 billion.

Many stand-alone shop owners say they are doing everything on their own, in terms of safety measures, and there is no compliance oversight from authorities.

A grocery shop owner in the Rohini area stated that since the markets have reopened, COVID-19 cases have increased on a daily basis.

“The government claims that we have to live with the virus till the vaccine is generated. But what steps are you [the government] taking for public safety? As life is returning to normal, people have started stepping out which poses even a greater risk for the lives of people,” the elderly Sanjay Bhatt said. 

“We are doing everything possible to maintain social distancing,” he added, “but there are many people who violate the social distancing norms and there is no one to keep a check on them”.

“Every evening there are several groups of people on the roadside. We haven’t seen any policemen or authorities coming to check in our area if the rules are being followed or not. The government should educate people about the sensitivity of the situation,” he said. 

The city’s poor, however, are reportedly pleased that, despite a decrease in work, they will again be able to at least acquire basic needs, something that they have not been able to do for the last two months.

“It feels really happy to be back on the road and working again. Only we know how we have managed to live during the lockdown. We are poor people. No one tells us the rules or regulations. Wearing a mask is all I know. If we get two passengers we will have to take them for money,” said Shambu, a rickshaw puller.

Asked about disinfecting vehicles before every ride, as required, auto-rickshaw driver Manoj said it would be better to have a cloth handy and simply clean the seat after every ride. But he had other concerns. “We have hardly been able to earn anything from the last two months. Now, we can only drive with one passenger. How will we buy disinfectants, sanitisers and all? But I have a soap with which I keep washing my hands every now and then.”

Asked about these public concerns, Delhi government spokesperson Ghanshyam Kaushik said it is the duty of local administrations and police to oversee the implementation of the rules, to ensure no violation of guidelines suggested by the government.

A senior police officer in the Delhi police claimed that they are working day-and-night to check that rules and regulations implemented by the government are being followed.

“We are doing our best to make sure that the guidelines are followed while, at the same time, it is impossible to be present everywhere. People themselves will have to ensure some of these guidelines,” the police officer avowed, requesting anonymity. 

Meanwhile, per the health department of the Delhi government, as many as 11,659 positive COVID-19 cases have been reported and 194 people have died in the national capital due to the infectious virus.

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US Mortgage Delinquency Sees Historic Surge as 18 Million Credit, Loan Accounts Unpaid

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Following several weeks of layoffs, business closures and other economic fallout related to the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, the nation observed surging mortgage delinquencies and a significant uptick in “financial hardship” statuses for certain credit products in April, according to American consumer credit reporting agency TransUnion.

In an effort to obtain a more accurate assessment of COVID-19’s impact on the US economy, TransUnion issued a supplemental Monthly Industry Snapshot Report alongside its Industry Insights Report for the first quarter of 2020

The credit reporting agency’s industry snapshot highlighted a dramatic increase in accounts entering into financial hardship status for the month of April – particularly products such as credit cards, auto loans, personal loan and mortgages. 

TransUnion noted “financial hardship” can be defined by a number of factors, including deferred payment, frozen accounts or frozen past due payment. 

Industry snapshot data showed some 14.7 million credit card accounts had financial hardship status in April alone. This translates to 3.22% of all related accounts. 

Similarly, 3.54% of all auto loan accounts had financial hardship status last month, representing around 3 million accounts whose owners were unable to post payments in April. 

Some 2.7 million mortgages, or 5% of all loans in that category, were in financial hardship, the data showed.

This economic snapshot of the credit market amid the pandemic comes alongside the US’ ever-growing COVID-19 death toll. As of Thursday, nearly 95,000 American deaths have been linked to the novel coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University, closing in on US President Donald Trump’s hopeful cap of 100,000 fatalities. 

While economists and other industry experts are being consistently tapped to weigh in on how the novel coronavirus has crippled the economy, Matt Komos, vice president of research and consulting at TransUnion, expressed that a true evaluation should be a future concern. 

“Americans are facing challenging economic times, but it is still too early to tell the long-term implications of this pandemic for the credit markets,” he said in a company release

“Consumers are currently performing relatively well from a credit perspective, though this is likely due to their use of federal stimulus packages, tax refunds, unemployment benefits and forbearance programs.” 

At the same time, the aforementioned aid programs are all temporary fixes, and eventually consumers will be faced with loan payments that were deferred – not canceled. 

“A clearer picture regarding serious delinquency rates and other credit variables will help businesses and consumers transact with confidence,” Komos added. 

