All posts by MPolitics

Norway Landslide Takes Homes Into Sea

Officials in Norway say eight structures were swept into the sea by a landslide near the Norwegian Arctic town of Alta.A local resident, Jan Egil Bakkedal, captured the event on video Wednesday in the village of Kraakneset. He told the Associated Press he ran for his life when he realized what was happening. Among houses that were lost was his own.Police estimate the landslide was between 650 meters and 800 meters wide and up to 40 meters high. Officials did not know what caused the slide.Several minor landslides followed, and nearby houses were temporarily evacuated as a precaution.No injuries were reported. A dog that was washed into the sea was able to swim back to land. 
 

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Britain Hosts Global COVID-19 Vaccine Summit

British Prime Minister Prime Minister Boris Johnson Thursday opened the Global Vaccine Summit, a virtual gathering of more that 50 countries, to raise funds for the U.N.-backed public-private health alliance known as GAVI, with the goal of ensuring vaccines are available to all.The summit hopes to raise more than $7.5 billion for the development and equitable world-wide distribution of COVID-19 and other vaccines.In his remarks from London, Johnson pledged Britain will contribute just over $2 billion to the GAVI vaccine alliance over the next five years.  Along with creation of a COVID-19 vaccine, Johnson also called on nations to replenish funding for vaccines that already exist.In a recorded video message, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for global solidarity to ensure every person everywhere has access to any COVID-19 vaccine that is produced, and for the network that is used to share that vaccine be used to deliver a range of basic health services.Using data provided by governments around the world, Johns Hopkins University reports the COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 386,000 worldwide and crippled economies. Restrictions imposed to prevent the virus from spreading have further hampered efforts to deliver regular vaccinations and other health services around the world.

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A Million Beers Await Drinkers as Europe’s Bars Reopen

BRUSSELS/COPENHAGEN — As bars across Europe gradually reopen, up to a million free or pre-paid beers are waiting to lure back wary consumers. 
  
Beer makers from global giant Anheuser-Busch InBev to smaller craft brewers have set up schemes for consumers to buy drinks in advance to support shuttered bars with, in some cases, the reward of free beer when the doors reopen. 
  
AB InBev launched its first scheme “Cafe Courage” in Belgium and has since sold over 200,000 Stella Artois, Jupiler and other brands. It also started similar schemes in 20 other markets across Europe and from Brazil to Hong Kong, raising over $6 million for pubs, bars and restaurants. 
  
World number two Heineken put the number of drinks sold through its various voucher schemes at 270,000. 
  
Now the bars are opening, consumers have had their first chance to redeem coupons or vouchers. 
  
Danish friends Arendse Rohland and Thomas Hoffner Lovgren were among those to profit from free beers after bars re-opened there on May 18. 
  
Danish brewer Carlsberg offered lagers in a bar to consumers who bought bottles or cans from stores in its “Adopt a Keg” scheme. The idea was to lure drinkers back with free drinks and hope that they would then buy more. Hoffner Lovgren and Rohland both seemed willing to do so. 
  
“I rarely only drink one beer,” Roland said after collecting a free drink at Carl’s Ol & Spisehus in a Copenhagen suburb. 
  
Drinkers elsewhere are now in line. France became the latest country on Tuesday to allow bars and restaurants to operate after the Netherlands on Monday. Ireland and Belgium are expected to follow later this month, with Britain in July. 
  
Julian Marsili, Carlsberg global brand director, said its campaign would even continue into the summer. 
  
“Travel will not be massive, at least outside Denmark, so we are encouraging people who want to adopt kegs to explore Denmark further in bars in the tourist places,” he said. 
  
The schemes have helped, but not made up the shortfall. In Britain, the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said pubs could have recorded their best April in a decade, selling 745 million pints in unseasonably warm and sunny weather. 
  
The issue is acute for brewers, with about a third of beer typically consumed in pubs, bars or cafes. In value terms, that can rise to 60-65%, according to Pierre-Olivier Bergeron, secretary general of the Brewers of Europe. 
  
Beer sales in stores have risen, but well below the rate of wine and spirits and not enough to make up for the loss of on-premise drinking, according to U.S. data from marketing research firm Nielsen.   
  Will they come?
  
