Category Archives: News

worldwide news

COVID-19 Declining in Western Europe, Still Rising in East

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday that COVID-19 is on a slow but steady decline in most of western Europe but remains on the rise in Russia and parts of eastern Europe. Speaking to reporters via video conference from WHO headquarters in Geneva, spokeswoman Dr. Margaret Harris said the number of new cases in the west remains “significant,” and the decline is slow.   New cases in Russia, she said, along with other areas of eastern Europe, are still on the rise. She said the latest figures show Russia to have 414,878 cases of infection with 4,855 deaths. Harris was asked about a recent study in the city of Wuhan, China – where the virus is believed to have emerged in December – in which Chinese authorities were said to have tested nearly 10 million people and found only 300, mainly asymptomatic cases of COVID-19.   She said much more research is needed globally to put this data into context. Harris said a study of that size “gives you a little piece of the puzzle, gives you a little bit of information. But it may be related to a setting, there’s much more work that needs to be done around the world.” Harris said a WHO-led international mission to China and Wuhan earlier this year suggested that while asymptomatic transmission might play a part in spreading the disease, it did not appear to be the main “driver” of the outbreak. As of Tuesday, the WHO reports more than 6 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, including 373,548 deaths.  By region, the WHO says the Americas are the epicenter of the pandemic, with more than 2.8 million cases, followed by Europe (2.2 million), the Eastern Mediterranean (536,148), Southeast Asia (272,512), the Western Pacific (184,305) and Africa (108,121). 

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Music Industry Pauses for ‘Black Out Tuesday’  

Several prominent media and entertainment organizations, including Apple and ViacomCBS, paid tribute to the call for racial equality and justice in the United States amid the recent protests, some violent, by pausing regular services and company events on what they are calling “Black Out Tuesday.” 
 
According to Reuters, CBS said it would spend the day reflecting on “building community,” putting business ventures temporarily “on pause.”  
 
The company also said it would broadcast 8 minutes and 46 seconds of breathing sounds with the words “I can’t breathe,” echoing the last words of George Floyd, a man killed last week in Minneapolis.  
 
Floyd’s death has caused international outrage and days of protests across the nation, many turning violent. The officer present at the time of Floyd’s death, Derek Chauvin, has been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.  
 
Black Out Tuesday was initially organized by the music community, the AP reports, although the movement quickly spread across social media to include sports stars, such as Lebron James, and other prominent cultural icons like Kylie Jenner.  
 
There has been some criticism on social media, however, that people tagging #black lives matter on the post has pushed the protest content and resources out of sight and actually has obscured it, rather than help to amplify it. They charge that this approach is not well conceived and is harming the cause rather than helping it. 
 
Rapper Little Nas X called for more exposure, saying the black-out effect shields the public from “what’s going on.”  
 
“This is not helping us,” he tweeted. 
 
Apple Music and iTunes both featured the group Black Lives Matter on their homepage, while streaming service Spotify created black logos for several of their most popular playlists, each captioned with the phrase “black lives matter.”  
 
The company added that it, too, would feature an 8 minute and 46 second track in select playlists and podcasts, and that it would halt social media publications.  
 
Eight minutes and 46 seconds is the length of a video capturing Floyd’s death.  
 
Several artists took to Instagram, posting black squares, some using the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused or encouraging people to vote.  
 
Grammy-nominated singer Kehlani expressed doubts about the movement’s efficacy on Twitter, citing the various messaging surrounding the event.“The messages are mixed across the board and i really hope it doesn’t have a negative effect,” she tweeted.Several artists and record labels also announced that the release of new singles and albums would be delayed due to their participation in Black Out Tuesday.  
Interscope Geffen A&M Records said it would not release music this week, while new releases from Glass Animals, Chloe x Halle and others all will be pushed back, and will drop in coming weeks.  

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US Ambassador to Germany Grenell Steps Down

U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, a close political ally of President Donald Trump, has resigned after little more than two years in the job, an embassy spokesman said on Tuesday.
 
“Ambassador Grenell resigned from his post and the State Department on June 1,” said the spokesman.
 
Robin Quinville, deputy chief of mission at the embassy, will take over as Charge d’Affaires until a new ambassador is confirmed but the spokesman said any questions on Grenell’s successor should be directed to the White House.
 
In his two years as ambassador, Grenell has not been shy to voice criticism of German policies on NATO and its involvement in the NordStream 2 gas pipeline from Russia.
 
Germany’s dpa news agency reported last month that Grenell would step down soon after the U.S. Senate confirmed Representative John Ratcliffe, also a political ally of Trump, as the permanent director of national intelligence (DNI).
 
In February, Trump had named 53-year old Grenell as acting DNI.
  