According to a recent report from Black Knight, 3.6 million US homeowners were past due on their mortgages in the month of April, contributing to a historic near doubling of the national delinquency rate. 

Andy Walden, economist and director of market research at Black Knight, appeared to be in agreement with Komos regarding the rush to evaluate the scale of COVID-19’s impact on the economy. 

“The impact of COVID-19 on the housing and mortgage markets has already been substantial,” Walden told USA Today. “It will be some months before we can gauge the full extent of that impact. Whatever the ultimate scope, it is almost certain the effects will resonate for many months to come.”

Walden also warned of future fallout in connection to forbearance plans. He explained to the outlet that while the placement of loans in forbearance has historically resulted in positive outcomes for homeowners, the “sheer number of mortgage holders impacted” presents “a risk that some may progress into default and foreclosure further downstream.”

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The Deranged Scene at Trump’s Mask-Skeptical Ford Factory Tour in Michigan

YPSILANTI, MI—There may have been only a few hundred MAGA faithful gathered Thursday afternoon for Donald Trump’s latest visit to a factory churning out essential gear for the fight against COVID-19, but the right-wing carnival energy essential to his bygone arena rallies was in full effect.

So was the bizarro circus over the president of the United States’ distaste for protective masks.  

Loud country music blared from a pickup truck. A supporter waved a flag portraying Trump as a muscle-bound GI Joe with a machine gun. Another held a sign portraying Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer—who has emerged as a bête noire of the right for her aggressive efforts to rein in the coronavirus outbreak—with a Hitler mustache. 

It was a small-but-mighty welcome for a president making a legally fraught visit to the nearby Ford Rawsonville Plant, a facility that has been retooled to produce the same ventilators the president has suggested panicked governors may not even need.

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French defense industry plays catch-up as lockdown partially lifts

As France slowly emerges from an almost complete industry shutdown, defense company executives are considering their next steps.

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‘All of the World Will Be Affected Negatively’ if Africa is Forgotten Amid COVID-19, Says WHO Expert

A new model predicts that almost a quarter of a billion people in Africa will be infected within 12 months without adequate measures to control the novel coronavirus’ spread. Between 4.6 to 5.5 million people could be hospitalised under this scenario, severely straining limited health resources.

Nearly 250 million people could catch the novel coronavirus (COVID-19 aka SARS-CoV-2) across the African continent, with up to 190,000 of them dying if African countries don’t receive the support that they require. This is according to the latest peer-reviewed report by experts from the World Health Organization (WHO), due to be published soon in the British Medical Journal.

Dr Humphrey Karamagi is the Team Leader for Data, Analytics and Knowledge Management in the WHO Regional Office for Africa and co-authored this latest report.

Sputnik: How will non-African countries be affected if the African continent doesn’t get the support it requires to avoid the worst-case scenario that your model predicts?

Dr Humphrey Karamagi: All countries of the world will be affected negatively. At present, WHO has said it anticipates the virus would be around the globe for a few years.

Africa may become a source of new infections for other regions of the world, just as other regions may be a source of new infections for Africa. The support to the African countries therefore needs to be part of the overall global response for all countries.

Sputnik: Your report says that previous predictive models have failed to adequately reflect the socio-ecological factors which are unique to many African countries.

What is different about your model that results in a more fair and accurate prediction of what we can expect to occur in Africa?

Dr Humphrey Karamagi: First, it takes into consideration new information about the epidemiology of SARS-Cov_2 infection, which the other models may not have had.

Second, it incorporates the information on how the infection interacts in the body to cause severe disease, particularly in relation to the elderly, and people with obesity, diabetes or are on hypertension management.

Third, it captures a wider range of socio-ecological factors influencing transmission, all of which country specific data is used to build country-specific models of transmission.

Sputnik: What must be done to avoid the worst-case scenarios of healthcare systems being overstretched due to the COVID-19 outbreak?

Dr Humphrey Karamagi: Effective public health measures focusing on the need to test, isolate, treat and quarantine suspected cases. The aim is to interrupt transmission enough to reduce the risk of infection to a level where a country can effectively respond to the cases its health system can manage. This will avoid unnecessary deaths and costs. 

Sputnik: The African continent appears to have suffered less from COVID-19 compared to Europe, the US and parts of Latin America thus far. 

Why is that? Could it be that a lack of sufficient testing is hiding the true figures of those who have contracted the virus?

Dr Humphrey Karamagi: There are a number of potential explanations:

First, it could be that Africa is still at the early phase of the pandemic that Europe and America went through given its lower rate of transmission postulated from the model. Cases are now increasing in countries where public health containment measures are not effective and reducing in countries where they are (like Mauritius, Eritrea).

