India Reports Record Coronavirus Deaths

India on Monday reported more than 1,000 new coronavirus deaths, the most the country has recorded in a single day since the pandemic began. The new toll put India’s total at 44,386 deaths, trailing only the United States, Brazil, Mexico and Britain. The country has also reported more confirmed new cases than any other in the world for six consecutive days, including 62,000 on Monday. Australia reported its own deadliest day with 19 new deaths, while the center of the country’s outbreak, the state of Victoria, saw some decline in its number of new cases. “Sadly, when it comes to the fatalities that result from COVID, that reflects a situation of several weeks ago now as the virus has taken its course with these particular individuals, the work continues,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters Monday.  “We look for better news when it comes to the stabilizing of cases in Victoria. I am more hopeful of that today than I was in the course of the past week over the briefings I have received over the course of the weekend and again this morning.” China’s National Health Commission said Monday there were 14 new locally transmitted cases, all of which were in the northwestern Xinjiang region that is the country’s current hotspot. China also had 35 imported cases from travelers arriving from overseas. In response to a rise in infections, authorities in Paris imposed a one-month order starting Monday requiring people to wear masks in popular outdoor areas such as along the banks of the River Seine. Paris joins other French cities with similar orders in place, including Toulouse, Lille and Bairritz. Those caught violating the Paris order face a fine of about $160, while those caught three times could face up to six months in prison.A medical technician wearing a face shield talks to a masked woman who waits to get tested for COVID-19 outside a laboratory in Paris, Aug 8, 2020.Students in Germany’s capital return to school Monday as government leaders try to figure out the best way to keep children and staff members safe from the coronavirus. “There are conflicting priorities, health protection on the one hand, which is very important to us, and on the other hand that we want to ensure the right to education of every single child,” German education minister Sandra Scheeres said.  She said keeping students 1.5 meters apart while inside a school is sometimes impossible.  Scheeres recommends that schools divide pupils into groups and keep them separate. If anyone were to test positive for the coronavirus, only that person and their cluster would need to be quarantined instead of everyone.   The central government will require students and teachers to wear masks in the hallways but will not require them in classroom instruction or on playgrounds.   Many other countries are also struggling to decide how and when to reopen schools.  President Donald Trump has been pushing for all U.S. schools to reopen for in-person learning. But many states say they aren’t ready and plan to begin the school year at the end of this month the same way they ended the old one in June – using virtual classrooms.  Last week a photograph of a crowded hallway in a Georgia school showed only a few students wearing masks. The school was closed and students were sent home for online classes after nine students tested positive for the coronavirus.  U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned last week of a possible “generational catastrophe” in education because of shuttered schools. He urged countries to make reopening schools a top priority once the coronavirus crisis subsides.   British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in an article in the Daily Mail newspaper that the country has a moral duty to reopen schools.  He said restarting schools is a national priority and a social and economic necessity.  Johnson asserted that British schools can operate safely and has previously said schools would be the last places to close if there is another COVID-19 shutdown.   The British school year is set to start in early September. 

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Germany Struggles to Set COVID-19 Rules as Schools Reopen

German students go back to school Monday even as federal and state leaders are still trying to figure out how to keep half a million children, their teachers, and other staffers safe from the coronavirus.  “There are conflicting priorities, health protection on the one hand, which is very important to us, and on the other hand that we want to ensure the right to education of every single child,” German education minister Sandra Scheeres said. She said keeping students 1.5 meters apart while inside a school is sometimes impossible. Scheeres recommends that schools divide pupils into groups and keep them separate. If anyone were to test positive for the coronavirus, only that person and their cluster would need to be quarantined instead of everyone.  The central government will require students and teachers to wear masks in the hallways but will not require them in classroom instruction or on playgrounds.  Many other countries are also struggling to decide how and when to reopen schools. President Donald Trump has been pushing for all U.S. schools to reopen for in-person learning. But many states say they aren’t ready and plan to begin the school year at the end of this month the same way they ended the old one in June – using virtual classrooms. Last week a photograph of a crowded hallway in a Georgia school showed only a few students wearing masks. The school was closed and students were sent home for online classes after nine students tested positive for the coronavirus.Students arrive to Dallas Elementary School for the first day of school amid the coronavirus outbreak on Monday, Aug. 3, 2020, in Dallas, Ga.U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned last week of a possible “generational catastrophe” in education because of shuttered schools. He urged countries to make reopening schools a top priority once the coronavirus crisis subsides.  British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in an article in the Daily Mail newspaper that the country has a moral duty to reopen schools. He said restarting schools is a national priority and a social and economic necessity. Johnson asserted that British schools can operate safely and has previously said schools would be the last places to close if there is another COVID-19 shutdown.  The British school year is set to start in early September.  Face masks must be worn outside in most places in France starting Monday, and masks are also required in nearly every indoor setting in Britain and Scotland. Australia recorded 404 new cases Sunday, but New Zealand is reporting its 100th straight day with no new cases of COVID-19 spread by co-called community transmission, when there is no clear source.  Finally, for someone who believes an N95 mask just won’t do, there’s a $1.5 million white-gold-and-diamond-encrusted COVID-19 face mask. Israel’s Yvel jewelry company says it received a request for the special made-to-order mask from an unidentified Chinese businessman living in the United States. “Money maybe doesn’t buy everything, but if it can buy a very expensive COVID-19 mask and the guy wants to wear it and walk around and get the attention, he should be happy with that,” designer Isaac Levy said. “I am happy that this mask gave us enough work for our employees to be able to provide their jobs in very challenging times like these times right now,” he said. 