Reopened bars and restaurants will clearly not operate as they did before the coronavirus closures, with limited time at the bar or table service, shorter hours and measures to minimize contact between staff and customers and to keep customers apart. 
  
Emma McClarkin, BBPA chief executive, said the social distancing gap made a big difference. Two meters, currently used in Britain, might only allow only a third of Britain’s 47,000 pubs to reopen while a one-meter rule, deemed safe by the World Health Organization, would allow 75% to operate, she said. 
  
Brewers have also been helping with some of the new hardware involved and learning from China, where restaurants and bars reopened from March. 
  
Jan Craps, chief executive of Budweiser Brewing Co APAC, said the AB InBev Asian subsidiary had sent “welcome kits” including hand sanitizer, gloves, masks and advice to 50,000 bars and restaurants across China and 1,000 plastic screens to help smaller venues separate groups of customers. 
  
Craps said the kits were being replicated in many other countries, such as the Americas where the brewer has its largest markets. 
  
A study for the brewer of British pub-goers found 93% were keen to revisit their local and over a third intend to visit within a week of reopening. A majority also wanted to keep 2 meters away from strangers. 
  
Business will not resume as before. Belgian cafe and restaurant owners expect on average 45% fewer customers as a result of social distancing measures and consumer wariness. 
  
“It’s not a back to normal situation… establishments now reopening will be reopening under pretty special conditions,” Bergeron said. 
 

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Protests Over George Floyd’s Death Expose Raw Race Relations Worldwide

Images of a white police officer kneeling on the neck of African-American George Floyd, who then died, have sparked protests from Amsterdam to Nairobi, but they also expose deeper grievances among demonstrators over strained race relations in their own countries.
 
With violent clashes between protesters and authorities raging in the United States, anti-police-brutality activists gathered by the thousands in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in various European and African cities.
 Peaceful protesters highlighted allegations of abuse of black prisoners by their jailers, social and economic inequality, and institutional racism lingering from the colonial pasts of the Netherlands, Britain and France.
 
“If you want to believe that we in the Netherlands do not have a problem with race, you should go ahead and go home,” Jennifer Tosch, founder of Black Heritage Amsterdam Tours, told a crowd in Amsterdam, from where the Dutch West India Company operated ships estimated to have traded 500,000 slaves in the 1600s and 1700s.
 
Tosch and others drew a comparison between Floyd’s death and the treatment of slaves centuries ago. “We have seen this image before as white persecutors and enslavers held down the enslaved and branded them with an iron.”
 People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Monday, June 1, 2020, to protest against the recent killing of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, U.S.A., after being restrained by police…In London, a protester held a placard reading “The UK isn’t innocent,” while in Berlin around 2,000 people protested outside the U.S. embassy and two Bundesliga soccer players wore “Justice for George Floyd” shirts on Monday.
 
A similar message came from Dominique Sopo, president of French NGO SOS Racisme, which organized a small protest outside the U.S. embassy in Paris on Monday.
 
“This issue of police racism is also, albeit with a lower level of violence, an issue that concerns France,” he said.
 
Police in northern Paris fired tear gas on Tuesday to disperse demonstrators protesting over the 2016 death of a young black Frenchman in police custody – an incident that has drawn parallels with Floyd’s killing.
 
Adama Traore’s family have blamed excessive force used during his arrest, when the 24-year-old was pinned down by three gendarmes. Successive pathology reports have reached conflicting conclusions over whether his death two hours later resulted from asphyxiation or other factors including pre-existing conditions.
 
Amid a coronavirus lockdown, French activists also say there have been a number of police brutality cases in low-income neighborhoods where many originate from Africa.
 Turkish police officers, in riot gear, and wearing face masks for protections against the spread of the coronavirus, scuffle with protesters during a demonstration in Istanbul, Tuesday, June 2, 2020, against the recent killing of George Floyd in…Clashes in Turkey
 
In Istanbul, more than 50 people clashed with police officers minutes after beginning a protest over Floyd and what they called police brutality in Turkey.
 