Secondly, levels of testing are very low in some countries and many cases may not be detected. As seen in the rest of the world, it is important to have expansive testing in order to identify and respond to cases.

Sputnik: Is your model open source and can its assumptions and data can be scrutinised and evaluated?

Dr Humphrey Karamagi: Obviously it is, and has even been peer reviewed by independent experts. All countries have received and are using it through the WHO Country Offices.

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COVID Is Still Raging in Texas. Time to Open the Bars, Leaders Say.

“Just to be clear, we’re not COVID-deniers or anything.”

Dustin Evans is nervous right now. But the 31-year-old general manager of Southern Roots Brewing Company in downtown Waco, Texas, is committed to reopening his bar at 25-percent capacity on Friday, even with small children and a pregnant wife at home. After all, COVID-19 cases seemed to taper off in his area, with four new infections reported Wednesday marking the first uptick in days.

“It’s not an easy decision, but my parents have poured their life into this business,” Evans told The Daily Beast. “It might be a little dance with the devil, but it came down to someone dropping off a pot of gold at the front door or letting us figure out how to work with this.”

“We’ve been doing to-go beer, but it’s just nothing like when you get a big group of people in here hanging out for an hour and a half,” he added.

After the initial fear and confusion of the unprecedented global COVID-19 outbreak, Evans said, the brewery purchased personal protective equipment, including masks, and made plans for daily employee screenings. Staff also redesigned the taproom, outdoor space, and seating areas with social distancing in mind.

“As much as we wish we could stay home until we find a vaccine, we just can’t,” said Evans. “The president says one thing, the governor says another thing, the local city leaders say another thing.”

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Brazil Turns Into ‘Bubbling Cauldron’ as COVID Cases Soar & Political Crisis Looms, Analyst Says

There is a great underreporting of deaths and COVID cases in Brazil due to a dramatic lack of testing, says Brazilian political analyst Gustavo Guerreiro, shedding light on government resignations and looming impeachment probes against President Jair Bolsonaro amid the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

While Brazilian President Bolsonaro is pushing state governors to reopen businesses, the Latin American country reported a record 1,179 deaths and 17,408 new coronavirus cases in one day on 19 May. The president’s controversial handling of the pandemic has prompted the opposition to step up calls for his impeachment. To date, Brazil’s lower house has received at least 30 impeachment requests, according to Bloomberg. In addition, in late April, Supreme Federal Court authorised an investigation of alleged corruption and obstruction of justice by the president. The decision was made after ex-Brazilian Justice Minister Sergio Moro accused Bolsonaro of firing a top police commander to shield his family from investigations, something that the president vehemently denies.

Bolsonaro’s calls for reopening are only hindering Brazil’s economic recovery, argues Gustavo Guerreiro, executive editor of the journal World Tensions and a member of the Brazilian Centre for Solidarity with Peoples and Fight for Peace (CEBRAPAZ) envisioning that the Latin American country is heading to a political crisis.

Sputnik: Brazil is among the world’s least-tested countries when it comes to COVID-19. While the country has reported nearly 15,000 deaths and 220,000 cases so far, Domingos Alves of the Sao Palo University suggests that the number of infections could be at least 16 times higher. What’s your take the unfolding situation? Would you agree that the actual numbers of those infected could be much higher?

Gustavo Guerreiro: The Brazilian government does not know the number of cases of infection spread throughout the country, let alone deaths. But this is a global reality, due to the great speed with which the virus has spread and the inability of the public sector to carry out extensive testing on the population.

This occurs both in Brazil, and in European countries, and even with the US, which may have an even greater number than what we see there. The point is that Brazil is one of the countries where the test for COVID-19 is least tested. There is also a great underreporting of deaths from COVID-19. Many people die with symptoms of the disease, but remain as suspected cases, as they have not been and will not be tested. I have no doubt that the reality must be even more serious than the study’s estimate.

I do not doubt that Brazil will soon take second place, along with the US, with the highest number of cases and deaths from the disease. Interestingly, the two countries are governed by presidents who have scorned the severity of the disease. Bolsonaro manages to be even worse, because not only does he disregard isolation, but he stimulates agglomerations. This is not an ideological conviction motivated by the so-called herd immunisation, which in itself is absurd, but a sordid rejoicing in a policy of eugenics.