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Facebook Staffers Walk Out Saying Trump’s Posts Should be Reined in

Facebook employees walked away from their work-from-home desks on Monday and took to Twitter to accuse Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg of inadequately policing U.S. President Donald Trump’s posts as strictly as the rival platform has done.Reuters saw dozens of online posts from employees critical of Zuckerberg’s decision to leave Trump’s most inflammatory verbiage unchallenged where Twitter had labeled it. Some top managers participated in the protest, reminiscent of a 2018 walkout at Alphabet Inc’s Google over sexual harassment.Twitter Adds ‘Glorifying Violence’ Warning to Trump Tweet Trump, a prolific Twitter user, has been at war with the company since earlier this week, when it applied fact checks to two of his tweets about mail-in ballotsIt was a rare case of staff publicly taking their CEO to task, with one employee tweeting that thousands participated. Among them were all seven engineers on the team maintaining the React code library which supports Facebook’s apps.”Facebook’s recent decision to not act on posts that incite violence ignores other options to keep our community safe. We implore the Facebook leadership to #TakeAction,” they said in a joint statement published on Twitter.”Mark is wrong, and I will endeavor in the loudest possible way to change his mind,” wrote Ryan Freitas, identified on Twitter as director of product design for Facebook’s News Feed. He added he had mobilized “50+ likeminded folks” to lobby for internal change.Twitter Fact-Checks Trump Tweet for First Time The blue exclamation mark notification prompts readers to ‘get the facts about mail-in ballots’ and directs them to a page with news articles and information about the claims aggregated by Twitter staffers A Facebook employee said Zuckerberg’s weekly Friday question-and-answer session would be moved up this week to Tuesday.Katie Zhu, a product manager at Instagram, tweeted a screenshot showing she had entered “#BLACKLIVESMATTER” to describe her request for time off as part of the walkout.Facebook Inc will allow employees participating in the protest to take the time off without drawing down their vacation days, spokesman Andy Stone said.Separately, online therapy company Talkspace said it ended partnership discussions with Facebook. Talkspace CEO Oren Frank tweeted he would “not support a platform that incites violence, racism, and lies.”Social justiceTech workers at companies including Facebook, Google, and Amazon.com Inc have pursued social justice issues in recent years, urging the companies to change policies.Employees “recognize the pain many of our people are feeling right now, especially our Black community,” Stone wrote in a text.”We encourage employees to speak openly when they disagree with leadership. As we face additional difficult decisions around content ahead, we’ll continue seeking their honest feedback.”Last week, nationwide unrest erupted after the death of a black man, George Floyd, in police custody in Minneapolis last Monday. Video footage showed a white officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes before he died.On Friday, Twitter Inc affixed a warning label to a Trump tweet that included the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Twitter said it violated rules against glorifying violence but was left up as a public interest exception.Facebook declined to act on the same message, and Zuckerberg sought to distance his company from the fight between the president and Twitter.On Friday, Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post that while he found Trump’s remarks “deeply offensive,” they did not violate company policy against incitements to violence and people should know whether the government was planning to deploy force.Zuckerberg’s post also said Facebook had been in touch with the White House to explain its policies.Twitter used the same label as for Trump on Monday to hide a message by Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida that likened protesters to terrorists and called for them to be hunted down “like we do those in the Middle East.”Gaetz said in response he would “see” Twitter in the Judiciary Committee.Some of Facebook’s dissenting employees have praised Twitter for its response over Trump. Others, like Jason Toff, a director of product management and former head of short-form video app Vine, started organizing fundraisers for racial justice groups in Minnesota. Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook on Monday the company would contribute an additional $10 million to social justice causes.Toff tweeted: “I work at Facebook and I am not proud of how we’re showing up. The majority of coworkers I’ve spoken to feel the same way. We are making our voice heard.” 

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World Outrage Grows at Floyd’s Death; EU ‘Shocked, Appalled’