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6 French Aid Workers Among 8 Killed by Gunmen in Niger

Six French aid workers with the nongovernmental organization ACTED and their local guide and driver were killed Sunday by gunmen riding motorcycles in an area of southwestern Niger that is home to the last West African giraffes, officials said.The six worked for the international aid group, Niger’s Defense Minister Issoufou Katambé told Reuters. Officials had earlier described them as tourists.”Among the eight people killed in Niger, several are ACTED employees,” said Joseph Breham, an NGO lawyer.No one immediately claimed responsibility for the assault.  French President Emmanuel Macron denounced “the deadly attack which cowardly hit a group of humanitarian workers” in Niger and said in a statement Sunday the attack will be investigated.Macron, who spoke Sunday with his Nigerien counterpart Mahamadou Issoufou, added that “their determination to continue the common fight against terrorist groups in the Sahel” remained intact.The president “expresses his condolences and the support of the French nation to the families and relatives of the victims,” the statement said.It is believed to be the first such attack on Western tourists in the area, a popular attraction in the former French colony thanks to its unique population of West African or Niger giraffes.A source close to Niger’s environmental services said the assault took place around 11:30 a.m. (1030 GMT) 6 kilometers (4 miles) east of the town of Koure, which is an hour’s drive from the capital, Niamey.”Most of the victims were shot. … We found a magazine emptied of its cartridges at the scene,” the source told AFP.”We do not know the identity of the attackers, but they came on motorcycles through the bush and waited for the arrival of the tourists.”The source also described the scene of the attack, where bodies were laid side-by-side next to a torched off-road vehicle, which had bullet holes in its rear window.Around 20 years ago, a small herd of West African giraffes, a subspecies distinguished by its lighter color, found a haven from poachers and predators in the Koure area.Today they number in their hundreds and are a key tourist attraction, enjoying the protection of local people and conservation groups.  However the Tillaberi region is in a hugely unstable location, near the borders of Mali and Burkina Faso.  The region has become a hideout for Sahel jihadist groups such as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS).The use of motorcycles has been totally banned since January in an attempt to curb the movements of such jihadists. 

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Protesters Call for End to Spanish Monarchy After Former King’s Exit

Protesters on Sunday called for an end to the Spanish monarchy after the sudden departure of the former King Juan Carlos from the country this week amid a corruption scandal.Juan Carlos, who abdicated in 2014 in favor of his son Felipe, abruptly announced his decision to leave on Monday but there has been no official confirmation of where he went, setting off an international guessing game.”We have to clean up the system of corruption and we should start with the crown,” said Jose Emilio Martin, a bus driver, who was among about a hundred protesters in Madrid on Sunday.Protests against the royal family have spread across Spain since the ex-monarch’s dramatic exit, with about 100 republicans demonstrating in Valencia on Sunday and more protests planned in Mallorca this week during King Felipe VI’s visit to the island.A poll by SigmaDos published on Sunday in the conservative newspaper El Mundo found 63.3% of those questioned felt it was a bad idea for the 82-year-old ex-monarch to have left, while 27.2% agreed with his departure.Some 80.3% said they thought Juan Carlos should face any potential legal proceedings. The poll, carried out between Aug. 4-6 after he left, found 12.4% said he had nothing to answer for and 7.3% did not voice an opinion.Despite the disapproval, reflecting Juan Carlos’ sinking popularity in recent years, some 69.2% of those questioned in Sunday’s poll said he played an important role in the transition from dictatorship to democracy after the death of Francisco Franco in 1975, while 24.4% said he played “little or no” role.In June, Spain’s Supreme Court opened a preliminary investigation into Juan Carlos’ involvement in a high-speed rail contract in Saudi Arabia, after Switzerland’s La Tribune de Geneve newspaper reported he had received $100 million from the late Saudi king. Switzerland has also opened an investigation.The former monarch is not formally under investigation and has repeatedly declined to comment on the allegations.Juan Carlos’ lawyer said on Monday his client was at the Spanish prosecutor’s disposal despite his decision to leave.The pro-monarchist newspaper ABC reported on Friday that Juan Carlos had traveled by private plane from Spain to the United Arab Emirates on Monday.Other media have said he is in the Dominican Republic or in Portugal. Officials there have said they have no knowledge of him arriving.A Spanish government spokeswoman declined on Sunday to comment on his whereabouts. His lawyer and the royal palace have all this week declined to say where Juan Carlos is.News website Niusdiario.es posted a photograph on Saturday that it said showed him walking down the steps of a plane at an airport in Abu Dhabi. If confirmed, it would be the first image published of the ex-king since his departure.United Arab Emirates officials and the Emirates Palace Hotel did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Saturday.   