At least five people were detained after scuffles with officers holding shields, after which other protesters gave speeches denouncing lethal police force and bans on demonstrations in Turkey during the pandemic.
 
In Nairobi, protesters at the American embassy held signs reading “Black Lives Matter” and “Stop Extrajudicial Killings”.
 
“The system that allows police brutality to happen in Kenya is based on class. In America, it’s race and class.”
 What Is Black Lives Matter?Origins of the movement opposing police violence against black AmericansProtests are planned in coming days in Gambia, Britain, Spain and Portugal.
 
In Spain, protesters will mark the death of Floyd and “all sisters and brothers who have died at the hands of institutional racism on our streets,” the African and Afro-descendant Community CNAAE said.
 
Portugal’s gathering will address “the myth that Portugal is not a racist country.”
 
But not all in Europe side with the protesters.
 
Spain’s far-right Vox party and the Netherlands’ anti-Islam Freedom Party called those protesting Floyd’s death “terrorists” and backed U.S. President Donald Trump.
 
“Our support for Trump and the Americans who are seeing their Nation attacked by street terrorists backed by progressive millionaires,” Vox wrote in a Tweet.
 
In the Netherlands, the Freedom Party’s Geert Wilders tweeted: “White House under attack. This is no protest but anarchy by #AntifaTerrorists.”
 
Even amid such racial division, Linda Nooitmeer, who heads the National Institute for the Study of Dutch Slavery and its Legacy, drew hope from Monday’s protest in Amsterdam. 

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Top Swedish Scientist Defends Country’s ‘Soft’ COVID Approach

Sweden’s chief epidemiologist Wednesday defended his country’s controversial “soft” COVID-19 strategy, in which Sweden never totally shut down, but admitted the country could have done some things better.Unlike its European neighbors and much of the rest of the world, Sweden relied on its citizens’ sense of civic duty.  Authorities advised people to practice social distancing, but schools, bars and restaurants have been kept open the entire time. Only gatherings of more than 50 people have been banned.The strategy resulted in one of the highest per capita COVID-19 death rates in the world.At a news briefing, Swedish Public Health Agency epidemiologist Anders Tegnell acknowledged that there would always be “aspects where we could have handled this situation even better than we do today, now, as we learn more and more things.”But he said Swedish authorities still thought theirs was the right strategy. Tegnell said it has worked very well in terms of containing the spread of the disease to a level that the Swedish health care system could handle. It has made it possible to keep schools open, which he said was very important for their society.He acknowledged the “unfortunate” death toll, which he said was mainly in long-term care facilities.  In a Swedish radio interview earlier in the day, Tegnell admitted the death toll had made him reconsider his approach to the pandemic.According to the national health agency, the nation of 10.2 million people has seen 4,542 deaths linked to COVID-19, far more than its neighboring Nordic countries and one of the world’s highest per capita death rates.Denmark has had 580 coronavirus deaths, Finland 320 and Norway 237, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

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Scientist Defends Sweden’s Hotly Debated Virus Strategy