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REUTERS / Pilar Olivares

Brazilian army officers wearing protective gears arrive to disinfect the shelter Stella Maris Complex for elderly people, homeless and patients with mental disorders managed by the Rio de Janeiro City Hall amid concerns of the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil May 14, 2020

Sputnik: Has the Brazilian government so far developed any plan of how to handle the pandemic? What’s your take on Bolsonaro’s decision to open-up while the death toll is rising? What’s behind this? Is he seeking to “emulate” Donald Trump?

Gustavo Guerreiro: There is no structural plan to deal with the pandemic. In Brazil, there is no figure of the central government, which coordinates integrated actions with the federal entities, as it should be.

The proposal to open up trade and economic activity is absurd. You cannot oppose life to the economy. Bolsonaro insists on blaming the governors and the idea of ​​confinement for the economic recession. The cause of the recession is the pandemic. Mass confinement, however paradoxical it may seem, is also a form of faster economic recovery. The less time a country spends facing the pandemic, the better for a return to productive activities. Stimulating the return to work in the middle of a pandemic means, in addition to the human tragedy, as the health system would not support it, an economic tragedy.

This behavior occurs because the president is committed to the elites’ agenda. Much of the business community cares little that the working class is dying. Since labor and social security reform removed workers’ rights and much of social protection, and since Labor Justice was reformed after the political coup against Dilma Rousseff, the worker became disposable.

Bolsonaro himself said that the death of a company was much mores serious than the death of an individual. Added to all this is the desire to imitate everything that occurs in the Trump administration, to whom Bolsonaro’s government is unilaterally aligned, like a vassal. 

Sputnik: Less than a month after Jair Bolsonaro sacked ex-Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta the country’s new health minister stepped down. What’s the reason behind Dr. Nelson Teich’s resignation?

Gustavo Guerreiro: Bolsonaro is often concerned about the prominence of the Ministry of Health, which at a moment of such gravity is robbing the president of his central role.

The departure of Health Minister Nelson Teich before completing a month in office is just one of the president’s inconsequential acts, which has the support of the military around him. Teich did not resign as “a life choice”, as he said, but due to an irrational clash over social isolation and protocols for using hydroxychloroquine. The president had determined that the drug can be used preventively and for mild symptoms. The minister, who is also a doctor, refused to put lives at risk, so he left.

The drug became an obsession for Bolsonaro, who uses it as a political argument to counter the social isolation actions taken by state governors. Bolsonaro ordered the Army Pharmaceutical Chemical Laboratory to produce medicine on a large scale (about 1.25 million pills) with raw material purchased from India. Bolsonaro took the hasty step without discussion with the Ministry of Health itself and with doctors and scientists, but the medication has not been used.

As hydroxychloroquine has its effectiveness questioned all over the world, as well as by the Brazilian Sanitary Surveillance Agency, Bolsonaro does not know what to do with all medication produced by the military, which constitutes an act of administrative impropriety and a crime of fiscal responsibility. To try to protect himself from the results of the deaths resulting from this folly, Bolsonaro issued Provisional Measure 966, which aims to exempt government officials from responsibility for the misuse of public resources and errors in performance during the pandemic. 


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REUTERS / Adriano Machado

A supporter of the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro waves a Brazilian flag during protest against the President of the Chamber of Deputies Rodrigo Maia, Brazilian Supreme Court, quarantine and social distancing measures, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Brasilia, Brazil May 17, 2020

Sputnik: Earlier Bolsonaro’s Justice Minister Sérgio Moro withdrew from the government. Are these resignations a sign of a looming political crisis for the Bolsonaro’s cabinet, in your opinion? What’s your prognosis on how the political situation will unfold?

Gustavo Guerreiro: Sérgio Moro was the main supporter of his government. As a judge, Moro defrauded the criminal process that culminated in the illegal imprisonment of former President Lula, guaranteeing the election of Bolsonaro, who would lose to the then former president. As Bolsonaro has not joined any political party and is seeing his political support base crumble, he begins to cede positions to corrupt political forces, the so-called “centrão” (center parties). At the same time, he sees investigations against his family moving forward.

Former allies, such as Sérgio Moro himself and businessman Paulo Marinho have begun to expose the insides of the Bolsonaro family’s corruption schemes. The National Congress is beginning to move towards an impeachment. In the bubbling political melting pot that Brazil has become, especially in the midst of a health crisis and an unprecedented economic crisis, there is no way to make accurate predictions. Anything can happen. Even a military coup can be considered. Brazil is going through one of its worst moments in republican history and it does not seem that things will improve.