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Indigenous Peoples Face Critical Threat from COVID-19 as Cultural, Political Rights Erode 

The United Nations warns COVID-19 poses a critical threat to hundreds of millions of indigenous people worldwide.   To mark the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is calling on countries to respond to their needs and to respect their cultural, social and political rights.  
Many of the more than 476 million indigenous people around the world now live in remote locations.  Their traditional way of life and distance from heavily populated areas have largely insulated them from many diseases commonly circulating.  However, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres notes that throughout history, indigenous peoples have been decimated by diseases brought from elsewhere, to which they had no immunity.  Unfortunately, the coronavirus is following the same trajectory.   FILE – Indigenous people from Yanomami ethnic group are seen, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease, at the 4th Surucucu Special Frontier Platoon of the Brazilian army in municipality of Alto Alegre, state of Roraima, Brazil, July 1, 2020The U.N. chief says the inequalities, stigmatization and discrimination to which indigenous peoples are subjected are helping to spread the coronavirus through their communities.  He says limited access to healthcare, clean water and sanitation makes it difficult to contain the disease.    “Indigenous peoples work primarily in traditional occupations and subsistence economies or in the informal sector,” he said. “They have all been adversely affected by the pandemic.  Indigenous women, who are often the main providers of food and nutrition for their families, have been particularly hard hit with the closures of markets for handicrafts, produce and other goods.”    The U.N. reports COVID-19 has infected more than 70,000 indigenous people in the Americas, the epicenter of the pandemic.  Among them, it says are nearly 23,000 members of 190 indigenous peoples in the Amazon basin.  More than 1,000 have lost their lives.   The Amazon and other tropical forests that are home to indigenous peoples have suffered environmental damage and economic deprivation.  Guterres says these people are at the forefront in demanding environmental and climate action to protect their precious reserves. FILE – In this file photo United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a press conference at the African Union headquarters during the 33rd African Union (AU) Summit on Feb. 8, 2020, in Addis Ababa.“Lapsed enforcement of environmental protections during the crisis has brought increasing encroachment on indigenous peoples’ territories by illegal miners and loggers.  Many indigenous people have been victims of threats and violence, and many have lost their lives in the face of such threats,” he said.     The United Nations says indigenous peoples will have a better chance of tackling the coronavirus if they can exercise their rights to self-government and self-determination.   The world body is calling for universal respect and protection of their inalienable rights.      

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US Tops 5 Million Coronavirus Infections