Sweden’s chief epidemiologist on Wednesday defended his country’s controversial coronavirus strategy, which avoided a lockdown but resulted in one of the highest per capita COVID-19 death rates in the world.
Anders Tegnell of the Public Health Agency denied that “the Swedish strategy was wrong and should be changed. That’s not the case.”  
“We still believe that our strategy is good, but there is always room for improvement. … You can always get better at this job,” Tegnell told a news conference in Stockholm.  
Sweden has stood out among European nations and the world for the way it has handled the pandemic, not shutting down the country or the economy like other nations but relying on citizens’ sense of civic duty. Swedish authorities have advised people to practice social distancing, but schools, bars and restaurants have been kept open the entire time. Only gatherings of more than 50 people have been banned.
Tegnell’s statement to reporters came after more contrite comments earlier in the day to Swedish radio in which he said “I think there is potential for improvement in what we have done in Sweden, quite clearly.”  
Asked if the country’s high death toll has made him reconsider his unique approach to the pandemic, Tegnell told Swedish radio “yes, absolutely.”
According to the national health agency, Sweden, a nation of 10.2 million people, has seen 4,542 deaths linked to COVID-19, which is far more than its Nordic neighbors and one of the highest per capita death rates in the world. Denmark has had 580 coronavirus deaths, Finland has seen 320 and Norway has had 237, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
“If we were to encounter the same disease again, knowing precisely what we know about it today, I think we would settle on doing something in between what Sweden did and what the rest of the world has done,” Tegnell, considered the architect of the unique Swedish pandemic approach, told SR.
Still, authorities in Sweden, including Tegnell, have been criticized — and some have apologized — for failing to protect the country’s elderly and nursing home residents.  
But Tegnell said Wednesday it was still unclear what the country should have done differently. He also said other nations are unable to tell exactly what measures affected the outcomes of their outbreaks because they threw everything at the crisis at once.
“Maybe we know that now, when you start easing the measures, we could get some kind of lesson about what else, besides what we did, you could do without a total shutdown,” Tegnell said in the radio interview.
At the news conference, Tegnell made it clear that his previous statement “was an admission that we always can become better. I’m sure my colleagues all over the world would say the same thing. There are always aspects which we could have handled this situation even better than we do today, now, as we learn more and more things,” he told The Associated Press.
“Sometimes I feel like a personal punchbag, but that’s OK. I can live with that,” Tegnell added.  
Sweden’s COVID-19 infection rate of 43.2 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants is lower than Spain’s (58.1) and Italy’s (55.4), but is higher than reported rates in the United States (32.1) and Brazil (14.3), according to Johns Hopkins University.  
Last week, the country’s former state epidemiologist, Annika Linde, said in retrospect she believes an early lockdown could have saved lives in Sweden. Political pressure has also forced the Swedish government to speed up an investigation into the handling of the pandemic.
Ordinary Swedes are not sure what to think.
“I’m not walking around thinking that we have a real disaster here in Sweden,” Jan Arpi, a 58-year-old sales executive, told The Associated Press. “I think we have it more or less under control, but we have to be even more careful now after we learned how the virus is spread, especially among elderly people.”  
Tegnell’s pandemic tactics made Sweden a bit of a local pariah in the Nordics and didn’t spare the Swedish economy.  
Sweden’s economy, which relies heavily on exports, is expected to shrink 7% in 2020 and the finance minister says the Scandinavian country is headed for “a very deep economic crisis.”  
More than 76,000 people have been made redundant since the outbreak began and unemployment, which now stands at 7.9%, is expected to climb higher.
On the travel front, neighboring Norway and Denmark said they were dropping mutual border controls but would keep Sweden out of a Nordic “travel bubble.”  
The Danes said they will reopen the border next month to residents of Germany, Norway and Iceland as the country eased its coronavirus lockdown. But Denmark, which has a bridge that goes directly into Sweden, has postponed a decision reopening to Swedish visitors until after the summer. 

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Scientists Warn Of Dangers As Britain Eases Covid-19 Lockdown

Britain this week eased its lockdown rules, with some pupils returning to school and many families allowed to meet for the first time since March, when measures were implemented to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Britain was one of the slowest countries to lock down and is now one of the worst-hit, with almost 50,000 COVID-19 deaths. Some scientists are now warning that relaxing lockdown rules could trigger a second wave of the pandemic. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.Camera: Henry Ridgwell    Produced by: Jon Spier 

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Turkey: Officers Disperse Anti-Police Brutality Protest

Police in Istanbul have dispersed a small group of demonstrators who gathered in the Turkish city to denounce police violence and to stand in solidarity with protesters in the United States. At least 29 demonstrators were detained, Turkey’s state-run agency reported.
Anadolu Agency said riot police broke up the demonstration in Istanbul’s Kadikoy district late Tuesday after the group of about 50 activists ignored calls to disperse.  
Some of the anti-police violence activists were seen carrying a poster of George Floyd, who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck while the handcuffed black man called out that he couldn’t breathe.
Floyd’s death on May 25 sparked protests that spread across the U.S. and beyond.
Turkish authorities frequently impose bans on public demonstrations or gatherings on security grounds. Human rights groups often accuse police of using disproportionate force to break up demonstrations.