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

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Daily Beast News

Jimmy Kimmel Fires Back at Kayleigh McEnany After Press Conference ‘Scolding’

Earlier this week, Jimmy Kimmel shared a hypothesis with viewers about why President Donald Trump would take an unproven drug to prevent the coronavirus but refused to wear a mask. “I thought about it for a long time last night and I’ve come to what I think is the only reasonable conclusion,” the late-night host said. “He’s trying to kill himself.” 

Apparently White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany didn’t find that joke very funny. 

“Have you been watching the Hydroxy Horror Picture Show?” Kimmel asked Wednesday night. “The president this week claimed he has been taking hydroxychloroquine to stave off the coronavirus. And of course his disciples are now doing it too.” 

Citing reports that Trump fans have been attempting to make their own hydroxychloroquine at home, Kimmel added, “I have to say I like this idea. That’s good old-fashioned American initiative! Boil up some homemade hydroxy! What could possibly go wrong?”

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Daily Beast News

Please Tell Me Trump’s Doctor Didn’t Really Just Prescribe Him Hydroxychloroquine

I actually thought we were through with hydroxychloroquine. 

That medication, which has legitimate uses for the treatment of malaria and certain autoimmune disorders like lupus, was dubiously touted by President Trump earlier this spring as a potential miracle treatment for COVID-19. At one point, he proclaimed that tens of millions of doses had been released to the nation’s doctors struggling with the pandemic illness that has now killed more than 90,000 Americans.

Unfortunately, at this time, there is no reliable evidence to support the use of hydroxychloroquine for treatment of the novel coronavirus. There is, however, ample evidence of the potential for very serious, potentially fatal side effects from the medication. It was because of these side effects that clinical trials using it to treat COVID-19 were halted in France and Brazil, and that an NIH-backed (not peer-reviewed) study of patients at the Veterans Administration concluded it was more strongly associated with killing than relieving ailing veterans. The Food and Drug Administration went so far as to issue a warning to the general public about use of the medication outside of hospital settings. 

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Trump’s Hydroxychloroquine Dosing Divides Fox’s ‘News’ and ‘Opinion’ Wings

President Donald Trump’s jaw-dropping claim on Monday that he’s now taking the unproven anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus prophylactic kicked off dueling dialogues happening in real-time on Fox News, with news hosts warning that the drug can literally “kill you” while the reliably pro-Trump opinion stars applauded the president and mocked the media for “freaking out.”

Weeks after both the president and Fox News seemingly moved on from round-the-clock promotion of the drug as a miracle coronavirus cure, Trump dropped his bombshell, telling White House reporters that he’s been taking the drug for the past week-and-a-half because he’s gotten “a lot of positive calls about it.”

“A lot of doctors take it. I take it,” he boasted to a shocked White House press corps. “I hope to not be able to take it soon, because you know, I hope they come up with some vaccine. I think people should be allowed to.”

Immediately after the president concluded his remarks, a stunned Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto took to the air to implore viewers not to listen to the president, who had just encouraged them to go out and get the drug as a preventive treatment of COVID-19.

“The [Veterans Affairs] study to which the president alluded wasn’t a loaded political one, it was a test on patients there. And those who took it in a vulnerable population including those with respiratory and other conditions, they died,” Cavuto exclaimed, refuting Trump’s complaints about a NIH-backed study on VA coronavirus patients.

“I want to stress again, If you are taking this as a preventative treatment to ward off the virus or in a worst-case scenario, you are dealing with the virus, and you are in this vulnerable population, it will kill you,” he warned Fox viewers. “I cannot stress that enough. This. Will. Kill. You.”



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Daily Beast News

Disastrous Arkansas COVID Cluster Spells Trouble for Church Openings

As states decide how and when to reopen churches amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, a new federal report analyzing a cluster in Arkansas shows how easily the virus can spread in faith communities—even when they take precautions.

The analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) details how one couple—a pastor at a local church and his wife—contracted the virus and unwittingly may have helped spread it to 26 others, which ballooned into a cluster of 61, of which four people died. The analysis mirrors past reports detailing—with painful precision—how just one case of COVID-19 can quickly spread within communities or cities, like at a funeral and birthday party in Chicago

But this latest report comes as states and localities move to reopen from COVID-19 lockdown—and served as a stark warning amid a rush to fashion rules and regulations for large gatherings.

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Defense News

NATO group in Europe to receive first jointly owned aerial tankers

Member nations can also operate the tankers in a cargo, passenger or medical-evacuation configuration.