World outrage at George Floyd’s death in the U.S. was growing Tuesday as the European Union’s top diplomat said the bloc was “shocked and appalled” by it and thousands marched in Australia’s largest city.
In France, protests were planned for the evening in Paris and across the country after calls from the family of a French black man who died shortly after he was arrested by police in 2016. A protest was also planned in The Hague, Netherlands.
Floyd died last week after he was pinned to the pavement by a white police officer in Minneapolis who put his knee on the handcuffed black man’s neck until he stopped breathing. His death set off protests that spread across America.  
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell’s remarks in Brussels were the strongest so far to come out of the 27-nation bloc, saying Floyd’s death was a result of an abuse of power.
Borrell told reporters that “like the people of the United States, we are shocked and appalled by the death of George Floyd.” He underlined that Europeans “support the right to peaceful protest, and also we condemn violence and racism of any kind, and for sure, we call for a de-escalation of tensions.”
Protesters around the world have expressed solidarity with Americans demonstrating against Floyd’s death.
Thousands marched through downtown Sydney on Tuesday. The protesters in Australia’s largest city chanted, “I can’t breathe” — some of the final words of both Floyd and David Dungay, a 26-year-old Aboriginal man who died in a Sydney prison in 2015 while being restrained by five guards.
The demonstrators carried placards reading, “Black Lives Matter,” “Aboriginal Lives Matter,” “White Silence is Violence” and, referring to those protesting in cities across the U.S., “We See You, We Hear Your, We Stand With You.” Other placards read, “We’re here because they aren’t,” with depictions of Floyd and Dungay.
The protesters, who appeared to number around 3,000, marched from Hyde Park to the New South Wales state Parliament, with plans to continue to the U.S. Consulate.
“It’s just gut-wrenching the climate of what’s happening in America, and it’s also happening here in Australia, though it’s subtle. Racism is real for me,” said one of the protesters, Aoatua Lee.
Around 2,000 demonstrators had gathered in Australia’s west coast city of Perth on Monday night to peacefully protest Floyd’s death, and rallies are planned for other Australian cities this week.
An indigenous Australian lawmaker called on governments to use Floyd’s death as an opportunity to reduce deaths of indigenous people in custody.  
Linda Burney, the opposition spokeswoman on indigenous Australians, said Tuesday that more than 430 indigenous people had died in Australian police custody since 1991.
“I think we should be using it as an opportunity,” Burney told Australian Broadcasting Corp., referring to Floyd’s death. “Whether we like it or not, it doesn’t take much for racism to come out of the underbelly of this country.”
“It seems to me that there are lots of things that state and territory governments could do, and the federal government could do to lower the number of Aboriginal people in custody,” she added.
While indigenous adults make up only 2% of the Australian population, they account for 27% of the prison population.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese backed Burney’s call. “There are far too many indigenous Australians who are incarcerated today. As a percentage of the population, this is a tragedy and it’s one that must be addressed as an absolute national priority,” Albanese told reporters.
Meanwhile, more African leaders are speaking up over the killing of Floyd.
“It cannot be right that, in the 21st century, the United States, this great bastion of democracy, continues to grapple with the problem of systemic racism,” Ghana’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, said in a statement, adding that black people the world over are shocked and distraught.
Kenyan opposition leader and former Prime Pinister Raila Odinga offered a prayer for the U.S., “that there be justice and freedom for all human beings who call America their country.”
Like some in Africa who have spoken out, Odinga also noted troubles at home, saying the judging of people by character instead of skin color “is a dream we in Africa, too, owe our citizens.”
And South Africa’s finance minister, Tito Mboweni, recalled leading a small protest outside the U.S. Embassy several years ago over the apparent systemic killings of blacks. Mboweni said the U.S. ambassador at the time, Patrick Gaspard, “invited me to his office and said: ‘What you see is nothing, it is much worse.'”
In Europe on Monday, thousands spilled across streets in Amsterdam to denounce police brutality, and those demonstrating in Paris urged the French government to take police violence more seriously and held up signs like “Racism is suffocating us.”
Some government leaders have seen the U.S. unrest as a chance to highlight what they see as American hypocrisy on protest movements at home versus abroad.  
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam questioned the foreign criticism over an imminent national security law being imposed in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
“They take their own country’s national security very seriously, but for the security of our country, especially the situation in Hong Kong, they are looking at it through tinted glasses,” Lam said Tuesday.

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Anti-Racism Protest Turns Violent in Brazil

Activists in Brazil fed up with police crimes against blacks rallied in solidarity Monday night, with protesters in the United States, demonstrating against the death of a black man by a white police officer who knelt on his neck during his arrest on suspicion of committing a forgery.  Police in Brazil used tear gas and rubber bullets to break up the anti-racism protest in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba that ended in violence. Blacks and people of multi-ethnic backgrounds make up a small portion of the million plus residents of Curitiba. The otherwise peaceful demonstration was winding down when scores of protesters  began shouting slogans against racism and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and vandalizing buildings near the governor’s palace. There were no immediate reports of police making arrests.   On Sunday, police used tear gas to break up a protest in Rio de Janeiro called “Black Lives Matter.” 

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Tropical Storm Warning Issued for Mexico  

A day after the 2020 hurricane season began, the National Hurricane Center warns if Tropical Depression 3 in the Gulf of Mexico strengthens it could become the next named storm, Cristobal.  A tropical storm warning has been posted for the Mexican coast, with forecasters saying the weather system could move through the Gulf of Mexico over the next few days.   The storm is a remnant of Tropical Storm Amanda, which is blamed for killing at least 17 people in El Salvador and Guatemala, where heavy rains caused flooding and landslides. El Salvador President Nayib Bukele decreed a State of National Emergency for 15 days and Civil Protection issued a red alert for the entire country after the storm displaced several thousand people and destroyed hundreds of homes.  El Salvador Interior Minister Mario Durán said the storm exposed how vulnerable the country is, citing what he called a lack of investment in infrastructure. 