The United States has more coronavirus cases than any other country.  There are more than 5 million infections in the U.S., according to a New York Times database. Brazil and India follow as numbers two and three, respectively, in the number of infections.  Brazil has more than 3 million cases and India has more than 2 million.Brazil on Saturday became the second country in the world to pass 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus, second to the United States, which has more than 162,000 deaths.Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, said last week he had “a clear conscience” despite the toll. Bolsonaro himself survived COVID-19 last month and said he had done “everything possible to save lives.” Because of insufficient tests, experts say, the number of Brazilians with the virus could be six times higher.In the U.S., the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has released a model predicting nearly 300,000 deaths by December 1 if Americans don’t start consistently wearing face masks.IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray said in a statement that if 95 percent of Americans started wearing masks, more than 66,000 lives would be saved.Naga women, wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus, sit by the side of a road selling poultry on the eve of International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, in Kohima, India, Aug. 8, 2020.Mexico’s health ministry reported nearly 6,500 new COVID infections Saturday and almost 700 deaths. Mexico follows only the U.S. and Brazil in the numbers of COVID deaths.  Mexico has more than 46,000 COVID deaths, according to John Hopkins University data.In France, the government ordered face masks must be worn outside in busy areas — except around some tourist sites, including the Eiffel Tower — starting Monday. The government said the French tourism industry has lost at least $35-$47 billion due to the health crisis.”The French are participating massively in the revival of the tourism sector by favoring France,” and 70 percent of those who have gone on vacation have chosen to stay in their country, Secretary of State Tourism Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche.New mask mandates went into effect Saturday in Britain, where people are now required to wear masks in most indoor settings. In England and Scotland, masks must be worn in places of worship, banks, libraries and in many other indoor places.Masks were already required in shops and on public transit, but more stringent measures were imposed to contain a surge in coronavirus infections in Britain after easing lockdown requirements.Travelers arriving in Germany from most non-European countries and regions within the European Union with high infection rates must now undergo testing for the coronavirus Travelers from high-risk areas were previously required to self-quarantine for 14 days or until they could produce a negative test.Australia recorded 404 new cases Sunday – 10 in New South Wales and 394 in Victoria.  Seventeen deaths were reported in Victoria.New Zealand reports it has experienced 100 days of zero community transmission of the coronavirus.  

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French President Hosts International Conference to Raise Funds for Lebanon

French President Emmanuel Macron will host a U.N.-backed international donors’ virtual conference Sunday to raise funds for Lebanon following a massive blast at the port of Beirut last week that killed at least 158 people and injured about 6,000 others.U.S. President Donald Trump announced his participation in a tweet Friday, after he talked with Macron and his Lebanese counterpart, Michel Aoun, tweeting that “everyone wants to help!””We will be having a conference call on Sunday with President Macron, leaders of Lebanon, and leaders from various other parts of the world,” he said.In the meantime, the U.S. has delivered emergency aid to Lebanon, starting with food, water, and medical supplies, under Trump’s direction. Initially it has pledged more than $17 million in disaster aid for the country.In other developments, Lebanese security forces fired tear gas Saturday at thousands of demonstrators who gathered in Beirut’s main square to protest the government’s management of the recent explosion that devastated large parts of the city.At the beginning of a planned protest, a small group of men started throwing stones at security forces as they tried to jump over barriers blocking entry to the parliament building. Police responded by firing tear gas at the protesters.A police spokesman said an officer was killed during scuffles. A police officer at the scene said that the officer died after falling down an elevator shaft when he was chased by protesters into a building in the area.The demonstrators also stormed the foreign ministry building while others in Martyrs Square set up symbolic nooses for politicians and chanted “the people want the fall of the regime.”The protesters later set fire to a truck that was reinforcing barriers on a street leading to the parliament building.The Lebanese Red Cross said more than a dozen protesters were hospitalized and scores of others received medical treatment on the scene.The protest, the first significant demonstration since the explosion, occurred amid mounting anger at Lebanon’s political leadership.The country’s leaders have been accused of widespread corruption and incompetence that contributed to Tuesday’s devastating explosion.Prime Minister Hassan Diab said Friday he will draft legislation calling for early elections and is willing to remain in the position for two months to allow political leaders time to implement structural reforms.The head of the Kataeb Party, Sami Gemayal, told mourners at the funeral of party Secretary-General Nazar Najarian Saturday that he was withdrawing three party members from parliament in the wake of the fallout from the explosion.Progressive Socialist Party and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt told Arab media he was calling for early parliamentary elections and that protesters have the right to demand that political leaders resign.Jumblatt said, however, it is up to Christian protesters and Christian political parties to call for an end to the mandate of President Michel Aoun.Christian political leader Samir Geagea has also called for early parliamentary elections but stopped short of withdrawing his party’s members from parliament.The U.S. Embassy in Beirut said Saturday the U.S. government backs the demonstrators’ rights to peaceful protest and is urging them to “refrain from violence.” In a tweet, the embassy also said the Lebanese people “deserved leaders who listen to them and change course to respond to popular demands for transparency and accountability.”