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‘Dangerous’: Around World, Police Chokeholds Scrutinized

Three days after George Floyd died with a Minneapolis police officer choking off his air, another black man writhed on the tarmac of a street in Paris as a police officer pressed a knee to his neck during an arrest. Immobilization techniques where officers apply pressure with their knees on prone suspects are used in policing around the world and have long drawn criticism. One reason why Floyd’s death is sparking anger and touching nerves globally is that such techniques have been blamed for asphyxiations and other deaths in police custody beyond American shores, often involving non-white suspects. “We cannot say that the American situation is foreign to us,” said French lawmaker Francois Ruffin, who has pushed for a ban on the police use of face-down holds that are implicated in multiple deaths in France, a parliamentary effort put on hold by the coronavirus pandemic. The muscular arrest on May 28 in Paris of a black man who was momentarily immobilized face-up with an officer’s knee and upper shin pressing down on his jaw, neck and upper chest is among those that have drawn angry comparisons with the killing of Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis. The Paris arrest was filmed by bystanders and widely shared and viewed online. Police said the man was driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol and without a license and that he resisted arrest and insulted officers. His case was turned over to prosecutors. In Hong Kong, where police behavior is a hot-button issue after months of anti-government protests, the city’s force says it is investigating the death of a man who was immobilized face-down during his arrest in May by officers who were filmed kneeling on his shoulder, back and neck.A man walks past extra barricades that have been erected near the Legislative Council in Hong Kong on May 26, 2020.Police rules and procedures on chokeholds and restraints vary internationally. In Belgium, police instructor Stany Durieux says he reprimands trainees, docking them points, “every time I see a knee applied to the spinal column.” “It is also forbidden to lean on a suspect completely, as this can crush his rib cage and suffocate him,” he said. Condemned by police and experts in the United States, Floyd’s death also drew criticism from officers abroad who disassociated themselves from the behavior of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. He was charged with third-degree murder after he was filmed pushing down with his knee on Floyd’s neck until Floyd stopped crying out that he couldn’t breathe and eventually stopped moving. In Israel, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said “there is no tactic or protocol that calls to put pressure on the neck or airway.” In Germany, officers are allowed to briefly exert pressure on the side of a suspect’s head but not on the neck, says Germany‘s GdP police union. In the U.K., the College of Policing says prone suspects should be placed on their side or in a sitting, kneeling or standing position “as soon as practicable.” Guidance on the website of London’s police force discourages the use of neck restraints, saying “any form of pressure to the neck area can be highly dangerous.” Even within countries, procedures can vary. The thick Patrol Guide, hundreds of pages long, for the New York Police Department says in bold capitals that officers “SHALL NOT” use chokeholds and should “avoid actions which may result in chest compression, such as sitting, kneeling, or standing on a subject’s chest or back, thereby reducing the subject’s ability to breathe.” But the so-called “sleeper hold,” where pressure is applied to the neck with an arm, blocking blood flow, was allowed for police in San Diego before Floyd’s death triggered a shift. Police Chief David Nisleit said he would this week order an end to the tactic. Gendarmes in France are discouraged from pressing down on the chests and vital organs of prone suspects and are no longer taught to apply pressure to the neck, said Col. Laurent De La Follye de Joux, head of training for the force. “You don’t need to be a doctor to understand that it is dangerous,” he said. But instructions for the National Police, the other main law and order force in France, appear to give its officers more leeway. Issued in 2015, they say pressure on a prone suspect’s chest “should be as short as possible.” Christophe Rouget, a police union official who briefed lawmakers for their deliberations in March about the proposal to ban suffocating techniques, said if officers don’t draw pistols or use stun-guns then immobilizing people face-down is the safest option, stopping suspects from kicking out at arresting officers. “We don’t have 5,000 options,” he said. “These techniques are used by all the police in the world because they represent the least amount of danger. The only thing is that they have to be well used. In the United States, we saw that it wasn’t well used, with pressure applied in the wrong place and for too long.” He added that the “real problem” in France is that officers don’t get enough follow-up training after being taught restraints in police school. “You need to repeat them often to do them well,” he said. 

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