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WHO Declares Latin America the New COVID Epicenter

Latin America is the new epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization declared Monday, as the region’s daily death rate now exceeds that in either the United States or Europe. The WHO said Monday there are nearly 938,000 COVID-19 related cases throughout Latin America and the Caribbean and almost 50,000 deaths a day. Brazil, Chile and Ecuador lead Central and South America with the most cases. In the United States, COVID-19 has killed about 26,000 nursing home residents, the government reports, accounting for nearly one-fourth of all U.S. deaths from the disease. About 450 nursing home staffers have also died of COVID-19. “This data, and anecdotal reports across the country, clearly show that nursing homes have been devastated by the virus,” CDC Director Robert Redfield and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services chief Seema Verma said in a letter to state governors. COVID-19 is especially devastating to the elderly, many of whom already have other health issues. Some experts say the number of COVID cases in nursing homes could be undercounted because some of the deaths may be attributed to other causes.A health worker holds a glove outside the San Jose public hospital emergencies entrance, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Santiago, Chile, May 28, 2020.Federal officials are recommending one-time tests for all nursing home residents and staff and weekly follow-up tests. Verma also says nursing facilities must take “extreme caution” before deciding whether to reopen their doors to visitors. She also says her office is increasing penalties on nursing homes that fail to take the proper precautions against infections. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, authorities reported a new outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus on the same day they announced the country has 3,200 COVID-19 cases. The DRC health ministry said it found six cases in a region along the Congo River on the border with the Republic of Congo. This comes just as the DRC was planning to declare the end of an earlier Ebola outbreak in North Kivu, in the eastern DRC.  The Ebola and COVID-19 outbreaks in the DRC come on top of what experts say is the world’s largest measles outbreak.  Meanwhile, more world tourist sites started to welcome visitors again Monday. They include the Florida Keys, the Coliseum in Rome, Greek hotels, beaches in Turkey, and museums in the Netherlands. But all visitors are still urged to take appropriate precautions.  

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US Race Solidarity Protests Erupt in Cities Worldwide

Protests have erupted in cities around the world in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the United States. The protests follow the death in Minnesota of George Floyd, a 46-year old black man, last week in police custody.  In central London, demonstrations turned violent Sunday as police tried to clear a road junction outside Parliament. Police made 23 arrests. Protesters accused the police of triggering the violence, an accusation that authorities denied. “We came out here peacefully to protest the injustice in the U.K.,” one demonstrator told reporters. “It’s now a global issue with the murder of George Floyd, everything that’s going on in the world.’Hundreds of people also gathered in central London’s Trafalgar Square chanting, “George Floyd, Say His Name.” Demonstrators also chanted, “I Can’t Breathe” as they marched on the U.S. Embassy — the words spoken by Floyd as Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes as Floyd lay handcuffed and prone on the ground after he was arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit bank note. He was pronounced dead later that day. Chauvin was arrested Friday and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.Demonstrators stop a bus as they block the street in Sloane Square in London on May 31, 2020 after marching on the US embassy to protest the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly…Smaller protests broke out in the south London suburbs, home to many ethnic minority communities. “Can you imagine, we are in a whole world pandemic, and people are still brutalizing innocent people,” said a protest organizer named Aba. “When they stop, when police stop brutalizing innocent black people, then we’ll stop.”   The U.S. protests resonate with minority communities in Britain, said lawyer and activist Shola Mos-Shogbamimu. “Police brutality exists in the United Kingdom. Racial profiling exists in the United Kingdom, and it’s existed for the longest time,” Mos-Shogbamimu told VOA in an interview Monday. “And it means for a lot of black people, particularly young black men, that they are targeted simply because of the color of their skin. What you are seeing right now is we’re getting more mobile phone (video) evidence. And social media platforms have become the wireless platform to communicate this information worldwide, in real time, instantly.” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Sunday that the government wants to see a de-escalation of tensions in the United States and for people in the U.S. to “come together.”Some critics, including many British lawmakers, argue the demonstrators were putting lives at risk by not adhering to social distancing guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic. “Racism did not stop when (the) coronavirus hit the planet,” Mos-Shogbamimu said.People protest in Berlin, Germany, May 31, 2020 after the violent death of the African-American George Floyd by a white policeman in the USA against racism and police violence, among other things with a sign “Who do call when police murders”.Hundreds of protesters also gathered in Berlin over the weekend. Remnants of Germany’s Berlin Wall were daubed with graffiti mourning the death of Floyd and demanding justice. Several thousand people marched in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, and in the capital, Wellington, and other areas Monday to show solidarity with U.S. demonstrators.  Some 4,000 New Zealand protesters demonstrate against the killing of Minneapolis man George Floyd in a Black Lives Matter protest in Auckland, June 1, 2020. 

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