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Defense News

Lockheed slated to miss F-35 delivery target in 2020 as supply chain struggles to keep up

Lockheed Martin is under contract to deliver 141 F-35 jets this year. Amid COVID-19 restrictions, it’s unclear whether that will happen.

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Daily Beast News

Students in AP Classes Panic Under COVID

The people behind Advanced Placement (AP) tests would like to make one thing very clear: they are not secretly posing as a teenage Redditor named “Dinosauce313” in a plot to catch kids cheating on their exams. The high-pressure tests, which help decide who gets into America’s elite colleges, are not being used for entrapment-style stings.

But as the APs—like every other aspect of schooling—move online amid COVID-19 lockdown, all hell is breaking loose. The COVID-era exams have seen conspiracy theories running rampant, forums filling with porn, tests glitching, and students demanding their fees back. The chaos is turning some students to anti-capitalist mutiny against the biggest name in high-school testing.

College Board, a standardized testing company, has a near-lock on the market for college admissions tests. The company administers the SATs and the AP exams, both of which typically require students to exert themselves in a supervised environment for hours. But pandemic school closures forced the company to improvise by shortening the tests and moving them online.

The first COVID-19-era tests were scheduled for this week and last, and quarantined students met the announcement with mixed reactions from the start.

“On the one hand, the abridged version is certainly a bit relieving, especially as stress has increased tenfold in recent weeks,” Kansas high school junior Conner Hunter told The Daily Beast. “But on the other hand, it feels an insult to the work that we’ve all been putting in this year. Most of the content we’ve studied hard to learn won’t be represented on the exam. Not to mention, the shorter format is much less forgiving to mistakes, as a single incorrect portion of an answer could make the difference between a passing and failing grade.”



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NC GOP Worries Richard Burr Scandal Could Take Down Thom Tillis

Fortunately for him, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) doesn’t have to answer for making questionable stock sales timed around the coronavirus outbreak. Unfortunately for him, he may have to answer for someone else’s: Sen. Richard Burr.

Burr, Tillis’ fellow North Carolina GOP senator, is under federal investigation for selling up to $1.7 million worth of stock holdings before COVID-19 crashed financial markets. After his phone was seized by federal agents last week, Burr stepped down from his chairmanship of the powerful Senate intelligence committee, and his political future is in peril.

But it’s Tillis who is facing North Carolina voters this fall, and the cloud of scandal around his counterpart could make the headwinds facing Tillis even stiffer as he seeks re-election. Shortly after the news of Burr’s trading first broke in March, Tillis came out with a stern statement saying that his fellow Republican owed the people of North Carolina an “explanation” for what happened.

The first-term Republican was already vulnerable thanks to an iffy relationship with the staunchly pro-Trump GOP base in North Carolina and the emergence of a well-funded Democratic challenger, Cal Cunningham. At the top of the ticket, Democrats are increasingly bullish about their chances for presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden to seriously contest North Carolina, and many believe the incumbent governor, Democrat Roy Cooper, will also add to Cunningham’s coattails as he seeks a second term. 

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Daily Beast News

Stephen Colbert Brutally Mocks Trump for Taking Hydroxychloroquine

Stephen Colbert opened his Late Show monologue Monday night with the day’s “startling admission” from President Donald Trump.

“I’m taking it, hydroxychloroquine,” Trump told reporters. “A couple weeks ago I started taking it.” Asked why he’s taking it, the president added, “Because I think it’s good. I’ve heard a lot of good stories.”

“Of course, that’s why anyone takes an experimental drug treatment,” Colbert said before presenting his own version of a pharmaceutical ad for the unproven treatment: “If you think hydroxycholoroquine might be right for you, don’t ask your doctor. Just ask around. And if you hear some good stories, eat it. Eat it, you coward.”

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News Sputnik

Doggy Weights: Belgian Shepherd Helps Owner Exercise During Quarantine

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While most gyms remain closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining one’s workout routine has proven difficult. Luckily for some, their pets have assisted them in their quest to remain fit, as a smart canine and his owner recently demonstrated.

Footage shared on YouTube by Viral Hog captures a man and his dog in Brno, Czech Republic, performing a series of exercises together during quarantine. Video shows Rancho, a long-haired Belgian Shepherd Tervuren, helping his “dad” with his home workout by helping to hold down his feet during sit-ups and acting as a substitute for weights. 

“The gyms are closed and this is the only way Rancho’s dad can get some exercise done. Probably the hardest part for him was doing push-ups with Rancho on his back,” Rancho’s family told the video licensor. 

What a fit duo!

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