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Belarus 5-Term President Faces Strong Challenge

Belarusians vote Sunday in a presidential election in which opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya is challenging the five-term authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.Tikhanovskaya, 37, a stay-at-home mother, entered the race after the May arrest of her husband, opposition blogger and presidential hopeful Sergei Tikhanovsky, with the promise to free political prisoners and call new elections.Tikhanovsky, 41, was charged with attacking a police officer and organizing mass unrest. He has rejected the charges as provocations.Although Tikhanovskaya, a teacher of English and German by training, lacked political experience, she quickly emerged as the country’s top opposition figure and Lukashenko’s strongest challenger, with tens of thousands of Belarusians supporting her bid.Election officials registered Tikhanovskaya, likely considering her to have no chance of winning, while refusing to register two other potential presidential challengers — Valery Tsepkalo, a former diplomat, and Viktor Babary, an ex-banker, who is now in jail.Police in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, made 10 arrests Saturday evening as hundreds of opposition supporters drove through the center of the city waving flags and brandishing victory signs from vehicles.Lukashenko, who has been in power since Belarus declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, is running for a sixth term in office, while the country is experiencing an increase in opposition protests against his autocratic rule and economic difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

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Brazil Becomes 2nd Nation to Pass 100,000 Pandemic Deaths

Brazil on Saturday became the second country in the world to pass 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus, second to the United States, which has more than 161,000 deaths and is nearing a different milestone of its own: nearly 5 million confirmed cases of coronavirus. Brazil reported 3 million cases, also on Saturday.Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, said Thursday he had “a clear conscience” despite the toll. Bolsonaro himself survived COVID-19 last month and said he had done “everything possible to save lives.” Because of insufficient tests, experts say, the number of Brazilians with the virus could be six times higher.Brazil has registered more than 1,000 deaths a day for several weeks, something the U.S. has suffered for more than 11 days. Brazil and the U.S. have similar numbers of deaths per 1 million residents, 478 for Brazil, 487 for the U.S. Both are lower than Spain and Italy, which are 609 and 583 respectively.The pandemic has had an uneven effect across Brazil’s 27 states. In Brasilia, the capital, almost 80 percent of the ICU beds are full, but in Rio De Janeiro, the occupation rate is less than 30 percent. In Rio, the stores and restaurants are open and the beaches are in use.”The situation is very comfortable, and we don’t understand why it is happening,” said Graccho Alvim, director of the state’s association of hospitals, according to the Associated Press.In the U.S., the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation released a model Thursday predicting nearly 300,000 deaths by December 1 if Americans don’t start consistently wearing face masks.A man with a long beard wears a vest with the US flag on the back as he walks on Main Street during the 80th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally on Aug. 8, 2020 in Sturgis, South Dakota. Masks are not required at the event.”The public’s behavior had a direct correlation to the transmission of the virus and, in turn, the numbers of deaths,” IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray said in a statement. If 95 percent of Americans start wearing masks, more than 66,000 lives would be saved, the statement said. That same day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention forecast 181,000 deaths by the end of August.Part of the problem, Murray said, is that Americans move around a lot and they bring the virus with them.”If you look at the mobility data collected from cellphones in many parts of the country, we’re almost back to pre-COVID levels of mobility, so we’re just not being as cautious as other people are in other countries,” Murray told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Friday.Murray did have some encouraging news: The rate of mask wearing has risen about 5 percent in the last 10 days, especially in hot spot states like California, Texas and Florida.In France, the government ordered face masks be worn outside in busy areas — except around some tourist sites, including the Eiffel Tower — starting Monday. The government said its tourism industry has lost at least 30-40 billion euros in the immediate impact of the health crisis.”The French are participating massively in the revival of the tourism sector by favoring France” and 70 percent of those who have gone on vacation have chosen to stay in their country, said the secretary of State Tourism, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche.A man who was detained for not complying with COVID-19 regulations by breaking curfew and being out on the street drinking is disinfected with an alcohol solution in Caracas, Venezuela, on Aug. 8, 2020.”This saves the essential,” he said. “But let’s be clear: in normal times, France welcomes 17 million foreign tourists every summer when 9 million French people go abroad” and “a part of this international clientele has disappeared,” he added.Beginning Saturday in Britain, people are required to wear masks in most indoor settings. In England and Scotland, masks must be worn in places of worship, banks, libraries and in many other indoor places.Masks were already required in shops and on public transit, but more stringent measures were imposed to contain a surge in coronavirus infections in Britain after easing lockdown requirements.Travelers arriving in Germany from most non-European countries and regions within the European Union with high infection rates must undergo testing for the coronavirus beginning Saturday. Travelers from high-risk areas were previously required to self-quarantine for 14 days or until they can produce a negative test.In Australia on Saturday, Victoria state reported 466 new coronavirus cases and 12 deaths. Victoria is home to more than two-thirds of Australia’s almost 21,000 COVID-19 infections. Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said six of the deaths were linked to outbreaks at senior citizens facilities.India reported 933 new COVID-19 deaths over a 24-hour period as infections surged by more than 61,000 to nearly 2.1 million. India has the world’s third-highest number of infections after the U.S. and Brazil, where the death toll was expected to reach 100,000 on Saturday. 

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